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Essential Spider-Man v8

A comic review article by: Michael Deeley

Reprinting stories from: Amazing Spider-Man #161-185, Annual #11, and Nova #12.

Collecting 2 years worth of ‘Amazing Spider-Man’, Volume 8 provides little in the way of major events and appearances in the life of Spider-Man. Peter does propose to Mary Jane, but she turns him down. Later, he almost graduates college. We are introduced to Jigsaw, The Punisher’s most long-lived nemesis, and Dr. Marla Madison, J. Jonah Jameson’s second wife. We also get return appearances from The Punisher, Dr. Faustus, and Stegron the Dinosaur Man; Rocket Racer, Big Wheel, White Dragon, and Will O’the Wisp make their debuts and are quickly forgotten; and there’s a forgotten chapter in the twisted life of Harry Osborn and the Green Goblin. 

I was a little disappointed there weren’t any big events in this collection. For two years, ‘Amazing’ was just “business as usual”. Sure, Punisher gets a new villain, but they don’t fight again for years. Ol’ triple-J finds a new wife, but who cares? Even the apparent return of the Green Goblin, hinted at for months, turns out to be an imposter who’s quickly killed. The volume ends with an issue claiming Peter Parker finally graduates college, only to show him 1 credit shy of getting his diploma. The entire collection is like that-just a little shy of showing something memorable.

Without any major events, this volume can only rely on the quality of the comics. And they’re quite good. These comics show Peter Parker with a more positive attitude than I’ve usually seen him display. His Aunt May goes to the hospital, his girlfriend dumps him, his best friend almost goes crazy again, Jonah nearly exposes his secret identity, and he has to go to summer school. But it doesn’t get him down. Parker remains confident that he can overcome any obstacle. As much as Spider-Man complicates his life, it also gives him the confidence to face life’s ordinary problems. Sure, Peter still complains about how rough his life is. Then he gets up and does something about it. 

If Curt Swan is THE Superman artist, Ross Andru is THE Spider-Man artist. More than Ditko, McFarlane, or Bagley, Andru drew Spider-Man as a lean, dynamic figure. And there’s something about the way he draws that oval head that no one else can imitate. Plus the rest of the cast is grounded firmly in reality. This is the gritty New York. Trash blows between buildings 50 years old. And the characters look like they were based on real people. Ross Andru’s art strikes the perfect visual balance between reality and action fantasy-just like the best Spider-Man stories.

Current fans of Spider-Man will enjoy this book, of course. But casual fans like myself will be surprised at how different the hero and the stories are from today’s comics. Reading this collection made me realize how important Spider-Man’s supporting cast is to the hero. When Peter’s down, he talks to his friends. When the villain isn’t dangerous enough, Jameson complicates matters. When Aunt May’s sick, Peter’s priorities change. These are fine stories from what might have been Spider-Man’s peak period.

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