The new volume of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Marvel's latest comic starring the titular wallcrawler, released its debut issue this week, reuniting the All-New Wolverine creative team of writer Tom Taylor and artist Juann Cabal. While living up to its eponymous promise of providing a closer look at the neighborhood surrounding Peter Parker and his amazing friends, the first issue is a surprisingly low-key affair, with Spidey spending most of his time in his civilian guise than engaging in his usual high-flying, high-stakes superheroics found in the new series' sister title, The Amazing Spider-Man.
In a way, this lower stakes approach makes perfect sense. With the stronger focus on the neighborhood, it's Peter's immediate surroundings along with his friends and neighbors that are at risk rather than all of New York City or, on Spidey's particular bad days, all of existence itself. The issue's most thrilling action set piece has Spider-Man welcoming new residents to the borough, and, since it's a Spider-Man book, a rescue is naturally involved. New supporting characters are introduced while existing ones return. It's apparent from the outset that the new series will take a more restrained approach to the hero's life, as even Spider-Man's usual quips and barbs are less zany than usual.
Which isn't to say the book is boring or out-of-character. Punches are still thrown, jokes are still made, and there's more than enough superhero derring-do to make it feel like a proper Spider-Man book. But the difference in energy and scope from what we're used to can be jarring to readers with the expectations of something similar to The Amazing Spider-Man; for much of this first issue, Peter Parker is hanging out in and around his apartment complex facing a new threat that catches him completely off guard. While the opening moments of the debut certainly hit the ground running, -- well, swinging -- the pacing does slow down considerably immediately thereafter.
And while the stakes in the main story are relatively low, the issue's ten-page back-up story, written by Taylor and illustrated by Marcelo Ferreira (G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero), is just the opposite. The story brings in two very important people in Peter Parker's life, one involving a tender moment referencing recent events from The Amazing Spider-Man, while the other is poised to drop a major bombshell revelation in the life of Peter Parker and his supporting cast that is sure to reverberate throughout all the Spider-Man titles for the rest of the year.
Cabal's art in the main story is clean, more detailed than his previous line work in All-New Wolverine and more on par his work on 2017's Elektra miniseries written by Matt Owens. Given the more restrained tone throughout the first issue, it will be interesting to see how Cabal will visually render the inevitable fight sequences and superhero antics to come but, here in the series' quieter moments, he feels right in his element with occasional flourishes that may remind readers of the prolific Spider-Man artist Giuseppe Camuncoli. Alternatively, much of Ferreira's artwork in the back-up story are darker and often depicted in shadow, potentially foreshadowing even more ominous moments in Peter's future.
A consciously different title than The Amazing Spider-Man or Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Tom Taylor and Juann Cabal's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man sets its lower stakes tone and calmer energy relatively quickly. Deliberately paced, the creative team methodically build up the Manhattan neighborhood and its denizens before unleashing a new threat on the flagship Marvel superhero as he goes about his usual day. While this approach may put off readers expecting something much more high-octane, it is a welcome change of pace from the other titles and offers readers a chance for something tonally different but still unmistakably Spider-Man. Come for the more understated webslinger but stay for the stellar back-up story with its promise of something far more personal for its titular character.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 is written by Tom Taylor and illustrated by Juann Cabal with a back-up story written by Taylor and illustrated by Marcelo Ferreira. It is on sale now from Marvel Comics.