Spider-Man: Family Business
Spider-Man is about to be swept away from his comfort zone in New York when someone comes into his life who calls herself his sister. This sparks a fast-paced, world-bounding mystery that focuses just as much on Peter’s family as it does on his role as Spider-Man. How will Peter Parker cope with his feelings of abandonment and fight off one of his greatest enemies at the same time?
A version of the script in the back, along with rough sketches of the panels.
April 2, 2014
Author: Mark Waid
Penciller: Werther Dell’Edera
Artist(Painter): Gabriele Dell’Otto
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Genre: Adventure/ Sci fi
Bitten by a radioactive spider during a lab experiment, Peter Parker gained the strength, speed, and agility of a giant arachnid. To avenge his uncle’s death and live up to his responsibilities, he became the amazing Spider-Man. With an extensive background in science, he made web-shooters and fights crime. He is a hero, a Marvel “big leaguer” along with the likes of Captain America and Iron Man.
Mark Waid is a New York Times bestselling author. His thirty year career has sent him everywhere in the comic world. Some of his best work was in his Daredevil run in 2006, his epic story Kingdom Come, and his storytelling in Amazing Spider-Man. He is currently writing Black Widow and the All-New All-Different Avengers.
Gabriele Dell’Otto is an Italian painter whose beautiful brush work can be seen in Vengeance, X-Force: Sex and Violence, and Secret Invasion to name just a few.
Violence: Mostly superhero action, like webbing up people on Spidey’s part. The Kingpin displays some more ruthless behavior at times. There is a scene where he uses a chain to choke someone. Dodging gunfire, avoiding explosions, and hand to hand combat is all throughout the book. Violence is not glorified, and there are only a few scenes that show any blood.
Spiritual Content: N/A
Sexual Content: Kingpin tells Mentallo that there are certain privileges working with him. He says to Mentallo, “You’ll be wined, dined and pleasured,” and ends the topic there.
Drug/Alcohol Use: There are drinks at the casino, and Kingpin refers to wine. The stewardess offers Peter champagne on the plane.
Positive Content: Peter Parker shows he is a hero even without the costume. He fights to save people from destruction and extends forgiveness in a situation. The Kingpin shows through his selfish actions that he is the bad guy. He exploits people for his own profit.
Negative Content: Peter lies to his aunt about where he is so she won’t be worried, but he feels badly about it.
When expert paints and realistic illustrations meet Waid’s storytelling, good things happen. Before this point, Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) discovered his “dead” parents were really clones, was buried alive by Kraven the Hunter, was chased by two psychotic symbiotes from space, was drained of his life-energy so he became an old man, and was trapped in the mind of a dying Otto Octavius.
Yeah, Spider-Man has been through a heck of a lot since Stan Lee and Steve Ditko dreamed him up more than thirty years ago.
But he comes out wise-cracking in the end, and he is all the better for the torment. Even when the web swinger’s world is bleak, there is always something to hope for, whether he finds that in family, friends, or a new romantic interest. That hope is never exclusively discovered in the webbed tights. It is in the man. It is the reason Spider-Man books are still so appealing.
That is what makes this story stand out. The creative team explores the Peter Parker who was abandoned by his spy parents to be raised by his aunt and his uncle. Parker is used to the streets of New York, but how is he going to act when he is taken out of his comfort zone? How is he going to respond when he is faced with his parents’ past and a woman who claims she is his sister?
The plot here is excellent. Waid is brilliant, giving us all of the things we expect from a Spider-Man book. Spidey quips through dangerous situations as always. There is a main villain behind the scenes, manipulating to get what he wants. This time it is the Kingpin of crime, “old baldy” himself, Wilson Fisk. He is rejuvenated with a sinister scheme to rebuild his empire after being disgraced and abandoned.
There are fun action scenes too. Spidey webs up the bad guys. He somersaults away from certain doom. He rescues the girl from an explosion. Waid knows what works for fans of the wall crawler and gives the artist plenty of space to show those larger-than-life poses.
But what makes it worth reading is the human element to it. He is Peter Parker, an abandoned kid with questions about his childhood. He is the son of Richard Parker, a spy who fought alongside Captain America. It is because he is Richard Parker’s son that he is being hunted. Waid knows that within any great Spider-Man story there is the personal element. He asks, “How does this affect Peter Parker the man?”
Because the plot is so fast paced, it leaves us with questions we don’t have time to answer. It reads as a spy story and an adventure tale. There are sports cars, a beautiful mysterious woman, looming mansions, casinos, guys with guns, a maniac mastermind, and exotic locales. We go from Tunisia, to New York, to Monte Carlo, and then to Cairo, Egypt. Like Parker, we can hardly catch our breath.
He is not in control of his environment and he still has to answer the hero call. He has to do the same heroic things he always does despite the circumstances. The painted art reveals this idea masterfully.
Using a paint medium, we get to see the full colors of the exotic scenery. We see the realistic shimmer of Spidey’s suit in the pouring rain against the streetlight.
These things help us suspend our disbelief. We also get to see the emotions of the characters in blends of color instead of in abrupt transitions. There is a true mad gleam in Kingpin’s eyes as he does whatever it takes to climb back up the baddie ladder.
There are a few full panels in here that are poster-worthy, with amazing and flexible Spider-Man action shots.
But within the artwork lies a mystery. We are moving so fast with the plot, but if we take the time to stop and look, we see how the painting style creates a kind of illusion. These blends give off a hypnotic effect. It feels a little like a dream with a magical quality to it. This fits with the plot because Parker is disoriented through most of the story.
There is not much not to like here from Waid and Dell’Otto. Traditional Spider-Man fans won’t be disappointed. Quite often, when a painter is brought in to give a book a more realistic feel, you get a darker, grittier world that often doesn’t match the character. This doesn’t happen here. If you like secret hideouts, robots, Nazi secrets, superhero battles and corny jokes in the face of battle, this is the book for you.
If you appreciate excellent character development throughout, with the villains having an engrossing depth to them and the hero progressing through stages to reach an epiphany moment, then this book is also for you.
It is the traditional good and bad brawl that we all love and expect, but mixed with the personal struggles of a young man who didn’t grow up with a father. How these two things are reconciled in the end is well worth the read.
Unlike Peter, we have a Father who never leaves us or forsakes us. Often times, the Devil tries to come between this relationship with manipulative schemes. But, like the villain in this tale who lost his pomp and glory, Satan too will become a shell of himself.
In the end, when the Kingpin of this world is overthrown, we are going to look at him and say, “Is this the one? Is this the one who caused the nations to tremble?” In that moment, we will turn to our Father as he vanquishes the manipulator and his organized crime syndicate for good and we’ll be thankful we’ve been adopted in the family business.
+ The writing fits the characters
+ Beautiful painted art
+ Foreshadowing of a bigger event
+ Moral outlook
- The plot was a little simplistic