Review by Frank Plowright
Spiral is a deceptive story. Early indications and the cover suggest we’re going to be treated to a Spider-Man staple, the gang war. There’s a long history of these being successful not only on the basis of involving numerous villains with considerable appeal, but because Spider-Man can’t be everywhere at once, so while he’s sorting out Tombstone, Hammerhead has taken advantage. As the cover shows, also participating are Black Cat, the Goblin King, Mr Negative, and two wild cards, the left field presence of Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, and the surprising return of an identity not used for years.
Carlo Barberi’s art fuses the fussiness and exaggeration of the early 1990s Spider-Man artists with a more solid sense of storytelling, but someone needs to have a word about his objectifying women. They’re given ridiculously inflated breasts, which then don’t move properly when the women do. Otherwise Barberi has a nice way of supplying the fast moving action we want from Spider-Man.
Gerry Conway, however, moves Spiral away from expectation. It’s a slow burn, with the gangsters feeling each other out over the opening chapters, and while Spider-Man is central, he’s sharing the spotlight with Yuri Watanabe, policewoman by profession, but with a costumed crimefighting identity as the Wraith. Personal tragedy is clouding her judgement, and that’s something Spider-Man knows all too well, so entertaining as it is, the gang war is secondary to whether a likeable character is heading off the rails. It’s pleasingly straightforward with a strong emotional drive, and Conway builds that well. The only problem is that while almost everyone on the cover appears (the guy with the sharpened teeth is missing), too few of them are anything other than cannon fodder. Black Cat and Mr Negative transcend that, and both are convincingly used. The fun is had.