REVIEW: ‘Spider-Man: Life Story,’ Annual #1

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Spider-Man Life Story Annual #1 - But Why Tho

Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1 is written by Chip Zdarsky, penciled by Mark Bagley, inked by Andrew Hennessy, colored by Matt Milla, and lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham. It is published by Marvel Comics. Taking place during the events of the Spider-Man: Life Story miniseries, the annual follows the life of J. Jonah Jameson in real-time. After his involvement in the creation of the Scorpion is revealed, Jameson is sent to prison. Yet despite therapy and everyone in his life telling him otherwise, Jameson chooses to pin his misfortunes on Spider-Man.

The Spider-Man: Life Story miniseries took a unique concept to the Spider-Man mythos, by following Peter Parker as if he aged in real-time and folding in major historical events with Spider-Man storylines; Marvel is also currently doing a similar tactic with Fantastic Four: Life Story. This annual continues that tradition, following Jameson’s imprisonment in 1966 to his release in 2001. In keeping with that tradition, the artistic team slowly shows Jameson aging throughout the issue. When the story begins, Bagley and Hennessy depict Jameson as the temperamental editor of the Daily Bugle fans know and love, or love to hate, with his trademark flattop haircut and mustache. By the story’s end, he is sporting a full beard and his hair is fully white, with the weight of the years etched into his face. Milla delivers a rather muted color palette throughout the issue, with recurring shades of tan for Jameson’s caption boxes.

Writing-wise, Zdarsky brings the same sense of introspection that he did to chronicling Peter Parker’s life journey to Jameson. Jameson is admittedly a tricky character to write for: most writers and fans look at him and see “angry newspaper owner who hates Spider-Man.” Yet, there are deeper issues underlining his hate of the web-slinger; as in the main canon, Jameson’s first wife was killed by a masked thief, which led to a deep distrust of masked figures including the web-slinger. Zdarsky also shows how Jameson’s obsession costs him everything, from his freedom to his relationship with his son John.

Perhaps the most emotional scene in the book comes from a phone conversation between Jameson and Peter Parker after the latter lost his wife Gwen Stacy. At first, Jameson seems to truly empathize with Peter and offers his condolences. But then it soon spirals into another anti-Spidey rant, until Peter tells Jonah in no uncertain terms to let it go. Zdarsky has delved deep into the Peter/Jameson relationship during his run on Spectacular Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow, and here it takes a tragic turn—especially at the end, which shows the price of holding onto a vendetta.

Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1 serves as a great character piece for J. Jonah Jameson, and returns to one of the best modern-day Spider-Man stories in the process. Zdarsky continues to prove himself as one of the strongest writers in Marvel’s stable, and I’m game for more of his Spidey stories. It’s clear that he has a deep love for the web-slinger and genuinely inventive ideas for what to do with him and his supporting cast.

Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1 is available wherever comics are sold.

Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1
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TL;DR

Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1 serves as a great character piece for J. Jonah Jameson, and returns to one of the best modern-day Spider-Man stories in the process. Zdarsky continues to prove himself as one of the strongest writers in Marvel’s stable, and I’m game for more of his Spidey stories. It’s clear that he has a deep love for the web-slinger and genuinely inventive ideas for what to do with him and his supporting cast.