This is sure a heck of a lot better than the other, far more publicized, Spider-Man comic released this week.
The Marvel Adventures line is kind of a strange beast. It offers simple, single-issue stories of the Marvel characters without any kind of complex continuity references. It provides a much less gritty and hard-hitting version of the Marvel pantheon. It gives kids comics that they can read in the way comics used to be read all the time (before the dark times, before the Moore/Miller era of the 1980s).
But sometimes the Marvel Adventures comics can be off-putting, visually murky, and reliant on fanboy in-jokes. They often seem directed at some tween comic book audience that doesn’t quite play with action figures anymore (at least in public) but doesn’t have the patience for a 42-issue “Captain America” saga either.
All I know is that I’ve tried to read some of the Marvel Adventures comics with my young son, and sometimes he loves them and sometimes he doesn’t, but they are always much less fun to read aloud than DC’s young readers’ comics. The Marvel Adventures books always seem to take themselves a bit too seriously for what they are, except when Jeff Parker goes crazy with the Avengers.
Here we are, though, with “Marvel Adventures Spider-Man” #47 by Todd DeZago and Sanford Greene. And this thing has all the advantages of a good Marvel Adventures comic and none of the disadvantages. It doesn’t have the murky, pseudo-realistic, stolid artwork that has burdened many a Marvel Adventures title of yore. It has a fast-paced, cleanly told story, with the highly-underrated artwork Sanford Greene.
Is Greene underrated? I would say so, since I haven’t seen him rated at all, and he’s really great. I liked his work on “Wonder Girl” last year, and I like his Spidey work just as much. He blends the dynamism and buoyancy of a Mike Wieringo (fitting, since DeZago and Wieringo were such close collaborators and friends before ‘Ringo’s tragic all-too-early death) with the expressive designs of a Dean Haspiel. He may seem too “cartoony” for the mainstream Spider-Man comics on first glance, but he can tell a story with verve and energy. He’s pretty darn good, and I’d like to see him do bigger, more “important” work for Marvel as soon as possible.
DeZago’s story is a lot of fun too, with the Prowler and Dragon-Man getting caught up in a case of wrongful accusation and industrial espionage. DeZago keeps the text sparse, giving Greene more room to work his magic, and yet he manages to convey the characters and themes nicely in a relatively short amount of sentences. He even includes a moral at the end, but it feels earned and not imposed from some know-it-all authorial voice.
DeZago’s pretty darn good too, and he’s another guy who should be doing bigger stuff for Marvel. With the advent of the Quesada era, DeZago apparently lost his momentum at the company (he was involved with some pretty high-profile work in the 1990s), and it’s time to give him another shot at something more than Marvel’s junior varsity.
But at least Greene and DeZago are producing some very nice work for the Marvel Adventures line for the time being. It may not be complex, sophisticated graphic narrative, but thankfully it’s no Barack Obama vs. the Chameleon either.