Mark’s Review: Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley

Hi everyone! I have something new and exciting to share with you today. We’re here to welcome my boyfriend Mark to The Books Are Everywhere. He’s going to be posting reviews for you every so often, and today he’s here with his first post – a review of Spider-Man: Life Story!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

In 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15, fifteen-year-old Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and became the Amazing Spider-Man! 57 years have passed in the real world since that event – so what would have happened if the same amount of time passed for Peter as well? To celebrate Marvel’s 80th anniversary, Chip Zdarsky and Spider-Man legend Mark Bagley unite to spin a unique Spidey tale – telling an entire history of Spider-Man from beginning to end, set against the key events of the decades through which he lived! Prepare to watch Peter Parker age through 57 years of groundbreaking history – and find out what happens to him, and those he loves the most!

I can’t decide if you need to have knowledge of the intricacies of 60 years of Spider-Man comics to follow this, or if it’s the perfect standalone entry way for the uninitiated reader. The truth is, it might be good enough to achieve both.

This graphic novel collects all 6 issues of the Spider-Man: Life Story comic book from 2019. Starting from Peter Parker’s earliest days as Spider-Man in the 1960s, we jump a decade at a time with each instalment, visiting with this alternate version of the web-slinger throughout his life in real time. In the main Marvel series Peter Parker started as an awkward teenager and, while he has grown up somewhat, he has aged at a glacial pace. The character has also been subject to a number of resets and continuity changes to meet the wider Marvel cannon. This is were Life Story is so unique.

Set outside of standard continuity, we are allowed to witness Parker, his compatriots and adversaries all grow and age from their inception. We as an audience effectively witness short interludes in each decade. Often coinciding with the major storylines that were happening in the comics of those eras, these episodes are now imagined with a realistic weight of age and lasting consequences. In the 60s we see a young and familiar Peter deal with his friends leaving for Vietnam while learning his new powers and grappling with the dilemma of perhaps joining them. The 70s takes a revisionist look at the notorious ‘Clone Saga’. While the 80’s finds an ageing group of heroes battling in a spin on the ‘Secret Wars’ storyline. This continues through the to the modern day tackling elements of very big storylines and weaving them into an increasingly different take on Spider-Man as a hero who encounters elements of both the comic and real worlds.

Copyright: Marvel (2019)

In comics the idea is often to change things while reinforcing the continuity, I have read enough to know that very few who die are ever really gone, so Life Story seems quite moving by comparison. I have enough knowledge to know all the stories Life Story is riffing on even if I haven’t read them (although I think I may have!). Seeing all these elements weaved into a more consequential narrative might not seem wildly revolutionary, but when paired with such a familiar character, it’s a really interesting proposition. The book also managed to side swipe me with some of realities for side characters, if Peter has to age from 15, then so does Aunt Mae or Tony Stark, so do his adult villains which over a 57 time period means the inevitable. Something I really hadn’t prepared for but I won’t delve into too much here.

With Spider-Man regular Mark Bagley doing the art and the often more comedic Chip Zdarsky writing I thought this was going to be a breezy ride through 60 years of spider-history. Not a more intense look at the potential realities of the usual comic book form, with all the ups and downs of a real life story.

-Mark

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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