Based upon the classic comic storyline ‘The Stone Tablet Saga’, Spider-Man: Forever Young goes back in time to follow Peter Parker during his time at university, struggling to juggle his roles as a student, boyfriend, nephew and friendly neighbourhood hero.
Stefan Petrucha doesn’t have an easy job in adapting this story, with the whole saga originally taking place over several issues set years apart. However, this doesn’t seem to get in Petrucha’s way. Instead, he utilises this time jump midway through the story in interesting and rewarding ways.
The first half of the book sees the well known villain Kingpin going up against the ageing mob boss Silvermane, both of whom are trying to steal a mysterious stone tablet said to hold a mystical secret within its writings. Unfortunately, the tablet is being housed on NYU property, which brings the two of them into conflict with Peter Parker.
Despite setting the Kingpin up as a big villain, Spider-Man is able to defeat the mobster with relative ease, making room for Silvermane to be the true villain of the piece. Where the Kingpin is the kind of character to go for a more direct approach, Silvermane is a more calculating and cunning character, more than willing to resort to intimidation and kidnapping to achieve his goals. This may not be as interesting in the comic book medium, where readers expect flashy fight scenes, but in a novel format this slower, more psychological approach works well, allowing the reader the time to get into the mind of Parker and see how things affect him on a personal level.
This is never more apparent after the book makes its time jump, shifting the story to a point after the death of police captain Stacy, Gwen Stacy, and Norman Osborn. This is a period in Peter’s life that’s full of negativity and grief. People that he cared deeply for have died, partially because of his identity as Spider-Man. It even spills out to affect the relationships he has with those still alive, such as his friendship with Harry Osborn, which is almost completely gone.
Whilst this would be bad enough a time to have to deal with the resurfacing of Silvermane, things get even worse when Peter’s aunt is hospitalised, needing a transplant in order to survive. Not only does this create a looming threat for Peter, the possibility that he may lose his only living family, but it also strains his existing relationships further when people mistake his inability to help his aunt due to his mutated DNA for cowardice, thinking that he would rather let her die than go through an operation.
These parts of the book are definitely the highlight, pushing the characters into darker places where their internal emotional struggles are able to be explored in more depth than they were in the original comics.
READ MORE: Marvel Action: Avengers #1 – Comic Review
Despite being in novel form the story doesn’t skimp out on the action, having Spidey in multiple fights across the events of the book. These action moments are well paced and have enough description in them that it’s easy to visualise what’s happening, conveying the spectacle from the comics in a good way.
With deep emotional story-lines, great character interaction, exploration of people’s motivations and inner thoughts, coupled with fun action and appearances from some iconic comic book characters, Spider-Man: Forever Young takes a classic Spider-Man story and gives it new life. The book brings the story into the modern age, coupling new tech and societal advances with an old story to make it feel new and fresh and interesting.
A must read for any Spider-Man fan who wants to explore the character further, to delve into the inner workings of the hero, or to see the wall-crawler in a whole new medium.