Review by Frank Plowright
Here we have eight issues of primarily Gerry Conway written Spider-Man material from the 1974. It’s rather the hodge-podge collecting six issues of Amazing Spider-Man, a team-up with Hawkeye and Spider-Man versus Dracula, which is better than it sounds.
The title refers to two stories featuring the Punisher, the first of which is his introduction to Spider-Man, and indeed everyone else. It was an interesting concept to insert what is, in effect, an assassin into Spider-Man’s world of costumed criminals with gimmicks. The Punisher is targeting him as he’s been deceived into believing Spider-Man is involved with crime. It’s a decent debut, well drawn by Ross Andru, as is most of the material here. The Punisher turns up again later in the book with the Tarantula in his sights. He’d later devolve into one of the more ridiculous villains to plague Spider-Man, but here is given a plausible background as a former freedom fighter whose excess led to exile.
In between there’s a story that showcases the both the best and the worst of Conway’s material at the time. The gang war and rivalry between Hammerhead and Doctor Octopus is well played out mayhem. The idea of Aunt May and Doctor Octopus marrying was an idea better left in the pub.
A two-part tale returns the Molten Man (at the time unseen for eight years), which has its moments, and was the last full Spider-Man story illustrated by John Romita, and the Dracula tale, written by Len Wein, has a good twist and a decent portrayal of Dracula. It works largely because it’s set in a confined area, and while they share the story and each plays their part, there is the most minimal interaction between Spider-Man and Dracula.
For those who’ve never read the material before, these digest sized reprints of primarily 1960s and 1970s material issued by Marvel’s UK arm provide a value for money package. Those who’d prefer can find all but the substandard Hawkeye team-up in either cheap format black and white as part of Essential Spider-Man volume six, or split between Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man volumes 13 and 14.