Spider-Man: Fake Red

Viz. Jun. 2023. 328p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781974738786.
Gr 6 Up–Yu Onomae is struggling with his self-esteem. He attends an elite high school on his father’s wishes and can’t seem to keep his grades up or make any friends, but his life is about to change dramatically when he finds Spider-Man’s suit in an alleyway and thus assumes his role. The only question is, what happened to the real Spider-Man!? Fake Red feels very much as a Spider-Man story should: in typical Spidey fashion, readers follow a teen who’s fighting from behind the eight-ball in life as he becomes his city’s superstar. It’s a warm coming-of-age tale at its core that never gets heavy enough to turn younger readers away while still containing plot twists. The art is uplifting, pleasant, and fits the story and its characters well. While in the end, this feels like only a small blip in the real Spider-Man’s life (he actually plays a smaller role throughout the manga), readers can still marvel (no pun intended) at Yu’s character growth as he’s forced into a major life upheaval that he had no reason to expect, and no way to prepare for. To see him take on Spider-Man’s mantle while juggling his real-life problems is admirable, and though this title won’t receive the fanfare other entries in the franchise might, there is value in recommending it to young adult readers who may find their lives a bit chaotic.
VERDICT While perhaps not the most needle-moving Spider-Man title of all time, this is a solid entry for younger readers, and one that shows them they don’t need to be an actual superhero to make a difference in everyday life.

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