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Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 Hardcover – July 1, 2002
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I'm a big Spider-man fan, but had never read many Spider-man stories from before the late 80s. I thought I should at least get a taste of the early days as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko basically invented from scratch the whole world and characters that other people have mined for decades. I chose this particular volume because I knew it contained two stories that are considered classic, the Master Planner Saga (issues 31-33) and the unmasking of the Green Goblin (issues 39-40). It also has the transition from Steve Ditko to John Romita Sr., so I'd get a taste of both iconic artists.
How you feel about this book will probably depend on what you expect to get out of it. If you aren't interested in history and just want great Spider-man stories to enjoy, you would probably find this book pretty corny and old-fashioned, and should get some Bendis Ultimate Spider-man or Dan Slott Amazing Spider-man books. However, if you are interested in this as a museum piece of classic world-building or expanding the scope of superhero characterization, it's great.
Compared to modern comics, these issues are absurdly fast paced. Each page has at least six panels, each of which tends to have a lot of text moving the story forward, so that almost every story is done in one issue, compared to the modern tendency to have arcs over 4-6 issues. Also, Stan Lee's writing is a bit dated, but what made him stand out then and does still hold up is how goofy and meta he is. He is constantly breaking the fourth wall and making fun of the silliness of the comic book stories, while at the same time, with remarkable economy, giving empathy to every one of a very wide cast of characters. Some of the writing, especially as he has asides to the reader about the writing process, is still pretty funny even today.
In this book Peter Parker actually is kind of a jerk, so wrapped up in his dual identity that he can't pay attention to or connect with other people. Towards the end of this book, and from the bits I've read of the 40 or so issues that come after this, he gets progressively more sympathetic as he tries harder to be a good guy as well as a hero, but tends to fail anyway. It's also funny to see how this book introduces for the first time Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy, although it takes a long time for Peter to finally not be so oblivious to the outside world that he can get to know them.
The middle of the book has a bunch of forgettable one-issue stories, as Lee and Ditko keep creating a whole bunch of new villains and throwing them at the wall to see which of them stick and can become recurring characters. The best stories, not surprisingly, are the ones with villains that did work, the opening 3 issues that include Doctor Octopus, and the final two with the Green Goblin. Both stories have some genuinely powerful moments and plotting that hold up even against modern stories.
Overall it's a fun read and a good bit of Spidey history, but your enjoyment does depend on whether you are interested in the history, as it doesn't have the craft of later books.
This Spiderman beginning-of-it-all is really a must for me. Marvel came to Sweden in the late 60's and the first 30 or so of the Spiderman stories were never published until in the 80's so we started directly with post-Ditko. But Romita's strong pencil work was probably better for the bw-publications that was the common comic-book standard then.
But I love this volume and it looks very good alongside the others
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I'd recommend this to anyone wishing to look back on the origin of Spidey, but don't...Read more