Non-Stop Spider-Man #1 Review

by Charles Martin on March 10, 2021

Non-Stop Spider-Man #1 Review
A Strip
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciller: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Tom Townsend
Colourist: Marcio Menyz
Letterer: Travis Lanham

B Strip
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Dale Eaglesham
Colourist: Morry Hollowell

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Welcome to the fastest Marvel comic since that unfortunate incident where Joe Quesada fired rolled-up issues at readers' heads with a T-shirt cannon!*

(*This did not, technically, happen. So far as I know.)

But! Non-Stop Spider-Man! Editor Nick Lowe puts the cards on the table in his "howdy" letter between the two strips: This is supposed to be a "no time to breathe" action thrill ride in the mould of the movies Speed or Crank.

So is this a super-fast comic? Well, actually, no. And that's a good thing!

What it is is a super-dense comic, where the writer and the art team collaborate to hurl an overwhelming onslaught of information at you. Spidey is engaged in acrobatic combat from panel one, fighting mysterious enemies. What actually matters to Spidey during this fight are two kids that us readers also don't know.  

That means that though the action launches "in media res," we're in a much more "tabula rasa" situation when it comes to the story. There are prior plot points in play, but our journey to collect them starts at square one.

Joe Kelly's script provides an excellent example of creating the illusion of speed with dense detail work. The first four pages cover Spider-Man crashing through a window and falling 15 stories to the street, and his mind is going a mile a minute all the way down.

He considers the crime scene he just left, thinks constructively about his antagonists, acknowledges his anger, and boxes that feeling away to concentrate on hero-ing. 

And he's also doing a hell of a lot during that fall. He jumps from the window as Peter Parker; he puts on his uniform on the way down. He also encases the shards of the window in webbing so they don't hurt pedestrians when they fall and webs up nearby traffic and surveillance cameras before he lands.

These inventive little bits of day-to-day Spider-Man-ing emphasize what a multitasker Peter Parker can be. And he continues to split his focus all through the issue, doing an impressive amount of detective work in the middle of a running battle with a heavily-armed goon squad.

Artist Chris Bachalo is more than capable of keeping up with the script. His dynamic, off-kilter style of panel blocking is perfect for moving the reader from detail to detail along with Spidey's attention. He also packs each panel with grit, debris, and chaos.

His partners Tom Townsend and Marcio Menyz do an excellent job providing focus. Heavy outlines and carefully-modulated colours pop the characters out of the background noise and make them easy (well, easier) to track.

The art team also has a strategic trick up its sleeve. All of the action scenes are laid out on a slant from top left to bottom right. This surrenders some page space in the corners, but it also produces a sense of constant and consistent motion. And the non-action scenes, in contrast, are framed straight up-and-down. This applies to more than flashbacks -- watch the panels tilt in the library scene as Spidey drags his fight into a previously-quiet space.

The details that trickle out during the issue build up a rational background for the fight. The goon squad pursuing Spidey already touched Peter Parker's civilian life in ways that the wall-crawler is still piecing together. 

This is what I mean when I say this book creates the illusion of speed. There's a complex plot underlying the sound and fury of the fight scene, and puzzling it together requires a lot of reader attention. Given the intricacy of their storytelling, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the creators loaded some Chekhov's guns into this issue that will demand a hindsight-enhanced second reading after the story is complete.

The B strip is also action-packed, but not to the "sensory overload" level of the main story. It serves to spotlight a big bad (no spoilers) who will presumably tie into Spidey's adventure further on.

Non-Stop Spider-Man is, as promised, action-packed. But contrary to expectations, it's not a fast read -- and it's all the better for it. The sheer density of information hurled at the reader demands thoughtful attention. There's a compelling mystery lurking just beneath the high-octane combat panels, and the creators strike an excellent balance between immediate action and a slowly-unfolding big-picture plot.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Both Spider-Man and the big bad in the B strip (and, I suppose, Joe Kelly) are strangely obsessed with the lesser villains' fashion choices. What's it meeean?!