While Superman may still be the most famously known superhero, it’s not hard to argue that Spider-Man is the most lucrative superhero, particularly when it comes to movies. His first two films have both been recordsetters that most other comic book movies - even mainstream movies - have not even come close to surpassing. From this, one could easily make the argument that there is something universal about Spider-Man that so much of the United States and the world beyond gravitates toward. With that in mind, Glenn Yeffeth provides a collection of essays that provide an in-depth analysis of Spider-Man in the year 2007 that looks at his past as a comic book and cinematic superhero whose plight is almost universal.
The essays range from typical comparative analysis (such as comparing the cinematic Spider-Man movies with the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series, a sort of 2000’s version of Spider-Man’s origins) to the philosophical nature of Spider-Man (and therefore other superheroes) to detailed assessments of the fictional characters that surround Spider-Man.
Writers in this book consider the storyline but also analyze how different people have presented Spider-Man, such as Stan Lee, Brian Michael Bends , and Sam Raimi. The writers have a wide-range of experience in comics and pop culture, so their essays often surpass the superficial to really get to the hardcore elements that make Spider-Man so identifiable in our culture. Though sometimes essays might get a bit too detailed or err on the side of overkill, most manage to get their point across succinctly enough.
There are numerous ways to categorize or group the essays but one useful way is to look at those that study explore Spider-Man in a vacuum, not tying it to other Marvel Comics series (such as X-Men, Incredible Hulk, Captain America) and those that try to position Spider-Man within a pantheon of comic book superheroes and other pop cultural icons that influence or reflect our society. For instance, Keith R. A. DeCandido’s essay, “Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man,” considers how and why we choose to identify with one superhero over the other and what that may mean.
Many of the writers refer to the recent storyline invading many Marvel comic series known as “Civil War.” In the realm of Marvel, superheroes (and some supervillains) are at war over a recent government attempt to create a mandatory superhero registration act. Spider-Man has played a pivotal role in this series, as he was one of the first to remove his mask and register. This makes for great stories to read about Spider-Man, but by having these writers begin commentary on the Civil War storyline when it’s still incomplete makes the book almost immediately antiquated. The storyline has already has some interested developments since the publication of this book. While readers get the vibe of being “up-to-date,” there is also some potential for inaccurate commentary depending on how the storyline ends.
Overall, Webslinger provides a lot of information and insight to a world-famous icon. Non-comic book fans may find some of the essays quite useful in accessing comic book culture and the deep issues represented in this medium, but they will also tire quickly of the sixteen essays compiled in this book. Fans of Spider-Man or other comics can harness a great deal of information and understanding about the superhero.