Title: Spider-Man: Torment
Author: Todd McFarlane
Copyright: 1990 (2009)
Rating: 3/5 stars
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Graphic novel category)
Blood washes the streets of the Big Apple. Torment plunges Spider-Man into the darkness within us all as he hunts the Lizard through the streets and sewers of New York City, trying to put an end to the bloodthirsty, homicidal rampage left in his wake. But what is driving the Lizard? Is it an answer that Spider-Man is prepared to face? Or will it be so shocking that it will make even the most courageous hero question his sanity? Collects Spider-Man #1-5.
Ah, Marvel comics in the 90s. Multiple variant covers. Cover gimmicks. New series highlighting the best artists in the business. It was a heady time to be a fan of comics. One of the best examples of this comic craziness of the time was the new Spider-Man series headed up by Amazing Spider-Man fan-favorite artist Todd McFarlane, who was given leave to write the series as well as illustrate it. This was the ultimate in cool comics back in the day. Does it live up to its own hype now? Maybe.
I found a cheap, used copy of the recent hardcover edition of Torment and thought, "What the hell. Why not?" When the series was originally released, I remember thinking it was great, and loved the art and the story. Well, that doesn't exactly hold up so much now. The art is amazing; I'll give Todd McFarlane that. He was really revolutionizing the look of comics at the time, getting away from the enclosed panels on white borders, having his characters break out of the panels, or even bleed off the edges of the page, with black backgrounds instead of white. It was impressive then, and it's still impressive now.
His writing has not held up so well over the years, though. At the time, the writing seemed really atmospheric and ethereal. Now, it's overly atmospheric and ethereal. I found myself skimming through most portions of the story, as the art was telling the story just as well as the writing, if not better in some cases. McFarlane's use of a little known villain (Calypso) and taking another villain too far from their norm (the Lizard) seem a little too contrived now. And for whatever reason, the decision to let McFarlane color the fourth issue as well as illustrate and write it seems like a very poor choice now. At the time, with a month between issues, the coloring probably didn't stand out as much, but reading the entire thing at one sitting, you can see how poorly his coloring skills are in this one issue compared to the rest of the edition.
So, overall this isn't a bad story, it just doesn't stand up so well to the test of time. The whole project is still impressive when taken in context for when it was originally released, and that art stills proves impressive, but you can tell that Todd McFarlane still had a long way to go about learning to write a decent paced series.