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‘Spider-Man: Life Story’ HC (review)

Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel Comics


Spider-Man: Life Story is a great idea.

What if we tell the Spider-Man story over the years?

What if Peter Parker and his supporting cast was allowed to age and develop?

Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley team up to lovingly lay out the Spider-Man mythology in a clever way. In doing so they manage to get to the heart of why Spider-Man continues to resonate after so many decades.

Spider-Man: Life Story uses each chapter to give us a snapshot of Peter Parker in each decade since we were first introduced to Spider-Man.

Chapter One drops the reader into Spider-Man circa 1966.

Peter Parker is a college student who earns money photographing Spider-Man. The Vietnam War is raging. Flash Thompson, inspired by his favorite hero, is about to join. Peter Parker struggles with the idea of going to Vietnam. All the while, Norman Osborn is waiting to pounce on Spider-Man.

Chapter Two bravely dives into the 70’s. It retells the initial clone story in a way that reflects the tragic mood of a lot of the storytelling of the era. Peter Parker is married to Gwen Stacy, who works for Miles Warren. As we know, things with Gwen Stacy never end happily. This chapter delivers an ending with a punch that, while expected, lands right in the gut.

Chapter Three aims right at the Secret Wars/Black Costume Symbiote era. Peter Parker is married to Mary Jane Watson. Mary Jane is set to deliver twins, but like any marriage in which one partner disappears for weeks on end, their relationship is struggling. Add to that a rapidly declining Aunt May, and you have a marriage on the rocks. Toss in Kraven The Hunter and a black costume that both enhances Spider-Man and may be driving him mad, and you will find a Peter Parker on the edge.

Chapter Four takes us to the 90’s. Just like the 90’s Spider-Man comics dived into the Clone Wars, Chapter Four brings the 70’s clones back. In Life Story, though, it’s a much more engaging chapter. It fills out the Ben Reilly character and shows us a different path for Peter Parker.

Chapter Five brings us to the Aughts. You can’t separate the events of 9/11 from any honest telling of that time frame. This chapter sort of glosses over that, which really is all you can do. It offers a few panels that serve as a homage of sorts to the 9/11 Amazing Spider-Man issue. Since this Peter Parker would be pushing 60, this chapter introduces us to his children. Morlun makes an appearance, and we get a unique retelling of Marvel’s Civil War.

The Final Chapter takes us closer to the modern era. Every hero deserves final story that encapsulates their heroic sacrifice. This chapter covering the ‘10s gives us the chapter that differs most from any existing Spider-Man story. That maybe because we rarely get a Final Peter Parker story. This chapter is effective in giving us a Peter Parker who, even in his moments of doubt, overcomes selfishness and does what is right.

This book also includes an issue telling us the story from J. Jonah Jameson’s point of view. A sad coda that allows us to sympathize with a sad, bitter man. As with most collections, this includes alternate covers and Zdarsky giving us a glimpse into the process of putting this book together.

Spider-Man: Life Story is a great read that captures Peter Parker in a melancholy but heroic way. Chip Zdarsky has scripted a book that ages Parker and his supporting cast with grace. Mark Bagley shows why he is the preeminent Spider-Man artist. His pages are full of expressive detail, his action just flows without ever taking away from the emotion.

Spider-Man: Life Story is a great story, but especially for those of us that have followed Spider-Man through the years.

It really polishes a lot of Spider-Man tales that years ago didn’t quite work, but ties them in, and does it in a matter that captures the heart of Peter Parker.

I can’t recommend this book enough.



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