If you weren’t a fan of Peter Parker’s romantic endeavors in the two most recent Amazing Spider-Man films, then Spider-Man: Blue might not be for you. Then again, that decision may be limiting your perception on what constitutes a great Spider-Man story. As we celebrate the greatness of Marvel’s flagship character this month, it’s important to discuss what makes Spidey so appealing to multiple demographics. Of course, the wisecracking webhead is well-known for his humor; but, perhaps the most captivating and unique aspects of the Spider-Man character reside with his alter-ego: Peter Parker. Unlike many other superheroes (Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four, X-Men, to name a few), Spider-Man’s perpetual struggle to juggle his responsibilities as both a man and a hero have always played a major role in his best stories, as memorably illustrated in Uncle Ben’s sage advice, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” And as Spider-Man has learned over the course of his career, with great responsibility also comes great sacrifice. Case in point: his first love, Gwen Stacy.
Written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale, Spider-Man: Blue is a 6-issue graphic novel that focuses primarily on Peter’s two most prominent romantic interests and, more specifically, how Gwen Stacy’s tragic death has had a lasting effect on him, even after marrying Mary Jane. Told as a sprawling, spoken love letter, Peter reminisces on his memories of the late Gwen, telling her the story of how they first began dating over a tape recorder, despite her inability to ever hear it. As Peter says early in the story, “It’s about remembering someone who was so important to me I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. I didn’t know that meant she would only get to spend the rest of her life with me.” Despite the overtone of melancholy, there’s still plenty of Spider-Man’s trademark one-liners, particularly when battling the likes of the Green Goblin, Rhino, the Vulture, and more.
The dichotomy between Peter’s romantic interests and Spider-Man’s moral responsibilities are highlighted by a mantra that Peter relates to Gwen over the tape recorder: “Bad before Good.” Now an adult, married man, as Peter looks back on his life, he has come to rationalize his experiences with the belief that all of his worst moments were only preceded by good ones. It’s certainly an interesting perspective that Loeb develops for the character, particularly from the angle of Peter’s relationships with Gwen and M.J. We witness Spidey take down one super-villain after another with ease, yet he’s dumbfounded that there are two attractive women whom are both interested in him. Defeating the super-villains doesn’t pose much of a threat; the introduction of Mary Jane Watson, however, does.
The comparison of Peter’s relationships with Gwen and M.J. is made all the more interesting because it is explored through the conceit of Peter explaining it to Gwen. Recognizing the oddity, Peter says, “I’m sure they’re going to ask what kind of idiot talks about one beautiful girl to another beautiful girl?” This topic is at the heart of Loeb’s work, and, anyone with a soft spot for romantics are sure to be touched by Peter’s mixture of heartbreak and appreciation. Because every Marvel fan knows of Gwen Stacy’s tragic death, I honestly expected for Loeb to more specifically retread Peter’s grief over how it went down. What’s surprising, however, is how this older, more mature Peter Parker has gained peace through self-reflection on his life experiences. Any respective Spider-Man fan should read this book just for the final moments, which perfectly encapsulate the love-triangle of Peter, Gwen, and Mary Jane.
Loeb and Sale have famously worked together for a number of memorable collaborations, such as the oft-celebrated Batman: The Long Halloween. The pair have also created a number of other “color-centric” limited series for the Marvel imprint, including Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Gray, and Captain America: White, the first issue of which debuts this month after a seven-year delay. They have evidently honed in on their strengths in working together, particularly when focusing on story themes that can be replicated in Sale’s artwork. The “Blue” in the title is not only represented in the palette utilized by Sale, but, of course, also the mood personified by the regretful Peter Parker narrating the story. For any reader interested in revisiting some of Spidey’s most iconic characters and gaining new insight, then Spider-Man: Blue is absolutely worthy of a spot on your bookshelf.
What did you think of Spider-Man: Blue? Is romance relevant to Peter Parker, or should Spider-Man stick to fighting bad guys? Let us know in the comments, or send us a tweet!