Spider-Man: Life Story was a revelation to many. Much like What If, but extended across multiple issues, Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley revealed a different way to tell a Spider-Man story: tell his story in real-time, starting in the 1960s and see how his life would change as a life lived. It’s so simple, and yet nobody thought of it. The much-anticipated Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1 is finally here this week to shed light on J. Jonah Jameson’s life during the decades-long span of the original series. It’s at once heartbreaking, revealing, and all too real.
This issue opens in 1965 back when Jameson was working at the Daily Bugle and doing what he can to capture and maybe even kill Spider-Man. If you ever wondered how Jameson wasn’t imprisoned for basically attempted murder on Spider-Man this issue is for you as it asks: what if he did face repercussions?
This book works thanks to readers’ knowledge that Jameson is a bitter and stubborn man. Much of this story is set in a prison with Jameson stewing at first, but slowly finding out his rage can’t live forever. His anger, inability to see how his own actions factored into his position, and his resentment is on full display. At the heart of this issue is whether a man filled with piss and vinegar can forgive not the man he blames for putting him in prison, but himself.
Mark Bagley does an exceptional job showing the varying degrees of emotion, the subtle touches that draw you into Jameson’s point of view. He’s filled with rage, doubts, and regret, but at times only shows it for a second so as to protect his ego or to save face. The complexities of Jameson are on the page thanks to Bagley’s incredible character acting.
What makes this issue work so well, especially with its final pages, is how it shows people can get better. It may take an entire life over decades, but with the right people around you, and maybe a little hope, they can find new truths to live by. Zdarsky ties Jameson’s imprisonment, literal and figurative, into Spider-Man’s own journey, and in a way, this story informs and improves on the Spider-Man: Life Story.
Spider-Man: Life Story Annual is an unconventional superhero story, but one that needs to be told. So many people hold resentment, anger, and even guilt so close to the chest they forget to breathe. This is a story about a man filled with those feelings and how he finds the courage to be better.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!