Spider-Man India #1 Review

Reviewer: Paul Sebert
Story Title: N/A

Script & Art: Jeevan J. Kang & Gotham Studios Asia
Plot: Jeevan J. Kang, Suresh Seetharaman & Sharad Devarajan
Lettering: V.C.’s Dave Sharpe
Editors: John Barber, Nick Lowe, & Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics Group

Spider-Man isn’t just one of the world’s most popular super heroes. He’s also an international icon, recognized all over the world. As testament to the characte’s popularity, there have been numerous alternate interpretations throughout the world. In the United Kingdom, you can still buy an issue of “Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine” which is based off of the continuity of the 90s Spider-Man animated series. In the mid-to-late 90s Marvel experimented in bringing over Ryoichi Ikegami’s Spider-man manga series that followed the adventures of a student named “Yu Komori” who wound up donning the web slinge’s iconic costume after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Alas at that time much of the American market wasn’t ready for manga, yet the translated title managed to stay on US shelves for 31 issues. (Note to Marvel: ever thought about bringing this book to digest?)

1979 perhaps saw the strangest re-imagining of old web-head in the form of Toei’s Spider-Man TV series. Unlike Ikegami’s manga which was pretty much a straight-forward interpretation of the character with a Japanese name, Toei’s Spider-Man (pronounced Supaida-Man) was a hero in the Kamen Rider/Ultra-Man mode who fought a seemingly never-ending battle against men in rubbery monster costumes. Aided by a spaceship known as the ‘Marvelle’ and a giant robot called ‘Leopardon’ our hero opposed the evil Dr. Monster and his Iron Cross Army. Chuckle all you want, but the 41-episode series proved to be highly influential on Toei’s future ‘Sentai’ series, some of which were re-edited under the ‘Power Rangers” name.

Announced earlier this year “Spider-Man: India” is thus far the most ambitious project of the Gotham Entertainment Group, a company that specializes in translating and distributing western comics into the Indian market. Spider-Man India is an entirely new property produced by Indian writers and artists with the intent of integrating the character in a way that the average citizen of India can identify with. Obviously I’m not the best person to judge how well it accomplishes that task.

The first issue covers Spidey’s origin story in a nutshell. Only this time around, instead of being a guy named “Peter Parker” who gets bitten by a radioactive spider our hero is amed “Pavitr Prabhakar” and gets his powers from a supernatural spider entity. This sequence in the entity lectures young Pavitr is perhaps the most interesting in the book. “There is only you with the power of the spider, the spider that weaves the intangible web of life. The universe grants you this power, and the knowledge necessary to use it.”

Looking over this interpretation I actually probably would have enjoyed this book more if it differed from the outline left by the classic Lee/Ditko stories a little bit more. It’s a little hard to feel suspense when you know exactly what’s going to happen to Pavit’s uncle from the get-go. Perhaps they should have taken a note from Bendis’s Ulitmate Spider-Man and let us get to know the character a little better. One note they did take from Bendis’s title is the design of Green Goblin (a ruthless businessman named Oberoi) who also like Pavitr recieves his powers through mystical means.

As someone who’s never lived in or traveled to India, to be honest I can’t quite judge how well Pavit’s adventures in the city of Mumbai can resonate with the average reader of that country. As a curiosity piece though, the first issue of Spider-Man India is worth a peek. The art is stunning, and the story manages to differ just enough from the original to be interesting, without changing the character so much as to being unrecognizable.