Comics : Spider-Man: Adventures of the Web-Slinger
This review was first published on: Nov 2016.
It's been four years since we last saw a Spider-Man book in the "DK Readers" format. Then onto the scene leaps this "Spider-Man: Adventures of the Web-Slinger" in a new "DK Reads" format,.
I'm not sure if "DK Reads" is a replacement for "DK Readers", or just an extension/alternative. But in any case it features a hefty 96 pages... twice the 48 page count which was the upper-limit of the DK Reader (Level 4). It's also smaller, being 8" tall rather than 9".
Finally, this marks a return to both hardback and paperback formats (the last few DK Readers had been paperback-only).
Spider-Man: Adventures of the Web-Slinger
Apr 2016 : SM Title
Find ISBN 9780241249659
So outside, we're 5.25" x 8" in hardback or paperback with 96 pages.
Inside, the content follows the well-established DK Reader format which is half chapter book, half junior encyclopedia. Some topics are told in a relatively conventional third-person narrative, others are presented in a double-page "fact-file" format. Illustrations abound throughout. Some pages are white text on black background for variation.
The book begins with an adapted version of the Spider-Man origin story, which remains faithful to the key elements. From there it meanders through a description of his powers, interspersed with introductions to key villains, allies, and supporting cast.
I wouldn't care to guess how many times Spider-Man's origin stories and classic villains have been recapped in a format like this, suitable for new readers. Surely at least thirty. Probably closer to fifty or maybe more? Nearly all of those feature a generic Spider-Man which would prepare you to start reading comics from almost any era.
This one is slightly different. Once the basics have been covered, writer Simon Hugo avoids the middle years of Spidey, and takes great pains to bring readers up to date with the very latest issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Following the summarized back-history of classic villains, we quickly jump ahead to Anna Maria Marconi and Parker Industries. It is made clear that Peter and Mary-Jane were never married, Felicia is Peter's sworn enemy, Spidey is a member of The Avengers, and The New Avengers, and also of The Mighty Avengers, etc. ad nauseum.
We then get a rapid walk-through of "important" stories – and that's where things get interesting.
Civil War gets a mention – despite being a few years ago now, it's still considered crucial for modern continuity. But then we learn about Ends of the Earth, Superior Spider-Man, Silk, Spider-Woman (Vol. 6), and the Spider-Verse story from around Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #9.
This is clearly "Introduction to Spider-Man, 2016 Edition."
This book made me feel strangely unwelcome.
Firstly, there's an odd deliberation and detachment in the text, which I'm pretty sure is just because Hugo is trying to ensure that the writing is perfectly clear and correct for his young-reader audience. I know he doesn't mean to exclude me, just because he's writing for somebody else. But that's how I feel. It's like I walked into the wrong part of town. Or a nightclub for young kids. Go home grandpa – you don't belong here.
And that's a shame. Stan (despite all his faults) always wrote for children of all ages. As I grew, Stan came with me. But this book has long since moved on and left me behind.
That's even more clear when looking at the key events which Hugo chooses to cover. There's a giant empty void between The Clone Saga, and Civil War. The events of the Spider-Man comics from 1975 to 2005 might just have well not happened, as far as this book is concerned.
Should I be surprised? When Marvel declared a Brand New Day, this was their intention. To start anew for a new generation. They wanted new young readers, and if that means some of the old-timers like me in our 40's and 50's are going to fall by the wayside, then so be it.
I have to give credit to the Marvel Editorial team for sticking to their guns. They rebooted Spider-Man, they're committed to that vision, and this book toes the party line with dutiful diligence.
So why do I feel so empty inside?