Jun 23, 2015

[Comics] Spider-Man Noir

So before I got to read Daredevil Noir, I actually first read Spider-Man Noir due to yet another comiXology sale. Don't tell me you guys are still surprised by this. Obviously my more recent comic book reading habits are all directly tied to what comiXology decides to put on sale. Silly rabbits.

But this was a somewhat weird experience for me as far as alternate versions of characters go. I had a general expectation of what I might find his story given the whole noir setting. To be fair, there's a lot about the Spider-Man story that lends itself well enough to the noir genre. But things were still a little different from how I imagined they would turn out.

That in itself doesn't make this story any worse or better based on that fact alone. But it certainly had some impact on my general impressions of things of how I took in the story. It was suitably dark and this was a somewhat grittier version of our popular hero. Was it still a Spider-Man story? I suppose it was close enough. But the rest of things get a little muddy.

Synopsis: Spider-Man Noir is an alternate take on the Spider-Man character as part of the larger Marvel Noir imprint released between 2009 and 2010. This story was written by David Hine and Frabrice Sapolsky with art by Carmine Di Giandomenico.

This is rather different New York, as the story is set in 1933 during the Great Depression. Peter Parker once again gains superhuman abilities from a chance spider bite, but he's not quite the same hero as we know him to be. And can generate organic webs, but he can't cling to walls and thus we don't really see him swinging from building to building. Here he's more of an acrobat with access to organic web nets when needed. And his Aunt May is a very vocal socialist regularly trying to address crowds on the street about the merits of her philosophy.

But the figure that plays the biggest role in this story is not so much Peter and more likely Ben Urich, reporter at the Daily Bugle. He's quite the veteran journalist and his own network of spies and contacts under the alias of "The Spider" for some reason. And this story has both of them coming against a crime boss known as The Goblin, and Urich has been blackmailing the mob boss for years in order to support his own drug habit. And how all these elements come together is where the story lies.

Ben Urich largely takes on the mentor role for Peter in this story and a lot of the plot involves following the two together. Even how Peters ends up where he needs to be in order to get into his fated accident is because of a message of Ben that somehow ends up with him instead. It's not too odd a pairing since there were moments like this in the original comics, but it did make for a good angle to explore in this noir setting.

I'm not 100% behind the final concept of Spider-Man for this noir universe. I don't know if the organic webbing was all that necessary, although I'll concede that noir doesn't necessarily mean depowered or anything like that. But I thought we'd focus more on Parker's more creative side as an inventor and tinkerer and maybe we'd have him with various implements to give him his spider abilities. Sure, it might feel a little too much like Batman or something, but how to differentiate this character remains he responsibility of the writer after coming up with a concept. It could totally work somehow, with the write guy penning the story.

The core plot was sort of meant to be like a mystery, as is a common trope in noir stories. Had I never read any other Spider-Man stories before this one, then I would have been totally surprised by the nature of The Goblin and his diverse crew of henchmen. But as a Spider-Man fan, I was of two minds in terms of how things turned out. I think I rather liked the character line-up including the likes of The Enforcers, Kraven the Hunte and The Chameleon. But how things were sequenced and prioritized from a narrative perspective were a bit more confusing and on its own the story didn't feel quite as solid as it could have been.

The art was okay - expectedly dark, but not quite as detailed as I hoped. I can't quite put into words what specifically fell short for me in the art department, but largely it just felt not quite 100%, if you get my drift. It wasn't bad cartoony art and it was certainly suitable to the genre and the mood of things, but I feel things could have popped more.

Spider-Man Noir remains an interesting read, at least if you're the sort of person who enjoys seeing their characters in very different ways. It's not the best that Marvel Noir had to offer, but it's still pretty decent. So the mini-series gets 2.5 shadowy figures in the gloom out of a possible 5.

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