MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL. 12 (Marvel, 2010; Hardcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 110-120 (cover dates July, 1972- May, 1973)
Writers: Stan Lee (110, 116-118), Gerry Conway (111-120)
Artists: John Romita, Sr. (110-119), Gil Kane (120, with Paul Reinman), Tony Mortellaro (backgrounds and inks, 110-120, Jim Mooney (inks, 116-118), Jim Starlin (art assist, 113 and 114), Herb Trimpe (additional pencils and inks, 117 and 118).
The illusion of change was the order of the day at Marvel circa 1972. Stan Lee, whose tenure on this title as writer ended during the issues collected here, was still very much in control of the style and tone of Marvel Comics. A lot of the guys who came into Marvel around this time got to work with Stan and were better because of it. Gerry Conway is a great writer who crams tons of character development into dialogue, thought balloons, and narrative exposition. He even managed to sneak in clever things under Stan's ever watchful eye. Conway was very forward thinking with his sub-plots, setting things up for future use as he went along. He was setting things up in his Doctor Octopus/ Hammerhead arc in 113-115 that he would string along and build on and would ultimately conclude in Issue 131. He used this subplot as a major point to get Spider-Man to go to Montreal in 119 and 120 to fight the Hulk. I am always impressed by just how clever a writer he was, especially when you consider that he was like 20 years old when he wrote this stuff. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a company today handing over their flagship property to a largely unknown, unproven writer?
I owned all of these as cheap-o back issues way back when but sold them all off after my Mom died in 1995 and I needed money. I know all of these issues inside out, and it was thrilling to re-read them. I read them again several years ago in a black and white Essential phone book trade, and I've probably read them all at least a half dozen times over the last 25 or so years. Can you tell that I love this era of Spider-Man?
The artwork is consistently excellent. John Romita, Sr., my all-time favorite Spider-Man artist, starts letting the reins go more and more as this volume progresses. First with background assists by Tony Mortellaro and then ultimately handing it off. Romita defined the contemporary Spider-Man that I know and love. As a child of the '70s, it was his Spider-Man that I was exposed to on licensed images and cartoons. I discovered Ditko at age 9 thanks to Marvel Tales reprints, and while he is a true creative genius who created the look of the character, it is Romita who spit-shined Spider-Man and set the tone for his appearance that would be the template for the character until Ron Frenz began injecting Ditko-isms into the character around 1984. Then Todd McFarlane took over in 1988, but that's a review and op/ed piece for another blog posting.
The OCD zone: Everything is top notch as usual with the Marvel Masterworks line. Superior linework and color restoration that match the original issues to a tee, high quality paper and sewn binding. The consistent level of quality in these hardcovers is what makes them my poison of choice. Now to start volume 13, which has been bumped up in my queue for that “Omnibus effect”...