Sunday, 6 March 2011

Retro Review: Web of Spider-Man #8-9

Local Super Hero by Micheline / Isherwood

I wasn't expecting much when I sat down to read these two issues, in truth having only bought them because of #8's gorgeous cover. David Micheline is a widely respected Spider-Man writer but his work on Web of Spider-Man has been largely ignored by critics, with the title having gone down in the annals of history as the 'black sheep' of Spider-Man satellite titles, sorely lacking in both purpose and quality stories.

Thankfully, Local Super Hero really surprised me. The plot takes us to Smithsville, where titular hero the Smithsville Thunderbolt has been protecting the sleepy town for years after gaining superpowers from a mysterious meteor. Approaching retirement age he is struggling to deal with the fact that his powers are gradually fading away, but is forced into action one last time after another, less immediately heroic recipient of the meteors power comes to town looking for answers. Spider-Man's role in the story is fairly minor as he is called to the town by the Bugle to cover the Smithsville Thunderbolt. He takes part in the fight scenes and there is a minor subplot involving Peter and a bratty local reporter but it is fairly uninteresting and really only serves to pad out the page count.

The real selling point of the story is the Smithsville Thunderbolt, a thoroughly believable character who engages the reader right from the off. The idea of superheroes getting older and having to face retirement is one that is rarely played out in modern superhero comics and it is dealt with brilliantly here, as Micheline captures the sense of desperation in a man who has no idea how else to live his life. The character of the second Smithsville Thunderbolt also works well - he is the archetypal sympathetic villain, leaving the reader ever unsure of who to root for. Where the story is really made is in its ending - without wanting to give it away it is unpredictable, bittersweet and tugs at the heartstrings, leaving an impression long after the issue has been put down.

Geof Isherwood's artwork is very unremarkable but it does little to harm the story and actually suits the somewhat downbeat tone more than a lot of styles probably would. It never detracted from the plot and really that is what you want in a story of this nature.

In short, this was a very entertaining two-parter- not your typical superhero story.


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