Artists: John Romita Jr. & Mike Deodato Jr.
I've recently been going through as many of my graphic novels, and comic series as I can, and reviewing them, whilst also planing on reading the Marvel events as they fit in. Anyway I then realised 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.
The Book of Ezekiel
After Morwen comes back to the world seeking to reward Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Loki intervenes, and offers his help in stopping her. Spidey also helps a kid from making a horrible mistake, and Ezekiel returns, and warns Peter about the coming of the Gatekeeper, but Ezekiel doesn't appear to be entirely honest.
Peter gets a shocking letter from his dead ex-girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. Also there's the mysterious appearance of two strangers seeking revenge on both Peter, and Spider-Man for what they did to Gwen.
When an old school friend of Peter's named,Charlie Weiderman makes a visit, Peter agrees to give a reference of his work to Tony Stark but things go horribly wrong.
This was a phenomenal book, with three extraordinarily good stories, and this volumes been the best in J. Michael Straczynski's run so far. Overall Straczynski's run was brilliant, and had an awesome start, but the level did slip slightly in the last volume, with some dull fillers, and although they were still brilliant, they weren't as good as the first volume, or this. Anyway this volume was brilliant, and Straczynski managed to give three stories that were unique, as well as interesting, and although there were obviously ones that were better than other's, they were all amazing. I've loved how Straczynski continues to develop the mythos of Spidey that he started during his first story, and that although he gives Spidey a break to tell other stories, he always comes back to it, and in a big way. Straczynski also manages to show a lot of emotion in this volume, and that's where I think it excels, as although there's been emotion in the previous volumes, not quite as much as in this one, and not at the same level. I've also really enjoyed the mystery that Straczynski puts into his work, and that he manages to give funny, and/or emotional stories, whilst also making you question certain aspects that may arise. Straczynski also knows how to give suspense, and drama in his stories, as they are brilliantly paced, also having interesting twists, and although some are more obvious than other's, they were all entertaining. The way Straczynski knows when to add action is also amazing, as although some of his stories have more than other's, they always have the perfect balance, giving excitement, and depth.
This was the first volume in Straczynski's run to have more than one artist working on it, as John Romita Jr. finished his time on Straczynski's run with Book of Ezekiel (he'd return to do the odd story following Straczynski's departure). The even more talented Mike Deodato, Jr. would however take over, doing amazing artwork on both Sins Past, and Skin Deep, as well as working on the series until the end of The Other story arc. Now although I'll start by saying that I much preferred Deodato Jr.'s art, I'll talk about Romita Jr.'s final contribution to Straczynski's Spider-Man run. Romita Jr. gets a lot of bad criticism over his work, and I'm sometimes one of them, but I always try and give him a chance as he's done great work in the past on things like Kick-Ass, and World War Hulk, but some of the best artwork I've seen from him has been on this series. He draws Spidey magnificently, and although he's not the best, he knows how to make this character look lifelike, and dynamic. Even the problem he usually has with facial features isn't as bad on Book of Ezekiel, as although there's still the odd problem, it's overall a huge improvement. The way Romita Jr. draws action sequences is also brilliant, as although this wasn't necessarily his best example to date, it was still very explosive, and vibrant, showing plenty of excitement. Deodato Jr.'s art however was out of this world, as it was beyond phenomenal. I've always enjoyed Deodato Jr.'s work, especially on the various Avengers titles he's worked on, but his work on Spidey is simply outstanding. The detail is fantastic, and everything looks realistic, and I mean realistic, as if it wasn't for the colours, and the inks (which are amazing) it'd almost look like a photograph instead of a drawing. The way Deodato Jr. lays out his artwork, as well as the way he draws the character's facial expressions are wonderful, and really add ton's of drama to the story, whilst also giving depth. Deodato Jr.'s also brilliant at action sequences, and although Romita Jr.'s good, this man is outstanding. The art from Mark Brooks on the flashback sequences in Skin Deep were also brilliant, and the style really suited that part of the story.
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.
