Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review- ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN VOL. 11

ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN VOL. 11 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 231-248 and Amazing Spider-Man Annual Nos. 16, 17 (cover dates August, 1982- January, 1984)
Writers: Roger Stern and Bill Mantlo (co-writer 237, Annual 17).
Artists: John Romita, Jr. (Penciler on all except for Annual 17) with Inkers Al Milgrom, Jim Mooney, Dan Green, Frank Giaco, Bob Hall, John Romita, , Bob Layton, Klaus Janson, and Ron Frenz (artist on back-up story from 248), and others.
My golden age of Spider-Man “officially” begins here, at age 9.5. (cue Wonder Years music and the adult Kevin Arnold voice) My Mom bought me issue 239 on Sunday, January 9, 1983 at the Farmer Jack by my house where I grew up, and it kicked off my official collecting habit that has led me down my long road to ruin. That Farmer Jack (both the chain and that store) are long shuttered and abandoned, and the neighborhood that I grew up in has seen better days. The house that I grew up in has since been condemned and burned down, and the 7-11 that I lived by no longer has a spinner rack of comic books. Back in those halcyon days of youth, though, it was a different story. A story of a working class neighborhood and a little boy who rode his bike to buy comic books. I apologize in advance for the abundant nostalgic rambling that you are about to be subjected to. 
Roger Stern is a spider-writer near and dear to my heart. I can pretty much recite these issues word for word. These issues were affordable circa 1983-1984, and even high grade copies could be snagged for little more than cover price. I had every single one of these issues at one time. See the sob story about how I sold my collection in my review of Essential Spider-Man Vol. 10. 
The Cobra and Mr. Hyde 2 parter in 231-232 is godlike. How can anybody look at John Romita Jr.'s artwork and then say that Humberto Ramos is their favorite artist of all time on this title? When it comes to great Spider-Man artists, Ramos doesn't even enter the conversation. Make mine Romita! Either one of them.
The Brand Corporation work behind the scenes in a number of titles during this era, and their backdrop of corporate wrongdoings resonates even more loudly today. The Will O' The Wisp and Tarantula 3 parter is epic. The crown jewel of Roger Stern's run on this title has to be the Hobgoblin. I remember the thrill of stumbling onto this new villain, and thoroughly enjoyed watching the saga unfold over the next several years. Stern restores the Vulture as a force to be reckoned with, and he restores Spider-Man himself after the lower power levels that Len Wein and Marv Wolfman displayed him having.
This sequence from issue 239 is burned into my brain and shows how awesome John Romita, Jr. is.
No review of this book could be considered complete without a mention of Issue 248's back-up story, The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man. It is a powerful story about a little boy who is dying of leukemia that gets a visit from his idol. It still chokes me up to this day, and I've read it dozens of times over the past two decades. 
Between the high quality of these issues and the monthly reprints of the classic Lee/Ditko issues from the '60s in Marvel Tales, the '80s were a great time to be a reader and a kid. I grew up without a father, and as corny as it sounds, Spider-Man sort of helped me do the right thing. These issues are part of my DNA and moral fiber, and are art of the highest order.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The linework is excellent throughout this book, with the exception of one page in The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man back-up story in issue 248. I suspect that Wizard mishandled the film when they reprinted that story in their Spider-Man Wizard Masterpiece Edition hardcover several years ago. This is the same deal as any of the phonebooks, and gets the same praise for value as any other one that I've reviewed prior to this.
My only gripe with these Essentials is the table of contents don't list the cover artists for each issue. It's rather annoying. Also annoying is how there are no page numbers in these books. DC has page numbers and cover artist credits in their Showcase Presents line of phonebooks.
Linework restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Paper rating: 3 out of 5.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5.

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