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Paul McNamee "Rambleast Reviews" (North Ireland)
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Spider-Man: Spider-Hunt (Amazing Spider-Man (Paperback Unnumbered))
Spider-Man: Spider-Hunt (Amazing Spider-Man (Paperback Unnumbered))
by Tom Defalco
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spider-Hunt, 11 Feb 2013
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Spider-Hunt came out during a strange, half-forgotten period in Spider-Man history. We all remember events from the 60s: the creation of so many now-iconic supervillains, the foundation of Peter's supporting cast laid and all that glorious Ditko and Romita art. The 70s brought more outlandish stories, from vampires to the Spider-Mobile by way of high tragedy in the death of Gwen Stacy. Hobgoblin, a new costume and Venom came to define the 80s, and the 90s built to and some might say ended with the Clone Saga. Between that and the start of JMS' run in 2002, people tend to forget there was a glorious period of four monthly books freed from the burden of convoluted crossover narratives with some pretty talented chaps onboard offering mostly inconsequential, but I still feel classic, Spidey tales. Spider-Hunt is one such tale, and it's collected alongside preceding and following issues in this volume, originally appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #432-433, Spectacular #254-256, Peter Parker #88-90 and Sensational #25-26 from 1998.

The basic plot element here is that Norman Osborn, having returned in the final issue of the Clone Saga to the collective shock and likely dismay of readers the world over, has framed Spider-Man for the murder of a small-time hood not long after recording him beating him snotless in the supposed privacy of his offices in his civilian identity. He later orchestrates a plan to convince the world he's NOT the Green Goblin which involves the kidnap of his grandson by a never-identified conspirator inside the suit (and I do mean never, though I think at the time we were supposed to think it was poor Flash Thompson, one-time Hobgoblin patsy). As a result, many foes scuttle out of the woodwork to collect the bounty he's laid on Spidey's head, from the familiar (Punisher) to those whose contribution to Spidey lore is sadly limited to their appearances hereabouts (such as Jimmy 6 and Fortunato). This in turn facilitates a great big action-packed story and Pete's decision to temporarily shelve the webs in favour of four separate new identities 'til the heat dies down. Yeah. A lot happens in these ten issues.

The first, written by Howard Mackie and illustrated by John Romita Jr., really sets the tone with a great script and that fabulous blocky JRJR art, set during a snowstorm in the heart of the city. The Mackie and Romita era on Peter Parker: Spider-Man (formerly The Adjective-less Spider-Man) has long been a favourite of mine and it's great reliving that late 90s nostalgia in this collection. Funnily enough, and this hasn't changed with age, I've always seen their book, during this period at least, as the main Spidey title. Odder still is that erstwhile Amazing scribe JM DeMatteis, who eloped two-thirds of the way through the whole Clone debacle, returns here scripting Spectacular, meaning you have two of the all-time greatest and influential Spider-contributors (the other being Junior) and neither of them on the flagship title, then manned by Tom DeFalco and an occasionally McFarlane-aping Luke Ross (though Romita turns in a guest issue for the book, meaning we get 22 more pages than we should of some of his finest work).

There's a solid emphasis on the rest of the cast in these issues. Like I said, Norman features heavily. I actually hate Norman Osborn so much it goes beyond being able to appreciate him as a fictional character and story catalyst - I just want him out of Pete's life and out of my sight. Flash is serving as his assistant, while he's also bought the Daily Bugle making for a compromised Jonah and a resigning Robbie. Mary Jane's more involved in Peter's superheroics than ever, going as far as to design his four new costumes for the following volume, Identity Crisis, while the Stacys are still hanging around the background waiting for that big storyline that never really came. This is a book with a rich vein of secondary plotting, which is another reason why I feel this era is so unfairly overlooked.

In the end, it amounts to a great story in which characters are introduced and separated before being carefully woven back together again. It boasts some great art (one issue even comes courtesy of Tom Lyle, former Peter Parker: Spider-Man penciller before Junior replaced him in 1995), equally great writing with no-one letting the side down and even some very welcome references to poor Ben Reilly, the scapegoat who met his end in that same issue that Norman made his return. I'm always glad to see Ben remembered. Plus, as part of the main story's aftermath, we're treated to a trip to the Negative Zone (and a boss new costume) and a nonsensical issue devoted to White Rabbit's kidnapping and ransom of Grizzly and the Gibbon. A great package. Identity Crisis is the immediate successor to this volume, so be sure to pick that up as well.


Spider-Man: Danger Zone (Amazing Spider-Man)
Spider-Man: Danger Zone (Amazing Spider-Man)
by Dan Slott
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Danger Zone, 11 Feb 2013
Danger Zone collects two arcs from Dan Slott's run on Amazing Spider-Man: Alpha (issues #692-694) and Danger Zone (#695-697), with Avenging Spider-Man #11 bridging the two for added value. Alpha is the series' anniversary story commemorating 50 years since the publication of Amazing Fantasy #15 and by far the better of the two runs included here - Danger Zone suffers from a lackluster script and an overwhelming sense of missed opportunity. Note also that Amazon's using an outdated solicit for this book - their description mentions Amazing Spider-Man Annual #39, in which "Spidey is stuck in a world where Peter Parker never existed - and reality is coming apart", which has been moved to Avenging Spider-Man: Threats & Menaces.

