Spider-Man: Blue (a review)
Alright, confession time: I’m not a Spider-Man fan.
I don’t hate the guy, I’m just not a huge fan. When I was a little girl, I really like the Spider-Girl series by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz and I saw a couple of episodes of the 90s Spider-Man cartoon but that’s it. Spider-Man was never integral to my childhood or my current comic tastes. Maybe he’s too mainstream for my weird-ass self. Maybe it’s because I think teenagers as a whole are annoying and Spider-Man was a teenager for a good chunk his run (and yes, that annoyance extends to my past teenage self). Maybe I saw too much of myself in him or he reminds me too much of one of my ex-boyfriends.
……No further comment on that last sentence.
With all that in mind, I went into Spider-Man: Blue, released between 2002–2003 by Marvel, determined to put my bias aside and understand why he’s well-liked by comic book fans.
Loeb and Sale return for this series and they aim for an aspect in Spidey’s life that’s surprisingly forgotten today: Peter Parker’s relationship with Gwen Stacy in the midst of his career as Spider-Man. We get Spider-Gwen and Gwen-Pool shoved in our throats so much that we forget about OG Gwen Stacy. She was Parker’s first love interest and a huge stonkin’ deal in Spider-Man’s history.
How big of a deal was she? When Gwen Stacy was killed off in The Amazing Spider-Man #121, it was considered the official end of the Silver-Age. For all comics.
Similar to Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue opens with narration by an older Peter Parker, though here he’s using a tape recorder, which is addressed to Gwen. It’s Valentine’s Day and Spider-Man swings by the bridge where she died to leave a rose. Though it’s been many years since her death, and he is currently married to Mary Jane, he explains that this time of year will always remind him of the pure love he had for Gwen.
He goes on to reminisce on his times back in high school when he was finding his stride as Spider-Man. He’s perfecting his one-liners, figuring out the best way to handle his villains, and still trying to nail down the balance between the man and the mask. However, the most difficult challenge for him is trying to figure out how he could possibly get a girl as beautiful as Gwen to fall for him.
That’s the reason the series is called Spider-Man: Blue. It’s a melancholic reflection on Spider-Man’s life when she was still around; he feels “blue” just thinking about those times.
So, this series doesn’t quite start at the beginning Parker’s career as a hero. But it does focus around his high school years, so close enough. And this is where we see what drew so many people to him in the first place: his relatability.
While Spider-Man is a hero who comes across as confident, back then he was still a kid trying to figure out his place in the world. He’s constantly torn between the high schooler figuring out what he wants to do with his life, in regards to a career and relationships, and the hero doing his best to protect the city he loves. It’s frustrating for both him and the reader, but it’s a struggle that many of us have faced in our teen years, though not quite as fantastical.
His struggle extends even further when it comes to his love for Gwen Stacy. He is very much in love with Gwen but he doesn’t really know how to approach her on top of all his other responsibilities. Because of his role as Spider-Man, he can’t get as close to her as he wants because he constantly has to go out and fight crime. Things get even more complicated when Mary Jane comes back and shows interest in Peter. He seriously has no idea what to do, which is refreshing in a world where media portrays teenagers as “wiser beyond their years” when it comes to romance. (Seriously, that trope bugs the crap out of me.)
I particularly loved the very minor subplot with Flash Thompson, Peter Parker’s bully/rival and a Spider-Man fan. He’s in full-on cocky jock mode at the beginning of the story but his admiration of Spider-Man inspires him to become a better person. It’s a small detail but I think it best illustrates how heroes like Spidey can inspire us to become the best we can be.
Something that kinda took me aback was the art because I’m not used to see Tim Sale use bright colors like this. Sure, he’s done colorful stuff in the past such as Superman for all Seasons and The Amazon, but those were more of the pastel and Earthy kind of colorful. Since Spider-Man’s rogues gallery is essentially a neon rainbow, Sale got to do some more cartoony-looking illustrations which is great. It’s fun to see him work with these character designs and the fight scenes are exciting to look at. I do wish he illustrated Spider-Man’s swinging like Daredevil’s acrobatics but I understand why he wouldn’t want to reuse the same technique.
One thing did bug me about this comic that has nothing to do with Spider-Man but a specific rom-com trope: the love-triangle. I excused it in Daredevil: Yellow because it got resolved in an adult manner and those involved weren’t being jerks about it, but it’s frustrating here. Two high school girls competing for Peter’s attention a la Betty and Veronica is super annoying and kinda makes him look like a d***. Granted, Peter admits that he was an idiot back then but it was still cringy to read. Thank god it was only a few scenes.
If you want to get the big picture of Spider-Man or want to understand why he’s so beloved, I highly recommend Spider-Man: Blue. Even though I’m not a super fan, this series helped me appreciate the character and even like him a little more. The high school drama stuff was a bit annoying to get through but hey, we were all teenagers once and Spidey is no exception. He’s a hero for the people and of the people, which is perfectly conveyed in this series.
Next week: Hulk: Gray