Written and Art by Brendan McCarthy
Spider-Man Fever? The name alone should get your attention. The question is does the story within these pages merit the attention beyond the name?
Spider-Man finds himself caught up in a web of magic when an ancient spider creature is accidently freed by Dr. Strange and tracks down our friendly neighborhood web-slinger.
This enjoyable (and maybe hallucinogenic) ride shows the bad Parker luck getting Spidey caught up in yet another adventure bigger than himself and the world he typically occupies. Even with saying that, it doesn’t feel out-of-place for Spider-Man to be caught up in this mystical escapade.
That said, there are some logical leaps this story tries to take. Dr. Strange, the world’s most powerful mystic, just randomly sets off a magical booby trap? Careless indeed. Then it’s very “convenient” that Spider-Man just happens to get attacked nearby and then – in a mystical stupor – finds his way into Dr. Strange’s bathroom. Also, this issue highlights one of Spidey’s little-known weaknesses – insecticide, which may or may not have been magically boosted. These are elements that may make sense with some magical explanation but as of yet do not have one. Right now, they’re more like short cuts.
The story also features a bad stereotypical thuggish black guy with bad dialog who is not too pleased that the cops are heading to his apartment because of a Spidey fight. Perhaps a product of the retro feel of the story, the character ultimately serves two roles: 1) the typical citizen peanut gallery criticizing everything, and 2) a simple distraction so McCarthy can explain Spider-Man looking one way when he should be the other. The character does provide some levity in the story, but I wish it was handled better.
Spider-Man: Fever is a Marvel Knights title, meaning that it’s outside proper canon (unless Marvel ever chooses to retcon it in as we all know they might randomly do). For those of you with a moratorium on proper 616 (the number designation for the main Marvel universe) Spidey stories after One More Day (including some CineGeek contributors), this is a good title to check out.
Because this is not a typical canon story though, I can’t help but wonder if Spider-Man’s magical background will come into play. J Michael Straczynski spent a good deal of his Amazing Spider-Man run mixing a mystical element into the whole “bitten by a radioactive spider” origin. That’s been largely ignored since the Crisis-esque event of One More Day, but here would be the place to bring it back up. Spidey’s connection to the spider totem does not appear in this issue though, so we’ll have to wait and see for issues two and three.
It’s an intriguing story, and I’m excited to see where it goes, but this first issue is not without fault.
Spider-Man time traveled back to the Silver Age, and it’s a real trip. This issue’s high point is McCarthy’s artwork, heavily inspired by Steve Ditko in the 1960s. It’s a Spider-Man/Dr. Strange tale, and there’s no better place to pay tribute to Ditko than in a work starring two of the most famous characters he helped create.
Starting with Spider-Man, McCarthy strays from the modern design with a tone, muscular form and wide white eyes. Just like Steve Ditko’s original Spider-Man from Amazing Fantasy #15 and the early issues of Amazing Spider-Man, McCarthy’s Spidey features a lanky and more organic body, heavy shading on the blues, less refined webbing patterns, the webbed under arm and even the thinner white eye lenses with thick black outlines.
Drawing from Ditko’s work with Dr. Strange, McCarthy utilizes very psychedelic worlds and effects. Magic usage appears in showers of multicolored sparks and stars and ultraviolet lightning. Warped perspectives and color-shifting skies and backgrounds make even the “real” world look otherworldly. Going into other dimensions is a surreal and abstract experience surely familiar to both old-school Dr. Strange readers and certain substance abusers (maybe some crossover in there).
And then there are even the little touches, like the retro excessive and exaggerated use of sound effects, stylized and overlapping panels to fit bizarre dimensions and dreamy states and even a blur effect for the Vulture rushing in.
The few marks against the art are simple mistakes from Spidey’s web pattern missing a line here and oddly connected there.
This work is fun to look at. It’s obvious someone loves the ‘60s, and that’s just fine.
This is a fun tale for both Spidey and Dr. Strange, despite Dr. Strange not even getting title billing. It’s got some issues, but not enough to really detract from the book. If the other two issues in the miniseries continue and improve on this one, it’ll definitely be worthwhile.
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10