Story: Taboo & B. Earl
Art: Juan Ferreyra
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Variant Cover: David Mack
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: November 23rd, 2022
Demon Bear has sent Peter on a quest. Or has he? In this adventure that combines mysticism and horror, Peter discovers that he can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t.
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Taking characters out of their established comfort zones opens up any number of storytelling possibilities. But it can have mixed results. Not all characters work in all circumstances. In DEADLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN we see this choice working very well.
DEADLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #2 opens with a flashback to Crystal’s grandfather relating an old fable to her before jumping back to where the first issue ended. Peter is in combat with Demon Bear (combat is perhaps too strong a word–he avoids a couple paw swipes before Demon Bear grows big enough to pick him up between two claws). Demon Bear gives Peter a quest. And then it’s like nothing happened.
Like the first issue, DEADLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #2 plays with perception and reality a bit. There are pages where it’s unclear what’s real and what isn’t. As the issue goes on Peter gets mysterious notes in a diner, rediscovers the same mystical rock from the first issue, watches visions floating above a coffee mug, and has an experience with the multiverse.
The story in DEADLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #2 remains somewhat vague. The themes are also somewhat unclear. Mystic and horror elements abound, but they aren’t fully tied together yet. So far it feels like the confusion is the point. Taboo and B. Earl seem to want to keep us, like Peter, off balance, and if that’s so then they are succeeding.
Though DEADLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #2 doesn’t make it clear, it is using Lakota myth and legend. Given how Crystal likens what Peter is talking about to the stories her grandfather used to tell, it leaves me curious how (or if) this incarnation of Demon Bear will be tied into Lakota legend and whether that will matter at all.
Art is a huge part of what DEADLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN does, and Ferreyra’s depiction of Spider-Man goes a long way to making the horror elements work. His rendition is a lean, wiry character. Outside the real world this look is augmented: his eyes glow, his fingers extend to points in what look like claws, and the ends of his feet are sharper. These are relatively small changes to the overall appearance Ferreyra starts with and are more than enough to convey the idea of Spider-Man as something scarier and more dangerous.
Peter isn’t just out of his element in his adventure, though. His presence in L.A. is already a huge change in his environment. Ferreyra’s use of soft colors and lighter shadows makes this setting distinct from New York. There is a constant sense of openness that artists drawing him in New York can’t quite equal.
DEADLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #2 exists in its own world in a way. It’s still inside regular continuity. But it feels is completely different from the other Spider-Man books being published now. It feels fresh. But the creative team hasn’t had to go beyond the confines of what makes Peter work. Even as it goes to places Spider-Man doesn’t usually find himself in, the focus is always on the character so it retains that smaller, more personal quality that makes Peter and Spider-Man work.