This special anniversary reincarnation of “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” unites writer Roger Stern with artist Roberto De La Torre for a tale set, somewhat unexpectedly, firmly in present spider-continuity. The issue sees Peter and Norah Winters doing a little investigative reporting and chancing across a location all too familiar for one of them.
As a stand-alone story and a celebration of 50 years of Spider-Man, it works brilliantly. The story deals with some important moments from Spider-Man’s past while contextualizing them in the present and most crucially, it revisits a classic figure from Spidey’s past in a way that feels new and interesting. As a single issue, the plot is a little slight, but as a character-focused piece it hits all the right beats.
Enjoyably, Stern isn’t afraid to throw in a few footnotes when re-using old characters and referencing earlier events, which is the sort of thing that certain readers (me included) lament the loss of, despite claims about their effect on accessibility. That said, they’re definitely appropriate here, and not just for nostalgia reasons. This is, after all, a story which draws on Spider-Man’s history — it makes sense to acknowledge it.
It’s enjoyable to see that as a writer, Stern is someone whose abilities have kept up with the times. Occasionally, creators returning to reprise celebrated runs results in unremarkable, dated work. Here, it feels like he never left. The story and setting feel modern, but the character’s voice is Stern’s alone.
De La Torre’s artwork probably helps — as an artist, his style is moody and dark and perhaps that helps temper some of the melodrama and lightness of the average Stern story. Either way, he works well both as a collaborator for Stern and a Spider-Man artist in his own right. It’s the script’s more pensive moments that De La Torre nails best, but the grimy, textured look fits this issue’s overall setting well.
It’s fair to say this does have the feeling of a fill-in issue, but as a story it’s a nice celebration of the character and his past (Who knew Uncle Ben had other maxims?). It’s not especially clear why, of all the possible titles and numberings, this should be “Peter Parker: Spider-Man” #156.1 and it seems to further exemplify Marvel’s approach to titling and numbering as “anything that sells, regardless of how much sense it makes” — but that’s no reason to ignore what is, ultimately, a great one-off tale by a pair of solid creators.