Spinning out of "Fear Itself" (in case the title hasn't already clued you in), this miniseries by Chris Yost and Mike McKone sees Spider-Man attempting to deal with the consequences of a wave of heightened fear spreading across the city, even as he finds himself afflicted by it. As the citizens of New York turn on themselves, Spider-Man must contend with his own self-doubt and pessimism. It's fair to say that as far as Spider-Man stories go, it's a little on the darker side.
As with all tie-in series, the crucial question of worth has to be asked. Is there a story to tell, or merely a comic to be sold? Happily, "Fear Itself: Spider-Man" is definitely part of the former category. There's a definite sense that this miniseries is telling a story that, while not integral to the plot of "Fear Itself," does at least help us understand the crossover to a larger degree and articulate some of what's at stake. Although the main series keeps telling us that the populace is being driven into a fear-induced frenzy, it's up to peripheral miniseries to actually show it. On that level it undoubtedly succeeds.
That said, one can't help but wonder where the choice of villain came from. The issue would have made a credible enough one-shot, but the need to fill an entire miniseries means the stakes must be raised, and Yost accomplishes that by bringing back a long-time, third-tier Spider-Man villain at the conclusion of the issue.
Although the reveal is a well-executed one, hidden in plain view until the final page, it seems like there should be a better candidate for a story based around fear. If he can find a theme to play with or a new angle for the character, there's no reason it couldn't work, but right now it's too early to tell whether this is an arbitrary choice. Perhaps Yost is aiming for a more primal definition of "fear." Perhaps he just felt like using a villain who hasn't been seen for a while. Whatever the reason, it'll be interesting to see how his story develops over the rest of the series.
McKone's artwork is as solid as ever, and unusually, he and colorist Jeromy Cox have opted for a red-and-black version of the classic costume, rather than the more familiar red, black and blue. Leaving aside the question of how valid that interpretation is (I enjoy it, at least), it gives the book a darker, somehow more somber look that feels appropriate for the book's graver-than-usual tone.
However, the best praise I can give Yost and McKone with "Fear Itself: Spider-Man" has been saved until last, and that's the assertion that this series is straddling the crossover line expertly. As a stand-alone Spider-Man story, it wo. As a tie-in miniseries, it works. It should satisfy both halves of its target audience, and if it continues to do so while taking the story in a more interesting direction in future issues, well, so much the better.