Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review- ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN VOL. 10

ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN VOL. 10 (Marvel, 2011; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 211-230 and Amazing Spider-Man Annual No. 15 (cover dates December, 1980- July, 1982)
Writers: Denny O'Neil (211-219, 221, 223, Annual 15), Roger Stern (224-227, 229, 230), Bill Mantlo, Michael Fleisher, and J.M. DeMatteis.
Artists: John Romita, Jr. (211-218, 223-227, 229, 230), Bob McLeod, Frank Miller, Greg LaRoque, Rick Leonardi, Bob Layton, Win Mortimer, Jim Mooney, and others.
I had every single one of these comic books at one time. I sold them when I sold off the bulk of my collection in 1995 when my Mom died and I desperately needed cash. I really wish that there was eBay back then. Worse still, I sold them off, only to land a decent job only weeks later. I didn't much care about comic books any more at that point in time, so it wasn't a big deal until later on.
My Mom bought me issues 220-222 off of the stands at Farmer Jack (a defunct local supermarket chain), and 220 was one of my first, if not the first, exposure to Moon Knight. I read those three issues countless times back then. That would be the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade. Looking back, nothing pivotal occurred in those issues. Ramrod was in 221, and Speed Demon was in 222. I especially enjoyed that issue, and it has one of my favorite action sequences in it during the shopping center brawl.
Denny O'Neil's run on this title is criminally underrated. He had a knack for spotlighting the supporting cast as well as building subplots without losing the point of it all. He turns the reigns over to my beloved Roger Stern, whom, along with Tom DeFalco, are my “golden age” Spider-Man writers. 
This is why I argue that Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up, and Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man should all be collected in ONE line. The footnotes refer to things occurring simultaneously in the other two titles. That ship has sailed, but if I were king...
John Romita, Jr. is the heir apparent of Marvel, the offspring of the godlike and, in my opinion, definitive Spider-Man artist, John Romita, Sr. We see JRJr evolve as an artist, going from competent to incredible in only a couple of years. He learned how to channel his father's version of the character, right down to the poses, mannerisms, and open hands exclamations. His action sequences are burned into my brain, with issues 229 and 230 ranking in my all-time top 10 comic books ever made. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut is a classic.
Shades of John Romita, Sr.! John Romita, Jr. had the advantage of studying the master for countless hours growing up. He should be the artist on Spider-Man until his death. It is his birthright.
We see Spider-Man tangle with the Sub-Mariner in one of those good ol' fashioned hero misunderstanding tales. Hydroman is introduced here, and the Hydroman/ Sandman team-up where they become a mindless mud monster is among the least illustrious moments in the book. Spidey once again mixes it up with the Frightful Four (Wizard, Trapster, Sandman, and Llyra), minus Electro this time out. Issue 219 was a quarter box find circa 1983, and I read that story with the Grey Gargoyle countless times. All of these issues were easy to get in the mid '80s, and affordable as well. Another one of my favorites is issue 223 with the Red Ghost and his Super Apes. Roger Stern resurrects the Vulture, and his Foolkiller story is odd to say the least. 
Yes, the Postal Service are fools! So speaks the Foolkiller!
There are many offbeat moments during this era of the title. It's refreshing to read comic books from an era when they were only meant to be entertaining, and not “intellectual property” to be re-purposed for movies or video games. I know that I am showing both my cynicism and my age with such a statement, but I offer no apologies for it. 
I could be blindfolded and still recite every panel of issue 229. Pure genius. I love the bottom four panels. If you look closely, it is one picture split into four panels. Juggernaut walks through the corner of a building to shake off Spider-Man.
Sorry for all of the nostalgic rambling, but Spider-Man is my favorite character, and this run is near and dear to my heart. Essential indeed.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Like I've stated time and time again, I love these monster black and white phonebooks. They are inexpensive and are a tremendous entertainment value. They use cheap pulp paper and have tight gutters, but they are so affordable who cares!
The only complaint that I have about this book is the linework restoration in issue 229. There are several pages where there are dropouts, likely the result of Wizard mishandling the film when they reprinted that issue in the Spider-Man Wizard Masterpiece Edition hardcover years ago. I only hope that they do proper restoration of that issue for the forthcoming Spider-Man: Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut Premiere Classic Hardcover.
Linework restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Paper rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5.

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