Artist: John Romita Jr.
After I decided to got through most of my graphic novels, and comic series I decided that I should really make a start on my second favourite superhero Spider-Man, especially considering I've been disappointed in the current Superior Spider-Man series, and what better place to start than The Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection, one of the best runs on Spider-Man ever. Anyway following my review for the first volume I'm now onto the second, and hope to get through these as soon as possible, knowing that I'm going to enjoy it.
Life and Death of Spiders
After his recent visit to the Astral Plane Spider-Man (Peter Parker) is stalked by a creature that's escaped from there called Shathra. Also during this Mary Jane comes to New York City to try and make things right with Peter, but he's not at home.
After a gamma bomb brings dead mobsters back to life in the same body, Spider-Man gets the job of protecting a mobster named Forelli from this creature that's getting called Digger. Also Peter helps yet another student that's having a rough time, and realises that not everything he's done as Spider-Man's been good in the long run.
It's Peter's Birthday, and how does he spend it saving the world. After the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Avengers accidentally bring Dormammu into our universe Spider-Man and Doctor Strange get took into the void, and Spider-Man has to relive his life to get back to the present, and make things right. Also Aunt May's in the park talking about how she feels about Peter, and a tailor to hero's, and villains tells Spider-Man about a villain that's about to kill the DA.
This was an amazing book, and although not quite as good as the previous volume, J. Michael Straczynski continues to show his unique style of storytelling. Straczynski continues to produce some amazing stories, and although they aren't quite at the same level as the first three, they are still amazing, and well worth the read. The thing I liked most about Straczynski's writing, and the thing that I've really liked in his writing on this series in general is that he's given us something that hasn't been done before, making for unique, and entertaining stories. At the same time these stories seem to end with slightly poor filler stories, and although they're still interesting to a certain point they don't wow, or amaze, and aren't much more than the fillers they are. I have however also loved that Straczynski's continued developing the mythos of Spider-Man in this series, as it was a subject that he touched on in the previous volume, he continues to expand it throughout this one, whilst also showing that there's still more to come. Another thing I really liked about Straczynski's writing is that he really knows how to write Spidey, as he can write both the nerd side, and the jokey, chatty side perfectly, with the right mix of both, knowing what's needed when. Straczynski's also not been easy on poor Spidey so far, and continues to put him in harsh situations (even on his Birthday), and although these may not be nice for Spidey himself, they do make for exciting, and interesting stories.
The art from John Romita Jr. was once again brilliant, and although it's still not perfect, he continues to show that he can draw Spider-Man amazingly. I've not always loved Romita Jr.'s art, actually hating it sometimes, but like his art on Kick-Ass, and World War Hulk, I love his art on Spidey, and although there's the odd thing that looks weird I can overlook that as the rest is spectacular. The main thing that I've not always liked in Romita Jr.'s art over the years is the way he draws people's face's, but he manages to do a good job on this series, and although there are still a few people that look a bit weird the main character's like Peter, and MJ look realistic. I also love the way Romita Jr. draws Peter as Spidey, as it's simply perfect, and he really knows how to draw him, especially when swinging or hanging from a web, crawling up a wall. There were also other parts that helped, and hindered Romita Jr.'s art as with the unique character's like Digger his rough style suits perfectly, but at the same time there's a few panels with just a little too much happening, which doesn't really help Romita Jr., as although parts of it look good, there are others that look terrible, making the panel itself overall poor quality. The more compact fighting however was amazing, and when Spidey was only fighting one person on his own it looked fabulous, and Romita Jr.'s art showed a lot of drama, and excitement. The character emotions were also shown brilliantly, as although Romita Jr. isn't the best at drawing emotions he's still not the worst, and does a very decent job of them.
Now I usually talk about certain things I liked throughout the graphic novel, or comic at this point, but due to this being a collection of three stories I felt that it'd be appropriate to talk about them individually, also rating them individually. I won't however be taking more on the writer, and artists unless absolutely necessary, as I've talked about there work in general throughout this entire book, and feel it unnecessary to add anything more.
Life and Death of Spiders
This story continued from Until the Stars Turn Cold, as during that time Shathra escaped the Astral Plane. The introduction of yet another new villain was brilliant, and although not quite as interesting as Morlun, she was still an interesting character. The thing I probably liked most about her was that he introduction continued the development of the Spider-Man mythos, showing that Morlun wasn't the only Spider linked character to come after him. I also liked how instead of putting others in harms way to draw out Spidey that she trued slandering his name, as it showed that Straczynski wasn't repetitive, which was nice. Naturally there was also a fight between Shathra and Spidey, and again although not quite as good as the fight with Morlun it was still very exciting, and unique.
