So, the first issue of Symbiote Spider-Man caught some flak from some for being “hammy.” And…they’re not wrong. Peter David is going for a full-on retro comic that takes place back when Peter Parker had the Symbiote suit, still having no idea of its venomous malevolence. Suffice it to say, this comic is a blast, especially for a fan of older Spidey fare like myself.
There’s a host of details that make this a delightful read, like Peter’s thoughts. Long gone are the modern thought boxes, and in their place are glorious thought bubbles! Speaking of thoughts, Peter’s inner monologues are very blunt and filled with exposition. But yet again, I find it charming. It’s an intentional choice to ground us in ye olden days.
It’d be giving Marvel too much credit to say Mysterio was chosen as the villain completely at random. It’s not like the next Spider-Man movie has Mysterio as the big baddie. Despite that obvious cash-grabby move, Mysterio is written with a campy zest. He’s a joke, but his desperation to be taken seriously drives him to be dangerous, especially when he recruits a mutant muscle-man, Hardrock.
Best of all, this issue seems to be going for a Steve Ditko/Stan Lee trick where they allow the wall-crawler to actually lose the first round (GASP). Many comics these days are so focused on plot, they don’t go for the classic method of throwing the hero in a ditch and watching them learn to overcome their failures. Whether Peter David will stick the landing for this arc has yet to be seen, but he’s got a good start.
Aiding the experience is David’s sense of humor. I think it should be a rule that every issue of a Spider-Man tittle yields at least two chuckles, and this issue delivers more than that, especially in regards to Mysterio’s pathetic posturing.
Greg Land is quite the strong pick for this title. While his style isn’t the most unique, the razor-sharp linework and attention to character textures suits this (slightly) darker Spidey story. While David writes the title with a throwback lilt, the symbiote is a menace bubbling under the surface, and a cartoony artist wouldn’t quite fit the tone. I wouldn’t be surprised if this series takes a darker turn when the symbiote asserts itself more.