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Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 6 (Marvel Essentials) Paperback – December 28, 2011
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The only downside of this volume is when Spidey and Dracula show up in the same issue. Do we really need to see them together? What purpose does it serve to put them on the page together?
It's a great group of stories and any Spidey fan will love it and will want to own it. Check it out!
However, both you and I know why you are might be considering this volume, The tragic two-parter that changed everything, via the death of a major supporting character It is the perfect amount of emotion, violence, and action, ending masterfully in a bittersweet final scene between Mary Jane and Peter. But trust me, there are other gems as well such as finishing up the Hammerhead/Doc Ock Feud from last time, The Molten Man literally and metaphorically falling apart, an excellent battle w/ Luke Cage, and the most bizarre comic book wedding of all time. Just read it for the horrifying reveal, trust me on this.
Even though the best story (121-122) is in the middle, the action and story just builds and builds upon itself and carries steam into the next volume. If you love Spider-Man, particularly from this era, this is the volume for you. I didn't even mention some of the other excellent moments scattered throughout because I hope people discover it and are surprised like myself. Read it for yourself and enjoy this celebration of Spider-Man!
The book kicks off with #114 and #115 which continues a previous story arc about a gang war between Doctor Octopus and Hammerhead. The book also establishes a long time problem of Aunt May staying on as Doc Ock's housekeeper much to Peter's distress.
Issues #116-118 reprints and revamps a story from the magazine size Spectacular Spider-man #1 featuring the story of a reform mayoral candidate and a strange man-monster pursuing him. The action is a good and the story is decent as far as it goes. The story creates a minor continuity issue since the name of the candidate wasn't changed. Still, the result isn't bad.
Issues #119 and #120 have Peter Parker going to Canada to investigate a strange letter sent to Aunt May that may tie into the reason for Doc Ock's interest in her. While in Canada, he fights the Hulk. The story is good and a nice crossover that takes Spider-man out of his element and allows him to meet up with General Ross. The action is good and my only problem with it is that Spidey's attitude is a bit inconsistent with what was betrayed in Annual #3 when he chose to let the Hulk go out of compassion even though it cost him his first chance to join the Avengers.
Issue #121 is the big one. It's, "The Night that Gwen Stacy Died." which is one of the seminal events in Spider-man history and the history of comics in general with many saying that Spider-man #121 marked the start of the more serious Bronze Age of comics. Clearly, the biggest reason for the death of Gwen Stacy is that the author didn't know what else to do with her. Dating back to Issue 111, Conway had done very little with this relationship, so her death was necessary.
However, Conway goes beyond necessity and creates a masterful story that acknowledges the real impact of what happened when she perished as a result of Spider-man's fight with the Green Goblin. The reaction is realistic and completely believable. The emotions are handled appropriately and with great sensitivity, adding depth to Spider-man character.
The one unrealistic part was Gwen dying before Spidey's web hit her. This was retconned to her dying as a result of her spine snapping when the web grabbed her close to the ground.
At any rate, Issue #122 has the follow up death of Norman Osborne and also begins to see the development of Mary Jane Watson as a character which Conway also does in a very subtle intelligent way throughout the book.
Issue #123 has J Jonah hiring Luke Cage to go after Spider-man and is really a showcase for that character that works pretty well. Issues 124 and 125 are another great concept as J Jonah own son has become one of the "freaks" he raves against as a new Man-wolf. Issue 126 features the return of the Kangaroo. Issues #127 make up a nice two parter about the apparent return of the Vulture with some great plot twists along the way.
Issue #129 is the first story featuring the Punisher. It's pretty basic but gives a good outline of the character. Issue #130 has the return of Hammerhead and leads into Issue #131 where Peter has to prevent Aunt May from marrying Doctor Octopus. It's a fun story, but you just have to avoid thinking about why Doc Ock is wanting to marry Aunt May because it breaks down. Issues 132 and 133 have Conway revamp yet another previously introduced villain into a major menace and he does a great job with the Molten Man.
Giant Sized Spider-man #1 features a team up between Morbius the living Vampire and John Jameson as Man-wolf. The story is probably one of the weakest in the book but still okay.
Giant Sized Spider-man #1 was written by Len Wein and has Spider-man and Dracula in it, though the two don't do battle although Peter Parker bumps into her in the hall. This is a decent story of murder and fear on a cruise boat with Spider-man needing to find a scientist to get them back to New York to save Aunt May. Issue #134 has Spider-man fighting the Tarantula with the Punisher joining in Issue #135 after initially believing Spider-man was in league with the Tarantula (hmm, the Punisher must read the Daily Bugle.) The Punisher is pretty reasonable in this story and suprisingly so given how the character developed as he's okay with Spider-man catching Tarantula and turning him over to the police.
Giant Sized Spider-man #2 (also by Len Wein) has Spidey teaming up with the Master of Kung Fu with both men beginning the adventure thinking the other is a villain. This was a nice change of pace and just a fun team up that took Spidey out of his element.
Issues #136 and #137 feature the reveal of the new Green Goblin as Harry Osborn in a truly epic story.
Overall, this is a book that lives up to his title as these are truly essential tales. Several issues are much-read including the first Punisher stories, the Night Gwen Stacy died, and the last two stories featuring Harry Osborn. That which isn't actually essential is very well written and pretty darn interesting. Conway doesn't redo the Spider-man mythos but builds on it and the results are amazing. The book has a variety of artists including John Romita, Gil Kane, and Ross Andru, and all do an equally great job of capturing the classic feel of Spider-man.