Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

06 November 2006

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man, v. 1: Derailed

Collects: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5-10 (2006)

Released: September 2006 (Marvel)

Format: 144 pages / color / $14.99 / ISBN: 0785122168

When I read Peter David was writing a new Spider-Man title, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, I was excited. Other than former Spider-writer Paul Jenkins, there are few writers I can think of who had the wit and gravitas to write Spider-Man well.

Unfortunately, the first four issues of FNS-M were occupied with The Other crossover; I had no desire to read that, especially since David would only be writing a third of the crossover. So I waited patiently for Marvel to release the first TPB collection of FNS-M. Was the wait worth it?

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, v. 1: Derailed cover No.

Derailed features three stories: “Vanna Be Alone” (one issue), “Masks” (two issues), and “Jumping the Tracks” (three issues). The first is about woman who believes Spider-Man is stalking her, leading her to waste her life; it’s slightly interesting, and the conclusion isn’t as bad as this review would lead you to believe. “Masks” deals with a luchador named “El Muerto” who must defeat and unmask Spider-Man to save his life from the Gilded One, who regulates the mystical legacy of El Muerto. “Masks” is enjoyable enough, but the pleasure from the story comes from David showing Spider-Man adapting to the changes in his life — although he doesn’t mock the new status quo as much as I thought he should.15

So far, not so bad. But “Derailed” is another story, and it ain’t pretty. Part 1 is an alternate timeline story in which May dies during Spider-Man’s origin instead of Ben. The other two parts of the story deal with an villain from 2211 who calls herself Hobgoblin; she lives in a Spider-centric future, and her rebellion against her times (and father) leads her to try to wipe out all Spider-Men in different timelines.

Hobgoblin 2211 It’s uninteresting. It’s self referential, as David created this Hobgoblin for a meeting between Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099; Spider-Man also references his meetings with Spider-Man 2099 as well. No other writer would mention either of these characters, I think; if the story is good, it could be forgiven, but “Derailed” isn’t good. Ben Parker acts out of character — arguably wildly so.16 There’s a great deal of ugliness in the Hobgoblin’s costume; she looks like the result of a one-night fling between the Impossible Man and the Brood Queen. Her father’s Spider-Man costume (he’s the Spider-Man of the future, a law-enforcement post) isn’t exactly pleasant to look at either. And I know they’re stuck with the Iron Spider costume, but that’s unattractive as well.

And at the end of the story, the Hobgoblin is erased from continuity. Why this doesn’t undo the damage she’s done isn’t revealed, but it makes the exercise pointless.

Although the plotting isn’t stellar, David’s Spider-Man can still crack one liners, thankfully. It’s hard to find other redeeming features, though — well, other than character designs, the art from Mike Wieringo and Roger Cruz isn’t bad. On “Masks,” the art might be slightly substandard,17 but the art on the first and third stories is good, despite lacking memorable shots other than the cover of #9 (an homage to the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #39) and a virtual-reality homage to Christina’s World in the same issue).

Actually, the more I look at Wieringo’s art on Derailed, the more it grows on me. If it wasn’t for those ugly character designs …

I had high hopes for Derailed. Unfortunately, it will be the last volume of FNSM I buy.

Rating: Half spider symbol (1 ½ of 5)

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