With the development of Spidey's mythos there also came the return of Ezekiel. I found Ezekiel a very interesting character during Coming Home, so to see him return was nice. To be fair he was really needed for this story, as with him knowing the most about Peter's power's, and mythos, he is the only one that can help him, and out him on the path to defeating Shathra. Besides that it was also nice to see Ezekiel and Peter interact again, and the conversations between them were very interesting, especially when Ezekiel revealed more of the spider's history. I was however also interest that despite all the new things we learned, Ezekiel still appeared to be slightly mysterious, as it appeared that there was still more to be revealed about Ezekiel.
This story also continued to develop Peter, and MJ's relationship, as with things being complicated they try and make things up. Basically when Peter is returning from his journey with Ezekiel he decides instead of going home to New York to go and visit MJ in Los Angeles, but at that same time MJ is planing on visiting Peter in New York. There is actually an entire issue that deals with this (issue 490), and although it was something interesting and unique, there were times were it was slightly slow. They did however land up meeting each other in the next issue, as when they both decide to go the other way they are both stranded in Denver, Colorado after a storm. Getting to see them talk things out was nice, as although I'm not overly fussed on comic book relationships, and who's with who I've always seen it that Peter, and MJ should be together. Anyway, this sequence between the two was also very emotional, and dramatic, and really made the last issue more worthwhile.
The issue were MJ, and Peter meet each other also features an appearance from both Doctor Doom, and Captain America. Now it's not what you think, Cap, and Spidey aren't fighting Doom, in fact they are protecting him. The fight between Cap, and Spidey, against Dooms attackers was very entertaining, and I loved how Straczynski was able to keep all the emotions from the Peter/MJ moments, as well as giving excitement, and action. The appearance of Doom however was slightly disappointing, as although the fact that he's not the enemy was more unique, I'd have liked to have seen more of him. I was however still happy that he made an appearance in the first place, and the Cap appearance was as good as I'd have hoped, and I'd rather a better Cap appearance that a better Doom appearance.
This was a fantastic story, and continues the mythos that Straczynski's been developing brilliantly. It also had plenty of excitement, and action, as well as emotion. Overall although not the best story in Straczynski's run it was still brilliant, and not the worst.
The main part of this story revolves around dead mobsters coming back to life in a collected body, getting referred to as Digger. Although probably one of the worst characters Straczynski would create whilst on Spider-Man, Digger was still in his own way interesting, and the background, and story that he was involved in was interesting, just not too exciting. The fact that Digger was a collection of dead mobsters was probably one of the things that interested me the most in this story, and with the use of gamma, and the reference to the Hulk was also nice. Also the fact that Digger was basically a cross between Hulk, and Frankenstein's Monster was also interesting, as although Hulk himself is heavily inspired from Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, this character being similar to Hulk, as well as a Frankenstien style monster is something else, and although he's not even close to be considered a better character than Hulk he was still interesting.
The fights between Spidey, and Digger throughout this story was also brilliant, and although not the best fights Straczynski's written, it was still very clever, and entertaining. The main thing I liked about the fight was the way Straczynski had Spidey thinking through what he was doing, and that although there were times he used brute force, he still tried to assess the situation. The way Digger also seemed to remember what life was like during the 50's compared to now was also interesting, and the way he brought it up during fights made for some interesting dialogue. Another thing that was interesting was that whilst fighting Digger, Spidey thought of how he may have fought the Hulk (if the situation arisen), which was very interesting, and clever.
During this story Spidey's also protecting a rich mobster named Forelli, who's asked him to protect him, and his family during this time, paying him $10,000 each day. I'll get back to the money part in a moment, but Forelli as a character was also interesting, and although he was your typical mobster type, he still had the odd we things that made him unique. His daughter however was more interesting, as she saw no wrong in her father, seeing Spidey as a bad guy. Back to the money. The way that Straczynski had Spidey thinking over whether or not to accept money from a mobster was interesting, and in the end I felt that Straczynski handled it in the best possible way, and that it helped the story, as well as making it so that Spidey won't have to worry too much about money any time soon.
