Have you ever picked up a second issue that made you reconsider what you liked about the first? Not to be mean, but Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #2 is a primer for exactly how to tank a good start to a series. Perhaps it’s just a victim to marketing muddying the waters (just like “yes, this is canon” Spidey), but PP:TSSM #2 is not the back to basics book we were promised by Marvel and the first issue itself.
The cover itself is embossed with banner reading “What is PROJECT TWILIGHT?,” which served as a red flag right from the stands. Pseudo-governmental black-ops are not what I really consider a “back to basics” Spider-Man story, but I’ll give writer Chip Zdarsky the time to flesh out the idea before I write it off wholesale. After all, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 had super-spy elements. But that’s only a small piece of the pie here with this issue.
We pick up right where the last issue left off: Spider-Man confronted by Ironheart. The mood immediately shifts as Spider-Man whips out an autograph book for Ironheart to sign. Now, sudden tonal shifts between cliffhangers and their subsequent issue are pretty normal in comics these days. That’s not the issue here. But these first few pages, with Spider-Man geeking out to a 15 year old and throwing out some meta-commentary on current comicbook affairs feels absolutely nothing like a Spider-Man comic. It reads more like Zdarsky’s backdoor pitch to write Deadpool – complete with overuse of editorial notes to further stress the fourth wall.
The over-eager and – frankly – dorky characterization of Spider-Man smacks of Tom Holland’s performance in “Spider-Man Homecoming” rather than the adult Peter Parker. Holland’s performance really captures an immature and fresh-on-the-scene teenager, but between this and “Crazy-town banana-pants” Slottisms (something he has admittedly gotten better about) I’m really worried that this might just be how Spider-Man acts from here on out.
After a brief conversation, Spider-Man and Ironheart decide against the fisticuffs and get down to business. Ironheart admits to hacking the Stark phone, but past that, I’m still lost on what the big deal is that there are people hacking phones. Further on in the plot it is mentioned that these phones are untraceable and that’s still not something I completely comprehend as out-of-the-ordinary or bad. There are programs that do this already. It’s both legal and readily available. Not to get political, but data encryption is something of a hot button issue in the tech industry right now, so it’s a little startling to see it portrayed as inherently evil in the comic.
Once Spider-Man makes it home, Zdarsky picks up the Teresa Parker bombshell he dropped at the end of last issue – complete with an in-depth recap of Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business. Typically these sort of things just get an editorial note telling you to check out the issue, but Zdarsky felt the need to go above and beyond and give us a blow-by-blow of the graphic novel taking up a fifth of the issue’s real estate to do so. This might be a welcome thing for those who have not read the OGN (to be fair, it does not seem like many people have), but it just feels like wasted space for me. Teresa reveals that she left the CIA to work for a black-ops S.H.I.E.L.D. division known as the Grey Blade. There she discovered a list developed by S.H.I.E.L.D. describing how to defeat all metahumans a la DC’s JLA #43-46 (in where Ra’s al Ghul steals a similar list from Batman.) Once this plot element is introduced, the whole story beat is unceremoniously (by design) dropped so that Peter can rush away to his date with Rebecca, as promised last issue.
The issue picks up for this scene, with some classic short-sighted Spider-Man gaffs (wouldn’t showing up in costume be more dangerous to me than two regular people having coffee?) reminiscent of Amazing Spider-Man #1’s bit where Peter tries to cash a check in costume. Here Zdarsky’s personal brand of humor comes off more as Peter hamming it up for a date than a genuine take on the character. It’s a goofy scene, but it works and the down-to-earth setting in the Coffee Bean really lends to the familiar feeling
I cannot say that I left this issue with many good feelings. Hopefully this is not a preview of what’s to come and instead just some instances of Zdarsky’s growing pains. Next issue promises a tussle with the Kingpin who has some involvement with the Stark phone situation. Maybe then I’ll be sold on this weird plot hook.