Monday, March 9, 2015

The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 2

I weep for the absence of Steve Ditko....

 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS, VOL. 2 collects THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #'s 39-67, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #'s 3-5, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #'s 1-2, and material from NOT BRAND ECHH #'s 2, 6, & 11. This volume starts with the two-part saga that revealed the secret identity of The Green Goblin, and that pivotal story also marked the departure of Spidey's original artist & co-creator, Steve Ditko, who was replaced by John Romita. (I like the way Marvel has broken up the first two omnibus volumes, having Ditko's complete run in the first volume, and letting Romita start fresh in the second volume. It makes the stylistic differences between the two artists easier to adjust to, and gives each volume a distinctive look and feel.)

 Unfortunately, reading these two volumes back-to-back makes the departure of Ditko even harder to bear. Romita was a childhood favorite of mine, but his work here pales in comparison to Ditko's, and his clean, bold artwork gives Stan Lee's stories a generic feel that was certainly not evident in the first volume. the fact that much of the book is penciled by Don Heck (Over Romita's layouts) doesn't help much...I'm not a fan of Heck's work.

 It's easy to see what the artists contributed to the plots back in the early days of Marvel. While the Lee/Ditko issues were filled-to-the-brim with weird characters and ideas, things that are sorely missed in this volume, Romita, who seems to have been uninterested in Super-Heroes and their trappings, fills his issues with soap-opera romance and gangster stories. Make no mistake, Romita draws lovely women, as evidenced my his renderings of Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy, and Stan Lee juggles the romantic sub-plots effortlessly and charmingly, but the constant emphasis on gangsters and mob stories wore very thin after a while.On the Super-Villain front, we're introduced to The Rhino, The Kingpin, and a new, younger Vulture, who is, you guessed it, a gangster. The constant stream of new bad-guys that was flowing in the first volume runs dry here, with the rest of the book, aside from gangsters, featuring rematches with older enemies such as Kraven The Hunter, Doctor Octopus, The (Original) Vulture, The Green Goblin, and Mysterio. This is an enjoyable book, to be sure, but this is Stan Lee settling into the comfortable "Marvel Age of comics"...the wild inventiveness of the early days, while not gone, was a bit harder to find. I had a lot of fun reading this omnibus, but there was also a lot of "Move it along!" filler- romance, old-lady-health-scares, and J.J.J. rants that slowed the proceedings down considerably.

 Kudos to Marvel for including three Spidey-centric NOT BRAND ECHH stories, wonderfully illustrated by Marie Severin. While not laugh-out-loud funny, they were cute, and served to whet my appetite for the upcoming Marvel Masterworks NBE volume, coming this summer.

 The Spidey marathon continues with ESSENTIAL AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, VOLUME 4...stay tuned!

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