Superheroes from the big comics companies don’t age, not much anyway. Sure, there may be some superficial aging, particularly for teenage heroes who sometimes become twentysomethings, but the idea of change is often what could be considered the illusion of change in that anything that does change can be conveniently changed back.
That’s what makes the premise of the mini-series Spider-Man: Life Story so interesting. Peter Parker ages in real time, still hitting the highlights of his comics career while he and the world around him gets older. But was it any good?
It wasn’t good. It was great.
The story begins in 1966, four years after Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. He was fifteen at the time and still in high school. Now he’s in college, somewhat dating Gwen Stacy, and doing the Spider-Man thing while wondering if he should go fight in Vietnam or not. Iron Man is, but Captain America, well, he’s another story.
Considering how much Marvel stories were always supposed to be set in the real world, it’s certainly different to see Peter worry about being drafted.
That more or less reflects how writer Chip Zdarksky treats Peter as a character. He wants to do what is right while never quite getting what he wants, and for good reason considering what he really does want. Many of the biggest milestones of Peter’s comic book career come up, such as the first Secret Wars, Norman Osborne unmasking Peter, the Clone Saga, and Kraven’s Last Hunt. But this time, perhaps helped by Zdarksky having a single idea of who and what Peter is as Spider-Man, the character is a lot more consistent than he was given the many different writers who wrote the original stories. And since this is a Peter who doesn’t have to worry about serialization, he can make more common sense-style decisions. For example, why concern himself over whether or not Norman’s amnesia holds when he can drop an anonymous tip to the cops? After all, even if he can’t remember what he did, Norman still did commit crimes as the Green Goblin.
Zdarksky also remembers Peter is good at the science stuff while being bad at relationships. Mary Jane’s take is also pretty interesting as she takes Peter to task for self-righteous behavior that seems right but also seems to go largely unrecognized. And if Peter is aging, we also get something of a storyarc for the likes of Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Steve Rogers.
Basically, this may be one of the best Spider-Man stories I’ve read in a long time, Factor in artwork from longtime Spidey artist Mark Bagley, and the end result is something that could work as a life story as Peter goes from his twenties to his seventies in just a few issues, losing and gaining friends and family along the way, and growing as both a hero and a man until the very end.
9.5 out of 10 unexpected clones.