Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8

ff8First Published: May 2010

Contents: Fantastic Four #160 (July 1975) to #179 (February 1977) and #181 (April 1977) to #183 (June 1977); Fantastic Four Annual #11 (June 1976); Marvel Two-in-One #20 (October 1976); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, John Buscema, George Pérez, Rich Buckler, Sal Buscema, Bill Mantlo, and others

Key First Appearances: Crusader, Frankie Raye, Captain Ultra, Texas Twister

Story Continues From: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 9

Overview: Pay attention people! There are a lot of moving parts in this book, and if you skip a page, you might be totally lost. We’ve got multiple Reed Richards and Johnny Storms and Things, but only one Sue Richards. And if you look closely, you will see some familiar faces in the Marvel Bullpen, with Stan, Jack, George, Roy and more. All of this and more in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8.

The book starts out with a three-way war between different universes. One of those universes features a Fantastic Four where Reed Richards gained the powers (and rocky outlook) of the Thing when they were exposed to the cosmic rays. There’s another Johnny flying around too in this battle, so keep an eye out for him.

An eventful moment in the history of the team followed a unique team-up between the Thing and the Hulk. As the two were skipping around the midwest, the Hulk’s gamma-radiated body counter-acted the Thing’s cosmic-radiated body and turned him back into Ben Grimm. Faced with the requirement to maintain four powered members on the active roster, Reed recruits Luke Cage, the hero for hire, to serve as a member of the team. Luke’s stay with the team is short, thanks to the shenanigans of the Puppet Master, but it gave Reed enough time to finish an exoskeleton Thing suit for Ben to wear and regain his place in the team. However, we realize about this time that Ben is not the only one without a power loss, as Reed’s stretching ability is starting to weaken, causing him great pain when he uses his abilities.

Next, a time-travel story that teams the Fantastic Four with the Invaders and the Liberty Legion during the days of World War II. The team no sooner returns to 1976 before they find themselves caught up in a showdown between the High Evolutionary and Galactus. The world devourer is seeking to consume the High Evolutionary’s Counter-Earth, and the FF is sent out to seek out a suitable replacement world to sustain Galactus. One is found, but it comes with a cost – the return of the Impossible Man.

Upon their return to Earth and a wild romp through the Marvel Comics offices, the Fantastic Four must stop the latest recruitment drive for the Frightful Four being held at their own headquarters in the Baxter Building. Despite the aid of Tigra, Thundra, and the Impossible Man, the Frightful Four are able to best the team with their new recruit, the Brute, who is actually the Reed Richards from Counter-Earth. The Frightful Four are defeated, but the Counter-Earth Richards replaces his counterpart as leader of the Fantastic Four, banishing our Reed Richards to the Negative Zone. The team soon realizes that the Reed leading their team is not the Reed they know and love, and they go out in search of their missing friend, but not before they encounter Annihilus.

What makes this Essential?: Once again, I wrestled with how I wanted to review this book. The end of this book is the exact era when I started reading Fantastic Four issues off of the newsstands. So I am trying to not allow my childhood nostalgia of the title cloud my objective review of this collection. I like this better than the previous Essential volume, so that is a plus. I think Roy Thomas finally started to understand the possibilities of what he could do with the characters and began working on the characters and concepts that most interested him. The art is superb, whether it comes from either of the Buscemas, Perez, or the underrated Rich Buckler. But….. I still don’t think these stories live up to the moniker of “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.” I would rather be reading the Lee-Kirby issues or skip ahead to the John Byrne run.

