Comics : Spider-Man: Wanted Dead or Alive

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

This book is available in Hardback (6.25" x 9.25") or Paperback (4.25" x 6.75"). The page count is 290 or so, including all the blurb at the front and back. Writer Craig Shaw Gardner has a pretty solid track record, including a few novelizations. He also contributed a short story for the "The Ultimate Spider-Man" anthology from Byron Preiss. Presumably he impressed editor Keith R.A. DeCandido sufficiently to get a chance at a full length Spidey novel.

In Detail...

Spider-Man: Wanted Dead or Alive
Year 1998 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0399143858
Publisher:  G.P. Putnam's Sons
Writer:  Craig Shaw Gardner
Illustrator:  Bob Hall
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Review

The story keeps pretty much to the straight and narrow as Spidey books go. The story concerns Tyler Stewart, a wealthy but crooked businessman who manipulates the media and the political scene to get his own candidate selected as New York Mayor. With the new mayor in his pocket, Stewart plans to make even more money. Unfortunately for Spidey, the new Mayor intends to base his campaign around making Super-Heroes into scapegoats.

Stewart also pulls in Electro and Rhino as pawns in his plan, along with a cast of other minor bad guy lackeys invented for the occasion. Gardner invests a fair bit of time building up some detail around the minor bad guys, giving them quite rich characters. On the side of the good guys we have Spidey, MJ, plus the cast of the Daily Bugle including Joy Mercado, Ben Urich, and spunky star reported Betty Brant.

With all the cast assembled, Stewart frames Spidey for the murder of one of his own, and then proceeds to use Electro to create a crisis to make the current Mayor look incompetent. It's up to Spidey to save the day, while the Bugle guys (with a little help from the web-slinger and his alter ego) gather the evidence to show Stewart for the crook he really is.

It's pretty clear from the start what we're in for, and the story proceeds in agreeably bite-sized chunks along its chosen track. The characters are all pretty true to the comics, and in fact they tie with current continuity rather tidily. Somebody has clearly done some homework on who was doing what over in the comics, and helped ensure that the book fits in without any problems. It all makes for a perfectly pleasant read.

There's little to get too effusive about, but little to condemn either. If I have any complaint, it is perhaps that the ending was all just rather too tidy. A guy like Stewart really should have covered his tracks a bit better, and not have gone down quite so easily. In this world of PhotoShop, a couple of blurry photos and the word of one minor career criminal doesn't really seem like enough to topple a hugely reputable crook like Stewart. Oh well, the good guys win, so why grumble.

Overall Rating...

Perfectly good summer reading. It's a little sad perhaps that given the rather flawed nature of most super-hero novels, a book with no real weakness deserves an honourable mention. But that's how it is. Hardly a classic here, but good enough to merit a little over the average with three and a half webs.