Alpha begins, as many stories do, at the beginning. No, I mean the VERY beginning: Humberto Ramos recreates AF15's opening pages to show what Midtown High's like nowadays, and how life is in particular for teen nobody Andy Maguire. Right from the off, it's clear this kid is no Peter Parker. After Peter turns up to show off some Horizon tech (which feels like a nod to his teaching position from JMS' run from ten years ago), chaos ensues and soon enough Andy's displaying all manner of powers and quickly demonstrates the real value of Pete's character by not handling the responsibility aspect of the old adage nearly as well. Peter puts it best himself: "He's such a jerk". The rest of the story hits on several keystones that go some way to explaining why Spider-Man's lasted these first 50 years. His spends much of the arc wrestling with that same sense of responsibility, particularly as it was his discovery that led to Andy - now Alpha - ending up as potentially one of the most powerful people on earth. What stuck me as most interesting, though, is Pete's decision to take this power from Andy, same as he'd doled it out, because he doesn't think the kid's worthy of it. This follows on from his reluctant and ultimately failed decision to kill the Lizard in the previous volume - he's making hard, hard decisions that feel true to the character and are carefully justified, despite going against a lot of what he stands for. The issues really get the point across that Peter's upbringing had a hand in his turning out so well, as opposed to Andy's disinterested parents from whom he quickly emancipates himself after capitalising on his success.

Alpha succeeds as a story largely because he IS such a jerk. There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing him shot back to earth after abusing his powers to cash in, score with chicks and make a name for himself at school, and the story's only drawback is that in its earlier stages the implication is that to stop him, Pete'd have to kill him, and this isn't followed through with. It feels shelved, and sure enough an Alpha miniseries is nearly upon us as I write this, so it does, unfortunately, bear the whiff of editorial interference. I'm not saying Peter WOULD have killed him, but where it starts and where it ends don't feel like the same story. As a tribute to Spider-Man though, and what it is that makes him the greatest comicbook hero of all time, it hits every mark.

The Avenging Spider-Man issue, in which Peter and May visit Ben's grave, is a little depressing, and with totally unsuitable Steve Dillon art I might even suggest giving it a miss. It's not like Peter's guilt over Ben's death isn't well enough handled - it's what's driven the series since day one - and it sort of kills the momentum following Alpha's action-packed events (during which, seeing as I failed to mention it earlier, Ramos proves why he's THE Spider-Man artist these days).

Another factor in dropping this collection from a higher overall rating is Danger Zone itself, the blame for which must be laid at the feet of Christos Gage who scripts from Slott's story. There's just no life at all to the dialogue in these three issues, in which after a few books' worth of hints the original Hobgoblin returns to make things difficult for Phil Urich's Hobby who's been gracing these pages since Slott's run began. Thing is, nothing really happens - this is as disposable as Spidey runs come, and feels all the moreso considering its place wedged between Alpha and Dying Wish (which it sets up with a frankly goofy subplot concerning Madame Web and the ever-approaching gold Octobot...), despite plenty of potential with Peter at the Kingpin's mercy with his Spider-Sense run amok and the Goblins at war over the key to one of Norman Osborn's vaults. I'm not saying every story should influence events for months to come, but even the ones that don't matter should be well scripted. Otherwise, why read? I can recall my interest waning when these issues were published last Autumn and this second readthrough has confirmed this isn't a story I'll look forward to like I have with the rest of these Slott colllections. It also succeeds it making Peter's Boss, Max Modell, look stupid for not figuring out, after all the evidence laid before him, that Pete and Spidey are one and the same. I don't think he's keeping it to himself, I just think we've been asked to suspend disbelief a little too long. Camuncoli's art is awesome, but this is filler at its dullest.

The book also includes the six variant covers for ASM #692, but for no good reason they're two to a page when they ought to have been reprinted full size, particularly considering Marcos Martin's five minimalist masterpieces, one for every decade. The letter column from issue #692 is also reprinted though, which is nice for those who didn't pick a copy up (or the rest of us who sold it to buy this collection instead). ASM #692 also had a pair of backup stories, which can be found in the same Avenging Spider-Man book I linked to at the start of the review. For more anniversary antics, check out Brian Bendis' Spider-Men, which sits a little outside Slott's continuity but for me was by far the most enjoyable of all of Marvel's celebrations last summer.

The previous books from Slott's run are Big Time, Matters Of Life And Death & The Fantastic Spider-Man (all collected in Big Time Ultimate Collection), The Return of Anti-Venom, Spider-Island, Flying Blind, Trouble On The Horizon, Ends Of The Earth and Lizard - No Turning Back. Dying Wish collects the final three issues of Amazing, which'll take you right the way up to the recent relaunch as Superior Spider-Man. I'll be reviewing each volume over the next few weeks if you care to have a look.

***As ever, I keep an eye on the comments section, so if you'd like to know anything about the book please ask below.***
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2013 10:20 PM BST


Spider-Man: Big Time Ultimate Collection
Spider-Man: Big Time Ultimate Collection
by Dan Slott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £29.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big Time: Ultimate Collection, 10 Feb 2013
First off, please note these books are also collected separately as Big Time, Matters of Life and Death and The Fantastic Spider-Man. As I've already reviewed each, I'll be posting those here as well. This Ultimate Collection offers all three in a more affordable paperback and reproduces all extras from the previous editions (as detailed separately below), and is a perfect jumping on point for brand new readers or those who've drifted over the years. For a full list of the Slott collections that follow this, see the end of the review.
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BIG TIME
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The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time collects issues #648-651 of that series from early 2011. This volume marks the start of Dan Slott's run as sole writer on Amazing, and there's no better place to jump on board to get caught right the way up to where things are now.

