Typhoid Fever: Spider-Man sees the return of one of Marvel’s most dangerous mutants in a delirious, dreamy new story.
This is the first in a three-issue run, seeing Typhoid Mary (aka Mary Walker) more unhinged—and dangerous—than usual. Mary is set loose after a failed attempt to finally “cure” her dissociative personality disorder by walling-up the darker egos inside her mind. Now, she’s intent on spreading chaos across all of Manhattan…and she’s taking Peter Parker along for the ride.
Let’s be clear from the start: Typhoid Fever: Spider-Man is not a Spider-Man or X-Men book. This is a Typhoid Mary book. And, in proper fashion, the story is deliberately disorienting right from the first page.
We’re constantly slipping through what is real and what is illusory, reflecting Mary’s own mental state. As her doctor puts it, her mind is “like a television…[Mary’s] psyche keeps changing channels.” It’s an interesting take, as we don’t often get to see characters like Spidey through a lens like this.
The broader narrative starts to coalesce about halfway through, when Mary manages to use the powers of a former X-Men to amplify her own. Mary’s supercharged abilities allow her to project her delusions onto the world around her. And, when Spider-Man leaps into action to try and help, he finds himself caught in Mary’s web.
The dreamlike aura of Typhoid Fever: Spider-Man is interesting. Mary is constantly phasing from reality to an imagined soap opera in her mind, dragging us along with her. That said, the book is clearly going for a broader narrative, and the effect of not always knowing what’s real or when it’s happening can be distracting at times.
There were a few story elements that felt a little out of place, too. Particularly, one of implied abuse at the home in which Mary is a patient, which felt like it was thrown-in as an afterthought, and never really touched on again. As a writer’s rule of thumb, abuse as a motivation for a character to act can come across as a cheap cliché if not carefully handled. Here, I didn’t feel like it really landed, and it would have been best to cut it.
The work of artist Stefano Landini and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg really shines on this issue.
The page layout in Typhoid Fever: Spider-Man accentuates the tension, while deliberately clueing the reader in on certain elements. The inks are heavier, but minimal, giving all of the designs a more elegant look. The artwork feels stylized, but in a restrained and very tasteful way.
The coloring may be one of my favorite elements at work here. We have a lot of strong contrasts in color during the “reality” segments, so elements pops off the page nicely. During the illusory segments, shifts in color palette and tone alert us to changes in how we should perceive the situation. Hazy pastels evoke a dreamlike sense, while harsh reds and blacks accentuate drama.
Despite some issues, Typhoid Fever: Spider-Man is a good start overall. The series promises to take us to some interesting places in the next two issues, and I’m on board for the ride.