A couple of years ago, Marvel published a series of short run comics where a number of their characters are reinvented in the Noir genre. I’m not really sure what this means. Noir conjures up thoughts of stark black and white imagery but Spider-Man Noir is published in colour. Of the titles available, I have only ever been curious about this one, it being co-written by David Hine, a modern mainstream writer I normally enjoy and feel is underrated.
In this, the basic Spider-Man conceit is transposed onto prohibition New York. Peter Parker comes from a family of passionate socialists whose Uncle Ben has recently been killed by the lackeys of crime boss Norman Osborn AKA The Goblin. Jaded Daily Bugle journalist Ben Urich takes the angry Parker under his wing but is soon shamed by the young man into taking action against the corrupt system that allows Osborn to maintain his power. Around this time, Parker gains his super-powers via supernatural rather than scientific means as befitting the era and uses his new abilities to fight crime.
The term Noir also conjures up thoughts of characters of dubious morality and there are several here. Urich is a drug user, The Black Cat a nightclub madam, while the Parkers are angry socialists. Portraying Spider-Man as being politically influenced this way is perhaps the most subversive thing about this story and must have annoyed some readers. However, I think this is perfectly acceptable as this sort of hero motivation wasn’t uncommon at this time. I mean, look at the first Superman comic strips from the end of the thirties, for example. Often the all American hero is seen fighting for workers rights against corrupt businessmen.
Artist Carmine Di Giandomenico has a spiky style which is completely suited to this creepy and off-centre portrayal of Spider-Man. His colour work, however, seems a little muted, as if he is trying to maintain some of the remit as suggested by the title on this occasion. Spider-Man Noir is an enjoyable mash-up of property and genre but I kept thinking as I was reading it, with some adjustment, this could make a great Night Raven story. Or a nourish comic free from established properties in its own right.
Budgetary stats; The comics cost me £2 for the set plus an additional £2 for the postage as part of an eBay win. That’s £1 each. That’s within budget!