In the first five pages of this book, Slott lets us know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, that he's in but doesn't lead and is still somewhat awed by the Avengers and that not all of his team-mates know who he is but more importantly that some do. We see his individual dynamics with the rest of the team, and we learn that the mayor - and by extension the public - are prone to mistrusting him, all while dealing with the latest machinations of a classic villain. All in five pages, gang. Just five. It's at once funny and dramatic, and brilliantly illustrated by Humberto Ramos as coloured by Edgar Delgado, the Mexican dream team. As we move on, we're introduced to Jonah Jameson, his son and his wife. We have insight into what Spider-Man thinks of the military (it's clichéd, but of COURSE Peter would think they're the "real heroes": he's not and never has been a character for the enjoyment of the cynical). We even have a panel devoted to his interaction with each member of the Fantastic Four. His powers - webbing, adhesion, spider-sense - are established. He drops popular culture references that feel informed, relevant and natural unlike those of the decades gone by which almost always seemed like attempts to make the character seem younger. Another three panels take care of the status of his relationship with Black Cat, and another two cover his supporting cast and of course, the power/responsibility keystone the book is built on. Without further ado, enter the Sinister Six, and after some more inter-team interaction you're set - you know what to expect from Spidey without anything being forced down your throat, gently eased in without even realising it. Slott works hard (though it never shows) to give you everything you need to know to get to grips with this series.

And then he starts to shake things up. One More Day went out of its way to reset Spidey in a needless effort to refocus his appeal, but now that he's in sole control of the book, Slott has no time for that. As a result, we open on Peter bemoaning his lack of money after just saving the earth from something Tony Stark and Reed Richards couldn't, and just about the same time we realise the silliness of this - poverty despite genius - Slott does too, and makes a change for the better. Characters, you see, should grow. They should change and evolve, whether through marriage, bereavement or even financially, and these things could come to define them as much as things that happened to them 50 years ago if given a chance. That's what Slott's done with Big Time - he's taken Spider-Man in a natural direction because he's not afraid NOT to be constantly paying tribute to Stan Lee and company. This applies doubly for the idiosyncratic Ramos, the latest true 'personality' artist to work on the series. Slott takes elements from the past and progresses logically, even lifting from the all-but-forgotten 90's (by the way, when the editor writes "see Green Goblin #1-13 on page 18, he's referring to Green Goblin: A Lighter Shade Of Green, though I'd not recommend it).

Now, fair enough, I don't care for Pete's current love interest, but I was a Spider-Marriage supporter - if she's not MJ, I don't wanna know about it. I can still appreciate the layer of the Carlie/Peter relationship though, and furthermore appreciate Carlie as a barrier, narratively speaking, between Peter and true happiness. That's a pretty elongated way of saying I don't like Carlier Cooper but I'm not upset she's there. He also takes time to explain why the symbiote was allowed to remain bonded to Eddie Brock and Mac Gargan while Venom was incarcerated all those years (while also setting up Rick Remender's excellent Venom solo series).

But the real hook is this: chances are you know someone who could be doing better with the skills they have and it hurts not to see them succeed. Same with Peter. It's easy to relate to, which is why Big Time is so satisfying. Seeing him head over to Horizon Labs, get the tour then end up working there is the closest I've ever felt to pride for a fictional character. Slott makes you feel for Peter, rejoice for his accomplishments, and succeeds in establishing a status quo that goes against the grain and works anyway because he knows the characters head to toe and inside out. Cap it all off with the return of a beloved villain and various hints at what's to come and you've got a literally perfect first issue.

Oh yeah. That's all in a single issue of this great run. The rest of the book sees further establishment of Peter's new colleagues, this new villainous threat (spoiler: it's a Hobgoblin, but is it THE Hobgoblin?) and the sewing of other seeds that will sprout glorious fruit throughout the later run. This is the best Spider-Man has been in a long, long, long time folks, and you owe it to yourself as a lifelong fan or a first-time reader to get onboard, because whichever side of that fence you fall on, this book is just the book for you.

Extras include a pair of back-up stories from issues #650 & #651 that concern Mac Gargan's recovery of his Scorpion identity (which pays off in later stories) and variant covers and sketches.
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MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH
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Matters Of Life And Death is the second collection of Dan Slott's run on Amazing Spider-Man and covers issues #652-657 and #654.1 of the title, all from 2011. After such an impressive first volume, Matters Of... manages to keep the momentum rolling with a succession of frankly indispensable issues that further confirms Slott's status as one of the greatest Spider-scribes since 1962, aided here by former ASM writer Fred Van Lente on additional scripting duties under Slott's plotting.

The book centers around "No One Dies", a two-part story illustrated by Marcos Martin (whose combination of distinct linework and Ditko-homage really sets him apart on this book) which adds to Spidey's ever compounded sense of guilt and gives him that titular motto to run with as an ethos from here on out. Spidey's dedication to making sure no-one on either side of the criminal/ civilian divide bites the big one is one of the most profound statements about Peter's character in fifty years: its impossibility places enormous self-made pressure on his shoulders and sets him up for failure from the get-go, but that doesn't curb his optimism or determination for a moment. The story packs an emotional punch despite a one-off villain, and boasts a memorable Martin dream sequence with a startling image or two that really sticks in your craw. The first ten speech-free pages of #655 are an artistic anchor for a story bloated with grief and prove that when Martin has time for Spidey it's something to be grateful for.

