I’ve never been a Marvel Comics fan – I was always a DC boy. The world of Gotham City and the villains that Batman faced were always infinitely more interesting than anything The Hulk, Spiderman or the Fantastic Four were up to. Growing up as a Doctor Who fan, I appreciated a main character who used brains rather than superpowers to save the day. All of this has changed a little since growing up. A discarded Iron Man comic set me down the path to reading more Marvel, the recent hit film adaptations have also opened my eyes to life beyond DC. And then comes along The Official Marvel Graphic Novel Collection with its hardback, high-quality graphic novels covering key stories and characters from the 80’s to the present day. Tempting…
At the outset of the story, Peter Parker is a lost man. He has lost his girlfriend, a visit to his old school awakens the ghosts of his past, and a mysterious stranger with the same powers as himself warns of Peter that the fight of his life is coming up. Historically, it would appear that The Amazing Spiderman was in a bit of a rut at the time that Straczynski took over as lead writer. Legend would have it that the run preceding it was overlong and boring. This arc, beginning with Coming Home apparently saw the title draw back those lost readers over its run.
Straczynski balances humour and action adventure well. The humour never feels forced, and the story zips along at a breathtaking pace barely letting up. Straczynski begins to juggle around the Spiderman mythos by merely asking the question – what if it wasn’t the radiation that gave Peter Parker his powers, but the spider passing on its powers to Peter before the radiation killed it? The delving into the mythos is sensibly handled and doesn’t dominate, or change the status quo that much, and certainly isn’t inaccessible by a new reader – it’s obvious these threads are left dangling for further in the run.
For a change in superhero stories, there is a real sense that Spiderman might not win this battle. With Peter’s mental state being rather fragile after recent events in his life, and his mirror image in Ezekiel, who has chosen not to bear the responsibility of keeping citizens safe, he starts to question why he does what he does. Harking back to my earlier fascination with DC comics, I was pleased to note that it is the hero’s intelligence, rather than brute force that wins the day. Maybe I’m completely wrong about Marvel heroes after all, maybe they are just as fallible as DC’s cast of characters.
Whilst not a groundbreaking story, Coming Home, is nonetheless a decent example of solid storytelling beautifully drawn and coloured, with a strong theme of new beginnings, making this the ideal title to begin the Marvel Graphic Novel Collection with, and enough loose threads to be picked up on later in the series, it will be very interesting to see where Straczynski takes Spiderman next.
The Fiction Stroker gives Coming Home three strokes out of five: