Peter Parker Fights The Stages Of Grief In Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5

by James Ferguson

Peter Parker has faced criminals, monsters, clones, gods, and more as Spider-Man, but there are some enemies you can’t punch, web, or kick. His Aunt May, who has been like a mother to him for years, has cancer. Peter doesn’t know how to react to this news. You can see how the stages of grief start to play out as he runs right into denial first. Instead of trying to comprehend this, he puts on his webs and goes out to fight some crime. That’s something he can control.

I was a little annoyed at this at first. Aunt May is the only blood relative Peter has (discounting clones like Ben Reilly and Kaine). Yes, being a super hero is a big part of his life, but Peter wouldn’t be half the man he is if not for Aunt May, so it’s a little weird to me that he doesn’t drop everything and support her in any way he can.

His response to this jaw-dropping news is “I have a lot going on right now.” That is infuriating. How can you say that to this poor old woman that has cared for you and put up with all your excuses over the years? I feel like this should put things in perspective for Peter. He’s always put his life as Spider-Man first, above those closest to him and now he’s faced with the very real possibility that his beloved Aunt might not have much time left. Think about every time he stood her up or left her hanging because he had to go out and save the city or fight a super villain. Wouldn’t he want some of those moments back?

This also brings up my continued problem with the very idea of secret identities. If Aunt May knew her nephew was really Spider-Man, I think this would go a whole lot smoother. Instead, he has to make another lame excuse and duck out. Looking at this again, understanding that Peter is probably in denial with this sudden and shocking news, I can cut him a little slack, but it doesn’t excuse his behavior as a whole.

That’s the Peter Parker side, but what about Spider-Man? He leaps into action and gets involved with a car chase. Nolan Woodard steals the show here with some fantastic colors. The lights of the car and the street lamps cast an awesome shade on the webslinger as he swings down the road. His costume is illuminated in a way that’s just a little shiny, but not to a distracting level.

There are some borderline absurd images in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5 during this car chase. These play with the overall quirky tone this book has established. It’s fun, yet action-packed, with just the right amount of drama. Artist Yildiray Cinar makes this feel like a Fast & Furious movie with some small panels interspersed among the larger images to focus on some specific details, like the clicking of a seatbelt or the spin of a tire.

Letterer Travis Lanham amplifies these moments with some choice sound effect placement. I particularly like how he shows police sirens with a swirling “woooooo” across the panel. The quick cuts mentioned above coincide well with the sound effects, like something out of a Guy Ritchie film.

Peter does come around on the whole Aunt May thing, basically going through the stages of grief. There is a great segment where he visits Dr. Strange for an unrelated topic and asks about magically healing her. There’s a not so subtle jab at One More Day, where Aunt May was shot and Peter searched high and low for a way to save her. It’s shown in such a way that Strange is practically looking at the reader, as if he’s telling us “We know we did this before, but wait it out.”

These little nuances from writer Tom Taylor are part of what has made Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man such a stand out title. It balances the crazy antics of the wall-crawler’s life as a hero with the feelings of the human beneath the mask. This mix is what has solidified Spider-Man as my favorite comic book character and this book just gets that.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle

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