Friday, August 08, 2014

spider-man: the other

When J. Michael Straczynski began writing for Marvel Comics in 2001, he asked one simple but fascinating question: What if it was the spider, and not the radiation that gave Spider-man his powers?

That question, which made Spider-man fresh and new in a way he hadn't been for years, bears mixed fruit in "The Other: Evolve or Die." On the one hand, the entire concept of Spider-man as a totemistic hero, one chosen to serve as an avatar of the spider, is a fascinating idea. On the other hand, this is something Straczynski already has explored at length in the pages of "Spider-man," and it takes about two-thirds of the collection before the storyline actually presents us with anything new along those lines.

Written across four concurrently published Spider-man titles, "The Other" has Spider-man come face to face with his own mortality as a mystery ailment leaves him addled and weakened, and ultimately unable to defend himself against a murderous foe.

The story suffers from too many writers, but it shines its brightest when it focuses on the relationship between Peter Parker and his wife. There's a heart-wrenching moment when she confronts him with the survivor's guilt and subconscious death wish that drive him to be hero, for one. In another scene, written by Peter David, Mary Jane Watson-Parker watches a newscast helplessly as Spider-man fights Iron Man, and of course Spider-man's death scene, his fifth and easily best-written.

Like many other stories in a long-running title, the events of "The Other" no longer count in Spider-man's continuity and in this case at least, that's unfortunate. While it's not as strong as the earlier stories from Straczynski's tenure on "The Amazing Spider-man," "The Other" remains an engaging read.

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