The Spider-Man Noir cutscenes from Shattered Dimensions have a Sin City feel that makes it noir.
I call it the “Batmanification” of Spider-Man, the darkening of a usually wise-cracking, trickster spirit into something severe and brooding. My first introduction to Spider-Man Noir was the video game, Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions. It shares the same setting and characters as the Marvel Noir: Spider-man/Punisher book: Norman Osborne as the crime lord, The Goblin and Adrian Toomes (the Vulture), as his cannibalistic side show enforcer. But that is where the similarities end. The game is visually more appealing, more “noir” with its smokey, muted colors and black and white artwork than the typical color panels in the Marvel Noir book.
I was disappointed. While I liked the drawing in the book I was hoping for something with the same look and feel as the game. Anything to make it a little truer to its title, “Marvel Noir.” That’s the biggest problem about the book, it’s not noir. It lacks that cynical, hardboiled narrator that Dashiell Hammett made famous in his books or Bogart made famous in the movies. As it was written, Marvel Noir Spider-man is told in the third person. You are a voyeur, watching a story instead of a participant that the narrator brings along with him on the mystery.
I can easily imagine Marvel Noir Spider-man being told in the first person by tough and cynical newspaper editor, J Jonah Jameson, or hardboiled detective, Jean DeWolfe. Both make brief appearances in the book. The stories themselves are good. The first is the usual crime story of corruption and the mob. The second, “Eyes Without a Face,” is a pre-World War II story about the Nazi infiltration into American science and academics. What the stories lacked was the aesthetic. The artwork and narration did not incorporate the noir elements cited in the title, “Marvel Noir.”
Two of my favorite moments from the story were Peter incorporating pieces of his dead uncle’s World War I army uniform into his Spider-Man costume and Aunt May admonishing Spider-Man for killing Adrian Toomes even though it was in her defense.
Marvel Noir: Spider-man/Punisher is actually a collection of three stories. Two Spider-man and one Punisher. The Punisher story suffers from the same faults as the Spider-Man stories. Outside of a mention in the title, there were few noir elements in Frank Castle’s story. The Punisher story crosses two generations, Frank’s and his father’s. Frank Jr. is on a rampage to avenge his father’s death at the hands of a mobster. Frank Jr. witnesses his father’s death and vows revenge. The story follows Frank Jr. as he moves through his kill list. With the targets identified there was no mystery to solve, no big reveal to be had.