SPIDER-MAN: THE COMPLETE BEN REILLY EPIC BOOK 1(Marvel, 2011; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Scarlet Spider Nos. 1, 2, Green Goblin No. 3, New Warriors Nos. 65, 66, The Spectacular Spider-Man Nos. 228, 229, Spectacular Spider-Man Super Special Flipbook, Scarlet Spider Nos. 1, 2, Scarlet Spider Unlimited No. 1, Sensational Spider-Man No. 0, Spectacular Scarlet Spider Nos. 1, 2, Spider-Man: The Parker Years No. 1, Web of Scarlet Spider Nos. 1, 2 and Wizard Mini-Comic No. 3 (cover dates November, 1995- January, 1996).
Writers: Tom DeFalco, Todd Dezago, Howard Mackie, Dan Jurgens and many others.
Artists: Gil Kane, John Romita, Jr., Sal Buscema, Mark Bagley, Bill Sienkiewicz and many others.
My '90s Spider-marathon continues with this, the 6th 400+ page monster trade paperback in this run. While they renamed and renumbered the line, it picks up right after the end of Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic Book 5, so I will refer to that book as “the previous volume” for the rest of this review.
Ben Reilly finally assumes his role as Spider-Man at the end of the book. As I've previously stated, I can enjoy these major upheavals because I know that the status quo is restored. I'm not sure how kind I'd be if I were reading these monthly at the time.
These issues are enjoyable for the most part, with mostly solid writing and artwork. Todd Dezago's writing is just awful though, especially his dialogue. It's completely unconvincing and I cringe as I read it. Gil Kane's artwork in Scarlet Spider No. 1 is worlds better than his work in the previous volume, as he uses more of his signature “camera angles”. What's even more interesting is that Tom Palmer does the inking here, just like he did in the issue in the previous volume. In that issue, Palmer's inking was uneven, but here he does his usual solid work. Perhaps he had an off day before. Clem Robbins' hand lettering is atrocious. While I am admittedly old fashioned in my taste pertaining to comic books, lettering is one area where I'm glad that we have fonts done by computers rather than sloppy hand lettering like this. The only old school letterers whose work I miss are Artie Simek (who passed away) and Tom Orzechowski.
Tom Morgan does some solid artwork in Web of Scarlet Spider No. 2 (see pic above for a sample page). He has clear layouts and his action sequences have a sense of “movement”, for lack of a better term. He is a rare exception among artists working on mainstream superhero comic books in this era.
Computers and the Internet were new when these issues were originally published, and Tom DeFalco and company really ran with it in these stories. Cyberspace, virtual reality, chips and other computer references are used in abundance. While I love comics that are timeless in nature, I also really enjoy things that were timely and offer a snapshot of a bygone era like this. Technology is everywhere and in everything, and it was fun to think back to a time when it was all new and frightening. I still fear a Skynet type of takeover but hope that humanity will prevail.
The OCD zone- This book has thicker paper than the previous volume, but it is still slick. It works for this material. I know that nitpicking about things like paper weights and textures seems ridiculous to most folks in the Kindle and iPad era, but I refuse to read comic books that way. Truth be told, part of me yearns for the day when the industry does go all digital. Then I can quit this hobby of buying collected editions and begin my re-reading projects.