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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life in the 1980s, 22 May 2014
Mr. Mice Guy (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Spider-Man: Life in the Mad Dog Ward (Amazing Spider-Man (Paperback Unnumbered)) (Paperback)
The story running through Web of Spider-Man #33, Amazing Spider-Man #295 and Spectacular Spider-Man #133 (from 1987) is collected, along with a sequel from Spider-Man #29 & #30 (from 1992/3), as Spider-Man: Life in the Mad Dog Ward (Amazing Spider-Man (Paperback Unnumbered)). They are stories of their period in time, and though they are readable, Peter Parker's internal monologues would have had even Virginia Wolff reaching for the blue pencil. The artwork is reasonably good, though the fashions of the day do stand out glaringly - Mary Jane in really big hair is a shock: I'm glad I wasn't reading comics at the time, or I'd have given up in horror.

`Life in the Mad Dog Ward' sees Peter Parker end up in the Kingpin's private insane asylum, tucked away in the back of a `real' hospital and used to dump embarrassing or potential useful people. Spider-Man has stumbled upon the place while looking to rescue a mobster's wife, and is gunned down and imprisoned there by the guy in charge of the secret wing. The mad scientist is not interested in whom Spider-Man really is, and for some reason, the Kingpin forgets to ask; one of the many `suspension of disbelief' moments that go a bridge too far in this story.

`Return to the Mad Dog Ward' sees the mad scientist from the previous story locked away in a loony bin, but being used by the evil doctors running it to help with their experiments on some of his former victims. He happens to be cleverer that they are, and fools them into thinking he's mad while running his own experiments. Spider-Man runs into some of the experiments out on day release to rob an armoured car, and has his suspicions aroused about their origins. Following up the leads triggers the release of a super-loony with the usual results. There is also a lot of introspective soul-searching by Pete and Mary Jane, and helping of helpless victims of the system. Again, reasonable artwork and not enough blue pencil work; but that was the way in those days.

This is a readable volume, but be prepared to remember the horrors that were `the past'. If you are too young to remember the late 80s and early 90s, then you will feel sorry for what your parents had to go through.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dragged down by the poor sequel, 11 Feb 2014
Alan the Kaz (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spider-Man: Life in the Mad Dog Ward (Amazing Spider-Man (Paperback Unnumbered)) (Paperback)
“Life in the Mad Dog Ward” collects two Spider-Man stories in one book, the “Mad Dog Ward” storyline from the 1980s, which immediately followed the classic, “Kraven's Last Hunt”, and it's 1990s sequel by the same writer, Ann Nocenti, “Return to the Mad Dog Ward”. Although the original story is generally fondly remembered, I never even knew that a sequel existed until this came through the post, and it's clear to see why. Although the original is a fascinating and slightly eerie drama, quite unlike any other Spider-Man you'll have ever read, the sequel goes off in a completely different direction, presenting an unmemorable generic superhero action comic that does no justice to the original. Quite what Nocenti, a generally highly praised writer, was thinking when she wrote “Return to the Mad Dog Ward” is anybody's guess, and the end result is an uneven collection that I would be hard pressed to recommend to anybody.

The original isn't a perfect story. By itself, I'd probably give it a very solid three stars. That isn't to say that it isn't worthwhile at all, but rather it's a good story that doesn't quite live up to its potential. Ignoring the fact that the dialogue has dated, I find that this story suffers from an over-reliance on things just happening at the right place at the right time, and some plot points that are just incredibly poorly thought out (like how, for instance, Ann Nocenti seems to have forgotten what the concept of a “secret identity” is). Living, as we now do, in an era of decompressed stories written to be collected in TPBs, old time fans like myself often look back fondly at stories like this which weren't padded out into five or six issues. However, in the case of the original “Mad Dog Ward” story, I think an extra two or three issues would have been beneficial, as we could have had some more character development and progression showing our hero's descent into seeming madness. Furthermore, had there been an extra two or three issues, Marvel's collections department wouldn't have felt the need to include the three part sequel...

As bad as it is, “Return to the Mad Dog Ward” isn't a pointless sequel. The plot holes and unresolved issues that abounded in the original story were practically crying out for a sequel, but this isn't what it should have been. But what's interesting about it is that, where the original was very much a reflection of the “grim 'n' gritty” 1980s superhero comics scene, “Return to the Mad Dog Ward” just as equally epitomises the shallow and dynamic world of 1990s superhero comics. Both stories are very much products of their time and, as a result, “Return”'s inclusion makes for interesting reading. Although “Return” isn't as bad as many of the 1990s superhero comics out there, it's still an unmistakable one star storyline in my opinion, and so I have no choice but to drag this otherwise promising TPB's score down to two stars.
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