Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

10 July 2008

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, v. 3

Collects: Spectacular Spider-Man #54-74 and Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #3 (1981-4)

Released: February 2007 (Marvel)

Format: 536 pages / black and white / $16.99 / ISBN: 9780785125013

There’s not much to say about the Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, v. 3. Well, I suppose there is, but it’s mostly repeating how much I like the Essential Spectacular Spider-Man.

In v. 3, Spider-Man swings into his ‘80s heyday, with stories by two of the best Spider-writers from that time: Roger Stern (#54-61) and Bill Mantlo (#62-74). Stern has received a great deal of praise for his Spider-work, and although this isn’t the equal of his long run on Amazing Spider-Man, it has a lot of fun stuff with B-villains like the Jack o’ Lantern, Nitro, Will o’ the Wisp, the Ringer, and the Gibbon. He also throws in stories with three future Thunderbolts: the Beetle, Moonstone, and the Smuggler (Atlas / Goliath).

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, v. 3 cover Mantlo’s run is more distinguished, creating Cloak and Dagger and introducing the Owl / Octopus War. Mantlo concentrated on “classic” villains — Electro, the Molten Man, Doc Ock — and brought back older villains with strong connections to Spider-Man: the aforementioned Molten Man, Robot Master, Silvermane. He treated the Kingpin as he had been treated in Daredevil: a force within the city who could be reluctantly used but had his own agenda. He also gave Kraven his mania for “honor” that would lead to his destruction.

Words can’t express how much fun these stories are. Few — Cloak and Dagger being the exception — are groundbreaking, but they’re solid superhero stories. There are some disappointments — the weak resolution to the Deb Whitman story stands out there — but overall, it’s a lot of fun.

The art isn’t going to make anyone forget Steve Ditko or John Romita, Sr., but there are echoes of both throughout. Pencillers and inkers come and go with regularity — editor-in-chief Jim Shooter did the layouts for three issues — but it’s all high-quality work that surprisingly works despite the number of different contributors. Jim Mooney and Ed Hannigan did the lion’s share of the work, with Luke McDonnell, Bob Hall, and Al Milgrom making significant contributions. Many others, like John Byrne and Rick Leonardi, pitch in an issue or two.

These issues represent a high level of quality and nostalgia for many collectors. They stand up well to time, and they don’t disappoint, a quarter century later.

Rating: Spider-Man symbol Spider-Man symbol Spider-Man symbol Spider-Man symbol (4 of 5)

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