Just as it’s odd to see movies I originally saw in theaters cropping up on AMC and Turner Classic Movies, it’s equally strange to find large collected editions of comic books I read and collected as a kid turning up on the shelves of my library or book store.
Case in point–“Web of Spider-Man,” a comic that I not only purchased issue number one many, many moons ago but one I had to scour the shelves of my local store to find.
The issue is a pretty pivotal one in recent Spidey-lore, featuring the return of the black costume and Spidey’s eventual defeat of it using the sound waves from the bell tower. What most of the adaptations since that time omit is a rather pedestrian subplot and battle with the Vulturions, a group of criminals who have stolen the Vulture’s flying tech and are now terrorizing New York City. While the black costume disappears after issue one (at least the alien symbiote version does), the Vulterions hang around for an issue or two. This collection of the first eighteen issues of the comic plus one cross-over issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” and two extended annuals also features such classic Spidey adversaries as Doc Ock, the Vulture and the Kingpin as well as a few newly invented friends and foes, many of whom are largely forgettable once you’ve jumped to the next issue.
Taking the chance to re-read this early run of “Web” reminds me that sometimes we shouldn’t revisit the things we loved in our younger days. They may not hold up to the memories we have of them. That’s the case with “Web of Spider-Man.” Part of the blame could be a revolving door at writer and artist, leading to an inconsistent feel to this twenty or so issue run. And part of it could be that it was at a time when there was a glut of Spider-Man comics on the market and creatively Marvel didn’t have the juice to sustain them all.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few gems in here. As I said before the first issue is fairly pivotal and the last issue collected here gives us some hints of things to come. The best stories are one-offs written by all-around great writer Peter David, one of which involves the Hulk and Spidey’s subconscious. However, there were a lot of stories I found myself skimming through as this “essential” collection moved along. This is especially the case in the two “Secret Wars 2” stories included here about the Beyonder turning a building to gold and Spidey having to rescue those inside. This reminded me of why I began to weary of comics at this point in my reading and collecting career–too many tie-ins that weren’t creatively justified and seemed more like a cash grab than something being done for story telling reasons.
This collection left me yearning to revisit some of the early days of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko when the stories were all relatively self-contained. I may have to dust off those collections and give them a try.