Daniel Mendelsohn deconstructs Julie Taymor's Spider-Man musical, untangling threads of modern comics and ancient myths (an approach sure to burst blood vessels in Dale Peck's very small brain).
But these are merely symptoms. If Taymor’s show is a failure, it fails for interesting reasons—as it were, for genetic reasons. For the show itself is a grotesque hybrid. At the heart of the Spider-Man disaster is the essential incompatibility of those two visions of physical transformation—the ancient and the modern, the redemptive and the punitive, visions that Taymor tried, heroically but futilely, to reconcile. As happens so often in both myth and comic books, the attempt to fuse two species resulted in the creation of a monster.
(Spider-Man was the only comic I collected as a child, but I collected it assiduously. Marvel Tales, Peter Parker, you name it, I had them. For me, the series reached its high point with the death of Captain Stacy and its nadir with the Hobgoblin saga. I wish I knew what became of all those comics; no doubt they were the victim of some long ago purge. Even with all that, I can report precisely zero interest in the Taymor/U2 collaboration.)