Sunday, August 12, 2007

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #23

Peter David and Todd Nauck conclude their run on FNSM with this issue, which also serves as a sort of bookend to Spidey’s actions during Civil War. Last issue, J. Jonah Jameson fired longtime Bugle editor Robbie Robertson in a characteristic hissy fit. This month, Peter confronts Triple J in person about those actions and a few lingering issues left over from his public unmasking more than a year ago.

The story is a sound, character-driven read that plays with a lot of the longstanding conflicts between Jameson’s editorial direction and Parker’s involvement with the paper. I’ve long considered Peter David’s work on X-Factor in the mid ‘90s to be among my all-time favorites, and he carries the same style to his approach here with Spider-Man and company. He’s great at humanizing the life of a superhero, (or team of superheroes, whichever the case may be) grounding them to the same reality occupied by the rest of us. His characters may fire beams of pure plasma from their hands from time to time, but they’ve got the same insecurities and hang-ups as you and I. That’s especially the case in this issue, as Peter and Jonah’s emotions collide, both verbally and physically.

David’s approach typically treads a thin line between charming and cutesy, however, and he does cross from one side to the other a few times as this issue plays out. When Jameson visits Robbie’s home during the first few pages of this issue, for instance, his back-and-forth with the entire Robertson family provides some great dialog, but eventually goes to the well once too often and spoils the effort. Jonah’s argument with Peter later on, though, is much more balanced and carefully scripted, which results in a more enjoyable, entertaining read.

Nauck’s artwork is a good fit for the more lighthearted Spider-Man material, with a stylized, cartoonish feel. His work is a sort of Madureira / Wieringo mix, with thick linework and exaggerated expressions. For the most part, it works (he really does the dark Spider-Man costume justice, giving it a smooth, leathery texture) but he has some odd problems with maintaining consistent proportions. JJJ’s hands kept changing size throughout the issue, to the point that it became increasingly distracting, and nobody had a normally-sized nose on their face. To an extent, I can chalk that kind of stuff up to artistic license, but at some point it turns into a flaw.

This issue has high hopes. David and Nauck aim to finish their run with a memorable issue that allows Jonah and Spidey to finally work some of their frustrations out on one another, but the end result is a bit underwhelming. The big blow-over between Peter and Jonah didn’t carry the weight I was expecting, and was over and done with before I knew it. While it was actually happening it was good stuff, fun to finally see… but because it was so concise, it didn’t feel like that big of a deal. This wasn’t a bad read, but it didn’t knock my socks off, either. Flip through it on the shelves, but don’t invest too much time.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4

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