Spider-Man: India

Review:

Spider-Man: India TPB (Amazing Spider-Man) - Jeevan J. KangI have had this on my TBR since I first saw it while compiling my list of superheroes for the Diverse Book Tag and then when it was the topic for TTT, I put it on my Fall TBR. I spent a good amount of October catching up on my comics and it’s looking like I’ll get to finish them up by the end of November!

The creator of this comic is Jeevan Kang, an Indian comic artist with a painfully lacking Wikipedia page for me. In it, he asks us to consider a question that appears on the back cover:

Everybody knows the story of Spider-Man… but what if things had happened differently? What if it wasn’t a New Yorker named Peter Parker, but an Indian teenager named Pavitr Prabhakar who was gifted with the abilities of the spider? Collects Spider-Man: India #1-4!

This was an amazing comic! I loved the way the feeling of Spider-Man stayed the same and I loved all the details that were changed. For those who live and die by canon, this isn’t a good idea to read but for the rest of us who enjoy having familiar stories retold or reimagined and given new perspectives, this is a must read!

Well, if you like superheroes and comics. I checked all the other reviews I could find of this comic in an effort to find out how well the changes played with Indian audiences, but I couldn’t find anything. Goodreads had a non-Indian who studies Hindu and Indian cultures that said it was well done, but that was the best I got. That said, I loved it and was annoyed by most of the negative reviews.

It’s not that people aren’t entitled to not enjoy a book that I like, but most of the negative reviews reminded me of the negative reviews of Cinder. It’s a retelling/reimagining based on a single big difference that changes some elements of the way the story progresses. Don’t go into a book or comic knowing that it’s a retelling and then be upset that it was essentially the same story. You knew it was the same going in! Now, for the people who thought the story was weak or something, I just respectfully disagree.

Nevertheless, I do enjoy reimagining the possibilities. One of the negative reviewers I saw on Amazon went on about “why not just move -” and continued listing other heroes to move to other countries and I loved just thinking about it, even though he (or she or ze or they, the tag didn’t indicate gender) meant in a bad way. I think it’s a great idea to imagine our heroes in other countries. For one, it points out that hero stories are universal, two it showcases culture  differences in positive ways, three it lets us vicariously visit other countries. Why not?

I did understand some issues that people had with the dialogue. It wasn’t quite as witty as we’re used to, but that was the only criticism I could really agree with. I wish I knew enough about Indian heritage and all the supernatural/spiritual things mentioned to safely speak on it but I don’t. At the same time, the comic is rewritten by an Indian artist, so I think it’s safe to say that he melded the story with his own culture in a way that is not offensive or insensitive to his own culture. At least, I hope so.

Meera Jain and Flash were so much better than the originals! The spiritual and supernatural elements, especially with the shift in where everyone got their powers was a lot of fun. It gave me that tingle like the first time I heard the Spider-Man origin way back in the day. I liked the new costume. I loved the two-paged spreads every time they happened. They changed enough for me to feel like the story was refreshed but not so much that it was a difference story. I even liked the choice at the end and the way he handles it all.

As  I said before, I really loved this comic and all the things that changed and all the things that remained the same, but it’s time to get into the details and so here’s you warning to get out now if you want to read it first.

I read it on Scribd, but it’s available from Amazon and the Book Depository.

SPOILERS AHEAD 

I found the change in the reason Pavitr is an outcast at school interesting. I’m not sure how the original reason would have played out to Indian audiences (thought it was mentioned by that one Goodreads reviewed that it probably wouldn’t have) but I thought that making it about his level of poverty was interesting considering that I have heard a lot about a big divide between classes and that a rigid caste system had come before that.

I found the change in the way Uncle Bhim died was great. You knew it was going to happen (ahem, remake) but I liked the way he was just having too much fun and not thinking about responsibility, but he was also not obsessed with making some money, even for good reasons. The money thing is a little old for me and I thought this was a great change.

I actually really like that MJ finds out so quickly.

It’s an old comic and didn’t get a full series, but I love the idea of imagining how things might go in other countries and cultures. I feel like it further humanizes the experience and can serve to give us a better perspective on each other. But I also feel like it’s important to do the way it was done here. Don’t just move the character and the story, move the whole thing. Having an Indian creator gives me a little faith in that it accurately represents the differences between the cultures and the way we look at this same idea of heroism. I hope to find more stories like this.

Have you read it or any other retelling/reimagining from your culture and into another one? What did you think?

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