This week provides our first taste at the other stories that will broaden out Aaron’s world. Where better to begin than with Spider-Man, who in the Heroes Reborn world never received superpowers.
Instead of becoming a superhero, Peter Parker drops out of college and struggles to make ends meet as a Daily Bugle photographer. Writer Marc Bernardin, a former journalist and one-half of the popular Fatman Beyond podcast, injects Peter with a sense of regret and frustration as he searches for a purpose in the midst of a personal loss that slightly differs from the one fans know all too well.
This Peter is not part of the community of heroes, but an observer whose drone cameras can only watch as characters like Hyperion save the day. Elements of the Heroes Reborn universe are threaded into the story, but Bernardin wisely keeps the focus on Peter.
It is not ultimately important to this young man in Queens that the Squadron Supreme of America are now the greatest heroes on the planet. His problems are more interior and not easily resolved by a colorful fight.
Readers expecting a more elaborate or action-packed issue might be disappointed, but if there is any character able to support a quiet story like this one, it is Spider-Man. His emotional journey is as central to the comics as any battle with Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin. Bernardin understands that aspect of the character well and when the action does tick up in the final pages, the impact feels especially earned.
The subdued artwork from Rafael de Latorre and Ron Lim is an ideal complement to Bernardin’s ground-level story, but as with most comics requiring multiple pencilers, the transition between the two is somewhat jarring. Lim’s figures are heavily inked (by inker Scott Hanna) while de Latorre’s lines are more muted. The differences are ultimately not too obvious because of colorist Jim Campbell, who works on the full issue.
For Spider-Man fans, this issue will be a worthwhile addition to the growing pantheon of What If-style Peter Parker stories. Longtime fans will appreciate some of Bernardin’s nods to continuity, including the names of a certain wrestler and one of Peter’s college classmates.
I especially like the way he does not shy away from the more unwelcome traits of teenage Peter Parker. He is certainly a hero, but what makes Peter one of the most relatable characters in comics is his flaws. Bernardin never forgets that.
As a plank in the overall Heroes Reborn story, this issue seems less important. Completist readers will want to see how Peter’s corner of the world reacts to this different Marvel Universe and Hyperion does factor into the plot a bit. But this story is more about Peter finding his way without superpowers than it is about a world without the Avengers.
That lack of connectivity might bother some readers, but it enhances the story by keeping the focus on Peter.
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