COMICS: John Reviews “Spider-Man: Blue” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Spider-Man: Blue

Spider-Man: Blue

It’s common in this modern age of comics to revisit classic superhero tales from new perspectives, telling them with a more 21st-century (or even late 20th-century) sensibility.  Such is the case with Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Spider-Man: Blue, a fresh look at Peter Parker’s days with Gwen Stacy and the love that blossomed (and was cut all too short.)  Blue is a tale of love found and lost, of heartache and nostalgia, of first impressions and lasting memories.  It’s also a story where Spider-Man web-slings through the city and punches supervillains. To their credit, Loeb and Sale manage to balance both aspects of the story admirably well.

Spider-Man: Blue is a story told in flashback, as a married Peter Parker takes some time on Valentine’s Day to record (via dictophone) his memories of his relationship with his first love, the late Gwen Stacy.  He begins with their first shared look, continues through their first date and first brush with the danger that follows Spider-Man everywhere, takes a brief sidetrack to mention the introduction of Mary Jane Watson (now Parker) and ends with their first (and last) Valentine’s Day together.  All of these events develop alongside Spider-Man’s daily battles, which pit him against the Green Goblin, the Rhino, the Lizard, the Vulture and Kraven the Hunter.  It was just another week in the life of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, but one that he will look back on with fondness and sadness for the rest of his life.

Jeph Loeb is an interesting writer, whose works range from the spectacular (Batman: The Long Halloween) to the spectacularly awful (Ultimates 3, most of NBC’s Heroes.)  Thankfully, his heart is clearly in the right place with Blue, and he is able to make full use of his talent to tell a powerfully emotional story.  The format helps drive home the purpose of this particular story, which is to serve as a love letter to the Gwen Stacy years and show how they shaped who Spider-Man is today.  Loeb takes a very respectful aproach to what is, to some, a sensitive story.  He walks an even more delicate line by making Mary Jane such an integral part of the story, but Pete’s love for Gwen never seems diminished.  His characterization of MJ reminds the reader that she was once a true wild child, and nothing like the professional celebrity and loving wife she has become since then.  In fact, the book’s final chapter shows how Gwen’s death changed the way the characters saw the world, and helped Mary Jane finally begin to grow up.  The entire story is handled with subtlety and taste, elevating Blue from mere popcorn fare to serious award contender.

The action scenes, while well-executed in terms of composition, never really seem to fit with the rest of the story.  Much like the battles in Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5, they seem like a distraction from the real story happening elsewhere (though unlike Scott Pilgrim, they are not relegated to the background.)  It all seems a bit too reminiscent of The Long Halloween or Hush, with so many of Spidey’s rogues’ gallery being manipulated by one clever orchestrator.  The mystery doesn’t feel compelling, though, and the payoff doesn’t feel satisfying.  It definitely feels as though that part of the story doesn’t reach its climax unless you immediately read The Death of Gwen Stacy upon finishing it.

Tim Sale provides some of his best artwork here, making a valiant effort to do justice to the great John Romita, Sr.’s original renditions of Gwen and MJ.  While not entirely realistic, Sale’s designs perfectly capture the characters’ personalities.  And in a story where color is so important that it serves as the title, Steve Buccallato provides a perfect palette that steals the show on nearly every page.  Sale’s masterful artwork helps to make the fight scenes spectacular, even though they contribute little to the story.  He handles the quiet character moments even better, and I’m fairly sure you could understand the emotion of the scenes without reading any words on the page.

Blue is not an action-packed thrill ride, nor is it a sappy whine-fest on the part of Marvel’s most angst-filled hero.  It’s a love letter to the departed, full of joy and sorrow and celebration and mourning.  It’s everything it means to be, and it’s a must-read for those who have ever felt anything for these classic characters.

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2 Responses

  1. […] For a more through and professional review of Spider-Man: Blue check out John’s Review. […]

  2. […] For a more through and professional review of Spider-Man: Blue check out John’s Review. […]

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