Thoughts on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

So, quite a while ago I talked about X-23 (2010) and said I’d talk more about TPBs that I was reading. I, uh, never really got around to doing that. But as I noted this week I recently read Peter David’s “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” and since I couldn’t actually write blog posts this past weekend due to not having power, I thought it would be a good idea to slide a relatively quick commentary on it here to fill in my Friday spot for this week.

The series takes place in the middle of but mostly in the aftermath of Civil War, where Peter has revealed his secret identity to the world, rejected the pro-registration side, and become a fugitive. It brings back a number of characters and situations from Peter’s earlier days, like restoring Flash from his coma — with amnesia so he has forgotten being Peter’s friend, bringing Betty Brant back into the picture, and having Liz Allen write a book bashing Peter for how he treated her when they were together and he was hiding his secret identity from her. Heck, he even mentions Felicia at one point. It goes even further when it has a cross-dimensional version of Ben Parker arrive to cause some issues for the team, adding in a future version of himself as well as of his daughter, who gets turned into a kind of a Joker-type villain due to misfiring nanites that her lover uses to try to break her out of a virtual prison. At the same time, a supernatural being created solely out of spiders is trying to breed with Flash or him and kill Peter, and others show up, like Mysterio and Chameleon.

To be honest, that’s the weakest part of the series: the plots. They are long and convoluted and confusing and very often rely on continuity that someone new to Spider-Man won’t really get. The book is pretty good at explaining what happened before so that we aren’t lost, but it’s hard to build that emotional connection that many of them require in order to pull them off. The supernatural threat is the weakest of them, while the Ben Parker storyline is interesting but ends rather oddly in order to set up the next one. All in all, the plots are nothing to write home about.

But where it does shine is in the character interactions. The Flash plot starts annoying, but builds towards the end as Flash gets to reveal his non-bullying side. Betty Brant gets some great interactions with both Peter and Flash. Liz Allen’s character arc is short, but reveals that she didn’t really want to smear Peter, but needed the money the book would provide and so didn’t feel like she could complain too much without risking that … which then leads to Betty Brant getting involved. But the best one is probably how it deals with Jameson discovering that Peter was Spider-Man all along, with a lovely short arc that involves him firing Robertson, facing down Spider-Man in a long discussion, and reconciling with Robertson.

Peter David has always been really good at funny dialogue, which makes him a perfect writer for Spider-Man. And as expected, it really works here. Each character gets humour in their own voice, but also probably make more jokes than at least some of them would normally. The humourous touches really add to the enjoyment of the work, even when the plots themselves aren’t really wowing anyone.

Overall, it was entertaining. None of the plots are classic plots for good reason, but it handles the Civil War upheaval about as well as could be expected, and the character arcs actually do manage to build in the emotions that they needed to succeed. It was definitely worth reading.

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