PopCultHQ received an advanced review copy of SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN #1 (of 5) from Marvel Comics. Available April 10th, 2019, the creative team for this issue features writing from Peter David, art from Greg Land & Iban Coello, inks by Jay Leisten, colors from Frank D’Armata, and lettering from VC’s Joe Sabino.
Here’s PopCultHQ’s Spoiler-Free Review of…
SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN #1 (of 5)
Age Rating: T
On Sale: April 10, 2019
NEW STORY ARC!
Everyone knows that Spider-Man’s infamous black suit would someday become the wicked web-slinger called Venom – but what happened BEFORE Peter Parker discovered the black suit’s sinister secret?
Find out in this dynamic tale from comics legends PETER DAVID and GREG LAND! Set during the original ‘Black Suit Saga,’ this is an all-new tale that pits the wall-crawling wonder against that most mystifying of menaces…MYSTERIO!
PopCultHQ’s Comic Book Review:
SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN #1 (of 5)
A tale from the past. Spider-man, still reveling in his recently-acquired alien costume, encounters Mysterio in his civilian and costumed identities. Mysterio struggles with his identity and the repercussions of his actions. Is he the joke everybody perceives him as, or does he just need the right motivation?
Even at his most basic, Peter David has always been a great writer. The man gets so much right with whatever characters he chooses to work on that his hits succeed in masking any minor flaws throughout his work.
What could very easily be an inventory story is elevated because of the way David excels at writing Spidey’s wit and banter. The deft way that he’s able to make switches between emotions from friendly-neighborhood web-head to angsty and menacing hero. He writes the symbiote-wearing Parker to a T and handles the supporting cast just as well.
Then there’s the depth and dimension given to Mysterio. More than just the hollow special effects that drive the character, this is a man who’s lost his sense of purpose and ambition. An insecure villain drifting through existence. Not sure if he wants notoriety or anonymity. It’s not until he must face the repercussions of his actions that he starts to regain himself and move forward, for better or worse.
That conflict really drives this issue. The pace of which it unfolds isn’t rapid-fire, nor does it meander. It simply unfolds in a very cause-and-effect manner.
David’s writing successfully transports the reader into the era the story is ambiguously set. Arguably a more consistent and reliable time for readers, the time setting works for the story. It lends more solid sincerity to things while still showing signs of being written in the now.
Forgoing the obvious and judging this issue’s art simply on its own merits, Greg Land is a good penciller. That is something that really shouldn’t be denied. His layouts, eye for setting and even some splash pages, are attractive and that’s exactly what Land intends when he composes work on a book. He wants it to look pretty. There he succeeds.
Iban Coello fares a little better. Perhaps because of his recent Venomverse work, he is closer to the character and story. But his style is vastly different to Land’s and inker Jay Leisten must have had one hell of a time tying the two together so not to become too jarring toward the reading experience. It seems like Coello would have benefitted more if he handled the scenes between Felicia and Peter rather than the small supporting tasks he was given with Mysterio in his civilian identity.
Depending on how steeped you are in Spider-man fandom, you could also argue that he isn’t a good fit for this story. That his “style” of working lets down the great character work Peter David does. Expression and body language are something the artist of this script should really utilize to extract the absolute most from.
Frank D’Armata has worked with Greg Land on multiple Marvel projects. He is a colorist who really needs recognition for his attention to lighting. The scenes in the bar are illuminated with a sense of realism. The artificial glow of interior lighting is exactly what a bar should be lit by. The scenes out and about in Manhattan are washed with colors that imply dusk and evening air.
It’s D’Armata that holds the books two artists styles together too. Coated them in an even, tight coloring job.
D’Armata also does a great job with costume work too. Evoking the fun and striking visuals of the classic Mysterio design or the black costume of Spider-Man.
Like the writing, it feels of its time and modern simultaneously. If there are flaws in this issue, the coloring is not to be counted amongst them.
Joe Sabino can match the shifts between mirth and mayhem as if it were as effortless as breathing. The Deadpool letterer who tore it up on War of the Realms employs a more playful bag of tricks here. He nails the Thwips (as I’ve said before, a must for lettering Spidey) and adds the right amount of weight to supervillains who grandstand too. A solid effort from a letterer who must be in serious contention for an ‘Employee of the Month’ at the very least.
A fine, first issue that takes care to place its reader back in time. The sharp writing and purposeful movement of the issue lead it towards something interesting. Great characterization and a really balanced narrative viewpoint elevate this above just being a cash-in on two characters about to hit the big screen again.