You want lots of character building and dialogue coupled with next to no action? Well you got it. So that’s probably the wrong way to introduce Spider-Man #4 but it is essentially the truth. There is precious little in the way of actual action but then that is really what sets this series apart from all the other Spidey ones on the market right now. What it does do is capture the life of a modern teenager remarkably well.
So what do you get in lieu of all the fighting exactly? For the most part it’s a prolonged conversation between Ganke and Miles in which they debate which of them is the most oppressed in modern society, something that seems to be a very active competition amongst most teens. Ganke asserts that he gets the worst of it due to his weight whilst Miles contests that being black is more of a struggle. Neither one of them is willing to relent and look at things from the other’s perspective for just a moment, which again is typical of teens as they tend to only be interested in their own point of view and to hell with anyone else’s.
Bendis has already established a rich theme of tackling issues such as these in this series and he does a moderately good job of portraying the character’s concerns this time around too. Both of the boy’s gripes feel quite realistic to their station in life although the way that they are presented comes across as being quite shoehorned in. The argument itself is born out of nothing and seems entirely tangential to the actual narrative at play.
That narrative is the arrival of a new ‘hero’ at their school. A mutant known as Goldballs (Worst name ever) has joined their year and Ganke has something of a man crush on him which leads to some mildly off-putting gushing on his part. The escalating argument between the friends along with the new student leads to Ganke essentially betraying Miles and spilling his secret to Goldballs. It is a bit of a jaw dropper of a moment and one that allows this relationship to take a very interesting turn as you are left wondering how they can salvage the friendship and what the ramifications are going to be now that an outsider knows Miles is Spider-Man. The most likely answer is that ‘Balls will turn into an ally for a time but Bendis might decide to break the habit of a lifetime and steer things in a more original direction.
There is some action to be had at the very end of this comic as Hammerhead comes after Spidey on the orders of Black Cat. This is another element that should serve to greatly alter the life of young Miles and it promises to be a very engaging storyline, especially once it aligns with the Ganke/Goldballs saga that is unfurling alongside it.
Sara Pichelli, Gaetano Carlucci, and Justin Ponsor share the art responsibilities on this title and the end result is largely a success though there are some elements that appear to have been rushed just a little bit. The good comes in the form of Spidey’s fluidity of movement throughout the scenes with Hammerhead, he looks every bit the aerial acrobat that the character is supposed to be. The misses are less noticeable as they occur in the background of some scenes. Often the scenery is incomplete and rushed looking, most notably in the cafeteria. It is a relatively small gripe but one that you will notice and may well be irritated by.
Issue #4 is best described as a mixed bag. There is plenty to compliment but so too is there plenty to criticise and it makes for a middling reading experience. This is still better than Amazing Spider-Man but it falls just shy of the unexpectedly brilliant Spider-Man 2099. A little work could push it to the head of the queue though.
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