A robbery, a dead dame, and an ancient brooch set all of Spider-Man Noir’s senses tingling. To solve this mystery, our friendly neighbourhood 1930s Spider-Man is going to have to leave his comfort zone.
Spider-Man Noir #1
Juan Ferreyra (Artist), Travis Lanham (Letters), Margaret Stohl (Writer)
March 4, 2020
Though Spider-Man Noir has been kicking around the Marvel Comics universe for 10 years now, the character’s recent appearance on-screen has rejuvenated interest in him. Nicolas Cage’s Noir was a surprisingly wonderful addition to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and it was only a matter of time before he got more page time. Enter Margaret Stohl’s fantastically well-rendered and gripping tale of mobsters and war set against an all-too familiar Marvel universe.
I loved this story! It was fun and exciting and expertly captured the period that the plot is set in. The dialogue, the art, and the high stakes encompass the 1930s from the very first page—closing the book and returning to reality felt like a shock to the system. The period the story is set in is as much a character in Spider-Man Noir #1 as the people in it; there’s the very real and constant threat of a world-encompassing war. It plays on Spider-Man Noir’s mind, since he’s a private eye and superhero but nothing he does in Manhattan can stop this war from coming. If that’s not a downer, I don’t know what is. And it ends up being a motivating factor for Spider-Man Noir taking on the case at the centre of this series.
The setting comes through beautifully thanks to Juan Ferreyra’s art. He was clearly made to illustrate this story. The dark hues — a mix of sepia, black and white, and the barest of colours — evoke the ’30s with ease. The art in Spider-Man Noir #1 is almost cinematic; one has to remind themselves that the panels aren’t actually moving. That’s really hard to achieve on a two-dimensional page, a sign that this art in this book is seriously impressive.
But the art isn’t the only aspect of Spider-Man Noir #1 that creates a recognizable setting; the dialogue more than does the job. I absolutely loved it. The dialogue in this book evokes James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, ensuring that Spider-Man Noir’s voice was memorable and distinctive. I could actually hear Cage in my head as I was reading, which was a lot of fun.
My one concern with period-set stories is that women characters often get left by the wayside or end up being damsel-ed. But this is why you need diversity behind the scenes. With Stohl on writing duty, Mary Jane gets to be a hero in her own right, and even saves Spider-Man Noir at one point.
Though the primary victim of Spider-Man Noir #1 is a young woman, Spider-Man Noir teams up with another young lady, who is as fiercely determined to get justice as she is intelligent. I foresee more women appearing in this story with each progressive issue. Stohl’s ability to wrangle complicated women into a Marvel story shouldn’t come as a surprise—her The Life of Captain Marvel gave readers a complex version of Carol Danvers and a powerful family dynamic, alongside action-heavy scenes. We can only expect more from this series. (However, there is a distinct lack of people of colour, which ruins the reading experience—hopefully this issue will be rectified in subsequent instalments.)
Spider-Man Noir #1 was a thrilling read—the atmosphere in every panel is electric, due to some gorgeous art, excellent dialogue, and a story that is already shaping up to be a nail-biter. Great plotting and stunning world-building make this the kind of story that we won’t be able to get enough of.