I’m a big comic book fan. I’ve read plenty of pages, played tons of games and seen many movies. I remember as a child liking the Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman animated shows and being delighted as a teenager when they came to the big screen. (I distinctly remember the first X-Men movie as a significant event, back in 2000.)
Since then, my appreciation for the genre has only grown and evolved. Now, instead of the action, I am drawn to the human stories of characters like Bruce Wayne/Batman, Logan/Wolverine, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
One of my favorite runs — not necessarily my favorite arc any character ever had — is by Jeph Loeb, called “Spider-Man: Blue.” What makes Spidey so engaging is how flawed he is. Parker has a troubled life, full of failure and heartbreak, riddled constantly with self-doubt.
Sounds like a lot of us. The only difference is, Parker is a superhero.
“Spider-Man: Blue” finds Parker in his 30s, happily married to Mary-Jane Watson. He’s still fighting crime, too. All of that is fairly routine, but Parker finds himself reminiscing about his first love, Gwen Stacy, on a Valentine’s Day. Stacy, in a famous arc from the 1970s, tragically dies when Spider-Man fails to save her (he’s accidentally responsible).
Loeb shows how they fell in love — unlikely as ever, of course — and how a younger Parker struggles to balance being a hero with all of life’s responsibilities. He’s terrible at it. What we come to find is, he very much sees Stacy as the woman he will spend the rest of his life with, and her death rattles him to his core. (Arguably as much as the death of his Uncle Ben.)
Because everyone knows Stacy dies, I’m hardly spoiling that. The joy of “Blue” isn’t in a shocking ending, but rather the ride Loeb takes you on walking through that history. It’s also engaging to see how mature Parker and Watson’s relationship has become, and even more so how unique Parker is to have not lost the humanity he had as a younger hero despite seemingly neverending tragedy.