Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spider-Man Noir

Every once in awhile an "elseworld" story comes along that re-imagines a popular character like Batman - Gotham By Gaslight (what if Batman existed during the time of Jack the Ripper?) or Superman - Speeding Bullets (what if Superman had been found by the Waynes and not the Kents and became a Super Batman?) For the most parts I have enjoyed these stories because they take what is best and strongest about the mythos of a particular character and by setting the story in an unfamiliar world or time show that their stories are timeless. What is great about Superman or Batman will always be great no matter where the story is set. Superman - Red Son was a particularly strong take on this genre. It imagined Superman leaving his exploding planet of Krypton and landing in Soviet Russia instead of Kansas USA. (Try to imagine how communist ideals - the good of the state - would contrast with capitalist ideals - truth, justice and the American way - and you have the beginnings of a great read)

Today I read issue one of Spiderman - Noir which postulates a world were Peter Parker lives in a crime and poverty ridden city during the Great Depression. We get the same backstory - Dead Uncle Ben, Aunt May but we are given a city where the main villian is a ganster named the Goblin who was responsible for Uncle Ben's Death. He was killed for being a protester and agitator much like Aunt May is. Peter is taken under his wing by Ben Urich a drug addicted reported who is somehow protected from the Goblin and who works for J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle. (And who we also find was there when Uncle Ben was killed!) Except for the cover and one scene on the initial splash page we get no images of this black suited gun weilding Spiderman but that only adds to the interest. I so wish I had all four issues to read at once because I want to see how he got his powers or if he even has powers. We see that he has his webs but why the gun? The costume is totally 'noir' inspired with the trenchcoat,the homemade, awkwardly sewn mask and goggles. Villians like Kraven and the Vulture are tweeked a bit here but are still familiar to any Spidey fan. Marvel recently released an X-men Noir title but its conciderably less memorable. I guess for someone like me who has seen it all after 30+ years of reading comics this seems like a fresh take on an old character. But then again most of the 'elseworld' type tales are satifying just in their approach. By setting the character in a fresh environment you lose the burden of decades of continuity while retaining the details that make the character interesting in the first place.

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