Barry Reese

Pulp Writer Extraordinaire

Every Friday I focus on a New Pulp work that I think merits your attention. Sometimes it will be something that’s brand new, other times I’ll look at something that’s a few years old. This week, I’m encouraging you to check out The Spider- Shadow of Evil by CJ Henderson. Before we dive into the book itself, let’s see how Moonstone Books describes the work:

The first new Spider novel in 65 years picks up where the last left off, packed to the gills with the greatest slam-bang action ever penned by master pulpster CJ Henderson! Richard Wentworth, the Spider, wonders if his long struggle against the forces of evil has been worth it? Should he continue, or grab for personal happiness before his time runs out? Then, at the moment he makes his decision, fate unleashes the most hellish horrors of all time against New York City!

For those who may not know, The Spider was one of the most popular heroes of pulp’s golden age. His stories were adrenaline-fueled action-oriented tales that nevertheless managed to display some strong characterization for both The Spider and his romantic partner, Nita Van Sloan. While The Spider was never one of my favorite pulp heroes, I have read a small handful and feel comfortable in saying that I understand the nuances of the character. In recent years, Moonstone has done a lot of comics and short stories with the hero but this novel is the first full-length story in decades. Dynamite has also used The Spider in both his own ongoing series and in the crossover Masks. In general, Moonstone’s version is far more traditional while Dynamite has made numerous tweaks to his personality and appearance.

This is a digest sized paperback, affordably priced at $6.95. It feels very pulpy — and yet classy at the same time. Everyone I’ve shown it to has remarked on the package itself. I really, really like this format and hope to see more of it from Moonstone and others.

The story picks up several months after the last published Spider, with Richard Wentworth in retirement following the supposed death of The Spider. He’s turning 40 years old and ready to settle down with his long-suffering romantic interest, Nita Van Sloan. But just when it looks like true happiness might finally be found, someone starts killing people — lots of people! — by using devices that seem very familiar to Wenworth. In fact, they’re weapons he’s faced before… who has gotten access to the weapons of The Spider’s past foes forms the mystery at the heart of the book. It’s a compelling one and offers a good excuse for Wentworth to reminiscence about his past and do some soul-searching about what he’s really accomplished.

All the old supporting characters are back and are utilized very well. The story is smoothly told and never lets up — all the classic Spider tropes are here, especially the mass destruction.

Call me a heretic, but I honestly think this is the best Spider novel I’ve read. Admittedly, I’ve read a half dozen or so… but I’m definitely interested in reading more of CJ Henderson’s version and it’s caused me to consider seeking out more of the classic novels. Good stuff.

The only downside were quite a few typos, many of which were of the same variety, repeated again and again. But this hardly stopped me from loving the book.

If you’re an old-time Spider fan, this is a great return for the character. If you’re new to him or have only discovered him via Masks or something similar, I think this can serve as a fine introduction to the hero’s prose adventures, despite the fact it relies heavily on past continuity. They tell you everything you really need to know.

Check it out – I think you’ll enjoy it!

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