Sunday, November 05, 2017

Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 4 by "Stan Lee, John Romita, Sam Rosen & Friends"

(pb; 1969, 1989 and 2005: Collects The Amazing Spider-Man #66-89, & Annual issue #5. Note that issues #66-68 are also republished in the previous graphic novel, Volume 3.)

From the back cover

"After being bitten by an irradiated spider, young Peter Parker learned he had gained the proportional strength and agility of a spider. Combined with a keen "spider-sense" that warned him of danger, Peter became the hero we all know and love...Spider-Man! In this great volume, Peter will face some of his greatest challenges and overcome some of his most harrowing foes. Adventure at its best, true believer!"


Overall review

Volume 4 is a fun, action-oriented and youth-angsty read. There is less melodrama than usual in these issues – “frail” Aunt May still dotes too much on Peter, and he still does dumb things (even for someone his age) that make little sense. Also, there is the issue of the oh-so-sexist issue #86 with Black Widow, and the occasional, silly filler issue (e.g., Annual #5). This is a worthwhile graphic novel, if you can overlook the above elements, as the artwork – as always – is top-notch.

Story arcs

"The Madness of Mysterio” and “To Squash a Spider” (#67-68): Spider-Man gets shrunk and tries to elude death in a trap-rigged mini-amusement park.

Crisis on the Campus” (#68) – “The Speedster and the Spider” (#71): Spider-Man is publicly accused of being in cahoots with the Kingpin, who tries to steal an ancient and priceless tablet. This leads to skirmishes with the cops and Quicksilver (who is trying to acquit himself and his wife, the Scarlet Witch, of unrelated false charges).

"The Parents of Peter Parker” (Annual #5): Peter accidentally discovers what really killed his parents – and what they were. Red Skull, from the comic book Captain America, makes an appearance. This storyline and inclusion of Red Skull feels silly and shoe-horned, the admixture of two unlikely elements. Still, there is plenty of action.

Rocked By the Shocker” (#72) – “In the Blaze of Battle” (#77): More mayhem ensues, centered around that ancient tablet, issues #68–71. The Shocker, whose last appearance was in issue #46,  takes the tablet, with the intention of ransoming it. Before long, others are caught up in the conflict between Spider-Man and the Shocker: the Maggia (mobsters), including the hard-punching Man-Mountain Marko; Dr. Curt Connors, a.k.a. the Lizard; Johnny Storm, a.k.a. the Human Torch. . . This is Man-Mountain Marko’s first appearance in the Spider-Man comics. The Lizard last appeared in issue #45.

The Night of the Prowler” and “To Prowl No More!” (#78–79): A desperate, down-on-his-luck window washer (Hobie Brown) turns his hand to thieving via a costumed alter ego, the Prowler. When his path crosses Spider-Man’s, they fight for a brief time. Also, Peter Parker stews about Gwen Stacy, whom he mistakenly thinks has dumped him.

On the Trail of the Chameleon!” (#80): Spider-Man battles the Chameleon, who steals an expensive painting. The Chameleon was last seen in issue #2.

The Coming of the Kangaroo!”(#81) A misunderstood man with the ability to leap about like a kangaroo finds himself at odds with Spider-Man.

And Then Came Electro!” (#82): Electro, out of prison and working as an electrician, battles Spider-Man on live television. Electro is aided in his vengeful desire by Daily Bugler publisher J. Jonah Jameson, whose laser-focus hatred of the web-slinger once again comes into play. . . Electro was last seen in comic’s first annual Spider-Man issue.

The Coming of the Schemer!” (#83) – “The Secret of the Schemer!” (#85) Two events reawaken the violent impulses of Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) – first, the news that his wife, Vanessa, has discovered that their son (Richard) is likely dead; and second, the clamorous appearance of the Schemer, a new mobster-esque villain whose main aim to take over the criminal empire that Fisk abandoned, after the debacle involving a priceless, ancient tablet (issues #68–71). 

Beware. . . the Black Widow!” (#86): Spider-Man crosses paths with the ex-Avenger and ex-agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Of course, a minor fight takes place before they finally talk and sort out their misunderstanding.

Even by the standards of the late Sixties, there is an underlying sexism that exists within the boy-centric tone of the Amazing Spider-Man universe. All of the female characters – “frail” Aunt May, Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy (with their catty rivalry) and the Black widow – are all, in one way or another, reliant on a man or his approval. Black Widow is an egregious example of this, as three characters (including Black Widow herself) refers to the ex-Avenger as a “copy” of Spider-Man, with her huge identity crisis. (Black Widow, with her powers, battle style and outlook, is not derivative of the web-slinger.) I have not noted this in earlier reviews of The Amazing Spider-Man because few, if any previous issues, were so in-your-face sexist (to my knowledge).

Unmasked At Last!” (#87): Peter, feverish with a mystery illness, reveals his alter ego to his friends at a party. He seeks  medical help. Hobie Brown, once the Prowler [#78–79], makes an appearance.

The Arms of Doctor Octopus!” and “Doc Ock Lives!” (#88–89): Doctor Octopus escapes from prison, hijacks a plane and creates general havoc – often while battling Spider-Man, of course. Be warned that this last issue-chapter of Vol. 4 ends on a cliffhanger situation.

Followed by Marvel Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 5.

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