"No One Dies" is preceded by a two-issue tale in which Alistair Smythe (he of Spider Slayers) employs The Scorpion (reintroduced in Big Time) to lead an admittedly rubbish 'insect army' as part of a master plan for simplistic revenge. One of Slott's greatest attributes as a writer is his use of classic Spider-Man foes like an artist would shades of paint, adding texture and drive to a story if not actually defining it. More seeds are sewn for future Doctor Octopus appearances in this volume - check my review for Ends Of The Earth to see where that ends up.

ASM #654.1 (and the last few pages of #654) work as a lead-in to Rick Remender's ongoing Venom series, and establish that series' frankly brilliant central conceit that the erstwhile villainous symbiote is to be bonded with a series of jarheads as a military tool and the specifics of how the government intend to keep it in check. Why it deserves a place in this collection is because, of course, the first (?) of these jarheads is Peter's one-time tormentor and good buddy Flash Thompson. The use of this Iraq veteran who's lost his legs serving his country really makes that series special, and it's well worth checking out. The first five issues are collected simply as "Venom By Rick Remender" and the next three are in "Spider-Island", which is linked to below. I just thought I'd mention that as the dedicated Venom trades appear to skip right from #5 to #9.

Rounding out the book is a tie-in to the then-current run of Fantastic Four comics, in which founder member Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) had just died. Naturally, as comics go, his time off this earth wasn't fated to last, but what comic deaths serve to do (aside from spiking sales: let's be honest) is afford writers and artists an opportunity to explore how these deaths are handled. Sure, they rarely end up meaning as much when someone is miraculously restored, but that doesn't make #657 any less touching a tribute to Johnny and Peter's friendship (told in flashbacks and as illustrated by four masters of their craft). The issue also sets up Spidey's membership with the Future Foundation - you know, the other FF.

What you have, then, is a selection of stories that when looked at as a whole represent just one portion of one of the most consistent runs in mainstream comics in years. As I'll always say, Slott's understanding of and respect for Spider-Man and his supporting cast (to which Slott continues to devote equal time amongst the old and the new) is what makes these books instant classics. He uses old villains the way they should be used, he can tell a great compelling story (I'm having trouble not reading more than one of these collections at a time because I'm trying to pace myself), he handles humour and gravity adeptly and he will make you care about these little sketches of people like only the very best in the medium's history can.

Oh, and it wouldn't do not to mention Stefano Caselli, whose art stands alongside's Humberto Ramos' as the most strongly associated with Slott's writing on the series, and is superb as ever on those issues he handles in this collection.
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THE FANTASTIC SPIDER-MAN
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The Fantastic Spider-Man is the third book of Dan Slott's run as writer on Amazing Spider-Man, though this volume collects several fill-in issues from other Spider-writers and features a revolving-door cast of artists. It collects #658-662 (as well as those issues' back-up stories) from 2011.

The Fantastic Spider-Man coincides with the launch of Jonathan Hickman's FF and as a direct result the stories here suffer somewhat from a sort of cross-promotional dilution. Given that there are six pencillers at work across five issues, there's also a sense of compilation that you don't get with the rest of Slott's collections. Despite this lack of cohesion, the first story in the book (which sees Spidey and the FF travel across space and time to deal with imploding giant atoms, French alien invasion and zombie pirates in true Stan 'n' Jack fashion) is a total hoot and worth the book's price alone. Art varies wildly from issue to issue but not one of the artists is bad, at least, so it's hard to say 'the book has bad art' and I'm not doing so. Slott is aided by Fred Van Lente on the scripts for a pair of issues (as in Matters Of Life And Death) and the pair work well as a plotting/ dialoguing entity.

There's also a two-parter in which Spidey substitutes at Avengers Academy (a welcome callback to his teaching position during JMS' run), which sees him lose control of a bunch of kids and is a whole heap of fun. Finally, he teams up with Ghost Rider (in a three-part backup series written by the hugely under-rated Rob Williams, who also turned in a great Avenging Spider-Man Annual late last year and is one to watch for on future Spider-scripting gigs) in order to tame a literally Satanic living motorcycle. His loss of his Spider-Sense back in Big Time is dealt with more noticeably in this volume, throwing up difficulties during battle in a couple of issues and leading to his eventual decision to try and find a suitable replacement.

The thing is, the whole book feels like "Spidey Meets...", which is I guess the role Avenging Spider-Man would end up fulfilling a few months later. It's like a sideshow attraction, a worthy read that doesn't really take the story anywhere (even though, as in the previous two volumes, Doctor Octopus appears once again to strengthen the foundations of his malevolent machinations in Ends Of The Earth). Peter's civilian life is barely touched upon, unfortunately, but as usual Carlie Cooper suffers the most, not because she's a terrible character (she is) but because she's illustrated differently by every single artist who gets his hands on her (and when a company can't decided what their flagship hero's love interest looks like, it's about time to rethink things, I reckon). In all, not a place to start, but a worthy stopgap between more important and engrossing stories.

The usual gallery of applicable variant covers is present, but there's nothing else in the way of extras.

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The next volume of Slott's tenure is contained in The Return of Anti-Venom, and continues in Spider Island, Flying Blind, Trouble On The Horizon, Ends Of The Earth, No Turning Back, Danger Zone and Dying Wish, which'll take you right the way up to the recent relaunch as Superior Spider-Man. I'll be reviewing each volume over the next few weeks if you care to have a look.

