ESSENTIAL AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL.3
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencillers: John Romita, Don Heck & Larry Lieber
Format: Marvel DVD-ROM PDFs
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Rating: 4.7 / 5
Note: These issues - Amazing Spider-Man Vol.1 #44-65 and Annual #4 – were read as PDF files on the Marvel Amazing Spider-Man DVD-ROM. These issues are equivalent to Essential Amazing Spider-Man Vol.4.
Oh, Spidey – you’re just incredible.
Things are finally looking up for ol’ Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man. He’s juggling two beautiful girls – Gwen Stacy and Mary-Jane Watson; his bullyfriend Flash Thompson has been drafted to go to the Vietnam War; his rich best friend Harry Osborn has invited him to live, rent-free, with him in the city; and his Aunt May finally has someone else to dote on her – her neighbour, MJ’s aunt Anna Watson, with whom May moves in.
But things start to go downhill, as Harry begins to wonder about and distrust Parker because of his frequent disappearances. Gwen and Mary-Jane, despite becoming closer to one another, both start to give Peter a hard time for not choosing between them. Peter also meets Gwen’s father, the retired police captain George Stacy, who seems a bit too cluey for Spidey’s comfort.
And then things get really bad, as Wilson Fisk appears as the Kingpin of Crime and, after offering Peter a job at Oscorp, Norman Osborn begins to get his memory back – of himself as the Green Goblin, and of Spider-Man’s secret identity, Peter Parker! And Doctor Octopus briefly moves in, as a boarder, with May and Anna! Holy frejoles!
The art is outstanding in every issue. It is plum perfect from the line art right through to the colouring. It is also amazingly consistent between artists – it is almost impossible to tell whether Romita or Heck is responsible for the finished line art, except for the fact that the credits tell us who responsible for what, and Larry Lieber’s art in the annual is distinguishable only by his use of fewer, and much larger panels.
The writing is superb as well, with Parker’s soap opera life not really detracting from the action and adventure. Even when a thrilling scene is interrupted for a quick jaunt to watch Parker’s friends chilling at the Coffee Bean or the Gloom Room A-Go-Go, that aspect of Spidey’s adventures remains as entertaining as the fight we’ve left behind.
We also get introduced to Joe “Robbie” Robertson, who feels like a long-time cast member despite only appearing in a few issues.
Spidey is sold as the hero we can all identify with. Admittedly, many Spidey fans at the time would be slightly nerdy, and have a bully bugging them, and perhaps a family they feel responsible. But few are going to be as buff as Spidey, and have two beautiful dames fighting over him, or a sugar daddy. Things are getting less and less believable (but do remain very compelling).
It is also hard to believe that so few people could work out who Spidey is. At this point, it has only been the Green Goblin – but Frederick Foswell works it out, and confirms it by following Peter, only to be fooled by a truly unconvincing trick. I find it hard to imagine, for example, that someone like J. Jonah Jameson, knowing there’s a connection – or at least contact – between Parker and Spidey wouldn’t pay for surveillance on Parker, and would work out pretty quickly they’re the same guy. This is somewhat mitigated by many people, such as Robertson, beginning to suspect the truth, but keeping quiet.
This volume is marvellous for its introduction of many long-time Spidey mainstays, such as Joe Robertson and the Kingpin, as well as many characters whose fates modern Spidey fans know are worth sticking around for. The buds of many of the most well-known Spidey begin to grow here, nurtured by dazzling art and great writing. This is definitely worth it for all Spidey fans and, frankly, fans of good comics in general.