Let’s get on with it. We’ll have a look at issues #13 to #30.
Most of these comics aren’t really worth discussing, at least as far as the superheroics are concerned. A villain shows up and does things, Spider-Man has trouble defeating him at first but then manages to anyway. Some of these are more fun than others, oftentimes validated by future history (such as the Scorpion being first featured in a very run-of-the-millstory, but his inclusion somehow elevates the material (however slightly)).
Suffice to say, the costumed antics aren’t the comic’s strong suit, at least thus far. What does work fairly well is Peter Parker’s Archie-esque romantic and interpersonal entanglements. Particularly because they’re not particularly Archie-esque on account of Peter Parker petty and jarringly egotistical reactions to the many mundane trappings of maintaining relationships with other human beings. This isn’t a consistent characteristic; occasionally Parker is pretty prescient regarding other people’s feelings which makes the moment where he reacts like a sociopathic asshole all the more discombobulating.
There is a gender component to this behaviour – all of Peter’s more jilted rage is generally directed at the women in his life, with their womanly wiles and conniving ways. We haven’t arrived in Gwen Stacy/Mary-Jane territory yet (though the latter has been alluded to) – currently Parker is orbiting JJ’s secretary Betty Brant and (now former) classmate Liz Allen, both of whom spend their time calling Peter without result and worrying themselves whether they’re not pretty/young/worthwhile enough. It’s not as if this kind of onedimensional characterisation of female characters is a dated component – many comics (and films and other forms of fiction) still can’t seem to come to grips with a comprehensive characterisation of one half of the planet’s population. There is, as of yet, no woman in this comic that has discussed anything that isn’t Peter Parker.
There are characters the comic does justice to, and they are, apart from Peter, J Jonah Jameson and Flash Thompson. Stan Lee gives them sufficient attention and depth to graduate them from one-dimensional to full two-dimensional characters. Jonah as an insecure tyrant with an unhealthy fixation on Spider-Man fuelled by moral misgivings about his own conduct, and Flash as a jealous bully that regularly suffers from pangs of decency.
Most of the stories concern a new or returning villain that needs to be beaten up, and usually he (it’s always a he, so far) gets beaten up, although sometimes it takes two issues for the villain to get beaten up. But eventually he does get beaten up. The action component of the strip is often touted by Lee’s sometimes-not-annoying fourth-wall breaking as the not-boring bits, which could say something about a frustrtaed writer realizing his need to pander to boys, but probably not.
Surprisingly, despite this paucity of depth on an individual issue basis, there are frequent and decent stabs at introducing character arcs and long-term mysteries. The Green Goblin has been lurking at the edge of the story for a while now, building the anticipation. The return of former mobster Frederick Fosswell seems destined for a traditional bout of recidivism, but thus far, he seems to be staying on the straight and narrow (surprising both Peter and me). On top of this, the aforementioned soap-opera drama makes the short-term reading of an issue a bot of a chore, but the long-term reading of the series far more rewarding. But again, that may be down to our knowledge of the future.