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Friday, January 09, 2009

This Week's Suspended Animation - Spider-Man Noir #1, published by Marvel Publishing, Inc., 32 pages, $3.99

Marvel has offered readers another alternate rendition of Spider-Man, in Spider-Man Noir. I’ve always been a fan of the concept of “What If...?” stories, but is this one worth fans’ time and money? Following are observations of the first issue.

Writers David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky present readers with a post-Great Depression world in which the poor are victimized by the rich, and the rich are controlled by the criminal underworld. It is a dark vision, to be sure, but not entirely without merit. A young Peter Parker, inspired by his Aunt May (an outspoken figure who is a thorn in the establishment’s side), is not afraid to spit in the eye of the outlaw element. His desire is to help usher in an age of equality for all classes. Let’s hope he lives long enough.

A sympathetic reporter, Ben Urich, takes a liking to Peter, and tries to protect him from his own youthful passion and overzealousness. Urich is sympathetic in another way, however. A way that certainly adds human frailty to his character, as well as another dark, depressing element.

Story notwithstanding, the art of this book is the star of the show. Carmine Di Giandomenico tailors a world that certainly fits the mood. Strike that - it creates the mood. The settings in the first issue are either depressing or sleazy, and in one instance, both. The city appears dirty, even under a blanket of snow. The characters have the appearance of the downtrodden and defeated, with the arrogance of Norman Osborn’s ilk and Peter’s defiant spirit being the exceptions.

Finally, the book throws a predictable, but entertaining, mystery at readers: Who is the Spider-Man? And, is he a murderer?

Spider-Man Noir is not an uplifting read. From beginning to end, the reader is “treated” to a cold, overcast sequential experience, albeit with potential rays of light. The gore factor is a bit heavy, but this is still well-done comics storytelling.

Review by Mark Allen