Warning: SPOILERS for Spider-Man #1
A new Spider-Man mini-series written by J.J. Abrams and his son, Henry, shows a critical lack of comprehension when it comes to Spider-Man's character. Indeed, their portrayal of Peter Parker may be the worst take on Spider-Man since the infamous One More Day storyline.
Despite Marvel Studios' big-screen success over the past decade, Marvel Comics has a checkered history when it comes to hiring filmmakers to write comic books. For every success story, like Kevin Smith's "Guardian Devil" storyline for Daredevil, there have been many more lackluster books, like Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof's Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk. It was for this reason that many comic fans were skeptical when it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be co-writing a Spider-Man mini-series with his son, Henry. Skepticism that was well-warranted, based on the first issue.
The advance advertising for the series made great play of how the story would involve Peter Parker's long-time love interest Mary Jane Watson and feature a new villain called Cadaverous. This seemed to imply an active role for MJ in the story, beyond being Peter's emotional support at the end of a long day's crime-fighting. Unfortunately, MJ is unceremoniously killed by Cadaverous early on in the issue while trying to save an injured Spider-Man, who has lost the use of one of his arms.
The story suddenly jumps forward 12 years from Mary Jane's funeral, where a one-armed Peter is seen holding the hand of a young red-haired boy. This boy is revealed to be Peter and Mary Jane's son, Ben Parker, who has grown into a troubled teen who continually picks fights with the bullies at his school. It would not be surprising for Ben to have inherited his father's sense of fairness were it not for one disturbing fact: Peter Parker is barely a presence in his son's life, and only responded to the latest call from the principal's office because he just happened to be in New York City between flights.
It seems that not only has Peter retired from being Spider-Man, but he has also taken on a photographer's job that has him traveling continually. Worse yet, he's left the job of raising Ben to Aunt May. To say that this is horribly out of character for Peter Parker would be a vast understatement. While it is believable that Peter might give up being Spider-Man to take care of his children, it is unfathomable that he would intentionally distance himself from his family, given his background as an orphan.
Spider-Man has always been defined by his sense of responsibility and his inability to ever give-up fighting. To depict him as a negligent father who abandoned superheroism because it only brought him grief? That's writing an entirely different character than Peter Parker.
This is why many long-time Spider-Man fans dropped the comic after the inexplicable One More Day; an editorial twist long held to be the worst Spider-Man story ever written, precisely because it showed Peter Parker making a literal deal with the devil rather than take responsibility for his mistakes. While it is possible that the Abrams have made this change for the sake of shock value and that Peter will remember who he truly is before the miniseries' end, most Spider-Man fans are unlikely to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Given that the advertising for this book hid the fact that its focus is on Peter Parker's son becoming the new Spider-Man, there's little reason to believe that the Ol' Web-Head will show up in a recognizable form later. Those fans looking for a comic that embraces the values of the classic Spider-Man would do well to check out this week's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #12 instead.
Spider-Man #1 is now available from your local comic book shop, and direct from Marvel Comics.