Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review- SPIDER-MAN: THE COMPLETE BEN REILLY EPIC BOOK 5

SPIDER-MAN: THE COMPLETE BEN REILLY EPIC BOOK 5 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 414-416, Sensational Spider-Man Nos. 7-10, The Spectacular Spider-Man Nos. 235-239, Spider-Man Nos. 71-72, Spider-Man Team-Up No. 4, Spider-Man Unlimited No. 13, and selections from Amazing Spider-Man Annual '96 (cover dates June- November, 1996)
Writers: Todd Dezago, Tom DeFalco, Howard Mackie, James Felder, George Perez, and Ron Frenz
Artists: Pencilers- Sal Buscema, Luke Ross, Mark Bagley, John Romita, Jr., Joe Bennett, Darick Robertson, Mike Wieringo, Ron Garney, Ron Frenz, Steve Geiger, Dan Jurgens, and Brandon McKinney; Inkers- John Stanisci, Al Williamson, Larry Mahlstedt, Al Milgrom, Chris Ivy, Andrew Pepoy, Richard Case, John Romita, Sr., Randy Emberlin, Steve Montano, and Tom Palmer.
Colorists: John Kalisz, Gregory Wright, Bob Sharen, Kevin Tinsley, Christie Scheele, Tom Smith, Malibu, and Graphic ColorWorks
Things start off strong in The Spectacular Spider-Man #235-236 with the return of an old favorite of mine, Will O' The Wisp. Wisp is being coerced by Doctor Jonas Harrow to steal a piece of technology for the Roxxon Corporation...a piece of advanced technology known as the living android, Dragon Man! I am a sucker for all of these classic scenarios, which Todd Dezago seamlessly weaved together.
There is a crime wave of B and C list villains going on, or so it seems. I won't spoil the identity of the true perpetrator, as it is one of the better subplots running through these issues. Another great subplot running through this book is the rush to fill the power vacuum left by the absence of the Kingpin.
Spider-Man Unlimited #13 completely sucks, from the cheesy artwork by the abysmal Joe Bennett to the horridly redesigned Scorpion costume to Jack Morelli's vomit-inducing hand lettering. Hand lettering is great when done right, a real lost art. Morelli is an argument for ComiCraft computerized lettering, though. Bennett's renditions of Luke Cage/Power Man and Iron Fist are crimes against humanity. I am dumber for having read this issue.
Newsarama recently did an article about the 10 greatest Spider-Man artists of all time. They did not list Sal Buscema, whose work is shown above. They DID list Humberto Ramos. It is apparent that they are smoking some of that medicinal stuff.
Spider-Man Team-Up #4 is a textbook example why the '90s get such a bad rap from comics fans. Spider-Man teams up with The Avengers, in all of their updated, extreme '90s glory. The Wasp is now a real, mutated human-wasp hybrid. Iron Man is now some time-displaced 19 year old version of himself. No, I don't get it, either. Yes, I unfortunately did buy Avengers: The Crossing Omnibus. No, I have no timetable on when I will read it to find out the whys and wherefores of it, and I'm not entirely sure that I even want to now. Part of me doesn't want to. Giant-Man has a crappy headgear/pouch-laden costume which was sadly the style at the time. Thor is a shirtless hippie with hair past his ass. On top of all of this, the story and artwork completely suck as well. These two issues nearly killed the book for me. I am a completist and am grateful to have the kitchen sink thrown in, but man did these two issues suck!
Mike Wieringo's artwork is a breath of fresh air. His style is a mixture of classic Marvel “house style” coupled with then-modern, almost Manga-esque flourishes. He passed away in 2007 at age 44 from an aortic dissection.
I really enjoyed the Onslaught crossover issues. I've read them before, and they hold up pretty well on their own, even without knowledge of the entire crossover. So long as you understand that something major is going on you can enjoy watching Spider-Man and Peter Parker battling Sentinels. I also enjoyed the return of Swarm, which was a logical follow-up to the fallout of Onslaught
Artwork by Ron Frenz and John Romita, Sr.
Towards the end of the book two characters who will play a major role in the next volume appear: Scrier and Judas Traveller. Yes, I know that Traveller is spelled wrong, I'm not an idiot. I typed it as it was spelled in this book. There was a great multi-part Lizard story where the conclusion is marred by the substandard artwork of Luke Ross. The '90s saw so many untalented hacks working in comics due to the glut of Image-inspired dreck, and this “artist” fits that bill to a tee. Horrid, horrid work. My eyes have been raped.
The book ends on an incredibly high note with the main story from Amazing Spider-Man Annual '96, a flashback story where Ben Reilly remembers the first time he met with Captain George Stacy. This “Untold” tale fills in some gaps about Stacy's knowledge that Peter Parker was actually Spider-Man. Of course this is told from Ben Reilly's perspective, since it was believed that he was the real Spider-Man and not the clone. Unlike many ret-cons, this does not contradict any of the events of the Silver Age.
Aside from two really, really, really bad issues, which were so bad that I docked the book .75 points and I am angry that those issues were ever published in the first place, this was another solid, enjoyable read. I still can't see why this era of the title is despised so much. Only one more Clone Saga book to go!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I love these big fat chunky trade paperbacks. These Epic collections warm my completist OCD heart!
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Onslaught Vol. 5 trade paperback cover.
The left is this book, the right is the X-Men Onslaught book.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Everything looks great except for page 14 of Amazing Spider-Man #415. I checked in my copy of X-Men: The Complete Onslaught Epic Book 2 TP from 2008 and it looks fine there, but here it looks like portions of the page were printed off-register. Was this unique to my copy or was this a print run wide defect? Was this a printer error or did someone goof up during restoration? I am going to guess printer error, since the work was already done for the aforementioned book and I can't imagine Marvel remastering these issues again specifically for this book and then screwing it up.
Paper rating: 4 out of 5. Thin dull matte with a slight sheen coated stock. It holds the color well and the thinner stock helps...
Binding rating: 4.25 out of 5. ...the book to lay pretty flat. The binding, combined with the thickness of the book due to the page count, gives this book a malleability that allows it lay flat in one hand like a giant periodical, which is just incredible for a softcover book.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. I love the thick, waxlike lamination that Marvel uses on their cardstock covers.



2 comments:

  1. Interestingly enough, both Luke Ross and Joe Bennet have gone on to produce much better, classically styled worked in the 2000s, which seems to indicate they were either directed to draw in an over the top manner, or were trying to emulate the worst stylistic impulses of the Image crew to get work. Ross has done some stuff on Brubaker's cap run that blended in seamlessly with Epting, Perkins, and Guice so they both actually have some talent. I want to say both did work on the most recent Jonah Hex series and it had a Bronze Age look.

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    1. Interesting. I have read all of the Brubaker Cap issues, so I am sure that I enjoyed his more recent work. We'll just chalk up their early work to youthful naivete.

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