Footnotes: Fantastic Four Annual #11, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1 and Marvel Two-in-One #20 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Fantastic Four #180 is a reprint issue of Fantastic Four #101, which was reprinted in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5. The new cover to Fantastic Four #180 is included in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: the 2011 Impossible Man trade paperback, collecting many of the green hero’s more memorable appearances. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in Fantastic Four #11, the character was quickly forgotten about when the bad feedback came in from the readers. He sat dormant for nearly 15 years before writer Roy Thomas brought him back in Fantastic Four #176, making him a supporting character for the next few years in the FF title. In the 1980s, the Impossible Man started expanding into other parts of the Marvel Universe, crossing paths with the likes of Spider-Woman, the New Mutants, and the Silver Surfer. In many ways, you could consider the Impossible Man to be the Marvel equivalent to Bat-Mite or Mr. Mxyzptlk, as the annoying character that can do most anything to vex the star of the title. This trade paperback collects many of those fun appearances.

Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1

Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1

First Published: September 2011

Contents: All-Star Comics #58 (January-February 1976) to #74 (September-October 1978), Justice Society stories from Adventure Comics #461 (January-February 1979) to #466 (November-December 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, Gerry Conway, Keith Giffen, and Wally Wood

Key First Appearances: Karen Starr/Kara Zor-L/Power Girl, Vulcan, Helena Wayne/Huntress

Overview: In 1976, Jenette Kahn led an effort at DC Comics to reclaim the market share from Marvel Comics by increasing the number of titles published each month. Known as the DC Explosion, one of the titles launched was a relaunch of the All-Star Comics title, which had been home to the Justice Society of America in the 1940s and 1950s.

With the new launch of the JSA, three new members were brought into the team: The Earth-2 Robin, grown up and living on his own away from the Batcave; the Star-Spangled Kid, recently rescued from the past in the pages of Justice League of America; and in her first appearance anywhere, we meet Power Girl, the Earth-2 equivalent to Supergirl.

Over the next two years, many familiar faces would return to the JSA Brownstone Headquarters in Gotham City. Another new hero joins the team in Huntress, the daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman. As always, familiar foes challenge the heroes, such as Brainwave, Vandal Savage, and the Injustice Society.

Sadly, in 1978, DC Comics’ parent company, Warner, forced the publisher to scale back costs and operations, which led to the cancellation of many titles and letting go of many staffers. Unofficially known as the DC Implosion, All-Star Comics fell victim to the cancellation ax. However, Levitz and Staton were able to continue their run on the JSA over in Adventure Comics, which became a large ‘Dollar Comic’ anthology for other titles that had been canceled. Here we see the final battle for the Earth-2 Batman, and a revisit to All-Star Comics #57 to explain why the Justice Society disappeared in the 1950s.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: This is a fun, easy read that should be on many bookshelves. Power Girl and Huntress, which have both been mainstays in the DC Universe for 35+ years now, both get their starts here. For years, fans had been given teases of the JSA with their crossovers with the JLA. This was the first time readers got an extended ongoing storyline featuring just these characters. The JSA would generally remain as supporting characters for the next 20 years until Geoff Johns and friends brought back the JSA as a powerful super-hero team in the early 2000s. Fans of that series should definitely give this title a look.

Footnotes:  The original run of All-Star Comics ended with issue #57 (February-March 1951). The next issue featured a new title, All-Star Western Comics, and it continued the numbering, beginning with #58.

With All-Star Comics #57, that was the last Golden Age Justice Society story. The team was unseen for 12 years until they were brought back in The Flash #137 (June 1963).

If you like this volume, try: tracking down the Infinity Inc. series of the 1980s. Other than the annual crossovers with the Justice League, this is the continuation of the Justice Society storyline from this Showcase. The sons and daughters of the Justice Society members unite, along with the younger members of the JSA (Star-Spangled Kid, Power Girl, and Huntress), to form a new team for the new generation. Infinity, Inc., premiered in the pages of All-Star Squadron in 1983 and moved into their own title in 1984. This was a prestige-format book and was only available in comic book stores. It started out very strong, but then was damaged by the Crisis on Infinite Earths. With the multiple Earths being merged into one Earth, it altered the origin stories of many characters such as Fury (daughter of the Earth-2 Wonder Woman), Power Girl (cousin of the Earth-2 Superman), and Huntress (daughter of the Earth-2 Batman). The final year of the title limped to the finish, leading to the murder of the Star-Spangled Kid. There is a hardcover edition reprinting part of the All-Star Squadron crossover and part of the first Generations storyline. Sadly, DC has not issued a second edition to finish collecting Generations, so you are better off looking for these issues in a back issue bin.

Essential Avengers Vol. 8

avengers8First Published: April 2012

Contents: Avengers #164 (October 1977) to #184 (June 1979); Avengers Annual #7 (1977) and #8 (1978); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Jim Shooter, John Byrne, Jim Starlin, Joe Rubinstein, George Pérez, Sal Buscema, David Michelinie, Tom DeFalco, Jim Mooney, and others

Key First Appearances: Henry Peter Gyrich, Django Maximoff, Lord Chaos, Master Order

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 9

Overview: Get comfortable, loyal readers! It doesn’t get much more essential than Essential Avengers Vol. 8!

The book starts out with a bang with the return of Count Nefaria, last seen taking on the “All-New All-Different” X-Men, which led to the death of Warpath. Nefaria has hired a team of scientists to increase his powers to a level where he can go toe-to-toe with Thor. However, he finds out that the increase in his powers comes at a price, as he starts to age at an aggressive rate. The team is stretched to the limits to defeat Nefaria but the battle ends with the Avengers facing a new threat – government agent Henry Peter Gyrich. We’ll get back to him soon enough.

Next up is an epic battle that crosses over between two annuals, where the combined forces of the Avengers, Captain Mar-Vel, Warlock, the Thing, and Spider-Man must take on Thanos. This famous story by Jim Starline and Joe Rubinstein has been reprinted many times, including multiple Essential volumes as noted below.

We then find ourselves slowly building up to the next great Avengers epic. The Guardians of the Galaxy have traveled to Earth in search of Korvac, their foe with god-like powers. While this is going on, members of the Avengers start disappearing. Are the two stories linked? This is a great story that builds up over 10 issues to an explosive conclusion.

Now I mentioned Gyrich earlier. Seems he has a problem with the Avengers. Lack of security to get into the mansion. Too many people coming in and out of the line-up. Gyrich lays down the law with the team, placing new guidelines on the team in order to keep their government clearance. Gyrich not only imposes a limit of seven active members on the team, he also takes it upon himself to name the new line-up: Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast, Wasp, and the Falcon. Wait, the Falcon? We remember Captain America’s former partner, but he’s never been an Avenger before. But the government demands equal opportunities for minorities. The Falcon begrudgingly joins the team, and when the Scarlet Witch is forced to take a medical leave, she is replaced by Ms. Marvel. This gives us the new line-up for the team heading into Essential Avengers Vol. 9 and the epic Avengers #200 in the near-future.

What makes this Essential?: I just love this era of the Avengers! This has to be a must-own book for numerous reasons – the stories, the artwork, the character development, and more. The introduction of Henry Peter Gyrich opens the door for the concept that the government has some control over the Avengers. The Korvac Saga storyline may be one of the best multi-issue arcs since the Kree-Skrull War. The artwork of George Pérez and John Byrne looks spectacular in black & white. Please do yourself a favor and track down this collection!

Footnotes: Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Warlock Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Warlock Vol. 1.

Even though he is announced as a new member of the team in issue #181, the Falcon does not actually join the team until Avengers #183.

If you like this volume, try: the 1990s Guardians of the Galaxy series, with the first half of the series done by Jim Valentino. For many years, the Guardians had been those interesting backup group of characters, who never got the chance to really shine in their own feature. The Korvac storyline in this Essential is one of the longest appearances of the team until the launch of their own series in 1990. Along with The New Warriors, the new GotG title kicked off a new wave of youthful superheroes at Marvel. Valentino left after issue #29 to become one of the founders of Image Comics, but the Guardians title ran until issue #62. The Valentino issues were recently reprinted in three trade paperbacks, so they should be readily available to track down.

Showcase Presents Enemy Ace Vol. 1

showcase_presents_enemy_ace_volume_1First Published: February 2008

Contents: Enemy Ace stories from Our Army at War #151 (February 1965), #153 (April 1965), and #155 (); Showcase #57 (July/August 1965) and #58 (September/October 1965); Enemy Ace stories from Star-Spangled War Stories #138 (April/May 1968) to #145 (June/July 1969), #147 (October/November 1969) to #150 (April/May 1970); #152 (August/September 1970), #158 (August/September 1971), #181 (July/August 1974) to #183 (November/December 1974), and #200 (June/July 1976); Enemy Ace stories from Men of War #1 (August 1977) to #3 (November 1977), #8 (August 1978) to #10 (November 1978), #12 (January 1979) to #14 (March 1979), #19 (August 1979) and #20 (September 1979); Enemy Ace stories from Unknown Soldier #251 (May 1981) to #253 (July 1981), #260 (February 1982), #261 (March 1982), and #265 (July 1982) to #267 (September 1982); and the Enemy Ace story from Detective Comics #404 (October 1970)

Key Creator Credits: Joe Kubert, Robert Kanigher, Frank Thorne, Howard Chaykin, John Severin, Ed Davis, Neal Adams, and others

Key First Appearances: Baron Hans Von Hammer, Black Wolf

Overview: Flying across “no man’s land” during the height of the Great War (later renamed as World War I), Baron Hans Von Hammer leads the German forces in the air. Flying his easily-recognized crimson Fokker triplane, the “Angel of Death” fights a noble battle against his opponents in defense of Germany. This is Showcase Presents Enemy Ace.

Created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, Enemy Ace is a loose adaptation of the Red Baron story, who was an actual German pilot during the Great War. von Hammer comes from a noble family, complete with their own family flag. He has not friends, save for his personal servant that spends most of his time polishing the trophies earned from each of von Hammer’s kills. When he needs a break, von Hammer goes hunting in the Black Forest, where he is joined by his kindred spirit, the Black Wolf. They both hunt alone in life but appreciate each other’s company when reunited in the woods. brothers from a Kansas farm enlist in the Army at the onset of World War

In the air, von Hammer follows a strict guideline when engaging the enemy. He refuses to fire on an opponent that is out of ammo, even turning on the pilots in his own squadron if they break that rule. His ruthless reputation precedes him at all times, with his familiar plane bringing fear to those on the ground and in the air.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: The art from Joe Kubert, followed later by Howard Chaykin and John Severin, definitely make this a volume worth looking at. My problem is the formulaic stories used for the first two-thirds of this collection. These stories were written as a one-and-done, and no thought was ever given to the idea that they would later be collected into a complete collection like this. The stories are repetitive, with the nationality of the opposing pilot being the main difference from issue to issue.

Footnotes: “Ghost of the Killer Skies” from Detective Comics #404 was reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5.

While he is referred to as the “Angel of Death” or the “Hammer from Hell”, von Hammer is never referenced as the “Enemy Ace”. That is just the name of the feature and not his call-sign.

If you like this volume, try: Jacques Tardi’s book, It Was the War of the Trenches. Quite honestly, there are not a lot of comics based in World War I. With many of the great comic artists and writers coming of age during the World War II era, so many of the war comics are focused during the second war. But the first war is just as brutal, as epically captured in this book by Tardi. The book focuses on the struggles of the French and German forces, moving back and forth across “no man’s land” bunkered in trenches filled with sewage and rotting corpses. This is not an easy book to read, certainly not for the faint of heart. Tardi is no fan of war and points out that the only ones who want war are the military leaders and the munitions manufacturers. The soldiers in the trenches, regardless of their uniforms, do not want to be there, and will do anything (literally risking life and limb) to get out of there and return home. Enemy Ace paints a sanitized view of the war, with a certain nobility and rules to be followed when dueling in the sky. It Was the War of the Trenches shows the real view (and costs) of the war.

Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 1

WofSM1First Published: September 2011

Contents: Web of Spider-Man #1 (April 1985) to #18 (September 1986); Web of Spider-Man Annual #1 (1985) and #2 (1986); and Amazing Spider-Man #268 (September 1985)

Key Creator Credits: Louise Simonson, Greg LaRocque, Danny Fingeroth, Peter David, David Michelinie, Ann Nocenti, Mike Harris, Marc Silvestri, and others

Key First Appearances: Kathryn Cushing, Chance, Foreigner

Story Continues In: Essential Web of Spider-Man Vol. 2

Overview: He’s back in black — or sometimes red & blue. It’s the Amazing ….. no, that’s not right …. let’s try the Spectacular …. no, still not working here. Guess we better give the Web of Spider-Man a try!

Web 0f Spider-Man replaced the previously canceled Marvel Team-Up on the stands. We were still getting three new Spider-Man titles each month, just with fewer guest appearances. That’s not to say we don’t see guest stars in this collection – from the New Mutants to Dominic Fortune to David Letterman, this book has a little bit of everything.

These issues take place a few months following the Secret Wars event. Spider-Man is still haunted by the symbiote that returned to Earth with him. The series kicks off with Spidey fighting the symbiote, long before it would attach itself to Eddie Brock. A host of other familiar Spider-Man foes, such as the Vulture, Doctor Octopus, and the Shocker, soon follow.

Two longer stories really stand out in this volume. The first is a crossover with Amazing Spider-Man (complete with interlocking cover images) that ties into Secret Wars II. The Beyonder has turned a New York City building into gold, and the government, aided by the Kingpin, is in a mad scramble to remove the building before it destroys the economy. Spider-Man is more concerned about the people trapped inside, and gets upset when he realizes that the Kingpin is going to profit from this event. Spider-Man swings off with a gold notebook, which leads to the ethical questions of what he should do with it while also trying to find a way to unload it too.

Another ongoing story that crossed multiple issues featured Peter Parker as a neighborhood hero. Peter stops a mugging at the laundromat, earning him praise from his neighbors and the media. But the thugs he stopped come back to target Peter, vandalizing his apartment before eventually firebombing his place. Peter struggles to deal with these problems without reverting back to his costumed identity.

What makes this Essential?: This is a title that I read sporadically as it came out. I just didn’t have much interest in Spider-Man at this time. The problem I have with this book, and I think Marvel has realized it at different times along the way, is that there is nothing unique to this book that distinguishes it from Amazing Spider-Man or PPTSS.  There are several issues or moments that stand out in this book, such as Peter’s conversation with Flash Thompson about the high school bullying in issue #11 or Spider-Man chasing Warlock through New York City in Annual #2. But the highs don’t offset the lows in this collection. Maybe low is too harsh. The better word might be pedestrian or average. For the Spider-Man fan, I’m sure you will like this book. For the casual Marvel fan, you might consider other volumes first before this collection.

Footnotes: Web of Spider-Man #replaced Marvel Team-Up on the newsstand. Marvel editorial took a good look at the sales figures and realized that the numbers for Marvel Team-Up rose or dropped based on the co-star. Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter surmised that Marvel would be better off publishing a third Spider-Man solo title, and work in guest-stars when they were appropriate for the story.

If you like this volume, try: the original Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars. This volume has the two-part story that was tie-ins to the Secret Wars II event going on. I am not recommending you go out and read Secret Wars II. Trust me, having read it as it was happening, I have no desire to revisit Secret Wars II anytime soon. But I do go back and revisit the original Secret Wars every couple of years. Yes, this book was created specifically to sell toys. Lots of comics got their start that way, such as G.I. Joe and Transformers. But Marvel took the opportunity to make it a meaningful story, one that would have impacts on the Marvel Universe for years to come. The way the timing happened, we knew what those changes would be as the heroes returned to Earth in the comics that were released one week after Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #1. The biggest change is that Spider-Man returned wearing that spiffy black costume that reacted to his thoughts. What he soon found out is that the suit was an alien symbiote, and the Fantastic Four helped Peter separate himself from the symbiote. In Web of Spider-Man #1, we see the symbiote on the loose, tracking down Spider-Man. At the end of this volume, in Web of Spider-Man #18, we see a mysterious hand push Peter into the path of a subway train. Peter’s spider sense did not warn him, which is one of the advantages that Venom would have over Spider-Man when he made his full proper first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #300. In addition to the Spider-Man costume, Secret Wars also gave us She-Hulk joining the Fantastic Four, and the Thing staying behind on the Battleworld. The Hulk returns with a broken leg and is slowly reverting more and more to his mindless monster mode. And within the Secret Wars series, we see the X-Men working side-by-side with Magneto, which will lead to Magneto taking over the responsibilities for the Xavier School in Uncanny X-Men #200. Give this series a revisit – it’s available in multiple formats (trades, hardcovers, and omnibus editions).

Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 2

showcase_presents_metal_men_volume_2First Published: September 2008

Contents: Metal Men #16 (October-November 1965) to #35 (December 1968-January 1969); and The Brave and the Bold #66 (June-July 1966)

Key Creator Credits: Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Mike Sekowsky, Otto Binder, Gil Kane, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Metal Men Vol. 1

Overview: Those wacky robots that could only come out of the Silver Age, the Metal Men, return for more action. Behind the creative genius of Dr. Will Magnus, the Metal Men battle evil robots, travel across space, and protect the Earth from any threats. The issues in this collection follow the same formula as the previous volume, where the team fights the threat of the month. There are some stories that carry over into the next issue, but most of these are one-and-done comics.

For a quick recap, the primary team consists of the six robots created by Magnus, each containing a responsometer which helps animate the robots and provides them with a unique personality.

  • Gold, who leads the team in the field.
  • Mercury, who wants to lead the team in the field.
  • Iron, the strong man of the team.
  • Lead, nearly as strong but not as smart.
  • Tin, whose courage is his strength.
  • Tina, who believes a robot can love a human.

In addition, the team is joined by another female robot, Nameless, which we saw Tin put together in the last volume. Nameless appears throughout most of the volume, promising that one of the fans will get to name her in the letters column. While some names are given in issue #21, the Nameless name seems to stick. Unfortunately, Nameless disappeared (without explanation) when the book went in a new direction beginning in issue #33.

But going back to issue #21 for a minute, this is a quirky but important comic. First, we get cameos from Batman & Robin, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, which helps to firmly establish these heroes as part of the DC Universe. Next, the Metal Men take the initiative and seek out a mission, as Dr. Magnus is indisposed throughout the issue. (He spends 22 pages making out with the romantic interest of the month, much to Tina’s chagrin.) The fact that the Metal Men can act independently comes into play at the end of the book.

I’ve made mention twice now about the end of the book. Beginning with issue #33, the title shook things up, whether to increase sales and/or provide a new take on the characters. Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos take over the art duties, while Robert Kanigher continues to script the adventures. The Metal Men find themselves on the run. Dr. Magnus is in a coma and is unable to lead the team. In his place, his brother Col. David Magnus, who works for an unnamed branch of the military, takes over control of the robots. This initial arc ran three issues, which brings us to the end of the collection. Guess I will need to hit the back-issue bins to see how the rest of this story plays out.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I want to like this more. I want to like this as much as I liked Volume 1. But this one just doesn’t match up for me. The stories feel very repetitive after awhile. We have no new characters introduced in this volume. They still just have just the one main arch-enemy in Chemo. The highlights of this volume came with the pair of Gil Kane issues towards the end of the collection. I’m still a fan of the Ross Andru art, and that has always been a good reason for me to pick up a book. But I don’t think you need to go out of your way to include this book in your library.

