On The Panel
Dan Slott’s tale Learning To Crawl continues and we gain a further insight into Peter Parker’s early days as Spider-Man.
As I’ve said before, it really impresses me how Dan Slott can write a tale that feels just like it was written back when Stan Lee first created the character. Peter Parker’s characterisation is perfectly in tune with how it was back then. The similar Ditkoesque artwork helps to contemporise the story with the time it’s supposed to be set, You could add these pages into the relevant issues of Amazing Spider-Man back then and be hard pressed to tell the difference.
One thing I was unsure about was introducing a new character -specifically a villain- that Peter Parker supposedly dealt with at the beginning of his career, this was tried before in 1996’s Amazing Fantasy 16-18 but I don’t think that story fit into Spidey’s history quite as effectively as they wanted it to. Both stories try to do similar things by setting up the villain to by sympathetic and relatable so that we as readers can identify with their struggle. This is a formula popular with many Spider-Man villains so it seems obvious to go with that.
The new villain of this story is named in this issue as Clash -his identity is the Clayton Cole character introduced in these comics as being obsessed with Spider-Man- and as a villain I’m honestly not warming to him, if the intention is to make me sympathetic towards him then it’s not going so well so far. I find him to be selfish and overly entitled so all I really want to happen when he appears is for him to go away so as a character there’s lots of work to do there.
Thankfully the rest of the issue was excellent. I really like the idea that Peter Parker is subject to grief counselling after the death of his uncle and that his behaviour that involves him cutting classes to fight crime is seem as an unhealthy way of dealing with that. Through this we also see an interesting perspective of how the heavily adversarial relationship between Peter and Flash Thompson began, or at least escalated. Peter doesn’t come across well here in letting the counsellor assume that it was Flash that gave him a black eye but he owned up in the end which is very in keeping with his character, he’s a good person but not a saint and does make mistakes. It’s implied that Flash holds a grudge after that point understandably. The issue also shows a side to Aunt May that has only recently become visible, a stronger and less patient side. It’s a nice touch to see it employed back at this point in Peter’s life as it shows that it’s always been there.
Overall, I am enjoying this story but I do feel that it can be awkwardly structured at times. The villain Clash doesn’t overly impress me and I am so far uninterested in what he’s going to end up doing. I do like how the story seamlessly blends into Spidey’s early days of fighting The Chameleon, The Vulture and his attempt to join The Fantastic Four. The deeper development of the character of Peter Parker when he was younger and inexperienced is nicely done without compromising the development he achieves as time goes on. A mostly clever story that could be strengthened with a better villain.