SPIDER-MAN: THE COMPLETE BEN REILLY EPIC BOOK 4 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 411-413, Daredevil No. 354, Sensational Spider-Man Nos. 4-6, The Spectacular Spider-Man No. 234, Spider-Man Nos. 68-70, Spider-Man: Redemption Nos. 1-4, Spider-Man: Team-Up No. 3, and Spider-Man Unlimited No. 12 (cover dates May- December, 1996)
Writers: Tom DeFalco, Karl Kesel, Dan Jurgens, Todd Dezago, Howard Mackie, J.M. DeMatteis, and more
Artists: Pencilers- Mark Bagley, Cary Nord, Dan Jurgens, Sal Buscema, John Romita, Jr., Bob McLeod, Mike Zeck, and more
Inkers- Larry Mahlstedt, Al Milgrom, Matt Ryan, Klaus Janson, John Stanisci, Al Williamson, Bob McLeod, and more
Colorists: Malibu, Bob Sharen, Christie Scheele, Gregory Wright, John Kalisz, Kevin Tinsley, Tom Smith
This is significantly darker than volume 3 was, with Ben Reilly seeing his world falling apart all around him. Volume 4 focuses on the dynamic between Spider-Man (Ben Reilly) and Kane, particularly the Spider-Man: Redemption mini-series. More of the spaces of those “Lost Years” get filled in during that story. I was thrilled to see the creative team behind the legendary Kraven's Last Hunt arc, J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, reunite for that one. Whatever happened to Mike Zeck, anyways? He did some tremendous stuff and then just seemed to vanish.
I enjoyed the Hobgoblin, this being the third one (Jason Macendale, formerly Jack O' Lantern), a sort of cybernetically enhanced hi-tech Hobgoblin as opposed to the truly demonic version that was Hobgoblin III. Gaunt, who is pulling the strings, is something of an enigma. He hints at being someone who Spider-Man knows, but his face is obscured by his exoskeleton suit.
While the overall tone of this book is darker than before, there are still a few fun, whimsical stories, such as Amazing Spider-Man #413, a done in one called Bug Story. In it, we see an updated riff on the classic issues 66 and 67, with Mysterio once again convincing Spider-Man that he shrank him down to 6 inches tall.
The writing and artwork are all pretty solid, although there is an occasionally weak issue here or there. I found myself really enjoying Dan Jurgens' stuff, though. On the artwork side, John Romita, Jr. is a treat as always. While all of the crossover issues, one-shots, and mini-series seem excessive, I still do not see why this era of the title is so widely derided by fans. So far. If there is a train wreck coming down the tracks, let me stumble upon it for myself.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I love these big honking trade paperbacks. 464 full color pages. I am excited about all of these Epic Collection trade paperbacks coming out and plan on buying them all, unless the material has already been covered in another format.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Early cover version of Amazing Spider-Man #413. Recolored images used on front and back cover of this collection minus the trade dress.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Everything looks excellent.
Paper rating: 4 out of 5. Thin semi-glossy coated stock, not quite as glossy as Volume 3 had. 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.