Spider-Man by Peter David 
List Price: $6.99
Mass Market Paperback - 256 pages (March 19, 2002)
Del Rey; ISBN: 0345450051
Review by Don Smith
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK

Spidey is practically the archetype from which Gen-X and Extreme Sporters were drawn. He's always been one of my favorites; superhero, photographer, thoughtful nephew...and he gets the girl. Don Smith joins us to spin his review of Peter David's novelization. - Ern

The 2002 summer movie season is nearly upon us.  It seems the top two contenders this year are “Spider-Man” to take on “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.”  It’s Spidey versus the Jedi (Great idea for a comic book story if anyone from Marvel or Dark Horse are reading this…hint…hint…). 

For a preview of the fight we are given the official novel adaptation of the movie written by long time science fiction and comic book scribe Peter David. David’s most recent work has been “The Incredible Hulk”, “Star Trek” novels, and his weekly column in Comic Shop Buyers Guide.  

“Spider-Man” itself is a simple story.  Nerd meets genetically mutated spider.  Genetically mutated spider bites nerd.  Nerd becomes multi billon dollar icon called Spider-Man. 

The story starts with a 6-year-old Peter Parker moving in with his lower middle class Uncle Ben and Aunt May after his parent’s death. Several years later in high school Peter is befriended by Harry Osborn, son of millionaire Norman Osborn owner of OsCorp.  Peter spends his time studying and pining for his red-haired neighbor, Mary Jane Watson. On a field trip to OsCorp, Peter is bitten by a genetically mutated spider.  David shines as he foreshadows Spidey’s future abilities via the tour guide and a display of mutated spiders. 

For the most part, the story follows closely to Spider-Man’s origin in the comic books with a few minor deviations (such as the Green Goblin fitting into the origin).  However, what the novel offers is not just getting into the heads of the characters, but getting into their psychological make up. 

Simply, David puts flesh to the bones already laid out in the comics and the movie.  He gets into the head (if I may be repetitive and contradictory) of a costumed crime fighter the same way Mark Twain gets into the head of young adolescent boys living near the Mississippi River in the 1800’s such as “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn.”  Even the way Billie Letts gets into the head (again…if I may be repetitive and contradictory) of an abandoned pregnant teenager in “Where the Heart Is” (coincidentally she was played by Queen Amidala herself – Natalie Portman). 

What has endeared Spider-Man to fans over the decades is his ability to be the “Average Joe” super hero. Superman could fly, watch bullets bounce off his chest, and have Lois Lane anytime he wanted.  Bruce Wayne never worried about a mortgage, not with the mansion left to him as well as his millions. 

Spider-Man worried about the rent.  He is not just some super hero with a “Spider” gimmick. 

He can’t say anything to Mary Jane.  “Can I call you sometime?” comes out “Peter’s jaw twitched once…which was good since it indicated that he was, in fact, still alive.”   

David even helps us understand the friendship between Harry and Peter as well as the problematic relationship between Harry and Norman – the Green Goblin.  Rather unlike the father/son relationship between Luke and Anakin Skywalker.  But that is for another time. 


© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu