First Impressions – THE SPIDER #1

Because Dynamite didn’t see fit to only revive one classic pulp fiction icon. Here’s the new ongoing for The Spider, the Master of Men!

Recently I wrote my first impressions for Dynamite Comics’ new ongoing series starring The Shadow. But The Shadow wasn’t the only pulp hero whose adventures were set to print during the 30s and 40s. He was just the most influential, and like any groundbreaking new property he spawned a number of characters attempting to cash in on his success. One of those would end up being one of – if not the – most popular superheroes of the comic book medium (pulp’s spiritual successor), Batman.

In the realm of the pulps, however, there was another directly created in response to the Shadow. He was The Spider, not to be confused with Spider-man. The Spider – secretly billionaire Richard Wentworth – would dole out vigilante justice in a cape, hat, and vampiric make-up. His defining features were his commanding voice (not psychic in nature, but obviously a take on The Shadow’s powers), his almost animalistic brutality against criminals, and his habit of branding a spider onto the foreheads of those he killed. In essence, The Spider largely stayed on the bleeding edge of the vigilante moral scale, in much the same way as the Punisher decades later.

Unfortunately, the Spider hasn’t received as many depictions outside his pulp roots, at least not in comparison to the Shadow. There have been a few comic adaptations of the character, though. My personal experience with the character is limited to a one-shot released by Moonstone Books, as part of a series pitting pulp icons against classic movie monsters, in this case versus a werewolf. It was a decent book all things considered, but it left me sort of wanting more.

Well, after the release of Dynamite’s new Shadow series, it’s time to give the Spider his due in a new ongoing.

THE SPIDER #1 introduces us to a re-imagined setting for the violent vigilante. Unlike The Shadow’s series, which takes place in his original time period, this series takes place in a more modern New York City. Although it does have blimps flying around, so I’m not sure how much is supposed to be realistic New York and how much is supposed to call back to the 90s Spider comic series (depicting the 1990s as imagined from a 1930s perspective, with a League of Nations and an alternate WWII). Regardless, it would appear the trappings nonetheless reflect the old pulps.

Richard Wentworth still possesses vast wealth, still has an Indian assistant (or lawyer in this case), still has a functional working relationship with Officer Kirkpatrick, and still stalks the night as a violent, unforgiving vigilante in a hat and cape. The costume itself is something more ornate than his traditional dress, with a red web design on his cape and a matching mask. And his guns have laser attachments that form a webbing pattern. Somehow.

Hey, it’s cool, and thus remains acceptable.

It would appear the comic makes no promises against the use of gimicky villains, which is perfectly fine by me. Though of course, given The Spider’s habit of executing his enemies, it makes keeping iconic them a problem. Also apparently zombies are possible in this setting, or at least chemical gas weapons that kill and/or drive victims into zombie-like states. And it’s up to the Spider to find out who’s doing it and why.

Not sure about whether I want to continue with this series or not. On the one hand it’s a perfectly good opening issue (the odd panel layouts notwithstanding). But on the other, I already have a number of series on my regular pull list. Not to mention for some reason my local comic shop never got the second issue of The Shadow, so whether I even CAN follow this other one is dubious. Still, it’s a very good opening with a hero that’s very non-standard in comparison to guys like Daredevil or Batman. If you liked the Punisher, but with more grounded fantastic elements and a relatively saner protagonist, I’d give this book a try.

Alternate Covers:

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