The Book of Ezekiel
The first story in the Book of Ezekiel showed Spidey teaming up with Loki to take on Morwen. Now I have to be honest, I don't really know much about Morwen besides the fact that she was a sorceress, so it was interesting to see her featured in this story. The main thing that was interesting was that Spidey had help from Loki (surprisingly). This was before Loki became a child, and he's very intelligent as well as ruthless at this time, doing what he see's is needed, so it was nice to read him like this again. I did however find it also ironic, and interesting that Loki used the guise of a child to lure Spidey into helping him, and although this would be nothing much at the time, now that Loki's actually a child it's kind of funny. The way Loki and Spidey interacted was also very interesting, especially when it came to dealing with Morwen.
There was then a one issue filler before the main Book of Ezekiel story where Spidey helps a kid from making a terrible mistake. I won't go into details as to avoid spoilers, but this was actually one of the better fillers, and was very fun. The way Spidey interacted with this kid was also interesting, and very emotional, as well as having the odd bit of humour, which was what made this as dramatic, and good as it was. Even if it wasn't the Loki/Morwen story as well as the main Book of Ezekiel story was brilliant enough, but it was still nice to see a half decent filler.
The final, and main story in Book of Ezekiel story featured Ezekiel warning Peter about his greatest foe to be connected to the spider, the Gatekeeper. Now this new villain was very interesting, and although this wasn't the best villain to have come out of Straczynski, it was different, and suited the story. Basically the villain was a giant entity made up of spider's, and it really made for some brilliant artwork, and Romita Jr. handled them perfectly, making something that looked cool, grotesque, and menacing all at the same time.
WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD!
Now I've managed to avoid spoilers in my reviews on Straczynski's Spider-Man run so far, but it'a a bit hard with this story, and the next as well. The key thing in this story, which is also the most interesting thing is Ezekiel's betrayal of Peter. Now the betrayal of Ezekiel was a big shock for me, and although I wasn't surprised that it happened it was a massive twist. It maid so much sense having Ezekiel turn on Peter, as with the build-up that's happened over the last few stories Ezekiel's appeared in, as well as him always being a bit shifty, and mysterious makes him the perfect character to turn from good to bad. I won't go into any more detail about what Ezekiel actually does, but I will say that it was very interesting, as well as dramatic.
This was a brilliant way to end Romita Jr.'s time on Straczynski's Spider-Man run, with an awesome story. It was mysterious, and exciting, as well as being very shocking, and dramatic.
WARNING: THIS WILL HAVE A FEW SPOILERS!
As I said in the Book of Ezekiel part of my review, I try and avoid spoiler's, but it's really hard with this story, so I'll just warn you the now that there may be the odd spoiler. Anyway this story sees Peter receive a letter from Gwen Stacy. Yes his dead, ex-girlfriend. Now Straczynski did an amazing job with the Book of Ezekiel story, but this was the best story to feature in this volume, and possibly his entire run. The way Straczynski wrote this story was so brilliant, and the emotion just leapt out of the page, as this brings some hard thoughts back to Peter, and also makes for a painful subject. I for one loved the time Gwen, and Peter spent together, and although Peter's relationship with MJ has been what I've preferred more (grew up with it) it's nice to see Gwen remembered, and used in such a brilliant story.
The more interesting thing about the letter was that it was sent recently from New York City, but the return address said Paris, France. Peter would then be stalked by two strangers that want revenge on Peter, and Spidey, believing that Spidey caused Gwen's death. Now there will be more spoilers ahead, as it's very hard to talk about anything in this story without spoiling something. Anyway now that you've been re-warned, it's revealed that these attackers are Gwen's twin children, named Sarah, and Gabriel. The revelation of this is brilliant, and their motives for attacking Peter even more so. Now having a story that brings up secrets that Gwen kept is interesting enough, but revealing that she has children is really something else, and Straczynski did something brilliant here. There were also problems with the twins, and although I won't spoil this (don't want to spoil everything), it did make the story much more interesting, adding more depth, and drama.
This story also involved Norman Osborn in some way. I won't go into details about this as I've spoiled enough, and will probably land up spoiling more, but the way that Norman was involved was brilliant. Although I won't say much I will say that he doesn't make a physical appearance, only appearing as a background puppeteer, who's set things into motion, as well as appearing in flashback sequences. Now Green Gobin is one of my favourite Spidey villains, just falling behind Mysterio as my altime favourite, so to see him used wass amazing, and I think the way Straczynski used him was brilliant, and that it was righ not having him make a physical appearance in the present.
