Monday, May 18, 2015

Marvel Masterworks; The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 14

The Spider-marathon continues with MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, VOLUME 14, collecting THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #'s 132-142, and GIANT-SIZE SUPER-HEROES #1, with additional material from MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #1.
 A good chunk of the issues collected here were covered in my review of ESSENTIAL AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, VOLUME 6, so I'll be dealing primarily with the five issues unique to this collection

 ASM #138 has been a favorite of mine since I first encountered it as a reprint in MARVEL TALES as a kid. It's a bizarre standalone issue that features a weird character called "The Mindworm".....a muscular, hare-lipped guy with a gigantic head and the ability to control the minds of others. One thing I've always loved about this issue is the way that it brings the Peter Parker/Flash Thompson relationship to a totally unexpected level. Flash really comes through, giving the broke, homeless Peter a place to live while he gets his life in order.

 Issue # 139 is another old favorite that holds up remarkably well. The Grizzly is a corny character, to be sure, and he'd never fly with the jaded audience of today, but how could anyone look at Ross Andru's staggering two-page spread of Grizzly bashing Spidey into a bank of filing cabinets and not fall in love with this hulking dope?

 The jackal comes back to the forefront for ASM #140, which features his ill-fated "Team-up" with The Grizzly. The jackal is such an odd, gross-looking character...basically a naked imp with a loin-cloth. Freaky.

 ASM #'s 141-142 feature Spidey nearly being driven to the looney bin by Mysterio (Or IS IT Mysterio....?), and the final fate of the "Spider-Mobile".

 Through it all, writer Gerry Conway gives plenty of room for Spidey's extensive cast of supporting players to shine, something that is sorely lacking in modern comics. Supporting cast members these days mainly exist as fodder to be killed off by the villain, so the hero has an excuse to grit his teeth and swear vengeance. Conway gives Peter a new place to live, complete with new neighbors, a busy work and school life, and problems galore with his Aunt May and Mary Jane Watson. We used to joke when I was a kid that these books were like soap operas, and they are, but it was nice to be able to see the hero have some downtime, and be able to interact with other people, rather than just bounce from one event crossover to the next, with no breathing time in between.

 I could spend paragraph upon paragraph raving about the art of Ross Andru, but I won't bore you....I'll just say that he is one of THE Spider-Man artists. Period. (Gil Kane fills in admirably on the Morbuis/Man-Wolf brawl from GIANT-SIZE SUPER-HEROES #1.)

 The book is rounded out by a smattering of extras from  MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #1, including some great vintage ads. (Can you imagine being able to buy a copy of MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #1, signed by Stan Lee and John Romita, for just five bucks????) There's also a wonderful new introduction by Gerry Conway, where he sings the praises of Ross Andru, and gives some insight into the parallels between his life and life of Peter Parker as presented in these issues.

 Great, great stuff...I can't recommend this one enough.

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