Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (2019-) #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Juan Cabal and Marcelo Ferreira
2018 was one hell of a year for Spider-Man. We saw Amazing Spider-Man relaunch under the pens of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley, and that book is now the best it’s been since Brand New Day. We got Infinity War, Spider-Man on PS4, and Spider-Verse. In terms of pure reach and quality, that may have been one of the strongest years for the character in history. Frankly, 2019 was always going to have its work cut out for it. However, I can’t think of a better way to start building a case for another year of Spider-Man than with the launch of a book as high quality as Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1.
This issue is a simple one. It has no delusions of grandeur and it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it homes in on what makes Peter Parker himself so enjoyable as a character and seeks to perfect that familiar formula that Spider-Man fans live for. Much like Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, this book takes an already fairly grounded character and grounds him some more. The bulk of this story takes place inside Peter’s apartment building, and the most extravagant action sequence is Peter saving two people from a car crash. If you dig high-stakes action, this is the wrong place to look. If you like smaller and more character-focused storytelling, then this is exactly what you’re looking for.
Tom Taylor is a great choice to write Peter. His dialogue is sufficiently witty and appropriately self-deprecating, but more importantly, it serves to remind us what is so inherently likable about Peter. He’s just good. He values his own morality and sense of responsibility for anything that would benefit him personally. He looks out for the little guy before himself, and Taylor reminds us of that on every single page. While much of Peter’s usual side-cast is missing from the main plot, the backup provides a very emotional look at a couple of them. This is a backup you should be sure not to skip, as it may serve to have major implications on the Spider-Man books going forward. Plus, it provides a solid gut punch, just in case you were feeling a little too happy when finishing the main plot.
Juan Cabal’s art is just so clean. It’s not a very risky or experimental style, but it’s so nice to look at. It feels as human and grounded as the writing, blending the two together in a way that’s very satisfying. The first two pages, in particular, are spectacular. The first one bleeds into the splash page seamlessly, and the splash page itself is gorgeous. It’s simple in concept, it’s just Peter swinging through New York on his way to save someone, but behind him, you can see the most significant points in his life reflected off the windows of the buildings. This serves as a great way to demonstrate why Peter does what he does beyond just being inherently good. These images surround him and are always present in the back of his mind, motivating him to do what’s right, and the art reflects that perfectly.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 is a wonderful introduction to this new series, Tom Taylor, and Spider-Man in general. With strong character insights and beautiful pencils, this new book reaches for the high bar that Nick Spencer himself raised, and then threatens to step over it. This is a book that made me groan when I put it down because now I have no choice but to buy three monthly Spider-Man books.
A top-notch introduction to a new series. Strong characterizations and art make this a must-read.