Spider-Man: India #1

Spider-Man India

The Good:

While I certainly love the main characters everyone thinks about when they think of comics, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, there are also many more stories out there concerning characters we never heard of before. Then we have variations on stories we are already familiar with like this. Called Spider-Man: India, it speculates as to what the Spider-Man story would be if Peter Parker were from India.

At first glance I can see where some folks may shake their head and wonder why a story like this is needed. If a story is told well the first time, why do we need to say it again albeit from a different perspective? I contend though that while we are interested in the adventures of Peter Parker as Spider-Man, seeing how someone else would react to some of the same circumstances is much like seeing a new actor tackle a familiar character. There may be a lot of overlap in regards to how the character is presented but being that the character is ultimately different they can take the story in different directions.

I liked how the story was able to blend the familiar with the new location. Make no mistake, this is not a Miles Morales take on Spider-Man. This really is the Indian version of Peter Parker including having the names of the characters in the story sound almost phonetically the same as the characters we know. Sharad Devarajan did a good job of presenting pretty much the basics of the story we are familiar with in a new setting without making the characters seem out of place. The danger in a story told like this would be having characters that no one can relate to. Admittedly I don’t know too much about India. While I probably know more than most Americans, compared to the rest of the world my knowledge of that country and it’s culture is still laughably small. The writer though did a great job of blending in the familiar that I know, the Spider-Man story, and weaving it into almost seamlessly into a culture I know next to nothing about. The best stories are told in a way that regardless of where or when you read it you can find something about it that you can relate to. Like the original Stan Lee Spider-Man story. Going back further, like Mark Twain or Charles Dickens stories. While I am not comparing this story to the authors I just mentioned, Sharad deserves accolades for telling a story that does not require you to know about Indian culture to understand.

The same I’m sure can be said in reverse. I could see where someone growing up in India may not necessarily be able to fully relate to a teenager growing up in New York City. But Stan Lee and the other authors of those stories throughout the years have written Peter Parker in a way that I feel regardless of where you live you can relate to. Who cannot relate to feeling like an outcast? Who cannot relate to wanting to do the right thing? Who cannot relate to being awkward around the opposite (or same) sex? This author was able to tap into that sense of relate-ability in order for anyone picking up this issue could understand and care for the characters.

The art work was well done. While drawn in the classic style I really loved how they were able to draw such amazing environments. As stated, I have never been to India. The art though gave me the sense of familiarity that really helped get me lost in the story which is a great thing. I also liked how when Pavitr Prabhakar is first given the Spider-Man suit, it’s a blend of the suit we’re familiar with along with clothing that is native to India. It was drawn beautifully, nothing felt forced about it which did a lot to keep my interest in the story. If he suddenly dressed like the American Peter Parker I think I would have probably been thrown off. Basically, why would a teenager from India decide to dress like a teenager from New York especially when it’s been established that this teenager is from a small village. He’s incorporate the suit with his clothes. The results are perfect.

The Bad:

This story went along much too fast. I get that they probably knew from the outset that this would be a limited, four issue series and that they couldn’t go too in depth as much as they would have liked. But when you give a total of two pages to the reveal of the Green Goblin and give no further explanation as to how or why the action we were seeing was going on, it was easy to feel a little lost. I’m sure the other issues will dive into it more but I do think the intro of the big bad of the story deserves a little more attention than what they gave it.

It’s also established that Pavitr Prabhakar is a genius of some sort but you don’t know why. You’re just expected to accept it which if we’re reading an origin story, regardless of whether this is an original story or a different take on a story we are familiar with, we have to know what makes him special. People saying he’s special just doesn’t cut it for me. In both the original and Ultimate versions of Spider-Man, his work and interest in science is easily established without having to take three issues to explain it. They were able to show why he was special and not just have to tell people he was. I wanted to see what made him special and just didn’t see it.

I also think the story expected us to just accept that magic helped this happen. Why was Pavitr Prabhakar chosen to be Spider-Man? Magic. Why was Nalin Oberoi able to turn into the Green Goblin? Magic. The next issues I am sure will get into why things are happening more but the fact that we’re just expected to accept what is going on by just being told about it is frustrating.

Bottom Line:

I love different takes on stories. I love it when artists get creative and choose something we didn’t anticipate in order to get their story out there. Sometimes it can fall flat on its face. Sometimes, like Daniel Craig being chosen to be James Bond, it can reward you immensely.

This is a flawed story. It tells you a lot about what it going on when it should be showing you much more of the how and why things are going on. But for what this comic does right makes it a great read. The fact that me, as a 39 year old American white guy can instantly related to a young Indian teenager without knowing much about India or its culture is a great piece of writing. We’re all human at the end of the day but where we grow up can be quite different. To be able to break through the environmental differences and connect with the reader emotionally is some great work. I give the story an 8.

The art work is frankly amazing. While I won’t say it’s on the same realm that Kirby and Ditko inhabited, the fact that the artist could seamlessly meld the visually familiar along with elements American audiences may not be familiar with is just amazing. The Spider-Man suit alone is a great example of this. I give the art a 9 for being able to help bring in readers from anywhere into a world that, though they may be unfamiliar with it at the start, they instantly feel connected to and love by the end of the story.

 

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