Spider-Man: Chapter One #1

 Posted: 2004
 Staff: Tom Russell, Jnr.


Spidey Gets Byrned.

The first two issues of Chapter One confirm my fears from the beginning that John Byrne has decided to single-handedly destroy Spider-Man. All right, maybe that's a bit over dramatic, but let's look at issues one and two in detail, and comparing it with the original run.

Story '"Bitter Lesson"'

  Spider-Man: Chapter One #1
Summary: John Byrne's 12 part version of Spider-Man's Origin (AF #15)
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Writer: John Byrne
Pencils: John Byrne
Inker: John Byrne
Articles: The Burglar

From the beginning, John seems to get things off right, which leaves one off-balance. Yeah, things are updated, which is a pet peeve of mine. "We need someone to buy this extra ticket to the Stones concert?" "Uncool?" This is more like an outdated attempt to update it. Some of the lines are very similar to the original, though, and Peter seems as corny and, well, Parker like as he was before.

Then comes the origin.

Any chance of me actually liking this book comes to a crashing end. So, now, Peter's origin, which was once "Bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining its abilities" has become "caught in a radioactive explosion, then bitten by a radioactive spider which made him one of the few survivors of said radioactive explosion." Things DON'T need to be further complicated. Simple origins aren't bad, and some one should tell Byrne that. I'm surprised anyone at Marvel who was in charge agreed to this.

And the entire idea of Dr. Octopus getting his origin at the same time as Peter? While I'm open to new ideas like this, and it links the two of them as archfoes, it doesn't make any sense giving them the same origin because... they have different origins.

Peter, somehow surviving his injuries and revamping, finds that his uncle buys him a new computer. Helping his uncle load the... Super Pro computer... (I'm going to pretend I didn't see that) is the always-famous Burglar.

The Burglar, in the Spider-mythos, has been that one foe who hurt Spidey more than ever, the only foe whom really was linked to his origin. Byrne decides to give the Burglar a reason to be in Uncle Ben's house, but if Byrne, the idiot that he is, had even bothered to read Amazing Spider- Man # 200, he would have known said motivation.

Peter, out of the hospital, discovers his powers. This is almost exactly like what happened in the original, and at least he's being consistent about something. There *is* something consistent in all this mess, actually... The characterization is dead on. Aunt May acts like Aunt May, Ben acts like Ben, and Peter like Peter. The moment Aunt May sighs and says, "Oh those dreadful wrestlers," and Ben's self- esteem boosting little comments are actually something good. This is something that's been plaguing some current continuity books, changing Peter in some books to fit some bizarre image. Now if only they could keep Aunt May dead, and continuity will be much better.

Byrne skips one of the most crucial scenes, where Peter decides to wear a mask to avoid being identified and embarrassed. If he hadn't decided that, there would be no Spider-Man, really. Just another important thing that Byrne forgot in his haste to update things.

Peter goes on to be a celebrity, and asks Liz Allen out on a date. Liz wasn't nearly so aggressive early on and eventually went on to like Peter a lot. Byrne, who commented that he's going to tie things together so that they make sense, shouldn't have done something this utterly stupid. And Peter never takes out his anger like that. He would usually muse on about the old Parker luck.

Peter leaves and the Burglar sees him. Spidey first feels his Spider- sense, yet another flaw that Byrne has added in, though Kurt Busiek did the same thing.

In the very first issue of Amazing, the Chameleon figures that Spider- Man has the instincts of a Spider and so tries to contact him by tuning in to it. Soon, these "Spider- instincts" became "Spider- senses" and finally evolved into his Spider-sense. So he hadn't felt that until later on, but with John Byrne...

We're entitled to a Universe shot, or at least that's what I call it when a page features single panels of different Marvel Universe characters, most often the Silver Surfer, Jean Grey, Dr. Strange and Spidey himself. YOU know what I'm talking about.

The scene in which the burglar escapes, thanks to Spidey, is actually a bit more well-done than in the original, though its basically the same. Only this TIME, Spidey doesn't seem impassive, only confused... at least until the next two panels.

(And since Byrne is so keen on updating things, he should know about a law [the name I forget] which recently came into practice which makes it a crime to not help out someone being mugged, or police. It was made rather famous by Seinfield ...)

Spidey walks home, and we discover that he had no trouble at the bank. A little note tells us that they'll be more on that next issue. Footnotes, in comics, are supposed to refer to previous events, not future ones.

Something true to the original is the scene where Peter discovers his Uncle's murder. This time, however, we get to see Ms. Watson, who explains away all the information we need, rather than the Dick Tracy look alike from the original. Me, I think it made Spidey look and feel like more of a loner when there was no one at home that he knew or any neighbor or, basically, anyone who genuinely cared for him and told him.

Spidey goes to the warehouse with vengeance on his mind, discovers the burglar and gives him a severe, though only three- punch, tail- whooping which really messes up the guy's face. It's much more graphic and stunning visually then the limp form of the buck- toothed, red- haired guy, but it seems to lack the emotional, sudden "Oh my God" type of thing that Stan and Steve managed to pull off.

General Comments

Now, as to what I thought of this particular issue...

The story's solid, in its original version, but here its not anything new (though that's expected. Byrne decides to ruin Spidey's origin, but the artwork is solid and he has a good handle on whom the characters really are.)

Overall Rating

I give it one and one-half webs.

 Posted: 2004
 Staff: Tom Russell, Jnr.