***As ever, I keep an eye on the comments section, so if you'd like to know anything about the book please ask below.***


Spider-Man: Lizard - No Turning Back (Amazing Spider-Man)
Spider-Man: Lizard - No Turning Back (Amazing Spider-Man)
by Dan Slott
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lizard - No Turning Back, 10 Feb 2013
What's most interesting to me about No Turning Back is how Marvel have chosen to release it. I seem to recall these issues being promoted during their summer 2012 release with the tagline "There's no turning back for Spider-Man", and that certainly makes more sense as it relates to the final issue of the four-part story, so the insertion of "Lizard" into the trade's title has me somewhat baffled. I guess it's not relevant, though. It doesn't change the fact that the book, collecting Amazing Spider-Man #688-691 and Untold Tales Of Spider-Man #9, is one of the best collections from Dan Slott's run as writer that started back in 2011, and which I've linked to in full at the end of the review.

It was actually No Turning Back that marked my return to collecting Amazing Spider-Man monthly after a sixteen-year hiatus. Blame Hollywood. The cynical among you may balk at its release coinciding with the Lizard-starring Amazing Spider-Man cinematic reboot from last year, but inbuilt cross-promotional qualities can't tarnish this story's credibility at all, not one jot. This is not some cash-in. It has value both as a sequel to the polarizing Shed (collected in The Gauntlet - Volume 5), which at the time stood as the only truly great Lizard story ever written, and as part of the buildup to Dying Wish, the final volume of Amazing Spider-Man before its relaunch earlier this year as Superior Spider-Man. There's not much to do with the Lizard (I always sort of turn off when he appears in classic stories), so Slott wisely ties this book heavily into Shed as well as the Lizard/Morbius/Spidey tussle from way back in ASM #101. The real hook of the story, though, is that Lizzie spends most of it as Curt Connors, making his reptilian monologue all the creepier. It's much easier to accept a monster when they look like a monster, after all.

But as I was saying earlier, despite the collection's retroactive retitling, the story's about Spider-Man and the lengths he's prepared to go in order to finally curb both Connors' and Morbius' respective menaces. The book is full of knock-down characterization, from Spidey's commitment to taking that one final step to make sure Lizard won't kill anyone else to Mary Jane's purchase of a nightclub to throw a party celebrating Peter's saving the world in Ends Of The Earth simply because she was so completely sure he would do so. One issue ends with most of Horizon Labs' staff in lockdown with an army of mutated lizard-chaps, only for the next issue to reveal they're in no danger because lizards aren't hostile to humans anyway. Lizard-as-Connors makes for some great gags (he replies "human, Spider-Man. I'm feeling very human" when asked how he's doing) and the book is loaded with dark-as-death humour. Giuseppe Camuncoli's on art for this one and his renditions from coworkers to villains via cityscape and beyond are excellent, drawn in a rough sketchy style that aids the story's frantic pace with a sort of rushed intensity, and a last page reveal means any fans of classic Spidey WILL be back for the next volume, Danger Zone, guaranteed.

Seeing as the four-issue arc's a little slim for its own volume, the Lizard-starring Untold Tales Of Spider-Man #9 (from 1996) is thrown in as padding. It doesn't bear on the main story other than in its choice of villain, and is part of a longer story from that series which I've reviewed, just for you, and can be found here collected in totality (Untold Tales of Spider-Man Omnibus). The five variant covers for the original issues are also collected.

The previous books from Slott's run are Big Time, Matters Of Life And Death & The Fantastic Spider-Man (all collected in Big Time Ultimate Collection), The Return of Anti-Venom, Spider-Island, Flying Blind, Trouble On The Horizon and Ends Of The Earth. Next is Danger Zone, and finally Dying Wish, which'll take you right the way up to the recent relaunch as Superior Spider-Man. I'll be reviewing each volume over the next few weeks if you care to have a look.

***As ever, I keep an eye on the comments section, so if you'd like to know anything about the book please ask below.***


Wonder Woman Volume 2: Guts HC (Wonder Woman (DC Comics Numbered))
Wonder Woman Volume 2: Guts HC (Wonder Woman (DC Comics Numbered))
by Cliff Chiang
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Guts, 9 Feb 2013
The superbly subtitled Guts collects issues #7-12 of the New 52 relaunch of Wonder Woman from Spring/Summer 2012. Considering I enjoyed the first volume, Blood, and have followed the series monthly since then, that makes for a total of 17 Wonder Woman issues read by me, ever. I'd like to think this puts me in a suitable position to recommend it to new readers, though, because for a lot of you out there this IS going to be a first foray into the world of a Wonder Woman solo series. For all her contributions to major DC events over the years, double-dubya holds to her name no single point-of-reference classic: no Dark Knight Returns, no All-Star Superman, no The Death Of Gwen Stacy. As such, it's much easier to get to grips with this series because we're free of the burden of continuity, and thus free to jump in headlong and see where exactly Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are headed with her. The main thing you need to know is it's a very good book, and I'll tell ya why.

Myth. Wonder Woman, also called Diana in less formal circumstances, is a princess from Greek myth and as it emerged in Blood, the daughter of the big man himself, Zeus. The Greek myths are a great forerunner to modern comicbook lore, full of huge characters doing ridiculous things, for fun and forever. Though it feels a little like cheating to transplant such established characters from history books and rubbish Liam Neeson movies in place of regular supervillains, it's hard to complain when they're handled as well as they are here. It's about time we accepted War, Pestilence, Hermes, Apollo and their ilk as rivals for Joker and Luthor in the DC canon - they can be shaped to modern whims without losing any of their inherent mythological significance and the very notion of coupling legendary figures with the foibles of humanity - most notably, here, family - is inspired and the real driving force behind the series.

