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'Spider-Man: Life Story' hardcover review
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Comic Books

‘Spider-Man: Life Story’ hardcover review

‘Spider-Man: Life Story’ gets a new hardcover and it’s even better than its 2019 edition.

Right in time for 2022 to rear its head, Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley’s masterpiece Spider-Man: Life Story is getting the hardcover treatment. Running 240 pages long, this collection features an entire life story of Peter Parker in real time, which remixes his greatest hits in a new way. Every Spidey fan should love this as it explores Peter Parker’s life in a fabulous new way that is an ode to the character well worth space on your bookshelf.

This new edition of Spider-Man: Life Story comes nearly three years after the original collection made it to bookstores, but it’s no cash grab — contained here is the entire six-issue run as well as Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1 which came out in August 2021. The addition of the annual, which focuses exclusively on J. Jonah Jameson’s life, ends up recontextualizing Spider-Man’s story. He’s also a character tantamount to Spider-Man, especially when you remember how far Zdarsky took him in the main continuity.

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If you’re unfamiliar with this series, Life Story approaches Spider-Man’s life starting in 1966, just a few years after Peter Parker was bitten by the radioactive spider. Committed to a realistic timeline, Zdarsky, and Bagley explore Spider-Man’s life as if he aged in real-time, thus experiencing real-life events like the Vietnam War.

Zdarsky eases us into the series by establishing different points of view on the war as well as the tensions of the time. A quick scene with Peter arriving at school shows protestors outside, and in another panel we see Harry Osborn wearing the clothes of the time and generally being anti-war. There’s a bit of ’60s lingo thrown in there too.

Spider-Man: Life Story Hardcover

Peter and Mr. Fantastic end up having an interesting relationship over the series.
Credit: Marvel Comics

The pace picks up in the second issue, which is jam-packed with new revelations, and spins on familiar characters. While the first issue was a bit slow, issue #2 weaves in so much Spider-Man mythos and remixes it so well it’s hard to put down. The issue opens in 1977, which is 11 years after the first. Things have changed — Peter works with another superhero under his real identity, Gwen Stacy is far more important in his life than we’ve come to know in the original series, and Spider-Man even has a cool new costume. It’s as if Zdarsky has given Peter Parker the ideal happy life he would have wanted if he was still with Gwen and had a relatively peaceful home life. Well, until that all gets blown up.

From there, the story picks up in the ’80s, with Mary Jane very pregnant and a senile Aunt May watching on at the hospital with no Peter Parker in sight. The Secret Wars are in full effect and Peter is off-world. Zdarsky introduces the Symbiote costume but masterfully explores how his return to Earth would play out when his life is so riddled with personal trouble and his age is catching up with him. It might be a sad story in some sense, but it continues to be a great celebration of this character and a fantastic way to honor him for Marvel’s 80th.

As the story carries on, new characters like Miles Morales are introduced with some cool new costume designs by Bagley. Bagley does a great job throughout this collection, but you probably already knew that’d be the case. He’s joined by inkers John Dell and Andrew Hennessy and color artist Frank D’Armata with Matt Milla on the annual issue, all of whom give the series that Ultimate Spider-Man or classic Amazing Spider-Man look we’re all familiar with. Hennesy’s inks are a touch thicker and more expressive and give the book a newer feel. The colors do well to liven up skin tones. Having gotten into comics with Mark Bagley’s Spider-Man, this book is a nostalgic throwback in feel which suits the way it plays around with time.

Wrapping up the book is the Annual issue, which focuses on J. Jonah Jameson. The Annual works so well because it tells a story of redemption and hope. It shows people can get better. It may take Jameson’s entire life over decades to get there, 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.

If you’re looking for extras, there are 7 pages devoted to the variant covers and two pages devoted to Zdarsky’s cover art process. They are fine additions, but nothing too in-depth as far as the writing or drawing of the main book goes.

When you put Spider-Man: Life Story down, there will be no question this is an all-time great story. This is a celebration of Spider-Man, but in a way that’s clever and makes him feel new again. Zdarsky and Bagley have catapulted this story into every conversation of what the greatest Spider-Man story is and they did it decades after his creation. It’s an impressive feat and one that will likely not be matched again.

'Spider-Man: Life Story' hardcover review
‘Spider-Man: Life Story’ hardcover review
Spider-Man: Life Story Hardcover
When you put Spider-Man: Life Story down, there will be no question this is an all-time great story. This is a celebration of Spider-Man, but in a way that's clever and makes him feel new again. Zdarsky and Bagley have catapulted this story into every conversation of what the greatest Spider-Man story is and they did it decades after his creation. It's an impressive feat and one that will likely not be matched again.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Recontextualizes Spider-Man while also serving as an incredible celebration of the character
Bagley can do no wrong in my mind as a Spidey artist. Plus he's backed up with great color and inks!
Opens up such an interesting world you'll be dying to learn more about other characters
10
Fantastic

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