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
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) asks us to look at the dark side with our favorite villains. I’ve decided to narrow the focus a bit to my favorite adversaries faced by Spider-Man.
- The Scorpion. Marvel Tales reprinted much of the Stan Lee/Lee Ditko run of early Spider-Man comics when I was actively reading and I loved them. And while the Scorpion isn’t considered in the upper pantheon of Spidey villains by many, I loved his first appearance and the fact that he could go toe-to-toe with Spidey and almost best him.
- Doc Ock. He unmasked Spidey, he married Aunt May….what didn’t Doc Ock do to torment Spider-Man?!? Added bonus: He’s the villain in my favorite superhero movie of all-time Spider-Man 2.
- The Lizard. Spidey is easily one of the most angst ridden of any superheroes and his conflicted emotions about having to battle the Lizard (he was a scientist who was trying to help himself and the Lizard was an unwanted side effect) always put an extra layer on their battles.
- The Green Goblin. Considered by many to be the quintessential adversary for Spidey, the Goblin is fun, interesting and exciting. Like the Lizard, there’s a personal connection to the identity of the Goblin that causes all kinds of angst for Spidey.
- The Hobgoblin. The identity of the Hobgoblin drove much of the on-going back story during the time I read Spidey comics. His unmasking was a pivotal issue and one I remember well.
- The Vulture. Another classic from Lee/Ditko and one I am intrigued to see come to life on the screen in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming.
- Man-Wolf. A lot of this has to do with the Power Records recording version of this story that I listened to about a billion times growing up. J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son picks up a rock on the moon, has it made into a pendant and turns into a werewolf. Typing that I realize it sounds cheesy as all get out, but with the read-along record and sound effects, it made a huge impression on me at the age of six.
- The Spider Slayers.
- The Kingpin
As part of the last Spider-Man reboot, writer Dan Slott takes us back to the early days of Peter Parker’s career as the web slinger and offers us this series that takes place in between the fables stories by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Seems that our favorite web-slinger had an early fan — and it wasn’t just Flash Thompson. It’s a fellow science-geek who doesn’t have powers like Peter does but still wants some of the spotlight — or at least to have Spider-Man notice him. To this end, he becomes a villain of sorts called Clash who uses sounds and sonics as his weapons.
There are a few nice moments in this one. Things like Peter having to go to the school counselor to work through his anger and guilt issues (or the perceived ones). The moments of personal exploration of Peter Parker in the early days of his being Spider-Man are well done. It’s just too a shame the rest of the story doesn’t live up to these flashes of fun.
I can see what Slott is trying to do here with Clash and setting up a parallel storyline to what Peter is going through. But a lot of this material falls a bit flat and it begins to lose its impact by the time we reach the end of the story. The title of this storyline is “Learning to Crawl” and, at times, it feels like that is exactly what the story is doing — crawling.
Maybe I’m just not the right audience for Slott. Or maybe my nostalgia for my days of regularly reading Spidey are clouding my judgment.
Being a big fan of Peter David and Spider-Man, you’d think I’d have read the entire original run of Spider-Man 2099. And despite glowing recommendation from friends that I should pick up the books, I never did.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t stop in now that David and Marvel are picking up the series mantel once again.
And I’ll admit that while I may miss some of the nuances of this story, this collection of the first five issues of the new series never made me feel like I was being left behind. In fact, I’d argue that what David is doing here is every bit as enjoyable — maybe even more enjoyable — than what is being done with the flagship title for the Spider-Man universe.
Stuck out of time, our hero is trying to find his way home without messing up the time line too much. Along the way, he’s having some interesting adventures that span not only New York City but also the entire globe. David has always been a writer who can find ways to tell unique, fun stories in a corner of a particular universe that stay true to the universe but also explore some interesting areas and do some nice character work. (I’m looking at you New Frontier.
While I wouldn’t mistake the hero here for Peter Parker, there is enough of that sense of what makes Spidey so much fun to read (at least the way I remember it) that these issues flew by. The only negative is the final issue included which is forced to do some heavy lifting for what I can only assume will be an all-inclusive Spider-verse storyline that is coming up next. At this point, if I never see Morlun on the pages of a Spider-Man comic again, it will be too soon. Quite possibly the most overused or going back to the well one too many times the Spidey-verse has seen since Venom.