I recently finished reading my third ‘book’ this year: Spiral is a 5-issue arc in Amazing Spider-Man 16.1 – 20.1 written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Carlo Barberi with inks by Juan Vlasco and colors by Israel Silva (plus letters by Joe Caramagna).
I could also talk about ‘reading’ a fourth book since I just finished listening to the audio book for The Hobbit. I take my books any way I can get them in a quest to get through at least 25 books this year.
As readers of this blog know I am a huge Spider-Man fan and have been since I was a kid; this story arc perfectly captures why. The story concerns the machinations of a criminal known as Mr Negative whose power consists in bringing out the worst in anyone he touches; his corrupting influence has been slowly twisting an already jaded ally of Spider-Man’s named Detective Yuri Watanabe who is also The Wraith – an identity she uses to investigate and fight crimes that she can’t fully solve as a police officer. Over the course of this story arc The Wraith goes from being willing to push the lines with Mr Negative’s “help” to eliminate criminals to being prepared to kill anyone who gets in the way of her quest for ‘justice’ – including Spider-Man himself.
What makes the story so compelling, beyond the great art and the excellent pacing, is the depth of the insights into human frailty. Peter Parker would I’m sure agree that pursuing real justice and integrity means acknowledging that in truth it’s not that simple – even with great power and great responsibility. This isn’t just pulp entertainment; the line below from the last issue of the story arc could as easily summarize The Scarlet Letter as it does this comic book (spoilers for classic literature?):
A big part of what appeals to me about Marvel comics in general and Spider-Man in particular has always been the humanity of the characters and the real struggles they go through. Their super powers don’t lift them above the hardships we all face in life. I’ll ponder the above quote as deeply as I do words from other literary genres. I hope you will too.