Spoilers in review

Some writers who’ve built up a long run on a title resent the intrusion of crossover events, but credit to J. Michael Straczyski, he embraced both Spider-Man joining the Avengers and the subsequent Civil War. That began when Marvel characters either supported or opposed legislation obliging them to register with the authorities, in doing so revealing their civilian identity. The events of this volume result in a massive upheaval to the status quo in Spider-Man, and there are spoilers in the third paragraph.

Three pencil artists are used in this collection, as many as in volumes 1-3 combined, and it’s to the detriment of the stories overall. Ron Garney and Tyler Kirkham can both tell a story, but neither has the dynamism associated with Straczynski’s Spider-Man to this point. Joe Quesada has that in spades, but the gloomy nature of the ‘One More Day’ is exemplified in his approach of strongly contrasting light and shade.

A benefit of Spider-Man allying himself with Tony Stark is the technical expertise at his beck and call. Stark designs Spider-Man a new red and gold costume with a considerable number of upgrades, but this is after Peter Parker has agreed to become his right-hand man, following his lead without necessarily knowing the final destination. Stark vehemently favours registration of superheroes, and persuades Spider-Man to reveal his identity on live television. That has repercussions among friends and enemies, deftly handled by Straczynski, but the major problem is that the decision appears irreversible. This comes into focus when Spider-Man realises how aggressive Stark’s agenda is, and the consequences for those whose opinions differ.

The Civil War sequence is dialogue heavy and plods in places, but there are also some fine sequences, particularly involving Reed Richards. The real world parallels of some elements are hardly subtle, although more likely to be part of the bigger story rather than anything conceived by Straczynski.

When the Civil War is resolved, there’s a casualty very close to Spider-Man, and now back in his black costume he desperately attempts to locate the culprit and to save a life. It leads to a stunning beatdown in prison, and to Straczynski’s final Spider-Man story in which a reset button is pushed, but with consequences. It was a story that outraged many who viewed a restoration of the status quo as cheating. If you’re not of that opinion, it’s a fine tension-building story as Spider-Man explores the options open to him to save a life in a world of Marvels.

Overall, this is very much a roller-coaster ride for both Spider-Man and story content. Despite some excellent moments, this is the weakest collection of Straczynski material. It should be stressed, though that even with that assessment it’s still superior to most Spider-Man comics for a decade before Straczynski took over the scripting.

The stories are available as individual collections as The Road to Civil War, Civil War, Back in Black and One More Day.