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The Webhead Returns May 25, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Comics, Reviews.
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Kaare Andrews’ Spider-Man: Reign draws plenty of comparisons to Frank Miller’s iconic Batman story, The Dark Knight Returns. In the same way that DKR features a future Gotham City and an aged Bruce Wayne who decides to don the cowl once more, Reign revolves around a future New York City and a much older Peter Parker who is compelled to overcome his personal demons and again become Spider-Man. That Andrews acknowledges Miller’s influence on the book, giving subtle nods to DKR throughout, further fuels the flames of fandom.

With the bar set so high, how does Reign compare? Well enough, it turns out, for a much shorter and different superhero story.

In a sense, Andrews manages to do more with less in Reign than Miller accomplished with DKR. Both are “complete” tales steeped in their respective characters’ mythos, and both are entirely believable “what ifs” of their possible futures. Yet Reign is the shorter of the two, with much the same grit, polish and fan service. In this respect, at least, Reign truly is the Spider-Man equivalent of DKR, bringing to mind that saying about the sincerest form of flattery.

This is not to say that Reign is the better story, for indeed there are many things missing in Kaare Andrews finished product that keep it from matching or exceeding DKR, if such a thing were possible. For instance, Reign’s setting tends to overpower the character development, and there is one significant deus ex machina moment — explained as precisely that within the story — used to drive the plot along that doesn’t quite fit. Yet taken for what it is, it’s hard to miss the fact that Andrews has gotten the most important thing about Reign right: it is undeniably a very good Spider-Man story, one with a keen appreciation of the character and his supporting cast. In this, the emotional exchanges between Peter and Mary Jane, either imagined or in flashback (she’s already passed away at the time of the story) really shine and couldn’t have been written any better.

It’s almost unfair that any comic even remotely resembling Frank Miller’s DKR simply invites comparison. And so it is with Reign, which manages to hold up to such scrutiny both as an homage to the original and an excellent Spider-Man story on its own right.

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