Continuing his pattern of delivering new foes and challenges for Spider-Man, writer J. Michael Straczynski introduces Digger. In 1957 New York mobster Morris Forelli took advantage of a peace conference to wipe out his opposition in Las Vegas. The corpses were transported to a remote location in the desert, and buried deep. All was well until gamma bomb testing in the area created a vastly powerful composite monster intent on revenge. That’s a decent enough plot in itself, but Forelli, still alive, then hires Spider-Man to protect his family.

As drawn by John Romita Jr, Digger is quite the gruesome patchwork, and his characterisation provides an interesting glimpse into Straczynski’s writing. It straddles the fine line of pulling off a convincing portrayal of a man out of time when that time is unknown to most of the readers. Straczynski never over-eggs the references to the point of indulgence in the form of ‘I’ve done my research and you’re going to know about it’. That said, despite raising an interesting moral debate, it’s not the finest of the Straczynski/Romita Jr run, and neither is the tale after which the volume is titled

Fiona Avery co-plotted and wrote a perfectly serviceable story about Spider-Man helping one of his students. Melissa is an engaging character, and there’s a novel conclusion, but the starting point is repetitious after three such stories in four volumes.

The entire content is also found in the second bulky paperback collection of Straczynski and Romita Jr’s work on Spider-Man, and the oversize hardback Best of Spider-Man Volume 3.