A entire swarm of alternate-identity Spider-People have emerged as a result of the popularity of films like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and its multiversal “Anyone can wear the mask” motto. However, what if the one donning the mask wasn’t, ironically, Spider-Man? This is how Spider-Man: Fake Red by Yūsuke Ōsawa tackles the idea of Spider-Man as a character and a fixture in a world where he’s also a real, breathing person, and how his influence might encourage a gullible adolescent to attempt living up to his legacy in a well-meaning but foolish way.
These are goals that take a while to materialize when reading Fake Red because, at first glance, it seems to be a fairly straightforward side tale about the fantastic fantasy in which audience stand-in Yu Onomae finds Spider-Man’s suit and uses it to give him the confidence to start climbing out of his current rut. Many of the opening rhythms of Yu’s problems have the vibe of a typical manga story about a melancholy teenage lad coming of age. And to be fair, in some of its incarnations, Spider-Man as an institution is no stranger to that feeling. However, since Spider-Man has frequently been a teenage wish-fulfillment fantasy, it might not be enough to just recreate it with a different character who isn’t Peter Parker.
That’s not what you’re getting here, so if you’re a die-hard Spider-fan who may have come to see a manga-tinged take on the character’s more conventional action, be warned. The least fascinating parts are definitely the sections where Fake Red interacts with Peter Parker in the role of Spider-Man. About halfway through, a flashback segment that is divided into two chapters depicts the days in Peter’s unremarkable spider life that most likely inspired him to throw the suit aside on impulse. These scenes will look familiar to anyone who has ever seen a Spider-Man comic, movie, cartoon, video game, or fruit pie commercial. It seems strange because a lot of the anticipation surrounding Yu’s interaction with the outfit appeared to be based on the audience’s basic knowledge of “regular” Spider-Man. However, the dramatic irony of Yu’s observation that the actual Spider-Man never had any problems is made clear to viewers in this cut-away scene, as difficulty has always been the main selling point of the character. Not only is it dull, but it is also superfluous.
At least it highlights the more distinctive aspects of Yu’s life before to and following Peter Parker’s Crappy Life. We get an idea of some of the real ideas Osawa intends to explore in this premise when some truly unexpected turns build up in Fake Red’s main content. One obvious irony is how much Yu’s life and social circumstances are improved by donning the Spider-Man costume for a while, in contrast to Peter’s inevitable fate. The developing friendship between Yu and his new companion Emma is another aspect that begins rather conventionally before delivering a few fairly unexpected turns.
Appropriately, Fake Red explores the ideas of donning symbolic masks or taking on a part or personality that isn’t necessarily your own for the benefit of oneself and social improvement through the usage of its technique, which focuses on masks and costumes. In other words, you should pretend to be someone you’re not in order to discover who you are, how that connects to the opinions of others, and how the expectations that follow can benefit you in the long run. It’s a little more sophisticated and deep than I anticipated from a coming-of-age tale for teenagers, much less one that was also intended to be a successful spin-off of Spider-Man. Additionally, it makes the character’s direct uses appear much more forced and superfluous, as if they were only included to force a large, predetermined fight against well-known comic book villains before the conclusion.
If such is the case, the artwork does a good job of supporting both those stretches and the book’s more fundamentally focused sections. One of Fake Red’s main selling points is its authentic manga perspective, which Osawa successfully conveys. He has to add to those rich backgrounds of New York City. However, in general, it appears that Yu and Peter should pass through. The story’s atmosphere is effectively conveyed through the intimate fight scenes, especially when it’s necessary to emphasize how disastrous it would be to try to reproduce Peter’s typical pranks on Yu’s mushy normal-teen body. Regarding the severity of the penalty the boy can get, there is still room for suspension of disbelief. Nevertheless, it respects its unusual setting and maintains a thrilling and engrossing action sequence.
It’s difficult to hold Osawa responsible for not taking use of the opportunities he was given to write and draw some of the more conventional Spider-content, given the amount of basic affection. The irony is that if Peter’s role in this story had been considerably more backgrounded, the respect for Spider-Man that drives Yu’s main role would have worked even better. At a shockingly quick read of more than 300 pages, what we receive is nevertheless fairly good. However, Fake Red could be a better choice for someone who just know Spider-Man from a general pop-culture osmosis understanding, as the character’s use in this story feels like a diversion from all that it accomplishes well on its own.