First things first, as this really is kind of important… Spidey fans, before you plunge headlong into Life Story, make sure you’ve got a box of tissues and a couple of handkerchiefs nearby as this book is going to induce a severe case of “allergies” and you may also find that you’re plagued by dust in your eyes during the closing moments of this Spider-Man saga . That said, it’s time to start where all things do, at the beginning. Imagine a world in which superheroes, just like the rest of us mere mortals do, actually aged with the passing of time. One in which super heroes don’t remain young forever and aren’t perpetual twenty somethings, free to fight the forces of evil unaffected by the chronology that eventually reduces every other living thing to dust.
It’s a novel idea isn’t it? One that’s not only intriguing, but has already made you start to consider how it would work and what it’s wider, and longer lasting, repercussions would be. It’s also the concept at the core of Life Story as Chip Zdarsky charts his hero’s journey from the aftermath of Uncle Ben’s demise to the moment when age, duty and responsibility finally force Peter Parker to stop being the web shooting wall-crawler.
The story is one that any, and all, Spidey fans are familiar with, as all of the major events that shaped him and made him the hero that he is play out as they always did, when they did. Except this time, forged by the crucible of time and the wisdom that comes with age, Spidey and those closest to him react slightly differently, which in turn means that the events that we thought we knew take a slightly different course, play out in a disparate manner and push Spidey in strange, new directions.
The death of Gwen Stacey, the Clone Saga, Secret Wars, the Symbiote, Civil War and the registration act and Otto Octavius’ assumption of the mantle of Spider-Man, they all happen as they already did, but this time to a Spider-Man, and his comrades in arms, who aren’t spared the ravages of aging. Set against a backdrop of the increasingly hostile and slightly out of step with established historical, social and four colour episodes that moulded the late twentieth and early twenty first century, Life Story is the tale of a man whose sense of duty not only defines him, but almost costs him everyone and everything that he holds dear.
Chip Zdarsky knows Spider-Man. He knows Peter Parker. And he knows all of the people that matter to him, whether they’re family, allies, friends or foes, Zdarsky knows all of them and he scatters them across the board of the web slinger’s life, allowing destiny to play its cruel game while Pete shoulders the weight of the world fate. It isn’t an easy read, and the Spidey beset by age isn’t always the most likeable of characters, but that just makes him human, more relatable and transforms a grandiose story of a life littered with adventure, excitement, danger, death and loss into an incredibly personal and intimate fable of a man driven by purpose and obligation who is forever at odds with life the universe and everything. Mark Bagley’s vibrant, adrenalized art ensures that every detail, every tragedy and experience that Life Story is built on sear themselves into your imagination. This is Peter Parker and Spider-Man’s story. It is magnificent, joyous, life affirming and will make you believe that one man can change the world. And it will absolutely break your heart… Tim Cundle