Next in line for driving privileges, though, is Diana herself. Wonder Woman kick ass, is the thing. With weapons forged by Hephaestus (forever voiced in my mind by Rip Torn thanks to God Of War III), she goes about her business swinging swords at the hordes of her brand new brethren with admirable viciousness and a refreshing lack of moral restraint. She's not crazy, or anything, but she's a warrior, and Azzarello gets this. You will too. She spends a lot of Guts looking for (and then after) a pregnant young woman she's befriended who, like her mother before her, has fallen for the charms of Zeus and is as such left with the very immediate problem of an illegitimate child whose father's wife is out for the vengeance that saw Diana's mother turned to clay. This splash of soap opera holds the story together and makes vengeful queen Hera's fate in later issues all the sweeter.

Diana also makes a trip to Hades (which also, remember, is the name of the god that rules it and who is here depicted as a young boy with a candelabra for a head) which affords Chiang a chance to shine in the fantasy artwork department and some killer WW philosophy from Azzarello: Diana loves everybody, because she's incapable of not loving anybody. That notion, as better explained in the book than in this review, I might add, was what elevated from the series from 'great writing, great art' to 'must-read, classic-DC-in-the-making'. I suggest picking up both volumes (both available in hardcover) and then jumping onboard the series monthly, which has (as of February 2013) published its 16th issue (and don't forget that pesky #0). It's the best of the New 52, I think, and with JH Williams' Batwoman offering competition, that's no small feat.

***As ever, I keep an eye on the comments section, so if you'd like to know anything about the book please ask below.***


Avenging Spider-Man: My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends
Avenging Spider-Man: My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends
by Zeb Wells
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.17

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends, 7 Feb 2013
I held off buying this for a long time.

I am a stupid person.

I can recall a time when there were four regular monthly Spider-Man books, with a fifth on a quarterly schedule and countless miniseries and one-shots popping up all over the place. The market was saturated with crappy Spider-Man stories but there was the odd gem in there and to be honest, I'd rather at least have the option of buying a new Spidey book every week than not have it. Amazing Spider-Man, up until its recent replacement by Superior Spider-Man, had been shipping either twice or thrice monthly to make up for the lack of alternatives for several years, but all that meant was more of the same stories by the same creative team. Now, considering that team is headed by Dan Slott and boasts among its artists Humberto Ramos, Stefano Caselli and Giuseppe Camuncoli, believe me when I say I'm not complaining. All I AM saying is that if the main book is in the midst of a long-running saga of some sort it may be tonally compromised, and besides, the same book being written by one guy month in and month out leaves little room for that level of experimentation.

What we needed was a second book, and so it was that the generous folks at Mighty Marvel did heed our call. This series has crossed over with Amazing a few times in its relatively short run (its 17th issue has just been published as I write this) but its M.O. is to tell Spider-Man stories that can run and jump and fall over and get all messy because in the big scheme of big things, they don't really matter. Sitting outside the usual involved continuity means writers can take time to explore facets of Peter's personality that don't really fit anywhere else, against backdrops as varied as a huge subterranean adventure or an inconsequential patrol session. Each issue sees Spidey team up with another of his fellow Avengers (so yes, this is the modern age equivalent to Marvel Team-Up), which considering the roster for that particular group/army of costumed chaps offers nearly limitless story potential.

Enter Zeb Wells, formerly of the rotating shift of Spider-writers in the Brand New Day era. I like this guy enough that if he were announced tomorrow as Dan Slott's replacement due to some unforgivable crime against comics, I'd not only get over Slott's loss in an instant but I'd do it with a smile on my big fat face. His first three issues here prove he can tell an all-action, all-adventure story with big laughs and solid team-up dynamics, and the next two add heartfelt poignancy to that list of qualities. Avenging Spider-Man #5 is a genuinely touching comic, and I daresay one of the best single-issue Spidey stories I've ever read. I'm careful with my praise, but this series is so worthy of mine, and yours.

Joe Madureria draws that first story, in which Spidey and Red Hulk head off underground to rescue the Mole Man from, frankly, some gigantic bullies. His art has such an impact, really announcing this series as something to be paid attention to and more than another cash-grab by Marvel. His work complements Wells' script perfectly and I'd be happy if were the regular artist on the book. #4's Hawkeye teamup - which boasts such a defining moment for that character I'm surprised it came this late in his history - is handled by Greg Land, about whom I feel the exact opposite, but as a fill-in on a single issue I can just about tolerate. He just draws... weird (when he's not off tracing other artists' work - it's hard to get behind a guy who's been caught doing that as often as Land). The fifth - and best - issue comes courtesy of Leinil Francis Yu, who balances half an issue's action with half an issue's introspection on Captain America's part. This is the one you're buying the book for, by the way. A few of the issues had variant covers when first released and each of these is collected as extras herein.

My Friends Can Beat Up Your Friends seems on so many totally superficial levels somewhat disposable, from the title to the Avenging font and even arguably to Madureira's cartoonish cover, but what it comes down to is these issues are really, really funny and capture the essence of the character - and oddly enough, the characters he pairs up with - so perfectly that it rivals Amazing for best book on the stands. You'll find something to love every couple of pages, and I guarantee that if you love Spider-Man, this is one to treasure.

Some notes: though this first volume, collecting #1-5, is available in hardcover, the subsequent volumes are only releasing in paperback. The obsessive amongst us ought to consider that in assembling our collections.

