Collecting a dozen or so issues from the mid-70’s run, Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 14 showcases a successful comic book and character treading water for close to three-hundred pages.
Yes, Harry Osborne finally goes over the edge and embraces his inner Green Goblin. But like his father before him, he will conveniently forget that a)he’s the Goblin and b)Peter Parker is Spider-Man by the time anyone in authority arrives. Harry’s transformation is teased across multiple issues (and I believe they started planting seeds as early as issues in the last collection). But the return of the Green Goblin lacks the emotional punch it could or should have, possibly because the last time we saw Spidey tangle with the Gobin it was one of the high points not only of the character but one of the iconic turning points in comic books.
Other villains include the return of the Molten Man and Mysterio and new threats like the Mind Worm and the Grizzly. Yes, you read that right. Spider-Man spends not one but two issues battling it out with a former wrestler who has an enhanced grizzly bear costume and has decided its time to give J. Jonah Jameson his comeuppance for ruining his wrestling career. And yes, I’ve just re-read that sentence and I know how silly it sounds. The comic book presentation isn’t much better.
Of course, the infamous start of a certain saga that nearly killed Spider-Man as we know it in the 90’s is also beginning here. So, maybe part of my lack of love for this collection of issues is knowing where it will all pay off in twenty years’ time. Or maybe it’s just that writer Gerry Conway’s stories don’t really add all that much to the Spidey canon. Look, I know not every issue from my favorite era of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were masterpieces. But at least there was always some hook, some threat or some narrative point to keep me interested. That’s not often the case here. These issues feel like they come down to a formula for writing and Conway’s just happy to plug in various characters as we move slowly between battles with that issue or arc’s central villain. It comes down to Spidey meets villain, Spidey gets his you-know-what handed to him by said villain, Spidey as Peter beats himself up about it and interacts with the supporting cast, Spidey goe out and find the villain again and the battle goes Spidey’s way this time. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It’s all so formulaic in nature — and I think reading the issues close together in a collection like this only underlines this. I can’t help but think if I read these monthly as they originally came out (or were reprinted), I might end up enjoying them a bit more. Or be more forgiving of certain tropes that seem to show up issue after issue like clockwork.
This collection is Spider-Man fully on cruise control. And in a collection that features the Spider Buggy (yes, that was a thing!), that’s pretty damn ironic.
As a re-imagining of the “Table of Time” saga from multiple issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Forever Young is a bit of a disappointment.
The strongest parts of the story are borrowed directly from a couple of issues in the Stan Lee/John Romita days of ASM. Filled to the brim with angst for Peter Parker, multiple villains for our favorite web-slinger to contend with and a McGuffin to drive the story (in this case, an ancient tablet that contains the formula for a fountain of youth serum), the first half of the story is entertaining, riveting and chock full of classic Spidey goodness. Continue reading
After penning a hundred issues, Stan Lee turns the reigns over to writer Roy Thomas (at least for a couple of issues) and there’s a perceptible change in the storytelling quality.
Seeking to cure himself of being Spider-Man in order to have a normal life, Peter Parker downs an untested serum, falls into a deep sleep (in which we are treated to a summary of Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s life up to now) and wakes up with six arms. Horrified by what he’s done, Peter scrambles to find a cure all while battling new threat Morbius the vampire and the return of the Lizard.
Another arc centers on Flash Thompson’s return from Vietnam and the fall-out from his attempting to do the right thing for a group of villagers. The arc starts well for Flash but quickly goes in an entirely less than politically correct direction for the remainder of its run.
Then Spidey and company are off to Antartica to find Ka-Zar’s forgotten world and deliver a photo feature that will save circulation at the Daily Bugle. (Interesting to see that newspapers were having issues with circulation back then and not just as we continue to explore the digital age). Gwen Stacey tags along as a model, which complicates things when Peter has to go all Spider-Man to battle Kraven the Hunter as well as various prehistoric beasts that inhabit the area. Continue reading
Stan Lee always wrote his comics as if each issue was someone’s first entry into the universe of that particular hero or team of heroes. So there are times reading any collected edition of his works that you may feel like the story is repeating itself a great deal or going back to reflect on the origin of whatever hero or team he’s chronicling.
And while that happens a bit in this collection of The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s hard to find a few gems from a creative team that was firmly in a grove at this point. Collecting issues 88 to 99 of the original run, Spidey does battles some classic and not-so-classic foes all while Peter Parker’s life is upended by his decision to continue being Spider-Man. The collection includes a couple of pivotal events in the life of Spider-Man from the death of Captain Stacy to the infamous drug addiction storyline that Marvel had the courage to print without the endorsement of the comic code authority. Re-reading this story now, it seems a bit light-weight and a bit like something you’d see on a daytime drama. But looked at through the prism of when it was published, it’s downright revolutionary and hard-hitting. Continue reading
My first thought when I heard Marvel was producing a new series centering on Hawkeye was that it was a marketing thing to cash in on the heroes’ new-found popularity thanks to the cinematic universe.
But then I heard the buzz that there might be more to this than meets the eye. Add in that the new series is written by Matt Fraction, author of the brilliantly subversive Sex Criminals comic books and the series had my interest.
So when my local library got in the first collected edition of the new Hawkeye, I picked it up. Continue reading
When Jughead’s old pal Hot Dog is hit by a car, the distraught teen takes him to Sabrina and her family to bring him back to life. While her aunts refuse, Sabrina is moved by Jughead’s plight and taps into some dark magic to bring Hot Dog back to the land of the living.
Apparently all the copies of Pet Semetary were checked out before Jughead decided to this. Because while Hot Dog does come back, sometimes dead is better. Before you know it, Hog Dog has unleashed a wave of zombie terror in Riverdale — and wouldn’t you know it, on the night of the big dance!
Afterlife with Archie is a hybrid of the squeaky clean stories of Archie, Jughead and company and the gritty, over the top horror of The Walking Dead. Reading that sentence, you might think these are two things that won’t go well together. But instead of being jarring, the two pieces fit well together, giving us a band of survivors that we know and can root for all while watching their world go to hell in a hand basket as several familiar faces become zombies and begin attacking.
And yet for all the humans who did in this collection (and there are a few), it’s interesting that the death that readers may feel the most is Archie’s beloved old dog pal. Heading home to check on his parents, Archie comes across the zombie Hot Dog and looks doomed, only to see his old pal step in to save his life one last time. The use of thought balloons to narrate Archie’s pal’s internal monologue and thoughts about saving his beloved master are moving at first, turning tragic as the zombie virus consumes him and he turns on Archie.
I won’t lie and say I wasn’t more than a bit moved by this moment and the emotions that this comic taps into. I also won’t lie and say I caught every nuance of the storyline because I’m not necessarily familiar with every character and cliche from the world of Archie comics on display here.
But none of that matters because this collection of five issues works well as a homage to both the tropes of Archie and horror stories.
I’ve read a lot good Spider-Man comics over the years and I’ve read a lot of terrible Spider-Man comics over the years.
Dan Slott’s “Spider-Verse” has to be among the worst of the worst — and yes, I’ve read the entire, completely reviled clone saga from the mid-90’s.
So, every iteration of Spider-Man that has ever been is brought together for this epic, cross-over saga. And while it might seem like fun to see the 60’s animated Spidey share the page with the new animated Spidey, these fun moments are few and far between in this book. In between, we get a lot of convoluted moments with various iterations of our favorite web-head spouting off meta-physical malarkey. From what I could gather, every Spider-Man in every universe has been targeted by Morlun’s family to….ummmm, well, I’m not really quite sure why, except to feed on them and to create a reason for this crossover. Continue reading