Spider-Man: Life Story #5 Enters The Civil War With Added Tragedy

by James Ferguson

The real-time look at Peter Parker’s life hits the 2000’s. He’s managed to leave his life as a hero behind, giving his identity to Ben Reilly. He’s happy out in the woods with his wife and kids. That changes when Morlun comes looking for a meal while the super hero Civil War begins to tear the country apart. Peter can’t stay on the sidelines for long.

First off, it’s amazing to see how writer Chip Zdarsky picks out major events in the Marvel Universe and the wall-crawler’s history in Spider-Man: Life Story. This issue includes Morlun, Civil War, and 9/11, three monumental times in the life of Peter Parker. These are weaved together in such an organic way that flows with the overall story even though they only get a few pages or even a couple panels, instead of tons of issues. You feel the full impact of each storyline even with the smaller space.
More importantly, you can feel the weight of these events weighing down Peter Parker. He’s wrestling with what he wants with his personal life and what he feels responsible for with his super hero life. It would be so easy to just ignore all these crazy things and to live in obscurity. We all know what comes with great responsibility and that is so deeply ingrained within Peter that he can’t turn away from that.

Artist Mark Bagley brings out this quality in the design for the older Peter Parker. You can see the strength he still possesses, but he carries himself differently than he once did. The stress is off of him when he first appears in this issue and that changes instantly when he hears about Morlun’s attack. Suddenly all that pressure returns and his stance is adjusted to meet him. That burden needs to be carried again.
The wrinkles in Peter’s face, as well as the faces of the other characters well into their middle age, stand out. Inker John Dell shows how they’re feeling the years of their work as heroes. It’s one thing to get old, but it’s another to get there with all the strength and abilities at work. Imagine being someone like Tony Stark who can build miraculous things but you can’t stop aging. Sooner or later your body is going to fail you and none of your accomplishments or shiny toys will be able to save you.

The years are shown in the way Peter speaks as well. Letterer Travis Lanham highlights the web-head’s undeniable drive in some choice caption placement for his internal narration. One of the key qualities of Peter Parker is that he keeps getting up, despite how many times he gets knocked down. This extends even into his old age. While he’s urging himself to get back up, he’s having some trouble speaking when the fists start flying. The fight is taking a toll on him.
There’s a contrast between the scenes with Peter and those with his family. When he sets off alone, the mood of the book gets more somber and dreary. Colorist Frank D’Armata fills the page with greys and browns, mirroring the dark clouds hanging over Peter as he enters the sunset of his career as a hero. Meanwhile, his children represent the future and it’s bright, although they’re up against a formidable foe.

Spider-Man: Life Story is one of the most consistently solid comics on the stands today. There are a ton of Spider-Man comics and it can be hard to make something that really stands out. This book does that in spades, delivering a new look at an iconic character. It builds upon the biggest and best storylines over Spider-Man’s decades-long career and digs into the core essence of what makes him tick to create something truly special.
Spider-Man: Life Story #4 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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