Carl takes a detour into the Spiderverse for a rendezvous with our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man in Stefan Petrucha’s Forever Young novelisation…
Let’s get one thing clear-I love Spider-Man. I have done ever since I first saw the classic cartoon series back in the early 1970s. The classic theme tune still gives me goosebumps and brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. I was overjoyed when the new batch of films decided to use it in various guises starting from its blast during the end credits of Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man film up to having it as his ringtone during The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s a classic theme, one like the character himself, instantly recognisable.
Many of my cherished childhood figures are of him including a 12″ version I picked up back in 1976 on a family holiday. I thought it was long gone but amazingly I found it in my attic, a little worse for wear but still good old Spidey. I collected the comics too and loved how they were so lovingly drawn and written. and yes, I did cry when Gwen Stacy was murdered by the Green Goblin!
Marvel has now published a novel based on the classic “Stone Tablet Saga” which has been adapted and updated to the present day. Usually, I’m wary of updated versions of classic novels and stories but I decided to take the plunge and read this ‘New’ version. And I’m glad I did. Written brilliantly by Stefan Petrucha, the novel literally takes us swinging around the city as Spidey fights some of his legendary villains.
Spider-Man: Forever Young | by Stefan Petrucha
The story is simple. Peter Parker is down on his luck and low on cash. His activities as Spider-Man although making him a hero has seriously damaged his school work. He is so far behind with it the school is seriously considering holding him back and removing his state funding, seriously denting his blooming academic studies and his future prospects. Hoping to earn some much-needed cash by taking photos of his alter ego and selling them to The Daily Bugle, he goes looking for trouble. And he finds it in the form of a mysterious stone tablet that is desperately wanted by both The Kingpin and his nemesis, Silvermane.
During a student protest, Kingpin attacks the student exhibition hall where the tablet is on display, viciously and violently smashing his way through armed guards and students to get his desired prize. Of course, Spider-Man shows up to stop him and the fight is on. However, Kingpin doesn’t obey any rules except his own and uses some students as human shields to get Spidey to back off and let him escape. Faced with a no-win situation, Spidey reluctantly backs off but not before making sure he can track Kingpin, regain the stolen tablet and bring the crime lord to justice. Finally, Spidey does regain the tablet and brings The Kingpin down in front of the police but The Kingpin plays an ace, accusing Spider-Man of being his partner in the theft in front of the assembled police officers, thus turning them against Spidey and Spidey becoming a wanted villain in their eyes.
All the while, the Maggia led by Silvermane are also after the tablet. After gaining it, they kidnap Dr Curt Conners and his family in an attempt to decipher the tablets markings and revealing its secret. Conners does discover what the markings mean, its a formula for an elixir that the aged Silvermane desperately wants for himself. After drinking the elixir, Silvermane undergoes a transformation that no one can understand or believe.
Years later, after suffering the death of his beloved Gwen, Peter Parker is lost. He still swings around as his webbed alter ego but no longer has the desire to continue saving the city and preventing crime. Adding to his inner turmoil is the fact that his beloved Aunt May is dying and needs a liver transplant to save her life. Peter is asked to be her donor but realising he has radioactive blood and if he goes ahead, his secret identity will be revealed, he refuses much to the anger of his friends including Mary Jane And Harry Osbourne. All the while, Silvermane makes his reappearance, much changed but now more bloodthirsty and violent than ever. Why has he resurfaced now? What is it he’s returned for? And why has he been changed so much?
To answer these questions or to divulge any more of the story would give away major spoilers for the book and detract from the reader a fantastic experience. To meet old friends like The Lizard again and to have various villains from the Spider-Man universe referenced is a joy. Many times I found myself smiling or nodding as various elements, situations and characters from the Marvel universe appeared on the pages before me. Stefan Petrucha has crafted a novel of extreme enjoyment for any Marvel fan, let alone a Spider-Man one. The characters are finely written, the scenarios faced by everyone all the more exciting and the pain and decisions faced by Peter Parker are all the more real. Many times I found myself thinking about how the book would play out and found myself surprised and delighted at the outcome.
Titan Books have published an excellent novel to be read by anyone looking for a nice piece of enjoyment and epic excitement. They have delved into the Marvel vault even more as I found out to my pleasure. This is only one of many novels published by Titan Books that deserve to be in an avid readers collection. Characters like The Avengers, Iron Man and Deadpool are now available in paperback form and I can’t wait to grab them for myself and indulge my Marvel fandom even more. I recommend them to any reader to enjoy, even those like myself who are now ‘middle-aged’ and should not enjoy cartoon/comic book characters anymore! But then again, there’s no harm in returning to our childhood every now and then and enjoy the characters we so lovingly adored in our youth. This book is worth every penny.
Spider-Man: Forever Young by Stefan Petrucha is published by Titan Books and is available to buy from all good retailers NOW.
And be sure to catch Spider-Man’s next big screen outing when Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse arrives in cinemas on December 12th
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Entertainment/Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!