- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

This chronic feature lets me review what’s recently passed my bloodshot pupils. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to…

Mr. Zad’s comic critique

In this column, I celebrate the release of the latest “Spider-Man” film next week with some of the comics and books devoted to the world famous web slinger.

Marvel Adventures: Spider- Man, Nos. 21 to 24

(Marvel Publishing, $2.99 each)

Marvel’s line, geared to tween comics readers, salutes Spidey in his black costume through four issues that not only re-imagine the symbiotic suit’s origin but introduces the major villains of the new movie to its younger fan base.

Now, the extraterrestrial goo that temporarily adhered to Peter Parker is a chemical concoction of the Tinkerer, and Spider-Man happens to stumble across it in issue no. 21 while in pursuit of young thugs who work for the evil inventor.

The living suit hangs with Peter for the next three issues of his Marvel Adventures series as he battles Green Goblin and Hobgoblin (while they battle one another), the Sandman and Eddie Brock, who temporarily becomes one with the goo and turns into Venom.

The symbiote story line told in the issues is a much milder version than seen in other Spider-Man comics; the black suit is more of a buddy to its owner rather than something that turns him into an aggressive, homicidal maniac.

Fred Van Lente, the writer of all of the issues, keeps the story lines sanitized for younger eyes and set in the days when Peter Parker was still a dorky high-school student.

The stand-alone tales also offer bumbling villains and some moral lessons that will remind dads of the days when Stan Lee charted the course for Spider-Man.

Spider-Man Family, one shot, and Spider-Man Family, No. 1

(Marvel Publishing, $4.99 each)

Old mixes with new in this bimonthly series that averages five stories per issue and mixes reprints of classic Spider-Man tales with some of his latest adventures.

First, the 104-page Spider-Man Family one-time issue begins with writer C.B. Cebulski’s new, very dramatic story of Spider-Man’s encounter with his birth mother, when he learns he is part of a Ninja-like clan and is trained by a warrior named Venom. Starkly drawn by Skottie Young (with a manga flair), it is a bit too morose for this loyal fan.

Also in the issue, readers get a tale — beautifully drawn in black and white by artist Jill Thompson — that covers a day in the life of high-school student Peter Parker and the necessity to keep a date with his favorite girl.

The most relevant of the story bunch reprints Amazing Spider-Man No. 252, a pivotal book from 1984 that offers the first full issue of Spider-Man in his black symbiote costume.

Readers will not be disappointed either with the first official issue of the Spider-Man Family series. Its 104 pages of pop art start with writer Sean McKeever’s more intense look at Spidey’s first use of the symbiote costume and its ability to handle the Sandman.

A pair of worthy reprints follows: first another Sandman battle from the third issue of one of my favorite comic book series, Untold Tales of Spider-Man (presented by the unbeatable creative team of writer Kurt Busiek and artist Pat Olliffe, with a Steve Ditko frame of mind) and, second, that in which Harry Osborn dons the Green Goblin garb (or does he?) in Amazing Spider-Man No. 176.

The first part of an adaptation from a Japanese manga-style adventure rounds out the eclectic issue as Yamaka Akira writes and draws a black-and-white battle between Spider-Man and General Wasperus.

Both Spider-Man Family books will appeal to any older fan who has grown up with the arachnid hero and can easy stroll down memory lane with him as well as appreciate the latest generation of creators who bring him to life.

The Amazing Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide

(DK Publishing, hardcover, $24.99)

This oversized (9.87-by-11.87 inches), very visual, 184-page encyclopedia gets an update from its 2001 edition to give owners nearly the latest information on a comic-book character whose history now spans 44 years.

The book still contains entries on all of the main good and bad guys in the hero’s complicated life. It’s supplemented by a decade-by-decade look at his comics and plenty of facts about his various comic book series.

Added are Spider-Man’s latest angst-ridden adventures that pertain to the Civil War, New Avengers, the Other and Iron Spider story lines.

Thankfully, the slightly haphazard text layouts are indexed, and for those who cannot follow the words, more than 700 pieces of art will overwhelm the peepers.

Unfortunately, the book still does not credit the artists whose illustrations liberally appear within its pages. Only those familiar with Spidey’s creators will spot masterpieces from the likes of John Romita, Steve Ditko, Todd McFarlane and Mark Bagley.

The Spider-Man Chronicles: The Art and Making of ‘Spider-Man 3’

(Chronicle Books, hardcover, $50)

Grant Curtis, producer of the “Spider-Man” films, offers an intimate insider look into the production of the latest potential blockbuster in a 240-page monograph (9-by-103/4 inches) loaded with behind-the-scenes information and Spidey movie tidbits.

Spearheaded by the beautiful concept art of E.J. Krisor and more than 300 color photos that surround the text, the book covers everything about the film from the story brainstorming sessions to the casting, costumes and special effects.

Mr. Curtis also offers diary entries for every day of the shoot, and fans will find informative nuggets throughout on such topics as the replacement of Spidey’s arch enemy, the Vulture, with Venom, and the virtual and real sand used to bring the Sandman to life.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com; or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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