The Spider #1: Pulp Cool

The Spider

No, this isn't Spider-Man, it's a guy who predated the wall-crawler by decades.

His name is The Spider, and he kills criminals on the streets.

"What gives me the right to decide who lives and who dies? Not a damn thing," the dark hero says in The Spider #1, Dynamite's latest relaunching of a pulp comic movie-serial character. Right away, you know you're gonna like this guy. He's self-aware, but he's still getting the job done, and there isn't going to be that hand-wringing about whether or not he has the moral high ground to take a life.

David Liss, after an interesting 1930s tale with Mystery Men and a troubled but decent run on Black Panther, knocks The Spider out of the park. With no constraints from fanboys and no group cast to juggle, he delves into this modern noir, delving into the mind and twisted entanglements of Richard Wentworth. A special-ops war hero with a rich daddy who is in love with a journalist who's married to one of the best cops he works with when consulting on weird murder cases – cops he uses to get leads to follow up on as The Spider, even while the department actively tries to uncover his double life. It's basically The Punisher if he wasn't so damn antisocial… and Wentworth is plenty antisocial. He drinks, he angsts, but he doesn't take any crap. Frank Castle's just so single-minded about his war, while Wentworth has a lot more going on in his life.

To be more accurate, The Spider is a combination of The Punisher, Batman and Spider-Man, and you can't get cooler ingredients than that – especially considering the fact that The Spider predates all three of those comic book icons, having been created in 1933 by Harry Steeger.

The art from Colton Worley is a bit strange – at times, it's brilliant in its dark thrills and intriguing in its photo-realism, but when Wentworth is out from under the mask, it's driving me nuts trying to pin down the actor he's using as a reference. I'm getting shades of Balthazar Getty, Christian Slater, Tom Cruise, David Arquette, Joaquin Phoenix, and maybe a little Colin Farrell from In Bruges. Regardless, I know he's referencing actual movie stills, or maybe a movie poster, and it gets a little distracting. But at least he's referencing cool movie images, and that fits the tone of the book.

If you like dark and surly crime noir, villains like The Cholera King and The Silver Falcon, and a strange psuedo zombie mystery, not to mention twisted emotional entanglements, asshole cops and a lot of smoldering cigarettes, The Spider is your book. And if you're not sure about any of that, just take a good gander at how cool this guy looks. It's undeniable.

The Spider #1