Volume 2 - The Good, the Green and the Ugly - collects #7, #9-10 and #12-13. If you're looking for #6, that's part of a crossover collected in Daredevil by Mark Waid - Vol. 3, and #8 appears in Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth as a sort of coda to that story. The third volume - Threats & Menaces - collects #14-15, as well as the 2012 Annuals for both Avenging and Amazing and the backup material from Amazing Spider-Man's 50th anniversary issue, #692. I'll be uploading reviews for each of these in the next few weeks so feel free to have a look if you like.

***As ever, I keep an eye on the comments section, so if you'd like to know anything about the book please ask below.***


Spider-Man: The World's Greatest Superhero (Amazing Spider-Man (Paperback Unnumbered))
Spider-Man: The World's Greatest Superhero (Amazing Spider-Man (Paperback Unnumbered))
by Marvel Comics
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.69

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The World's Greatest Super Hero, 7 Feb 2013
The World's Greatest Super Hero collects the five Point One issues of once-cancelled series released in summer 2012 to commemorate Spider-Man's 50th anniversary - Peter Parker Spider-Man #156.1, Sensational Spider-Man #33.1-33.2 and Web Of Spider-Man #129.1-129.2. The usual function of such issues is to launch a spinoff series or spotlight a supporting character, though in this case they're used to celebrate the character's history with three stories spread across those five issues that veer from serious reverence to lighthearted sendup.

Roger Stern's return, in PPSM #156.1, is the most welcome and easily the best of the bunch. The issue sees Peter return to the warehouse where he caught his Uncle Ben's killer back in his debut issue and features references to moments from Stern's 80's run on Amazing to other classic Spidey tropes like shifting huge amounts of rubble and struggling underwater. Those may sound like minor details but they speak volumes about Stern's subtlety in acknowledging both some of the most important moments in the character's history alongside less important factors from midway through the run. Roberto De La Torre's shortcomings in the facial department are more than made up for in his flair for drawing Spidey and Matt Hollingsworth's colours go a long way to improving it. The issue has a neat John Romita Jr. cover, too.

The Sensational issues are set not long after Brand New Day and Jonah Jameson's election as mayor. Obviously Tom DeFalco really wanted a shot at tackling nobody's favourite Spider-squeeze Carlie Cooper, because these issues are Cooper issues with a guest appearance from Spider-Man. I guess Humberto Ramos has finally gotten to that stage of his career where he's influencing younger artists, because apart from the way Carlo Barberi draws Spidey himself, this book could almost pass for a Ramos job, though a less successful one with even less understanding of human female anatomy at that. Such was always the way with spinoff titles, though. I can recall with no fondness the glut of Larsen/ McFarlane wannabes that graced the pages of Spider-Man Unlimited and countless other miniseries back in the 90's, and if it helps to consider these issues as a tribute to THAT practice of hiring fill-in art clones, have at it.

Stuart Moore's Web Of Spider-Man issues seem like their creators had the most fun of the bunch. Spidey recounts how he once formed part of the ill-fated Brooklyn Avengers and briefly rejoins them to help solve a mystery amongst their ranks. It's a perfect blend of stupid comedy and the serious pang that as ever with Peter Parker, with great power comes great responsibility, and succeeds in convincing us that a story we've never heard of before did in fact take place when he was young. Rob Campanella's art is suitably cartoonish for this largely outlandish tale.

On one hand, it seems a shame that the resurrected series didn't reunite the teams working on them when they originally ended (when the Web issues were announced, my prayers for a return to penciling Spider-Man by Steven Butler went unanswered), but the chosen few involved really handle the juggling of Spidey's past and history very well. For more anniversary-related issues, try Brian Bendis' Spider-Men crossover and the Alpha storyline in Danger Zone which were also published to celebrate the series' August debut.


Spider-Man: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers
Spider-Man: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers
by Randy Emberlin
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Invasion Of The Spider Slayers, 6 Feb 2013
Invasion Of The Spider-Slayers took Amazing Spider-Man into 1993 with a six-issue run (#368-373) written by David Michelinie and illustrated by Mark Bagley. It's typical 90s fare - an abundance of robot attacks peppered with family drama and guest appearances - but it's towards the higher end of that decade's early Spidey stories thanks to a decent script and Bagley's art, which by this stage was developed enough to show why he eventually became the definitive artist on the title for the 90s and even beyond.

The actual Spider Slayer invasion takes a back seat to the ongoing trauma in Pete's life: the reappearance of his presumed-dead parents. Why trauma? Well, being Peter Parker, he's unable to take this occasion without the usual measure of doubt and mistrust, and spends a lot of these issues wondering aloud about whether they're really his parents or not. After all, he's dealt with all manner of illusions and clones in the past, so why should this be any different? Writers have since admitted that they didn't really know where the story would end up when they started it, so by its conclusion in "Lifetheft" (not presently collected but available in ASM #386-388) it was no longer being handled by Michelinie and early dialogues and motivations were rendered inert.

Of course, the book's not sold as The Invasion Of Possibly Fraudulent Parents, so it might do to talk about the robots. Or not. It takes too much of a back seat to the family stuff to really make an impact, and when Spidey does catch up with their creator Alistair Smythe the fight's over in such a hurry you'll wonder what the point was. These issues, as originally printed, had six-page backups devoted to secondary characters and as such the main stories were those six pages shorter, so the whole book moves along at an increased pace but never really introduces, develops or pays off on anything. Of note is the continuing 'Mary Jane is smoking now' plot that Michelinie was so fond of, because it's as inane as ever and so much time is devoted to it that you can't help but laugh. Some of the Slayer designs are pretty neat (one even wound up as an action figure when the animated series debuted a few years later, as did the others that actually appeared in the show), and Bags draws a mean Electro and Scorpion even if his Black Cat is a little TOO "90s slutty".