Footnotes: The Brave and the Bold #66 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Metamorpho Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the three-issue story arc in Superman/Batman #34-36 from 2007. Lucius Fox has hired the Metal Men to help protect WayneTech, after a string of attacks. The Metal Men are joined by a new female robot, Copper. Of course, in a title like Superman/Batman, you might expect some Superman foes to show up, which they do with Metallo and then Brainiac. The art in this arc is done by Pat Lee, who was most known for his work on the Transformers comics of the early 2000s. He gives the Metal Men a unique look that matches their various personalities. This was collected in 2016 in Superman/Batman Vol. 3 trade paperback, so it should be easy to track down if you can’t find the original back issues.

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 5

Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 5

First Published: July 2011

Contents: Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #97 (December 1984) to #114 (May 1986), and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #5 (1985)

Key Creator Credits: Al Milgrom, Herb Trimpe, Peter David, Rich Buckler, Luke McDonnell, and Mark Beachum

Key First Appearances: The Spot, roommates Randi, Candi, and Bambi, Sin-Eater,

Story Continues From: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4

Overview: Once again, we swing into the crazy life of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. We see Peter struggling with his relationship with the Black Cat, who only has feelings for him when he is in costume. There is the question of the Black Cat’s new powers – how she came to get them, and why they are driving her away from her Spider. All of this gets wrapped up in the anniversary issue #100, with an all-out battle between Spider-Man, the Black Cat, the Kingpin, and the Spot. Yes, the Spot!

After that, we are given a lot of one-and-done stories to fill out this Essential. The title has a rotating creative team until Peter David and Rich Buckler take control of the book, creating some memorable storylines, detailed below. A benefit to these issues were some amazing covers by John Byrne for issues #101 and #102.

There is one issue towards the end, #111, which was a Secret Wars II crossover. Spider-Man’s adversary, the Puma, decides that it is his life purpose to destroy the Beyonder, and Peter finds himself with the moral dilemma of saving someone like the Beyonder.

What makes this Essential?: This book could be divided into two halves, one labeled Before Peter David, and the other Written By Peter David. The Before Peter David stories wrap up the ongoing storylines from Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 4, featuring the long-running story between Spider-Man, the Black Cat, and the Kingpin. The stories here are very similar in tone and quality to the other stories of this time (Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up).

There is a marked shift in tone when Peter David comes on board. These stories are his earliest work at Marvel, and they quickly show what an excellent writer he is of comics. The characters feel more real, more alive under David’s guidance. He shocked readers with the killing of long-time supporting character Jean DeWolff, not just proclaiming it on the first cover of the storyline, but with her dead body on page 3 of the story, giving no one the chance to say good-bye. For the work that David showed here, it is worthy of picking up.

Footnotes: Peter David would bring back the Sin-Eater in a second storyline, which ran in The Spectacular Spider-Man #134 (January 1988) to #136 (March 1988). These three issues, along with the original four-issue storyline, were collected in a Marvel Premiere edition, Spider-Man: The Death of Jean DeWolff.

If you like this volume, try: Spider-Man 2099 This was one of the first four titles in the Marvel 2099 line launched in 1992. Originally conceived as a Marvel: The World of Tomorrow project by Stan Lee and John Byrne, the concept eventually morphed into the 2099 line. The Spider-Man title ran for 46 issues, plus two specials, with almost all of the issues written by Peter David. In this story-arc, Miguel O’Hara is trying to recreate the abilities of Spider-Man when a freak accident causes half of his DNA to be over-written by the DNA code of a spider. There have been two trade paperbacks collecting the first year of the title, but the entire series is worth tracking down in the back issue bins.