SPIDER-MAN: THE DEATH OF JEAN DEWOLFF (Marvel, 2011; Hardcover)
Collects Peter Parker, The Spider-Man #107-110, 134-136 (cover dates October, 1985- March, 1988)
Writer: Peter David
Artists: Pencilers- Rich Buckler (#107-110) and Sal Buscema (#134-136) with Inking by various artists
The year was 1985. The summer was hot as Hell, and since my family was poor we did not have air conditioning. It was in this hot, humid setting that I read issue 107, and that feeling of oppression still resonates every single time that I read this issue. I bought it off the spinner rack at the 7-11 by my house an as 11-going-on 12 year old kid. I pulled out my original comics to compare to the remastered versions found in this hardcover, and was surprised to see that my 108 and 109 were Direct Market versions. The first Direct Market comic book shop within walking distance of my house opened up that summer, and so I must have bought those two issues there before returning to 7-11 for 110. It was during the spring of 1986 that I started buying comic books exclusively at comic shops, since they came out three whole weeks ahead of newsstands like 7-11.
|My original issues from 1985.|
Peter David was a newcomer to the comics scene, a fact that I was unaware of at the time. He had scripted a handful of self contained, mostly unremarkable issues in both this title and Amazing Spider-Man, but it was with The Death of Jean DeWolff that he hit the big leagues, at least in my opinion. It was dark, way darker than any Spider-Man comic book had been. Certainly darker than any I had ever read at that point, and I loved it. Comics getting edgier and darker were fresh and new in the '80s. Now they are stale and old. I can see a modern comics fan picking this up now and shrugging their shoulders in indifference since comic book deaths are a dime a dozen.
Rich Buckler's artwork is gritty and hard edged. It has held up very well nearly 30 years later. Sal Buscema's artwork was wretched on the sequel, though. I liked Sal's '70s output as a kid, but even as a 14 year old reading #134-136 off of the stands I could tell that this was phoned in, workman like art. Sal Buscema is a good storyteller with good layouts and panel composition. He understands the medium and how to make it work. He just didn't put any effort into these issues. He has done good work after these issues, further cementing my opinion.
|One of the few spots where the recoloring doesn't work well.|
Comic book deaths are now a cliched sales gimmick, but they still carried some weight in the mid-80s. This was hard hitting and coarse to me as a kid. My fun, lighthearted Spider-Man was nowhere to be found in 107-110. Bear in mind that this predates Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. There was a groundswell of darker comics at this time, only nobody seems to ever mention this arc when they have that conversation.
|Original comic book of same page for comparison.|
The addition of the sequel from #134-136 was the impetus for me to upgrade from the Spider-Man: Wizard Masterpiece Edition hardcover which featured the main arc. That book was an upgrade from the original Spider-Man: The Death Of Jean DeWolff trade paperback. While these three issues are vastly inferior to the original arc they are a nice sort of bonus feature. The steep decline in nearly all current Marvel titles circa 1988-89 are what caused me to eventually drop all comics as 1989 gave way to 1990. If I were buying only new comic books today, the situation would be identical. Luckily for Marvel they are cranking out plenty of books of vintage material to drain my wallet month in and month out.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone-The late, lamented Marvel Premiere Classic Hardcovers were a sort of junior Masterworks line. While they weren't quite the “Blu-Ray” version of these issues like you would see in a Marvel Masterwork, they are still have decent production values at a reasonable price.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Back cover of the dustjacket minus trade dress (itself a fully rendered version of the cover of #109). (1 page)
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.5 out of 5. The original color palette is maintained for the most part with only a very minor deviation here or there. All in all it could be marginally better but most sane folks would never notice.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Sweet smelling toxic ink Chinese printed on (possibly made with) virgin Amazon rainforest tree-sourced coated stock paper with a slight sheen.
Binding rating: 5 out of 5. Smyth sewn binding, 6 stitches per signature. The book lays mostly flat.