It ends on a cliffhanger - Peter's decision to maybe tell his parents about his secret identity - that's followed up on in issues collected in Vengeance Of Venom, and is worth owning considering it's cheaper than the original floppies would be, but it's not essential stuff for the Spider-collector. High marks for Bagley's art, lower marks for actual content.


Spider-Man: Round Robin : The Sidekick's Revenge
Spider-Man: Round Robin : The Sidekick's Revenge
by Al Milgrom
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Round Robin: The Sidekick's Revenge, 6 Feb 2013
Bad, bad comics, is what this is.

Round Robin: The Sidekick's Revenge is an early example of the practice of writing for trades that has since become the norm for US comics, and collects Amazing Spider-Man #353-358 from late '91 and early '92. Written by Al Milgrom (filling in for David Michelinie, the series' then-regular scribe) and collecting some of Mark Bagley's earliest issues as long-term penciller, the story concerns an erstwhile sidekick of Moon Knight's, Midnight, who's been resurrected as a cyborg and is feeling vengeful. Also figuring into the mix for no good reason at all are New Warriors Nova and Night Thrasher, and the Punisher. Oh, and Spider-Man, but that's not important.

Oh, wait, that IS important. It's important that Spider-Man feature in his own book. I just forgot because Al Milgrom evidently doesn't want me to think so.

Yes, this is gluttonous, nutrient-deficient 90's Marvel at its very worst: a six-issue saga featuring a cavalcade of heroes and villains so far down the list they bypass a letter of the alphabet altogether, fighting and fighting, and then pausing to relay their origins and innermost thoughts once an issue or so, and resuming fighting and then fighting some more 'til the story ends because someone blows up or has a change of heart or something equally as compelling happens.

That might seem harsh, but it's a fair description of this book. Michelinie was a great writer and I've never read an issue of Spider-Man that he wrote that I didn't like (though he tried his damndest with The Assassin-Nation Plot). Milgrom, on the other hand, is not a great writer. Many would argue he's not even a great artist. Thankfully, that's not an issue here (even though Bagley's early work isn't particularly exciting, much as it honestly shames me to have to admit it). Milgrom throws cyborgs, a shady cult, personality-free grunts (including The Seekers: Sonic, Grasp and Chain!) and daddy issues aplenty at us and nothing sticks. I paid close attention while reading - I'm not in the habit of not reading things while I'm reading them - and even now I'd struggle to give you a detailed rundown of what happens. I remember the early reveal that Aunt May loves watching wrestling on TV, that no fewer than three characters have some variation of 'night' in their name and a misjudged post-coital quip from Peter and that's about it. Oh, and a panel in which Punisher conveniently recounts his origin in his sleep for the benefit both of the characters who've only just met him and unfamiliar readers that made me laugh aloud.

What you have is something that can't even merit a second star. There's just nothing there for it. The writing's bad, the art's not great and the plot isn't, well, it isn't there. Worst of all, it's never explained why it's called "Round Robin". That just bugged me from start to finish, that did.

Bad.

Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad.


Spider-Men (Spider-Man)
Spider-Men (Spider-Man)
by Brian M Bendis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.29

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spider-Men, 5 Feb 2013
Of all the events that commemorated Spider-Man's 50th anniversary in 2012, from goings on his his own main Amazing series to the reignition of his silver screen efforts, Spider-Men is by a long stretch my favourite. I honestly couldn't envisage a better distillation of elements that make the character work while also paying due tribute to the relatively young Ultimate universe in which this five-issue series is set. Peter Parker is a good enough character that his actions shape this entire miniseries despite the absence of his entire cast (save for one genuinely shocking and Ultimate Universe fan-pleasing revelation about a certain classic bad guy), and the Ultimate Universe is in turn so well developed that it can handle a crossover of this magnitude (at least on a personal scale) with total ease.

Sara Pichelli's turned in some great work on Ultimate Spider-Man (also called Ultimate Comics Spider-Man) but offers here arguably the best work on a Spider-title for the whole year. Coloured by Justin Ponsor, her flair for facial expression and a unique attitude to action and framing makes for a truly beautiful book. If you go for the hardcover edition (as opposed to Panini's paperback, only available here in the UK at the time of writing), you'll get the increase in size that Marvel sometimes offers for big events such as this, and I'd recommend it - the series itself as well as the gallery of variant covers for every issue benefit massively from the increase in size. Just in case you ARE reading this review on the paperback version's page, the hardcover is on this page.

Bendis' script carries the series despite a relatively thin plot (Peter goes to another universe, interacts with the people there, comes home again), but that's not a criticism - a series like this lives and dies on how characters interact with each other, not on how many lives are threatened or how many buildings are blown up. Seeing Pete get a chance to interact with alternative versions of people he knows, as well as dealing with the news that over there he died in his teens, is why Spider-Men exists, as well as deepening the story of young Miles Morales and furthering his connection with the May and Gwen of the Ultimate side.

Considering how aside from all that sterling character work it also leaves room for a sequel of some sort, I don't see how better the opportunity could have been taken. As a note-perfect summation of the character whose anniversary it celebrates, another entry in the fledgling saga of a new Spider-Man and simply as a humorous and heartfelt gorgeously illustrated example of comic art, it is a true masterpiece.


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