Sunday, March 15, 2015

Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 4

Finally, the moment I've waited my entire life for: An Asian character says, in a totally non-joking way, "Ah, so!".
 Continuing my marathon reread of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, ESSENTIAL AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, VOLUME 4 collects THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #'s 66-89, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #5, and SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #2. As I complained about previously, the emphasis is still on The Kingpin and assorted gangsters, including the first appearance of Silvermane, head of "The Maggia". (It will amaze you to know that I've been reading about "The Maggia" since I was a child, and I only realized that they were a "Don't kill me!" renaming of The Mafia about 5 years ago. That was a real Aha! moment....)

 This volume is where Spidey, and perhaps Marvel in general, really started to embrace '70's culture, with the emphasis on campus demonstrations and student unrest, and a growing interest in the anti-war movement. (There's an appearance by an Asian General towards the end of the book that must have something to do with the Vietnam War...he's the one that utters the immortal "Ah, so!" line. Thank you for that, Stan Lee!)

 John Romita is still relegated to doing breakdowns for much of this book, but Don Heck disappears quickly, replaced by the more suited John Buscema and the unsung hero of web-spinner history, Jim Mooney, who contributes a look that was still going strong into the 1980's.

 The art is bigger and bolder this time around, and the wordiness of previous volumes is lessened considerably. (Stan's workload was probably so large that he didn't have time to write as much dialogue.) This volume features appearances by Doctor Octopus, The Shocker, Quicksilver, The Black Widow, The Green Goblin, The Schemer, The Kingpin (And his wife, Vanessa), Electro, The Lizard, The Prowler, and The Human Torch. It also features something that I never knew I wanted to see, but I'm so glad that I finally did: Harry Osborn with a Fu Manchu mustache.

 Overall, my sadness over the departure of Steve Ditko is becoming a thing of the past, as Peter and company have, by this point, moved so far beyond their early appearances as to be almost unrecognizable. Ditko's Spider-man is still untouchable, but Romita's is, arguably, the one that most people picture as the "Iconic" Spidey. This is a good, strong volume, and I'm looking forward to cracking open ESSENTIAL VOLUME 5.....stay tuned.

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