Spider-Man: Life Story #4 // Review
The conceit of Spider-Man: Life Story is that it exists in a world where Peter Parker--and the rest of the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe--are allowed to age in real-time from their inception in the 1960s, with each issue set in a subsequent decade. Issue #4 is, of course, set in the 1990s--and what would a 1990s Spider-Man story be without a clone saga?
In this story, an elderly and even more insane Otto Octavius kidnaps a fifty-something Peter Parker and his clone, Ben Reilly, in a bizarre gambit to give himself eternal youth--or something, it really isn’t clear. He is pretty easily overcome, but it’s an opportunity to look in on both Peter and Ben and their status quos in this strange world.
Writer Chip Zdarsky understands what drives Peter and his friends and family, as their behaviors and personalities are very consistent with their depictions in the mainline Marvel Universe. It’s a shame, though, that Zdarsky seems to be missing out on some of the joy of Spidey’s world, as once again another issue in this title is unrelentingly grim, with one tragedy after another befalling Spider-Man and everyone in his orbit. Spider-Man has always been about the sacrifices of responsibility, but it has always been counterbalanced with humor, wit, and optimism; not so in Spider-Man: Life Story.
Penciler Mark Bagley has made his bones as an iconic Spider-Man artist, between his legendary 1990s run and his run on Ultimate Spider-Man in the 2000s. Unfortunately, this issue features minimal Spider-Man action, and Bagley and inker Andrew Hennessey struggle with the lined faces of their aging characters--Peter and Ben don’t look like men in their 50s, they look like men in their 20s wearing badly-applied age makeup. Colorist Frank D’Armata thankfully stops giving everything a sepia tint a few pages into this issue. The lettering by VC’s Travis Lanham is fine.
Spider-Man: Life Story seemed like such a great idea on paper. A real-time Spider-Man title by one of his best writers in recent memory and one of his most iconic pencilers should be a rousing success. Instead, it’s a depressing tragedy, like this version of Peter Parker’s life.