'Coming Home' is the first volume of J Michael Straczynski's acclaimed Spider-Man run, and begins with a Peter Parker who has had his life turned upside when his wife, Mary Jane, leaves him. Through the first few issues of the book we see how Peter tries to deal with the loss of his wife, about the difficulty he faces at moving out on his own away from MJ and his Aunt May and his struggle to find a new career path in life as a science teacher at his old high school.
Though these stories are interesting and give us a great insight into Peter’s life, it is not the main focus of the book; instead Straczynski introduces a plot thread that shakes the fundamental premise of Spider-Man’s history to its very core with the introduction of another spider powered individual called Ezekiel who asks Peter an earth shattering question. ‘Did the radiation enable the spider to give you these powers? Or was the spider trying to give you these powers before the radiation killed it?’
Ezekiel goes on to explain about the powers of the animal totems and their roles throughout history, even attempting to explain away all of Peters animal themed villains as being attracted to the power of his spider totem. Peter barely has time to wrap his head around this concept before he is hunted by an immortal named Morlun, who feeds on the powers of the animal totems. And that is the main drive of this first volume of Straczynski’s run, Peter fighting against this ancient, nigh unstoppable foe.
Having a foe that doesn’t play by the normal conventions of comic book villains is a refreshing change, especially as he literally pushes Spidey to the edge of his limits. Forced to fight for hours on end against a foe that can barely even feel his punches we see our hero brutally beaten to with an inch of his life. Yet through it all he refuses to give in, to allow Morlun to go unchecked in his relentless destruction.
And that is what makes this a great book, if you take away the character growth you see in Peters personal life, or the shock revelation about his origin as Spider-Man and what you have is a book about what makes someone a hero, about their unbreakable will to do what is right, to keep fighting for what is right no matter what the cost to them. Never before have I seen the phrase ‘With great power must also come great responsibility’ better portrayed in a Spider-Man story.
‘Coming Home’ is a great read, with some beautiful art work by John Romita Jr., with a cliff-hanger ending that will have you desperate to read the next volume.