Review by From the Booth‘s own KEN
On my first ever From The Booth show, Randal asked me if I had ever stopped collecting comics and if so, what comic got me collecting again. My answer was yes I had and the comic that got me back in (along with a lot of other people, I imagine) was The Dark Knight Returns. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular, our heroes are usually mortal and mortal beings age and become weak. It’s an inevitability that we try to avoid in telling their stories. Batman was 29 years old for several decades and Spider-Man stopped aging around his 30th birthday as well.
Spider-Man: Reign is an attempt to look at what happens to Peter Parker years after he’s burned the costume in the trashcan for what should have been the final time. In this future, a tyrannical government has overtaken New York City and Reign troops terrorize the populace. Parker is now a senior citizen eking out a meager existence working at a flower shop. His wife and aunt are dead and his time as Spider-Man seems like a distant memory until J. Jonah Jameson comes to his door. Jonah knows who he was and recognizes that, now more than ever, the city needs its savior.
Kaare Andrews is a Canadian comic book writer and illustrator who has done mostly covers along with some single issues and very short runs on interior work for many popular titles.
Although the premise seems like a pretty cool idea for a Spider-Man book, the execution falls flat. Children’s nursery rhymes are repeated over and over sometimes relating to the panel where they are located, sometimes not. Trite sayings abound as if Kaare were attempting to make every bit of dialogue quotable. At one point the reason for Mary Jane’s death is revealed (SPOILERS!) and it has to do with ALL of Spider-man’s fluids being radioactive. The panels also try to convey inner turmoil through orchids being crushed and Mary Jane’s corpse being batted about by a dead Doc Ock (whose arms still function) but the entire book comes off as creepy and deeply disturbing.
The art is well done with the contrast of the clean, detailed art for children and the more stylized art with jagged edges for the elderly incarnations of our favorite characters. The backgrounds suggest some digital work which I always appreciate. However, the art is not enough to save the book which veers back and forth between plot and metaphor like a drunk.