SPIDER-MAN #1/ Writers: JJ Abrams and Henry Abrams / Artist: Sara Pichelli / Colorist: Dave Stewart / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna / Publisher: Marvel / Release Date: September 18th, 2019
J.J. Abrams is no stranger to putting his own spin on beloved franchises. From Star Wars and Star Trek to Mission: Impossible, he’s gained a reputation for injecting new life into certain pillars of pop culture. Now, alongside his son Henry and artist Sara Pichelli, Abrams attempts to do the same with Spider-Man. The results are… well, mixed.
WARNING: SPOILERS for Spider-Man #1 beyond this point.
In true Abrams form, the comic opens with a shocking twist no one saw coming. While dueling the monstrous Cadaverous, Peter Parker loses the love of his life, Mary Jane Watson. Twelve years later, Peter has hung up his webs and pursued his photojournalism career, while his son Ben struggles with the pitfalls of puberty and his emerging superpowers.
The plotting and pacing of the issue are rather frustrating, to be honest. Killing off Mary Jane is a tired cliche that I wish the Abrams clan hadn’t turned to, and the time jump feels rather jarring. In addition, Cadaverous doesn’t really strike me as a compelling villain. Yes, he is a hulking, monstrous figure, and yes, he has an army of Xenomorph-esque drones, but he lacks the threat of the Green Goblin or the theatricality of Carnage.
Despite those flaws, the issue shines when Ben Parker is in the spotlight. Much like his father, he has inherited a sense of responsibility, standing up to bullies and trying to help others out; he even cooks breakfast for Aunt May, who is raising him. Like his mother, Ben is bold enough to speak his mind, whether dressing down his absent father or flirting with a girl in detention. It’s fairly clear that Henry Abrams intends to make this a story about fathers and sons, and might have poured a little bit of his own experience into the process.
Pichelli is no stranger to the Spider-Man mythos, having helped co-create Miles Morales, and here she gets to put her own take on the seminal web-slinger. Her expressive illustrations lend a humanity to the issue, with Peter screaming in horror after MJ’s death and Ben’s eyes widening as he discovers his father’s costume in the attic. Stewart’s colors feel rather muted, which is another source of conflict for me, as Spidey is usually a more vibrantly colored hero.
Spider-Man #1, despite some shaky plotting and utilizing a very tired trope, is bolstered by superior artwork and the underpinnings of an emotionally stirring father/son story. Hopefully, future issues will pick up the pace as Ben steps into the role of Spider-Man.
Final Verdict: 3/5 web cartridges.