In the original The Amazing Spider-Man comics, once Peter had the bite from the spider, he had one sick night at best, woke up, and was done with any transformation. He was for all intents and purposes, Spider-Man at that point. You have to think that even in the 60’s there was enough knowledge of what radiation poisoning was that there should have been some mention of Peter being the slightest bit sick longer than having one nights tummy ache that Aunt May made better with homemade pumpkin pie. There had to be some sort of transformation period that could have been explored.
Brian Bendis is the one who took the time to see what would happen to Peter if he went through more than just an upset stomach. This issue, called Growing Pains, details just that. It goes through some of the physical and emotional trauma Peter has to go through in order to finally get everything under control and be Spider-Man. In a lot of ways Mr. Bendis has tapped into what makes Peter Parker such a great character. Peter is the living embodiment of growing up. When you grow up you have an awkward stage where you feel funny, you act funny, and you may occasionally smell funny, but at the end of it all you come out of the tunnel and join the fast lane called adulthood. Peter has wanted nothing more than to fit in. Yeah, being popular is cool but fitting in means you’re left alone for the most part. If he fits in, Flash Thompson stops goofing on him. Mary Jane may show some interest in him other than friendship. He becomes what he thinks normal should be. But that growing up part gets in the way. You tend to realize that your vision of adult is not all it’s cracked up to be and you have to learn to adjust or you will be run over by life.
One comment I made about the last issue was the fact that Norman was quick to send goons out to take out Peter when he should have been using Harry to get closer to the boy. Well apparently he took my advice because after overhearing Harry talk about Peter unintentionally breaking Flash Thompson’s hand when Flash took a swing at him, Norman played the part of the good father for a moment in order to con his son into bringing Peter to his labs. That was a smart move to keep Peter close to keep an eye on him as well as showing the reading audience once again what a bastard Norman Osborn is. When you see the look in Harry’s eyes, the blind admiration he has for the father who up until this point treated him like utter dirt, you end up hating Norman ever so much more. Someone that would manipulate their own child to suit their own needs is a rotten bastard. We didn’t have someone saying a speech talking about how Norman did this. We were shown it which is important to remember as a writer. The biggest failure of writers, myself included, is telling the audience what you could be showing them. If you just let them think on their own, they will be able to form their own opinions about what you are showing them.
Peter’s trip happened only to get Doctor Otto Octavius to get a dreaded blood sample from Peter. While it introduced us to the man who ends up being Doctor Octopus, he really served no purpose an unnamed lackey couldn’t have filled. We get Harry calling him Doc Ock but no real mood swings from the good doctor. This is once instance I felt where Bendis was using our knowledge of the Doctor Octopus character for nostalgia purposes only. It will be established of course that he’s one of Norman Osborne’s chief scientists but making the mistake so many have made when it comes to reboots, sometimes a character is tossed into a new story simply because we know him from the original story. Yes, Doctor Octopus becomes better known later. Yes, it is important to establish at some point how he became Doctor Octopus. I just felt this introduction of the character in what is supposed to be a new story was simply pointless if you’re looking at it as a first time reader.
The artwork was pretty solid throughout. It is a nice blend of classic Ditko work with modern touches to add more to the panels. The only complaint I have, and it is a very minor one, has to do with the fact that this issue, whenever Peter has any sort of emotional outburst, Mark Bagly overuses emotion lines to indicate he is going through something severe. As a static visual medium, they have to do something to show action but overusing something is just as bad as using certain words over and over again in the same issue. Again, this is a petty annoyance on my part and may not even be noticeable by others unless you like getting annoyed like me.
A solid continuation of the story shows that issue one was certainly not a fluke. I don’t know how far along the series was planned in advance but Bendis sure did one hell of a job showing how Peter grew into the role of Spider-Man. The original Stan Lee classic will always be the Holy Grail of comic books because it laid the foundation for the character we know and love today but as I have said before, any author and any artist can always have their work critiqued. There is no such thing as a perfect piece of art. Even if it’s purely subjective the reason why you may not like a certain choice in a story or an art piece, nothing will escape the steady eye of your audience. Stan had the seeds for a great story but based on how comics were written at that time, a single story just wasn’t explored over multiple issues like they are today. With just two issues in, we’re seeing what I can say is a pretty realistic exploration of something fantastical, the gift of superpowers on an average person. There’s no magic wand and viola, Peter’s a superhero. He has to suffer through a lot to get to the point to where he himself feels like he is a hero much less the average person takes him as one.
I can’t speak enough for how dense the stories are as well. Some comics I have read through rather quickly and there is nothing wrong with that. This however feels like a long chapter in a good book. However you do not have too many word bubbles on the page. You never get distracted with the words, ever. The story serves the art. The art serves the story. They merge as one into one hell of a comic.