By Zack Quaintance — I am generally opposed to comics like Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, a fourth Spidey title that takes its place in line behind the flagship Amazing Spider-Man, the rising and youthful Miles Morales: Spider-Man, the intriguing prestige Spider-Man: A Life Story (a six-issue mini about what it would have been like had Spider-Man aged from his creation in real-time), and the perpetual runner-up book, Spectacular Spider-Man. I know there are super fans out there who just can’t get enough of the character, but I find it all just a little much.
In fact, in all likelihood I’d have probably have skipped this book if it wasn’t written by Tom Taylor, who has a shining history of taking a little much ideas like this one and turning them into absolute gold (see Injustice, see X-Men: Red). The concept here is based around a hyper-local take on Peter Parker and his heroics, and the plot of this debut issue sees him literally tending to the troubles of his actual physical neighbors.
The main story in this comic (illustrated with clean adequacy by Juan Cabal) is totally fine. It’s not flashy and it’s mildly intriguing, featuring a nifty little mystery. There are some good jokes, and the book seems to go out of its way to let readers know its complimentary to Amazing Spider-Man, incorporating all the recent minor status quo shifts we’ve seen in that title. The latter is a really nice touch that a long-time superhero reader like myself appreciates. Nothing takes me out of a story more than when an auxiliary title for a Spider, Bat, X, or Superman title just outright ignores the status quo elsewhere in the line. It’s to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’s credit that it doesn’t do this.
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW
There are also some nice character moments here, showcasing Peter Parker as a micro-scale humanitarian, but they are nothing we haven’t seen before and seen often. What is likely to really get fans talking is the backup story, which is focused on and narrated by Peter’s Aunt May, iconic Aunt May. I don’t typically make a practice of revealing plot points in these reviews, but it’s hard to discuss this comic without doing so here. The backup story exists pretty much entirely to reveal that Aunt May is suffering from cancer.
This narrative weight is a good case for the book to make for its very existence, if a little unconvincing. I could be wrong, but it seems doubtful to me that a character as iconic as Aunt May would face any real danger in the pages of the third (or arguably fourth or fifth) most prominent Spider-Man title. In fact, in this day and age, I’d only really be convinced if one of these books was headed for a line-wide event or a milestone issue. Still, Tom Taylor is a powerful writer with a big heart, and, while I doubt Aunt May is in any real danger, I trust him to tell stories with this point that intrigue and satisfy on an emotional level.
Overall: In a quiet and polished debut, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 does just enough to justify an addition to the Spidey line. A major development for a long-time character also happens in the backup story. It remains to be seen if this title will feel worthwhile moving forward, but Tom Taylor has done great things with lesser concepts, so for now I’m sticking with it. 7.0/10
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Juan Cabal
Colorist: Nolan Woodward
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
*Full credits aren’t clear for the backup, but the editor notes the team included Marcelo Ferreira, Robert Poggi, and Jim Campbell.
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.