Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nortwest Connection; Marvel Adventures: Spider-man: THWIP!

When starting this blog, one of my intentions was to spotlight comics that were in some way connected to the Pacific Northwest. It's my way of celebrating one of the things that make living in this region so special.

To start things off, I thought I would take a look at "THWIP!" the first volume of Marvel Adventures: Spider-man written by Paul Tobin, a fellow Portlander.

I'll have to confess that I'm not much of a Spider-man fan. I wouldn't deny that there have been many great tales using the character and Peter Parker is one of the most influential comic characters of all time. My difficulty is that I feel the things that made Parker unique have been co-opted by other comic titles. As a result, the Amazing Spider-man can seem like just another generic super-hero comic.

Attempts to rectify this problem have included the Ultimate Spider-man books by Brian Bendis that offered a more stream-lined version of the Spider-man saga.

Another effort has been the Marvel Adventures (formally Marvel Age) series. For over fifty issues this ongoing series has featured the adventures of a high school age Parker in a sequence of stand-alone issues aimed at younger readers.

I can't speak for the quality of the books before Tobin joined the title with issue fifty-three, but he has contributed a very enjoyable interpretation of Spidey along with the development of an interesting supporting cast.

With his first issue Tobin has introduced four significant additions to the this Marvel Adventures book. The two most familiar to past Spider-man stories are classmate Gwen Stacy and her Police Captain father, George Stacy. Both of these characters were killed off long ago in the regular Spider-man books, but Tobin has resurrected them for his own stories.

Within the first issues, Gwen's development is limited, but the use of George Stacy has been a revelation. He seems to become kind of mentor to both Peter and Spider-man. A decent man who balances his duties as a cop with a belief that the wallcrawler is not the criminal he's widely believed to be.

The two other additions are more of a surprise. Emma Frost is more familiar as the villain-turned-hero featured in many X-Books. Here she's a manipulative young woman who uses her telepathic abilities to make New York City her personal amusement park. Joining her is her best friend, Chat, a kind-hearted teen with the mutant ability to communicate with animals.

The stories feature plenty of action, but the real highlights include the growing friendship between Peter Parker and George Stacy and the Chat development as a new romantic interest.

Tobin's scripts are full of wit and humor and he does a good job of conveying the lives of teenagers without being condescending.

Tobin's writing is complimented by the art of Matteo Lolli. With this series, Lolli has a manga-inspired style that clearly distinguishes the teenagers from the adults, shows a great attention to detail, and provides consistent visual storytelling.

As the parental advisory says, this book is for all-ages. That shouldn't discourage older readers from checking out these comics. This is one of the best Spider-man fixes you can find.

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