THE BACK ISSUES: Spider-Man: Reign — The Dark Spider Returns


Welcome all to the first installment of “THE BACK ISSUES.” This is going to be a semi-regular (at least when I get around to reading some good stuff) comic review column about independent, and lesser known comics. I’ll also be touching on some story arcs, titles you may have skipped, and graphic novels from the big two (DC and Marvel) as well. This all came out of me mentioning a comic series to Nix called “Irredeemable.” He basically said the idea of the comic was cool and that others should know about titles they may have just looked passed or hadn’t heard of. I personally think that some of these lesser known titles would make great films, and Hollywood apparently agrees, snatching them up right and left.

My first installment however is actually not an independent title, but a comic from Marvel, called “Spider-Man: Reign.” Published as a four issue mini-series and written and drawn by Kaare Andrews, “Reign” is best described as “The Dark Knight Returns” for Spiderman. The parallels are all there; an elderly Spiderman is forced out of retirement to face the corrupt regime, called “The Reign” that has taken control of New York City, the return of several of the hero’s adversaries, and the realization that no matter what happens in a hero’s life they can’t escape their destiny. Interspersed throughout the books are news reports about the Mayor and his ten year rule of the city and it’s lack of superpowered crime, featuring news anchor Janson Miller (named after Frank Miller and Klaus Janson who worked on “TDKR”. And there’s the political aspect as well, but where “TDKR” was a product of the Reagan Era, this is a product of post 9/11 terrorism. I mentioned the Mayor’s policy against super powered crime, though it is referred to as super terrorism in the book. The art is even similar but it is all done lovingly, and is a very well done homage, while telling it’s own story. In it we get a very personal, touching, and somewhat sad narrative by Peter Parker mostly, but joined by a few others towards the end. It sounds pretty straightforward but it’s in the execution that really puts this piece over the top for me, and had it been longer would stand on a level very close to the work that obviously inspired it.

Where “Reign” deviates from “TDKR” is simply in the story it has to tell. Where as Bruce Wayne’s story in “TDKR” was a personal one about him fighting the beast that is Batman within him, and never truly being happy let alone content with his life after giving up the cape and cowl, this is about Peter’s remembering that no matter what happens in life, “with great power comes great responsibility.” If you’re a fan of the character you know that no matter what Peter does the right thing, and here we’re presented with a grey bearded, bespectacled and bow tie wearing Peter Parker, who hasn’t donned the red and blues for a decade. He sits at home, alone in his house, talking to Mary Jane. Yes I said sits at home alone. Mary Jane is gone. I’m not saying how because it’s a major reveal and a heart wrenching one at that. And the city he lives in is in dire need of saving. J.Jonah Jameson is a crotchety old man that seems part crazy old coot, part prophet, and it seems like most of the other people in Peter’s life escaped the city while they still could. And yet the citizens still display hope, with kids spraying “Where did you go?” on walls in reference to their friendly neighborhood hero. Once Peter returns to web swinging the story ramps up considerably, but it still has some great touches. The inner dialogue of Spiderman is great and reminded me of “TDKR” again but instead of the “Baptism by rain” scene where Bruce says he feels a man of 20 again, we get an almost dual personality where Spidey is still the quipster, and Peter feels he’s watching from a far and commenting on things.

I won’t spoil things as it’s really a fun read, but I will say this: I had a few questions reading “Reign”. Much like I did with “TDKR” but at least they explained things. In “TDKR” it takes place in Gotham, of course, but there is still some mention as to what happened to some of the other heroes in the world. Marvel’s biggest issue with me has been that EVERYONE is in NYC or the area. So for me reading this and seeing NO OTHER heroes or not even having them mentioned is a little strange. Also missing, one Norman Osborne. I’m sorry but he really should’ve been a part of this story in some way. I’d love a sequel that takes place a bit later with Osborne trying to retake the city on both fronts, as Mayor and as The Green Goblin. But I digress. “Spider-Man: Reign” was my first pick for this column because it flew right under the radar, even for a comic fan such as myself. I had heard of it but forgot all about it until I read a review for it somewhere. And that brings us full circle to the opening of this review. “Reign” is a great story, published by one of the big two and yet it still went under appreciated. So I’m letting you all know that if you’re a fan of “TDKR” or of Spiderman or just plain old good storytelling and fun, you should check this out.

Buy Spider-Man: Reign on Trade Paperback

Author: Dedpool

Movies, Comics, Anime and toons. I'm all about it. Love to read and write too.
  • Joseph

    It's a nice idea for a feature, and you've done an excellent job capturing the essence of the series. Look forward to seeing more in the future.

  • meta

    Thanks for the review, I'll check this one out.

  • Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Thanks guys I appreciate that. I was very nervous writing this, but I really liked the story and felt it'd be a great launch piece.

  • Nix

    It's a good call on a first article, Ded. Something familiar, yet different. By the way, I just read the latest issues of Irredeemable and Incorruptible. Incorruptible still has steam, but man, Irredeemable seems to have run out of juice. It's become shockingly “Desperate Housewives”-ish.

  • Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Thanks Nix. And again thanks for the chance to do this. I'm glad Incorruptible is good. Seeing as I'm mostly a trade paperback/hardcover guy now I gotta wait on that, but I'm dissapointed with Irredeemable. It started off great. Love the first year's worth of stories. I've read it actually has started picking up recently so we'll see. I'm saving that for when I can at least get Volume 3 read. Not out til later this summer though.

  • Nix

    Ugh, I don't know, I think it's gotten worst. The whole thing with Bette Noir and the love triangle — ugh. I felt like I was reading something a lovelorn middle school girl was writing.

  • Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Ooooh that stuff. LoL. Well if it plays out right it's just another thing that sent the Plutonian over the edge, but still I get you. Drawing it out too long huh? Are you reading the single issues? If so you've already passed me. But I know there's a new artist and the story is about to shift away from the drama to more action and intrigue from the solicitations.

  • Nix

    I'm on issue 13 right now with Irredeemable, 5 with Incorruptible. I mean, the whole Bette Noir thing is just awful, made worst because Waid is spending an obscene amount of time on it. It's like a bad High School Musical plotline now. I don't even know if I'm going to keep reading it. The writing really took a dive around the 10th issue mark or whenever one of the twins just suddenly became uber powerful out of the blue.

  • Dedpool aka Jiinx

    I actually liked that part. It's explained. It's not out of the blue. I can't remember what issue it's in but basically the one twin had all the power and just shared it with his brother so they could be equal, but when he was killed in the explosion with those supervillains, all the power went back to Scylla. I thought that was a great twist. The Bette Noir stuff was heavy handed though. I mean seriously this isn't the time to be keeping secrets. I agree that plotline is just bad and unnecessary. And if they're going to do it just get it over with, this whole dancing around the situation is just stupd. I really hope she gets it. Not a nice thing to say but she's gonna get everyone killed. I'm just awaiting the Modeus reveal and such.

  • Nix

    No you're right. The Scylla stuff makes sense. I just mean, it was unnecessary, and ruined the whole “What if Superman went nuts, how are we going to stop him” gimmick of the whole book.