Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man was a series running concurrently with the amazing stories J. Michael Straczynski was producing, and consequently existed in the shadow of an era-defining Spider-Man run numbering among the finest ever. It accounts for the red and gold costume Spider-Man’s wearing throughout. Playing second fiddle was an undeserved fate at the time for a series that was consistently well produced, Derailed being packed with clever, funny and poignant Spider-Man stories and deserving far better than being forgotten. Maybe there ought to be a reappraisal.

Peter David’s opening story hits all the right notes. Not only are we presented with brief glimpses of Spider-Man fighting a series of villains, the hook is the diary of a deluded woman who believes Spider-Man is stalking her. It seems trivial, if smart, until David twists the screw with a tragic ending. He pulls similarly clever writing tricks throughout, reworking Peter Parker’s relationship with Flash Thompson, including some comments on father/son relationships, introducing subplots for May Parker and Mary-Jane Watson, and throwing in new villains.

Roger Cruz seems to be attempting to make the cast look the way they were being illustrated by John Romita Jr. as he drew the stories. That’s a mistake, as compromising his own style results in a sort of hybrid that’s not as good as Cruz elsewhere, nor as good as Romita Jr. It does the job, but could be better. What is better are the pages of Mike Wieringo on both the first and title stories, the Christina’s World homage the icing on the cake. As the sample art shows, there’s a distortion of reality as we know it, as Spider-Man’s talking with Ben Parker, and Aunt May’s not around. What’s happened? Is it a dream? An imaginary story? Let’s eliminate both of those, as you know David’s smarter than that. The truth is a page turner with many clever references and painful memories building to one shocker of an ending. Maybe it’ll be picked up in Mystery Date.

Derailed is long out of print and you can currently pick up used copies online for under $5 plus postage. Weigh that against the cost of five Spider-Man comics that came out last year collected at $25. This is way the better bet. Alternatively, there’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Peter David: The Complete Collection.