Writers: Peter David, Reginald Hudlin, and J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Mike Deodato and Joe Pimentel, Pat Lee and Dream Engine, and Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel
Published by: Marvel Comics

“Evolve or Die”

Spider-Man has seen a variety of changes over the years. He’s had multiple arms, been a giant spider, worn an alien costume, and then there was the clone saga (oy! The clone saga). Obviously not afraid of messing with the mythos of Spider-Man (since many fans still haven’t forgiven him for his retro-fitting of the story of Gwen Stacy), Straczynski has been working toward this story for years.

“Never understood. What you were. What you are. What you are becoming.” –Spider Spirit

The heart of the story revolves around the idea that Spider-Man’s powers are totemic in nature. Expanding the mythos into one of archtypes. DC comics went through this trend in the late 80s/early 90s as several of their characters were revealed to be elemental in nature (Swamp Thing, Red Tornado, Firestorm, etc.).

Since this story was going to fundamentally change the very character of Spider-Man, the story ran through all of his major titles: The Amazing Spider-Man 525-528, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man 1-4, and Marvel Knights Spider-Man 19-22. The storyline also got to utilize the talents of three fan-favorite writers: Reginald Hudlin (Black Panther), Peter David (Incredible Hulk, Fallen Angel, X-Factor), and J. Michael Straczynski (Rising Stars, Strange).

“You treated the gift that you had been given as though it were a toy. You did not look too deeply into what you had become of what you could do. You committed the crime … of superficiality.” –Spider Spirit

The Other follows Spider-Man’s spiritual journey as he searches within himself, learns who he is, and is led to confront both the “spider within” as well as the Spider Spirit. You see, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) was guilty of something that many folks are guilty of when it comes to their spiritual life: no self-examination. He never questioned, never dug deeper. While having a simple faith is good, being simple about one’s faith is not. Part of him was afraid of finding answers that might be disturbing. Instead he chose to not look beneath the surface, accepting the limits of what he thought he could do, and place his faith in a comfortable box.

He abandoned the journey of becoming a disciple.

The best way for me to think about discipleship is in terms of apprenticeship. I’m a student, Jesus is the teacher, and my goal is to become as much like him as possible. Discipleship would involve a changed in three areas: belief (we turn to Christ, expressing our desire to see him as he is, not simply how he’s been represented to us), behavior (our lives become slowly transformed, centering our lives around living out the kingdom mission; putting feet–action–to our faith and knowledge), and belonging (we join a specific faith community).

Discipleship, simply defined, can be seen as a process of how we transform everything we do in order to “take on,” or becoming more like, Jesus. You figure out what it means for you to live and work in light of being a blessing to your neighbor and to the world. It takes time and in our culture’s need for immediate gratification, we’ve forgotten that this can be a long process.

“You’ve got what every human being has asked for: a fresh start, a clean slate … You’ve been reborn.” –Tony Stark (Iron Man)

The end goal is for Spider-Man to be born again. Literally “Reborn as what? And perhaps just as important … why?” he asked before being baptized in the Hudson River. He becomes healed, inside and out; free of the past, of the person he was as he embraces the person he could be. Like many on a deepening spiritual journey, Spider-Man discovers new gifts, develop new spiritual fruit if you will.

All told, The Other’s story could have been told in a lot fewer issues, the story felt a little padded. Peter David, no stranger to writing Spider-Man, is great, but the story rather drags a bit when written by Reginald Hudlin. J. Michael Straczynski’s issues are back to the typical Straczynski sense of pacing. However, no one loses sight of what makes Spider-Man great: he’s a regular guy simply trying the best he can.

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