The Secret Origin Of The Rumor Is Revealed In Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #9

by James Ferguson

An attack on the newly re-opened F.E.A.S.T. Center has led Spider-Man to a team-up with Prowler and an investigation into Fairgray Pay, a crowdfunding organization with some shady aspects. Now they’re face-to-face with Helminth, a horrifying cyborg that seems to feed on negative emotions. What is his connection to Spidey’s neighbor Marnie (aka The Rumor) and how can they stop this new foe?

At long last we’re treated to the secret origin of The Rumor, a character that has been a welcome surprise to Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Her history dates back decades and she even hung out with Captain America. Even back in the ’40s she had the same kind of attitude she has now, merged with an iron-clad sense of right and wrong.
Artist Juann Cabal takes us back to a simpler time when the only logical solution to Nazis was to punch them right in the face. The style and tone of the comic changes during the flashback scenes. There’s a gorgeous double-page spread that looks like an old-timey war poster showing the Rumor, Captain America, and Bucky in action.

The real stand out in these sequences are the colors from Nolan Woodard & Marcio Menyz. You instantly understand that these scenes take place in the past as some of them are shown in black-and-white while others look like they were ripped from classic comics of a bygone era, complete with the printing dots we used to see on books from that time. This is an awesome technique that works so very well here.
The one thing I don’t entirely understand is the reasoning behind the switch between the black-and-white and classic colors. Sometimes they flip back and forth within the same scene. I think the black-and-white images show a darker time in The Rumor’s history while those in color represent a more uplifting moment. This doesn’t entirely line up, but it’s close.

The most powerful scene in this issue comes when The Rumor is forced into a Japanese internment camp. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has not shied away from topical issues and this confronts a major one head on. It’s presented through the lens of super heroes in a way that really hits home. This comes to a head in a deep exchange between Marnie and Captain America, expertly handled by letterer Travis Lanham. Marnie proves her point in just a few words that carry so much weight.
Artist Ken Lashley bookends Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #9. I’m not a fan of changing artists in the middle of an arc, let alone during a single issue, especially when the styles are so different. It creates a jarring reading experience. This isn’t a knock against Lashley as his work is pretty solid and is definitely a good fit for Spider-Man. He especially excels in the look of Helminth, showing some pretty gruesome details on his unsettling and decrepit body.

Writer Tom Taylor weaves together stoic drama, bombastic action, and just the right amount of comedy for this issue. It’s a great tone for Spider-Man and it works wonders here. A great example of this is when the web-head seeks the help of Tony Stark only to learn that his wall-crawling allegedly leaves a residue. This leads to a great exchange as Peter Parker starts to question himself and his powers in this funny self-doubt. Think about everything he’s climbed over the years. What kind of residue has he been leaving behind?
It’s tough to do an extended flashback in the middle of a storyline without losing momentum, but Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #9 does it in spades. If anything, it actually picks up steam by showing the full extent of the evil at work in Helminth. This is a dark force that dates back to World War II. I’m even more excited for where this arc is going to go and I cannot wait for this heinous villain to get what’s coming to him.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #9 from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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