The last couple of issues in this story dealt with Peter helping yet another student that's fallen on hard times, this time a girl who's finding life hard since Spider-Man put her brother in jail. Now this story alone was actually a bit poor, and slow, and although it had it's interesting points, it was this that let this story down, as the Digger part was much better. The thing that was interesting was that it showed that Spidey doesn't really think of the bigger picture when he captures a criminal, and that was an interesting point that Straczynski made. I liked that Peter would deal with this as both a teacher, and Spider-Man, and the way it developed was interesting, especially with the fact that Ezekiel would make the odd appearance throughout (now sporting a beard), but I still couldn't pass the fact that it was slightly slow, and at the end of the day it felt nothing more than the filler story that it was, all be it an interesting filler story.
Not the best story in Straczynski's run, but still very unique, and interesting, and full of action. It also had plenty of emotion, and depth, and although it is one of the worst stories Straczynski wrote during his run on Spider-Man it's still worth the read, and goes to show just how good his run is if this is one of the worst stories.
This story centres around Peter's Birthday, and what a better way to spend it than saving the world, as when Mr. Fantastic accidentally causes the arrival of Dormammu, it's up to Spidey, and Doctor Strange to fix things. Although not necessarily the nicest way for Spidey to spend his Birthday, it did make for a brilliant story, and a fitting one to end on the 500th issue, as it was epic, and unique, whilst also paying great homage to the earlier Spidey tales (but I'll talk more about that a little later). Finally getting a more involved appearance from Doctor Strange, as although this would mark his third appearance during Straczynski's run, it was the first time that he stayed for a period of time. The fact that this story involved the likes of the Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four, as well as a villain like Dormammu was also appropriate for a landmark Spidey story.
As I said this story paid homage to some of the earlier Spidey tales, as Spidey is faced with seeing a glimpse of his future, as well as revisiting his past. Now this was what really made this story special for me, as having read most of the stories that were referenced in this (through Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume One) it was nice to see them re-shown, as well as in a fresher style of art, and both Straczynski, and Romita Jr. did a fabulous job at this. The small glimpse into Spidey's possible future was also interesting, as with the main focuse being on the past, it's only right that there's a small glimpse of the possible future, especially considering the stories centred around being in a time flux.
After the main part of this story, we got two filler issues, with the first one being centred around Aunt May, and her talking about Peter's life as Spider-Man. Now like the filler from Unintended Consequences this was still an obvious filler story, but it was much more emotional, and interesting, as the way Straczynski's showed the way May's handling Peter's secret's been the best part about her knowing it. I also liked how the story cut at certain points switching to what Spidey's actually doing, as not only did this prevent the story from becoming slow, and dull, it also gave variaty, and the way it transitioned between May, and Spidey was perfectly handled by Straczynski. Also without spoiling anything I also loved the way this short story ended, as it was very fitting, and appropriate.
The second filler at the end of this story featured a tailor telling Spidey about an assassination attempt on the DA. Now although not quite as good as the Aunt May story, and also despite the fact that this was yet again an obvious filler, this was still a very interesting story, and very unique. The idea of a superhero tailor isn't exactly new, as is the idea of someone providing the same service to both hero's, and villains, but to have them both together is something that I personally haven't seen before, and it was quite interesting. I also found it interesting that the tailor had morales, and that he tried to be loyal to his customers, but at the same time it showed his true character that he'd go to someone like Spidey for help in this matter, and what would fallow was both interesting, and entertaining. I also liked the reference to the main story as the tailor would give Spidey a design for a possible new suit, the one that was shown on his future self.
An appropriate way to celebrate the web-slinger's Birthday, as well as his 500th issue. The story itself was also very interesting, and exciting, and paid homage to some of the earlier Spidey tales, in a brilliant way. It also had two interesting side stories to follow, and overall was a fantastic read.
Not quite as good as the previous volume, but still an amazing book, and a brilliant way to continue Straczynski's sensational run. It had it all, excitement, action, drama, and suspense, as well as being at times mysterious, and interesting. It also celebrated Spidey's Birthday, and 500th issue perfectly, and was well worth the read. I would obviously highly recommend this book, as it was simply astonishing, and this collection's the perfect way to collect Straczynski's phenomenal run.
Overall Rating: 4/5
The next Spider-Man book I'll be reviewing will be The Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection Volume Three.