Collects: Spider-Man: Blue #1-6
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
By Doran Murphy
Balancing a life with your secret identity as a super-hero must be tough. I mean, you have to keep it secret or villains will wreck your family (like Bane did to Batman or Venom to Spider-Man), but having the identity out in the open would make your job as a superhero much easier. I mean, you wouldn't have to make a flimsy excuse to get out of class, or a date or whatever every time a supervillain needed an ass kicking. It's a delicate balance; and the wrong decision would result in some very dangerous people knowing who your loved ones are, or you alienate all of your friends and family. It's no-win.
This balance is a big part in Spider-Man: Blue. Jeph Loeb (author) and Tim Sale (artist) have crafted a story that focuses on the very important and omnipresent Spider-Man struggle: keeping his identity as Spider-Man secret. In addition to this fundamental struggle, there are a couple of love triangles, several important villains, and mourning. After all, the story is about Peter Parker's love for Gwen Stacy — a character whose death Spider-Man witnessed at the hands of the Green Goblin. Although her death occurs in the events after the book, the whole of Spider-Man: Blue is painted with the knowledge that yes, she does die. It's one of the most moving stories in comic history.
It's a very gripping story. It takes place with Peter Parker in his attic, several years after Gwen's death. Basically, he retells the story of how he fell in love with both Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson — and they both fell in love with him. Throw in Harry Osborne and Flash Thompson vying for the affections of either of these two knockouts, and you've got a ready-made love story. It's a struggle, as Peter Parker (outside of his habitual lateness) is basically the perfect gentleman. Gwen and Mary Jane throw themselves at him, and Peter who is somewhat new to being sociable just doesn't know how to handle it. But Harry and Flash, the ladies men, (although Flash is more conceited than Harry) do know how to make the moves on women. So it's a real uphill struggle for Parker to decide which of these ladies he likes — but he has to decide, or he loses them both.
At the same time, Spider-Man has his hands full as well. He's got the Green Goblin, Rhino, The Lizard, two different Vultures, and Kraven the Hunter to deal with. For those not in the know, that's about three quarters of Spider-Man's greatest villains gunning for his blood, while Parker has to balance a job, two love lives and a school schedule. The villains also have a nasty way of ambushing him, and Parker is often forced to outthink the villains. I mean, the Rhino would make Spider-Man a pancake if they fought-head on, but Spider-Man is very crafty. Then you have someone like Kraven the Hunter, who has planned his attack on Spider-Man for months. Being Spider-Man is tough.
Everything about this book is mirrored in sadness. Gwen's impending (but never depicted) death looms over the whole thing like a shadow. Then you have Aunt May's heartbreak when Peter moves out, you've got a love story that can only end in one of the ladies (or both of them) being heartbroken, and Peter Parker left feeling like crap because he was forced to choose. The sorrow of this book helps take an old story (and it's a rehash from about 30 years ago), and make it interesting once again. It reinvigorated the whole story, and saved it from being the boring old "different perspective on some old story" I feared it would be. Instead, I was very, very pleasantly surprised to find the sorrowful emotions evoked by this book so preeminent.
Artistically, Sale stepped up to the plate on this one, and knocked it clear out of the ballpark. It's very obvious he strove to emulate a 1960s "Silver Age" feel to the book. Obviously, it's appropriate, as it's a Silver Age story told in a modern fashion. It's due to this that the 60's-like artwork also has touches of more modern elements, too. As the title suggests, the color blue is very important to the story. It has an impact on the story telling as well, because blue is a distinctly sad color, and its prominent use aids in evoking the sad emotions Loeb bases his retelling on.
The trade paperback comes with a "sketchbook" section at the conclusion of the story. This is primarily where Loeb and Sale discuss how they spun this classic story, and retold it. There's some extra artwork, and a look at the characters from a storyline and an artistic standpoint. It's a nice little add-on. It shows the sort of research and devotion they put into retelling this story the right way.
I think it's good to note that with this story comes some modicum of forgiveness, too. Parker is afflicted with survivor's guilt; he has lived a good life, with his wonderful wife Mary Jane, and he feels guilty because Gwen Stacy wasn't able to grow up, get married (possibly with him), and have a wonderful adult life. The guilt that drives this story is what makes it so tragic; Spider-Man tried to stop Gwen's death, and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it, yet he's still remorseful over that. The sadness he feels helps make Spider-Man and Peter Parker more sympathetic as characters. Get your hands on the trade paperback.
It's about remembering someone so important to me I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. — Spider-Man/Peter Parker