Free Comic Book Day for Marvel has moved more and more toward promotion for their summer event (which often requires investment in the storylines leading up to the event in order for the FCBD issue to make sense) and less about hyping up new readers. This year’s offering from Marvel is not too much different, operating as a Secret Empire #0 much like last year’s Civil War II Free Comic Book Day issue. However, also included is a ten page backup story featuring the debut of Chip Zdarsky’s Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man with Paulo Siqueira running art instead of promised series regular Adam Kubert.
A little more new reader friendly than Secret Empire and certainly less dividing, Spectacular delivers the “back to basics” Spider-Man approach that early promotion promised. Opening up we have Peter and Mary Jane on a casual lunch date catching up. The conversation gets a little heated (which Zdarsky assures us through narration that it was just “ribbing”), but never the less it’s certainly a better reunion between the two characters than their previous, even if the barbs feel like they carry a little more poison than what feels natural for the two.
The Vulture crashes the date and soon Peter is off to the shadows to change into the red-and-blues to stop him. Typically transparent MCU synergy gets me to roll my eyes just a bit (people coming fresh from the film just saw a Vulture story! Give them something new and exciting!), but since this is just a ten page backup going for max appeal, I can forgive Marvel for leaning on the MCU to give new readers background on who the villain is so that the story can fit into the tighter profile.
Zdarsky really lets the zingers fly in perhaps a more Ultimate Spider-Man style than what we’ve been used to seeing out of Amazing. The “You’re so old” sequence reminded me (fondly) of a similar scene between Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate Kingpin. If this sequence is any indication, your enjoyment of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man as a series is going to live or die based on your enjoyment of Zdarsky’s humor. While he hasn’t dropped his own “crazy town banana-pants,” there are a few gags in this story that approach the 4th wall, something I’d rather the Spider-Man titles stray far, far away from. Perhaps that’s Zdarsky shaking off some of the Howard the Duck left in him.
The pacing feels right for a ten page backup, with a satisfying base, build, and conclusion. The last few pages are filled with fresh faces meant to entice and pique interest. Is that really enough to convince people on the fence to go out and pick up the book next month when #1 hits the stands? Not particularly, not in my opinion. But it does show that Zdarsky has a little bit more up his sleeve than just bank heists and one-liners in store for those interested in the title. New villain (?) Trapster looks a little bit like an cliché (at least she isn’t holding a designer coffee drink in one hand) but the idea of inserting an adult generation below Peter’s is leaps and bounds away from what Marvel has been doing with the character since his soft de-aging in “Brand New Day.”
Siqueira’s art is superb in this story, and if I wasn’t so excited for Adam Kubert I’d be disappointed that he isn’t going to be the main artist for the title. The Vulture fight is so perfectly staged with some really strong figure work – the panel with Spider-Man gut-checking Vulture is a fantastic “knock-out punch” panel; you can really see the shock in Vulture’s eyes and the strength in both Spider-Man’s frame and pose. Colorist Frank D’Armata really brings out the inks and lines with high contrast reds and greens and blues. Interestingly, he uses a gradient so that the skyline fades to a light yellow on the horizon. It’s not something you often see in comics but it adds a subtle layer of verisimilitude to the comic which makes it that much more enjoyable. If you didn’t pick this up last Saturday, swing by your shop and see if they still have a copy laying around. After all, the price is right.