There were also other secrets revealed in this story, and although I won't go into detail as to avoid spoilers, it did make the story much more emotional, and dramatic. I also loved how they were thought through carefully, as although you could argue that they were added to force more excitement into the story, Straczynski thought of the perfect reasoning for them, showing that they meant something, and although you can still argue that they aren't all necessary, you can't argue that they were brilliant, and emotional, adding much more depth, and drama to the story.
On a positive note this story actually started in a joyful manor, as Mary Jane finally got an acting job on stage. This was nice, and also very emotional, but in a much more lightheartened way, as you could see the joy in both MJ, and Peter, as well as seeing just how much it meant to MJ. I also liked how the adition for the part was thought out, and very unique, showing a different side to acting aditions, as although I wont' go into details as to avoid pointless spoilers, it was unlike the other aditions that MJ's had, where she goes in and barely has a chance, which was nice.
This was probably the best story that Straczynski wrote during his run on Spider-Man, and defiantly the best so far. It had everything from emotion, to drama, as well as plenty of action, feeling very dynamic, and exciting, and although Straczynski did many amazing stories during his time on Spidey, this one was phenomenal, and if it isn't his best, it's not far off (I can't remember if the stories that followed were better, although I don't think they were).
This story saw a visit from an old school friend of Peter, called Charlie Weiderman. Although this hasn't been the most exciting character, or story to feature in Straczynski's run, Charlie was still very interesting, and unique. What I loved about the way Charlie was added was that it was done in such a brilliant way were it made me question if this was a new character, or a minor one that's being re-introduced. The answer is that he is new (at the time anyway), and this was what made it so brilliant, as the character development was handled in such a way were it'd be easy to believe that he's been around for years.
This story featured a lot of flashbacks, showing how Charlie was bullied at school, and how Peter didn't really do much as it kept the bullies away from him. This was a very dramatic, and emotional sequence, and it really gave a lot of insight into Charlie's character, showing why he's a little odd, as being bullied his entire life would be hell. Like a lot of people I was bullied at school, so know the feeling, and although I've gotten over that it wasn't a nice experience, so I can still relate to Charlie, and see why he acts the way he does. I also liked how we got to see the type of person Peter was prior to becoming Spider-Man, and how this shows just how much of an affect become Spidey, as well as Uncle Ben's death had on Peter.
Tony Stark also featured in this story as Charlie convinced Peter to give Tony a reference of his work, so he could work on his skin armour, getting the Vibranium he needed to continue. Now although Spidey's my favourite Marvel character, I also like a good Iron Man story, so the fact that Tony featured in this was brilliant, and what made it more interesting was that he only appeared as Tony, not Iron Man, which was nice for a change. I also felt that this was a fitting appearance, as it would make the bridge between this story, and the New Avengers story that followed much smoother, and natural.
This story would also feature yet another new villain, as after a horrible accident someone is covered in Charlie's skin suit, and goes on a rampage, attacking innocent people, as well as Spider-Man. Now I won't go into to much detail on this character as to avoid spoilers, as although there'll be a lot that either already know about this villain, or can make a guess on who he is, I'll still not spoil for anyone that doesn't. Although not the best villain in Straczynski's run, he was still unique, and interesting, and his fights with Spidey were very entertaining, and exciting. I also loved the impact that this villain would leave, as although I won't give any spoiler's, it was impactful, and would have a big affect.
Although probably the worst story in this volume it was still very interesting, and unique. It also had ton's of emotion, and action, being both exciting, and dramatic, whilst also having ton's of depth, and was a brilliant way to end this volume.
This was a phenomenal volume, and although there were obviously certain stories that were better than other's, they were all very enjoyable, and this was easily the best volume in Straczynski;s run so far. Each story was also very unique, being very different from the others, as some were more action orientated, and other's more emotional, but the thing they all had in common was that they were brilliant. I'd highly recommend this book as it was outstandingly amazing, and this collection's the perfect way to collect Straczynski's fabulous run.
Overall Rating: 5/5
The next Spider-Man book I'll be reviewing will be The Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection Volume Four.