Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man: Derailed
– By Peter David (Writer); Mike Wieringo & Roger Cruz (Pencils); Karl Kesel, Oclair Albert, Victor Olazaba, & Mike Manley (Inks); 2006
Hold onto your webs, spider-fan A major character from Peter Parker’s past returns! Meanwhile, is that the Hobgoblin terrorizing the skies? And if so, how is he connected to the shocking changes in Spider-Man’s life? Continuity fans better break out their back issues, because both Spidey’s past and future will change when an old (and unexpected) foe executes his master plan!
Plus: Presenting “Web Log,” an off-beat Spidey tale that starts at the very beginnings of Spider-Man’s career and goes all the way through to the distant future…as seen through the eyes of a woman who is convinced that the web-slinger has been stalking her her entire life. And finally, think Spider-Man doesn’t have to worry about death anymore, having escaped its grasp in “The Other”? Think again, as — years after his origin — Spider-Man finds himself back in the ring, squaring off against a masked wrestler whose name literally means “Death”…and for good reason!
This is yet another Spider-Man book of mysterious origin, though frankly it was probably a lucky freebie. Though labeled Volume One, this book actually collects issues #5-10, the first four issues having been part of the Spider-Man crossover event The Other, which included issues from The Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Knights Spider-Man.
In terms of continuity this story seems to be set just before the Civil War storyline, as the final issue here and the first issue of Civil War are close together in release. There appears to be some overlap in release dates, but I assume this takes place just before, as no reference to superhero registration is ever made. Peter, Mary Jane, and Aunt May all live together in Avengers Tower, thanks to the generosity of Tony Stark. With the exception of “Web Log,” Spider-Man is garbed in the Iron Spider Armour for the duration of this book.
To be completely honest, thinking about the stories in this book gives me a bit of a headache. For something that advertises itself as Volume One, which is probably why I chose it, there’s a lot of context missing for what’s going on.
The book opens with “Web Log,” a standalone story from the perspective of a woman who believes Spider-Man is stalking her. Much of the narration is told through blog posts, which recount experiences she’s had nearby Spider-Man related incidents, providing a window into her deluded perspective. The story had a lot of potential to explore a particular type of mental illness through the frame of Spider-Man’s polarized public image, but I don’t think it really lived up to this. Not bad for a one-off story, but nothing all that special.
The second story, “Masks,” is about J. Jonah Jameson setting up a charity wrestling match between Spider-Man and a luchador named El Muerto, with the intention of Muerto humiliating and publicly unmasking Spider-Man. It was a little fun to see Spidey in the ring again, since pro wrestling is where the persona first started out, but at only two issues long it was a pretty basic outing for the character. The meat of the story, for what its worth, deals with Spider-Man trying to come to terms with his powers and their legacy, which were revealed during The Other storyline. It was a weak story as it was, hurt more by the absence of context for me.
The last story, “Jumping the Tracks,” was the most interesting , but also the most inaccessible. It’s not overly complex, but it does involve time travel and alternate realities, using a Spider-Man and Hobgoblin from 2211 who have apparently been established before but I personally know little about. They don’t go into much about these characters as people either beyond what the characters conveniently spell out in dialogue. There’s a specific alternate reality of Peter Parker’s life that was told through much of the story’s first issue that I did like quite a bit, but once that overlapped with normal continuity things started to get a bit messy. I feel like this story idea could have been better if it were more fleshed out rather than three issues long. It felt like it had to do too much in too few pages.
I found the art to be a much better aspect of the book, all of the artists doing a great job with the action, colours, and most of the character designs. Spider-Man from 2211 looks too silly for me to take seriously, however. His costume just looks too busy and impractical, his mechanical extra arms looking more like an encumbrance than useful. I did like the more alien-like look to the Hobgoblin from 2211, which made me think of a cross between a xenomorph and a Martian. I wish I could find more to say about the art, but beyond being visually pleasing there’s not much more to say.
The back extras include some cover art pencils and design sketches for Spider-Man 2211.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man: Derailed, while enjoyable in some places, is not a book I would recommend unless you plan on going through the required reading that would help provide context. Even then, the stories are pretty weak and poorly fleshed out. This book stands as a good example to me for why Marvel ended up making The Amazing Spider-Man the character’s sole series with three issues a month, instead of all these alternate titles. It felt like a collection of disjointed side stories not good enough for the flagship series.