While Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero's "X-Men: Noir" has created a moody, slowly-paced approach to the Marvel Noir line of comics (and though I didn't like the way that series began, I loved the way it finished), David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, and Carmine Di Giandomenico's "Spider-Man: Noir" has been a violent, action-packed romp since the first issue. Tethered more closely to the conventions of old-school pulp than mid-century noir, this alternate take on the Spider-Man universe has been a series worth reading.
Any comic that can make the Vulture terrifying is doing something right. As a generally incompetent geriatric supervillain, the Vulture hasn't been a genuine threat to Peter Parker in decades (if ever), but Hine and Sapolsky have reinvented Adrian Toomes as a geek -- as in, guy who bites the heads off of living things -- and he's a complete monster. This issue features a new spin on the Vulture/Aunt May/Spider-Man relationship (longtime readers of Spider-Man comics will remember that Toomes and May have gone through various stages of love and hate), with the drooling, vicious Vulture ready to devour Peter Parker's loving aunt.
When this Spider-Man takes action to protect the person he loves the most, he faces consequences he didn't expect.
In the Marvel Noir universe, Spider-Man is a depression-era costumed vigilante. He's a gun-toting mystery man in a world filled with circus freaks. It's a violent world, and it requires a different kind of Peter Parker. You might not think that the essence of the Spider-Man character would work in such a bleak landscape, but Hine and Sapolsky pull it off by keeping the sincerity of Peter Parker and the struggle to accept responsibility at the forefront.
The story concludes in this fourth issue, as crime lord Norman Osborn is exposed for who he truly is and vengeance is (somewhat) served. It's too neat of an ending, perhaps. The resolutions are too simple, and the characters don't struggle with the messy complexities of their decisions for very long. But as a pulp adventure story, it's quite good, even with the easy ending.
Really, though, the best part of this series -- here and in every issue -- is the artwork of Carmine Di Giandomenico. His full-color art expresses the thrill of the rooftop adventure, the tragedy of an untimely death, and the passion of those who love and hate. I've never seen his work before, but he shouldn't be stuck doing ancillary comics like this one (as good as it is). Di Giandomenico is very, very good, and I'd love to see him on an extended run of "Daredevil" or "Immortal Iron Fist."
Marvel has plans for more of these noir comics, and though it seems like a gimmick that will run its course quickly, I'm looking forward to what they have planned next. If the rest of the Marvel Noir line is as good as "Spider-Man: Noir," then it will certainly be worth checking out.
(See Di Giandomenico's stunning work for yourself in CBR's preview of issue #4.)