The latest Marvels Snapshot is out this week, focused on Spider-Man by comics legend Howard Chaykin. His story, entitled “Dutch Angles”, is focused on two criminals trying to make it in a world where supervillains reign supreme. It’s the kind of low-key, world outside your window, Marvel Comics story anyone burned out on superheroes can enjoy.
If you’ve come to this issue expecting Spider-Man and big superhero action, you have come to the wrong place. This is all about Ronnie and Dutch, two-bit hoodlums who want to make it in New York City crime. Ronnie has aspirations to get rich fast using supervillain tech, while Dutch is a little more even-keeled and reasonable. This is an endearing sort of comic if you like banter and the very normalized idea that Spider-Man could be knocking a pillar down near you and you wouldn’t even bat an eye. It’s a “snapshot” in the sense that it shows what it would be like if you were criminally minded and envied the big supervillains.
If that appeals to you, you’ll probably like this book. Ronnie and Dutch are interesting enough characters and the premise makes sense. Problem is, if they get too deep into something it’s a lot harder to get out of it, especially if the Hobgoblin is after you. Chaykin keeps the superheroes and villains at a minimum here — they’re more like flies zipping about than characters in the narrative — which shows what it would be like to live in a city with superheroes flying overhead.
The book is always grounded, never ever leaving Ronnie and Dutch for a second. That’s thanks to a layout structure with a panel devoted to a close up of a character inset in any single panel on the page. It’s an interesting storytelling device that makes this feel like a tightly shot soap opera. The camera never leaves the face of a character, and the characters are always speaking. If you’re a fan of dialogue you’re going to enjoy the absorbing nature of Chaykin’s scripting.
Those unfamiliar with Chaykin’s art style will note it has an older look and feel. The use of textures over clothes is particularly striking, and there’s a hand-drawn element to everything on the page. Color artist Jesus Aburtov makes the book look a bit more modern and there are many smart choices as far as backgrounds to highlight the headshot panels. Much like the heavy use of dialogue, this book stands out for his story structure and layout design.
One page that is particularly interesting is a page consisting of four wide panels with two inset headshot panels in each. As you read down you see the time changing via decorations on the buildings and the clothes the characters are wearing. It’s a good example of the complexity of what is going on in any given panel. It’s also a good example of how this isn’t a book you can zip through, but one you should linger and take your time with to soak it all in.
Spider-Man: Marvels Snapshot #1 is a thoughtful and measured comic reading experience. It’s definitely not for everyone, with an old-school vibe to it. It’s also about average Joes who want to make a buck as criminals in a city of supervillains sorely lacking Spider-Man. That might make folks feel a bit misled from the get-go. If you can get past that, you’ll find something here that’s interesting, especially for longtime readers.