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Most comic books work around a basic premise – good guys versus bad guys, and the good guys normally win. This formula has worked well for twenty or thirty years, but times are changing, and the comic book reading audience sometimes wants something a bit different. With established characters such as Spiderman, this has often resulted in ongoing spin-offs from the main titles that try to look at the character from different angles. Throughout Spiderman’s 30-year history, there have been countless examples of this – most of which have ultimately failed because they try to balance different styles of writing or artwork with conventional Spiderman values.
Spiderman’s Tangled Web is a relatively new addition to the series of spin-offs that has captured a new spirit of magic and is, in my opinion, probably the most successful derivative from the core title that Marvel has ever managed to produce.
FORMAT AND CONTENT
As with all Marvel Comics’ titles, Spiderman’s Tangled Web may only be purchased from specialist comic dealers. The comic is published on a monthly schedule, and is printed in a luxurious format with shiny semi-hard bound covers and glossy full colour pages. As one of Marvel’s premium titles, the price is higher than the normal range – the cover price of $2.99 will translate into UK prices of between £2 and £3 according to where you shop. The title has now been running for just ten issues, and in that time has contained a number of self-contained stories, as well as 2 and 3 part serials.
THE PRINCIPAL OF TANGLED WEB
The idea behind this series is to focus on the rich and varied collection of supporting characters that have become known through the main series of Spiderman’s title. The Tangled Web concept works on the basis that so many of the good guys and bad guys that we see in the series are rather superficial, so wouldn’t it be interesting to explore these people in their own lives – and show the effect that Spiderman has on them. It’s not conventional good guy bad guy story telling – indeed, Tangled Web often suggests that some of the bad guys aren’t anywhere near as bad as you might think. We all know that the boundary between good and evil is often rather blurred – and Tangled Web widens the boundary to its limits.
THE STORIES (SO FAR)
The Thousand – Issue 1, 2 and 3
Spiderman was created when a radioactive spider accidentally bit Peter Parker. Everyone knows that, right? But what everyone doesn’t know is somebody was watching the whole thing. Somebody saw the amazing changes that took place in Peter Parker – and somebody wanted a piece of the action for himself. That someone decided to irradiate a spider for himself – but when he couldn’t get the spider to bite him he took the only course of action that seemed possible – and ate the irradiated spider. Needless to say, he didn’t share the same powers that Peter Parker did – and The Thousand was born. A walking, talking, humanoid form comprised entirely of thousands and thousands of spiders. He has stalked Peter Parker for thirty years or more – and now he wants his revenge……
Severance Package – Issue 4
Whenever the bad guys have a plan, it always gets foiled. They might spend thousands of dollars planning a crime – and then Spiderman always goes and cocks it up for them. This has happened to Wilson Fisk, the so-called Kingpin of Crime, more times than he cares to remember. But what’s it like to work for the Kingpin? When things go wrong, who carries the can? Meet Brian – he works for the Kingpin of crime – or at least he did. His performance review is due – but what kind of severance package does a homicidal arch criminal offer his staff?
Flowers For Rhino – Issues 5 and 6
The Rhino is dumb. That’s a fact of life. Kitted out in his bullet-proof rhino skin suit, he hardly looks like a picture of sophistication. But beneath the suit he is still a man – he still has feelings and he’s fed up with being pushed around. When he gets the hots for a client’s daughter, he decides that he needs a change of image, and goes back to the mad scientist that turned him into what he is – to get an intellect injection. Suddenly, he has brains and class – and he finds himself on top of the world. But this is the Rhino we’re talking about here – so things can’t last that way for long, can they?
Gentlemen’s Agreement – Issue 7, 8 and 9
Bill Clemens has a secret – a secret he has guarded for many, many years. Bill Clemens knows Spiderman’s ultimate secret – his identity. One day, Bill Clemens finds out that he is terribly ill – and only with $500,000 dollars does he have a chance to save himself. But where does a taxi driver on his uppers get that kind of money? Faced with the moral dilemma of his life, whom does Bill Clemens protect? His life and the future of his children – or the secret identity of the world’s greatest super hero?
Ray of Light – Issue 10
Ever wondered what it would be like to have two super powered blokes in costumes crash through your bedroom wall? No – me neither. But for Kasey and his older brother, things are about to get hectic, when Electro and Spiderman decide to fight it out on their living-room floor. Looking for a happy ending? Don’t hold your breath – life doesn’t always work like that.
Tangled Web is exciting and innovative. Each story arc features different writers and artists who each have their own take on Spiderman and his supporting cast. That means that every time you pick up this comic book you are embraced by new ideas and concepts. The varying styles of artwork are amazing – from the childish, almost Simpson-like sketching of The Thousand to the beautiful paint work of Ray of Light, this series features something for all tastes. Issue 3 is covered by one of the most stunning paintings of Spiderman you are ever likely to see. This is a series for old fans and novices alike – you don’t need to know anything about the characters to enjoy these stories.
The flip side to this, of course, is the lack of continuity. Whereas the regular series builds ongoing stories and plot developments, each episode of Tangled Web is like a slice of cake, and as such there is nothing to keep you hooked. You could pick up or drop off wherever you like, and never feel as though you are missing something important. Whilst I fully support the premium price for the format of the comic, some comic lovers might think they are being conned – at up to £3 this can be an expensive read.
Nonetheless, Spiderman is hip at the moment, and this title has been introduced right at the point where the hype is about to explode with the release of the movie. Issue 1 is already fetching £6 to £8 – not a bad price increase for such a young title, and if the standards stay this high, I can see Tangled Web staying with us for some time.