Saturday, July 29, 2017


SPIDER-MAN BY TODD McFARLANE OMNIBUS (Marvel, First Printing, 2016; Hardcover)

Collects Spider-Man #1-14, 16 and X-Force #4 (cover dates August, 1990- November, 1991)

Writer and Artist: Todd McFarlane with Writing by Fabien Nicieza and Rob Liefeld (X-Force #4), artwork by Rob Liefeld (X-Force #4) and additional Inking by Rick Maygar, Scott Williams, and Jim Lee

Todd McFarlane's adjective-less Spider-Man series, released during the summer of 1990, was, for all intents and purposes, the opening bell for the speculator bubble of the 1990s. We all know what happened, we all know why it happened, and we all see aspects of it being repeated by the industry today.

McFarlane was a breath of fresh air when he exploded on the scene in Amazing Spider-Man back in November of 1987*. I was a first day buyer back then and was immediately taken aback by this bold new take on the character. His version was like a creepier version of Steve Ditko's Spider-Man. He had been in the business for a few years already but he was new to me .

*Comic cover dates were four months ahead when purchased in Direct Market, or comic specialty shops as we called them back then. Cover dates were three months ahead on newsstands like 7-11. By the time that this adjective-less series hit the stands cover dates had been adjusted to being two months ahead for the DM, three for newsstands.

This was among the first Marvel series to be structured in arcs, with each issue being Part _ of _ of said story title. This was done so that it could be repackaged into books for the emerging trade paperback market for mainstream bookstores. As strange as it may sound here in 2017, there was a time when Marvel did not think of the collected edition when making their comic books. The full bleed artwork was also a new thing at the time.

This dark take on the character was fascinating because it simply hadn't been done before. The Horror elements are brought to the fore in this series. While McFarlane would like to make this out to be a more adult take on the character, his sexual double entendres are adolescent and embarrassing to read as an adult. This being the dawn of the '90s, !!!totally extreme!!! thinking was the order of the day. To be fair, the action sequences are a blast. McFarlane's exaggerated anatomy and almost cartoony depictions of people give his art a unique look which would be aped by numerous artists and become a cliché. Credit where credit is due, he did this stuff first and he did it the best. Motion lines, excessive detail, and unrealistic anatomy would dominate most of the 1990s because of him.

The first arc of five issues has been repackaged numerous times as Torment. This is the Lizard as his most brutal. The endless DOOM DOOM DOOM DOOM DOOM sound effect jungle drum beats got old fast, especially since this wasn't the first time that I've read this material. My son wanted to read this book with me but bailed after five issues. He seemed bored with this, which kind of surprised me. I figured that the fast pace of McFarlane's stories would be right up his alley but I was wrong.

The second arc, Masques, has also been repackaged multiple times. I had the old original UK trade years ago but dumped it because I predicted this book once Marvel rereleased these arcs in Premiere Classic hardcovers. It may have taken several years for this to become reality but I have nothing but time and no shortage of stuff to read. McFarlane's take on the Hobgoblin and Ghost Rider both leave me cold.

The cover to the first issue of the third arc (Perceptions, also repackaged like Masques) is one of those boring, 'iconic' type of covers that have little to do with the interior and would plague comics in the early 2000s. Awful and lazy. The arc itself is very good, with Spider-Man teaming up with Wolverine to take on the Wendigo. Subtlety is something completely lost on McFarlane, and he drills his opinion of the then-emerging 24/7 news cycle into you. I'm old enough to remember when news was about reporting a story instead of creating one. The sensationalism spotlighted here seems downright tame when compared to clickbait garbage reporting that passes as news today.

My beloved Morbius The Living Vampire was the surprise villain in the fourth arc of the series, Sub-City. The writing in this one is pretty weak but there's plenty of action and Morbius so who cares. The book closes out with the godawful sideways X-Force crossover, Sabotage. X-Force sucks and Rob Liefeld sucks. Both are the epitome of everything wrong with mainstream 1990s comics, and I cannot spit enough venom at either one.

This being Marvel, there is an exhaustively researched section of DVD-style extras in the back. All variants and industry magazine covers, as well introductions and covers from previous editions of the various collections are included. This run means a lot to fans 10 or more years younger than I am. It's not the best era as far as I'm concerned but it's a fun enough read and serves as an object lesson why dark and gritty Spider-Man doesn't really work. For the younger set this is one of the defining runs for the character.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- This is pretty “thin” for an Omnibus, clocking in at 16 issues and a another two issue's worth of extras. It's heft is little more than an oversized hardcover from a decade ago.
Linework and Color restoration: The restoration in this book is decent.
Paper stock: Fair weight semi-glossy coated stock.
Binding: Sewn Binding.

Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Dustjacket has the same lamination found on all Marvel Omnibus dustjackets. The hardback has paper casewrap with the image printed on it.

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