Comic Reviews: Spider-Man: Life Story and the Life and Death of Toyo Harada!


indexSpider-Man: Life Story #1 (of 6) (Marvel)

Unlike other Spider-Man events, Spider-Man: Life Story is telling the tale of Peter Parker in real time, allowing the character to grow and evolve over the decades. This gives writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Mark Bagley the chance to show readers something that rarely happens in comics: a character that grows and changes as the years go on. While Life Story #1 only touches on Peter Parker as a teenager in the 60’s, it paints a much different picture on the wall-crawler than the ones we read from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

The year is 1966, and Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for four years. Four years without Uncle Ben. Four years smacking criminals upside the head. Four years of balancing life as a superhero with schoolwork. It’s been years of a lot of changes for Peter Parker, and it’s only getting more difficult with the ongoing draft concerns that many Americans are facing with the Vietnam War. With pressure mounting everyday in the country, Peter Parker needs to decide: are his powers put to use best at home, or overseas?

Chip Zdarsky is more known for his humorous books like Howard The Duck and his art in Sex Criminals, but he has a surprisingly heartfelt approach to Life Story. While this miniseries could just be the gimmick of “what if Peter Parker aged in real time?”, Zdarsky instead injects this debut issue with a lot of heart. He expertly hones in on what made the Lee/Ditko Spidey stories work, but doesn’t shy away from the very real-world issues that were occurring in the 1960’s. Under any other writer, this miniseries wouldn’t be very important, but with Zdarsky, it actually means something.

Arguably no other artist has drawn more Spider-Man stories than Mark Bagley, and his style is very well-known. So well-known, in fact, that I really think that he shouldn’t have been the artist for this entire miniseries, and instead being whatever issue will focus on the 1990’s. But, Bagley drawing Spidey is always a good thing, and it’s always good to see that even this far down the line in his career, he’s not cutting any corners. While it would have been cool to see a retro-styled artist on this installment of the story, Bagley is still a keeper, and always welcome to the world of Spidey.

Life Story is definitely an interesting miniseries, but it has the potential to be something truly unique. It’s not often that we get to see what it would be like if the publishing world allowed their properties to age, so it’s really a treat that we get to experience that with a character as iconic as Spider-Man. The fact that both Zdarsky and Bagley seem to understand that importance is just icing on the cake.


The Life and Death of Toyo Harada #1 (Valiant Comics) index1

Ever since their relaunch a few years ago, Valiant Comics has shown no signs of slowing down. From X-O Manowar to Bloodshot, the publisher is constantly releasing new and continuing series revolving around their diverse set of characters. Yet they’ve rarely focused on their villains, until now. With the release of The Life and Death of Toyo Harada, the publisher, along with writer Joshua Dysart and artists Cafu and Mico Suayan, finally reveal the backstory behind one of the premiere villains of the Valiant Universe.

Set years before his appearance in the pages of Harbinger, The Life and Death of Toyo Harada details the backstory of the villain, who grew up during World War II in Japan. After his father dies in combat, Toyo and his mother witness the bombing of Hiroshima, which unleashes a great and powerful ability within Toyo. A power that allows him to read minds and control matter, and, by seeking out others like him, makes him believe that he can alter the course of human history.

Joshua Dysart is no stranger to the world of Valiant Comics, so the fact that he slides right into this script is no surprise. What is surprising though, is how new reader friendly his opening issue is. As someone who’s never read any of Valiant’s Harbinger series, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to jump in Toyo. Luckily for me, Dysart’s script is very new ready friendly, allowing you to quickly pick up on what makes this character click.

Valiant has made a name for themselves by not skimping on the art budget for their comics, and the work of Cafu and Mic Suayan is no exception. Their style is very much in the same line as titles like Bloodshot and X-O Manowar, with a very sleek and clean design, but at not point does it feel like it was an assembly line creation. Their work is effective and fits very well with Dysart’s script, even if it feels a little interchangeable from the art of other Valiant works.

The Life and Death of Toyo Harada is a pretty interesting look into the mind of a villain, and while I’m not sure I’ll keep up with the series, I gotta commend Valiant for making their universe of titles really new reader friendly. While they pump out new number ones every few months like the “big two” publishers, I have to say, it’s way easier to jump into a Valiant title than it is any others. As long as they keep that up, I see no reason not to think that they could continue to make great strides in the world of the comics.

Posted on March 20, 2019, in Comic reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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