Review by Ian Keogh
With Great Power is a look back to Peter Parker’s very earliest days as Spider-Man, not very long after he’s been bitten by the radioactive spider that empowered him, except it’s been updated to the modern era, or at least the late 20th century, by David Lapham and Tony Harris. Uncle Ben is still alive, Flash Thompson is still a high school threat, and Peter hasn’t yet met Gwen or Mary Jane, so pines after Liz Allen.
An expanded modern take on this period is a viable project. Events were glossed over in Spider-Man’s compact origin story because the important aspect then was getting to the lesson Peter needed to learn before he could fully become Spider-Man. That’s the equation of power and responsibility, because Peter’s first emotional response to great power is to revel in it. There’s little humility on show as he realises he’s now powerful enough to deal with Flash, and is told he can negotiate his own contract for wrestling appearances because the promoter has little to offer without Spider-Man. It changes Peter from someone who’s always fundamentally done the right thing, to an unlikeable glory hound.
Harris brings this to life via a very athletic Spider-Man and a credibly human supporting cast. There’s so much Spider-Man around that sometimes the sense of wonder about someone who can run along the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge is completely lost. Harris restores that wonder, and he’s good at showing Spider-Man learning on the job. A bonus is including smart visual touches besides, like building up to the cover illustration that introduced Spider-Man to the world.
The key scene of Spider-Man not bothering to stop the criminal who’ll later kill his Uncle Ben occurs at exactly the halfway point, and it’s where Lapham begins to diverge slightly from the origin story. There’s a Fantastic Four cameo, and the ramping up of what seemed to have been a transitory relationship. All feed into what’s a spirited expansion of some key early days in Spider-Man’s life still worth a look now.
There is one reservation. Perhaps the word “spaz” has a different derivation in the USA, but it’s not an insult that would have been allowed in 21st century UK comics. It’s freely used here.