Comics : Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #45

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This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

In this version of the Marvel Universe, it is present-day America, and Peter Parker is still 15, attending Midtown High, and is a part-time freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle. This, my good friends, is the Marvel (Adventure) Universe, and we are so happy that it is here.

Welcome to the world of a teen-aged Spider-Man who exists not in the long-ago time of the early 1960s, but re-imagined into the modern era with all of the exciting nuances, subtle chills, and top-of-the-park fun from the Silver Age of Marvel Comics. It is important to say that while it is certainly true that these stories are targeted for a younger audience, it should be noted that there are plenty those of us "old timers" who were around during those halcyon days who find this title as a welcome friend.

In Detail...

"Pieces of the Puzzle"
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #45
Jan 2009 : SM Title
Summary: New Adventures of Spider-Man as a teen
Editor:  Mark Paniccia
Writer:  Todd DeZago
Artist:  Zach Howard
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Adventures Two-In-One #19

Talk about your smashing openings. We jump right into the action; this issue as Spidey comes crashing through the front plate glass window of a bank. Immediately we flash forward to later that day where Peter and a newbie reporter from the Bugle are on the scene of the event we just witnessed, attempting to piece together what we just witnessed.

Billy Walters, newly-hired reporter by J. Jonah Jameson is asking the questions of several people who witnessed a bank robbery by Doc Ock and Peter is taking the photographs. The only problem is (as any law-enforcement official will surely tell you), witness are (as a rule) fabulously unreliable in correctly relating what it is that they've just seen. As can be expected, this proves to be the case in this story. As we join them, Billy and Peter are beginning to track down the story, each of the witnesses filter the story through the lens of their own prejudices and experiences.

While we are hearing one of the witnesses relate their version of the story, we are transported back to the event itself, and are able to view what (really) happened. In the bank, there are a number of people getting caught up in the lunch rush of customers (with too few tellers, so there is a slightly longer than usual line). Among the customers waiting are a business woman on her cell phone conducting a high-level deal, a mother with her two young and unruly young children).

Into this rather placid tableau enters Doc Ock, who announces his intention to rob the place. Then he takes control of the bank by crushing the woman's phone and tossing her across the room. Fortunately for her, Peter has managed to sneak out switch into his Spidey suit, and catches her before she splats into the far wall. Then Spidey faces off against his old nemesis. Enraged by the teen heroes' appearance, Ock directs his attention towards our young hero, even as the bank customers make a break for the door. The last thing we see is Spidey getting tossed through the window, which is actually where we came in.

As the scene cuts back to the intrepid reporters interviewing the witnesses, they seem to be unsure if Spidey and Ock were acting in tandem or if Spidey was attempting to stop the multiple-armed thug. Even as they respond with various explanations, Peter attempts to bring them back to the point that Spidey was trying to protect them and stop Ock. However, Billy, attempting to be the far and balanced reporter, keeps stopping Peter from interrupting their accounts and get the witness to tell their own stories.

Eventually, the Bugle reporters return to the Newspaper of record and find themselves in a meeting with their Editor and Publisher, JJJ. It seems that Jonah wants to (as usual) smear Spidey, while Peter is trying to point out Spidey's innocence and keep his boss truly fair. Meanwhile Billy just wants to report on what happened, and let the witness tell their own stories.

Back at the Bugle, JJJ chooses one of Peter's photos of the robbery that seems to implicate Spidey in the robbery alongside Doc Ock. Once again Peter attempts to protest this depiction of his alter ego, but is (as usual) shot down by his boss. JJJ wants Bill and Peter to go back out on the street and bring home the incriminating evidence that he just knows is out there that will implicate Spider-Man in this crime.

Jonah, knows that it is sensationalism that sells papers, and for him, there is no greater story than "proving" that Spidey is a crook. So back go the two young me as they attempt to acquire the story that Jameson wants them to get. As they continue to interview the witnesses, not only do they keep getting contradictory stories, but none of the eyewitnesses seem to be able to attest to Spidey's innocence.

Try as he might, Pete can't convince of Spidey's heroics, especially as he is constantly hampered by Billy's attempts at fairness in reporting. The next-to-last person they interview is the captured Dock Ock who is cooling his heels at Ryker's Island Maximum Security Prison. During the course of the interview, Ock tries (unsuccessfully, I might add) to implicate Spidey, only his massive ego refuses to allow himself the luxury of allowing that Spidey could rise up to the level of being his partner. Finally they talk to the mother of the two kids, who still can't completely clear Spidey of any wrong-doing.

Still, Pete remembers what happened next, as he realized that the woman's daughter was still trapped inside. So he webbed the front doors of the bank shut (keeping mom from coming back inside to look for her missing daughter. He then located the little girl, gave Ock the drubbing that he so richly deserved, and rescued the girl. While Pete and Billy are questioning the mother, they observe the two little kids playing Doc Ock and Spidey. It is then that Pete observes that the girl drew a picture of her and Spidey, and even though the next day the Bugle declares that Spidey was part of the heist, Peter knows the little girl knows that Spidey is a Hero, and that's good enough for him.

In General...

This story offers another interesting approach to storytelling as we get to follow Pete and Billy chase down the story of the heist to its inevitable conclusion. Peter (and us, the readers) know that Spidey is innocent, and yet there is no way to fully prove it. Even Billy, the cub reporter suspects the truth, but relentlessly follows the story wherever it may lead in the hopes that he will learn the truth as he questions those who were there.

We get to see the story from all angles, from Spidey's view as the fight unfolds, from the various witnesses as they recount their perception of what happened, from Ock's warped perspective, from Jameson's narrow viewpoint, and from Billy's working-man, reporter's unshakable hope that the truth will come out in the story. It is really a great way to tell the story, and it truly does come out as fair and balanced.

Overall Rating...

The format and approach of the marvel Adventures series gives the writers the ability to pull at the legend of Spider-Man from all directions, playing with it in a fashion that is simply not allowed in the main titles. This then is the attraction of the series,. And why it is so appealing to both new fans as well as long-time readers.

Footnote...

There is a one-page short promoting the upcoming kid-friendly Marvel Superhero Squad. Unfortunately word has it that Spider-Man will not be appearing in this series.