Spider-Man: Life Story #3

Unfortunately, SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 participates in the over-saturation of symbiotes in 2019. Though the latest issue of VENOM released in April, the newest installment of SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN released just last week. As a result, the inclusion of the symbiote in this week’s SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY feels overdone.

Additionally, SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 shares a release date with a brand-new AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comic book. Coincidentally enough, both stories pay homage to the same iconic Spider-Man story: KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT. Consequently, what is possibly the most creative interpretation of Spider-Man’s lore in years struggles to excite me.

However, even in the face of an oversaturated market with severe 80s nostalgia, SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 intrigues me. Its surprisingly dark and unapologetic approach to storytelling sets it apart from the other spider-books in stores. Admittedly, SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 isn’t the greatest Spider-Man comic. Nonetheless, I appreciate Chip Zdarsky’s and Mark Bagley’s decision to take such a candid approach to aging and instability.

Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Parker Family Problems

SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 picks up six years after the tragic events of SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #2. After Gwen Stacy’s death, Peter and Mary Jane settled in together and got married. In the opening pages of this week’s issue, Mary Jane gives birth to Claire and Benjamin Parker. Only an old, forgetful Aunt May keeps her company at the hospital.

Sadly, Peter wasn’t there to witness their birth. Instead, Pete was off fighting in the Secret Wars with the Avengers. When Peter finally returns home to his wife, she fills him in on everything he missed while in space. Apparently, the Cold War between Russia and America got way worse. But, unluckily for Peter, the worst is yet to come.

Spider-Man: Life Story #3
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Relationships at the Parker household are tense and difficult, and Peter’s dependence on the symbiote only makes things worse. Also, Mary Jane is practically taking care of the entire family on her own, which is a daunting responsibility. In response to Peter’s constant absence, the two lovers have an argument, and Peter storms out of the house.

The remaining pages of SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 re-interpret classic moments from KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT. But the addition of the symbiote creates a drastic contrast to the original storyline. Thanks to the alien costume’s assistance, Peter escapes the grave much sooner, enters a venomized rage, and easily defeats Kraven. However, the issue tragically ends with Mary Jane and Peter going their separate ways.

Kraven's Last Hunt Reference
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment


Clearly, Chip Zdarsky cares about the story he is writing. Every page demonstrates that he puts a lot of thought into the characters’ developmental journeys. For example, on the first page of SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3, Aunt May mistakes Mary Jane for Gwen Stacy. (This version of Aunt May suffers from some sort of age-related memory loss.) Later on, Mary Jane reveals that she feels she is overshadowed by the “ghost of Gwen Stacy.”

Ghost of Gwen Stacy
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

At times, however, it feels like Chip Zdarsky cares more about the universe he’s created around the Parkers rather than the Parkers themselves. During certain moments in SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3, I questioned the relevance of what I was reading. Pages of expository context about the escalation of the Cold War feel very out of place. They are especially incompatible in a story where the emotional center revolves around a domestic dispute.

The Artists Carry SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3

There are three panels in this issue that are completely black and feel unnecessary. Nonetheless, Mark Bagley’s art steals the show. The veteran Spider-Man artist’s compositional talents shine the brightest. I found the scene in which Vision and Sue Storm attempt to stop airborne Russian missiles particularly beautiful.

Spider-Man: Life Story #3
Image Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

On the aforementioned page, Sue and Vision form a diagonal line that guides the reader’s eye towards the next panel. It’s an incredible arrangement, aided by Frank D’Armata’s great coloring. The bright greens and yellows of Vision’s costume pop against the darkness of space.

Final Thoughts…

Overall, SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 relies too heavily on tired storylines. Also, Zdarsky’s priorities sometimes shift between Peter Parker and the rest of the Marvel universe. Hopefully, future issues abstain from constant references to Marvel’s publication history and focus on original content. Until then, I will hesitantly await SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #4.

Admittedly, SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 isn’t the greatest Spider-Man comic. Nonetheless, I appreciate Chip Zdarsky’s and Mark Bagley’s decision to take such a candid approach to aging and instability.
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