Graphic Novel Review: Spider-Man: Reign

by Kaare Andrews
Publisher: Marvel Comics Group
Format: Hardback
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Superheroes
Release Date: April 25 2007

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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Spider-Man: Coming Home / Spider-Man/Deadpool Volume 1 / Volume 2

Ah, another 00s Marvel graphic novel that imagines the characters as darker and grittier. This one takes place in the future, where the fear of super terrorists has resulted in ‘Reign’ taking over, a mayor obsessed with keeping the city ‘safe’, and news reporters who insist all is well and the mayor really is just doing what is best for everyone, keeping all safe no matter the costs. There are persistent themes throughout these post-9/11 comics, and partly what comes through in a lot is the fear of swinging (pardon the pun) so far into the safety net there are no freedoms left.

Safety comes at a cost, and though Peter has long hung up his costume, there are those waiting for his return, particularly an old friend. This is a depressing, sadder version of the Spider-Man most fans will be familiar with, in a world where he is alone, and blaming himself for the deaths he has experienced, especially MJ’s because of his toxic sperm. Yep. MJ dies of cancer because she had sex with Peter.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Spider-Man graphic novel without him, at some point, swinging through the skyline, but here it’s in the middle of a dystopian city, where a bunch of kids decide it’s time to fight back, and there’s old enemies coming for Peter himself.

Quite a lot of the reviews for this are negative, which is totally understandable, and focus a lot on the manner of MJ’s death. Again, understandable. It is kind of weird. But I think these comics – Reign, World War Hulk, The Ultimates – are almost fascinating in the snapshot they provide from that period of time. I actually did read this shortly after it came out. I was young at the time, and remember being totally engrossed in this. Now, well over a decade later, I was able to re-read that same copy, and I forgot how bleak it was.

This graphic novel is dark, in tone and pallet. The artwork is good, but can get a touch confusing at points. Still, Reign is a good example of how fascism can take hold in the wake of panic, and shows what lengths some people will go to in order to cling to power. It’s not the best Spider-Man story, but it’s interesting and different, and a version of the character I know I’m definitely not used to seeing.

I enjoyed this partly for the same reason I’ve enjoyed the other Marvel offerings from this time, and it’s fascinating to read them fairly closely together and see the similar themes running throughout these drastically different stories. If you can get over the radioactive killer sperm, it’s worth a read.


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