Review by Frank Plowright
This is a rather contrived method of over-selling rather slight material. Yes, the story in which Gwen Stacy dies is a bone fide classic. The earlier tale of her father’s demise even has it’s moments, but it was a largely arbitrary shock ending to an otherwise run of the mill issue of Spider-Man. There was no big build-up or multi-part foreshadowing, and as the issues preceding it at least featured Captain Stacy – Gwen hadn’t featured in the two issues preceding her demise – they’re here as well.
This wasn’t Stan Lee’s finest era writing Spider-Man, and the story in which police Captain George Stacy dies was the concluding chapter of a very ordinary three part Doctor Octopus tale, although well drawn by John Romita. While very unfortunate for Gwen, Captain Stacy was a relatively minor character whose death had little emotional resonance. It’s in the stories immediately following the death that the mood is twisted, with Gwen blaming Spider-Man for her father’s death and a slimy politician manipulating tragic events to his own advantage. Gil Kane, then new to Marvel, impresses on the art.
He’s also the artist who drew the death of Gwen Stacy just under three years later. It ties in with several ongoing Spider-Man plots, including Peter Parker’s room-mate Harry Osborn having a bad reaction to LSD. That prompts his father’s memories of Harry’s previous drug experience, and in turn the forgotten realisation that he’s also the Green Goblin, and someone who knows who Spider-Man is beneath his mask. Gerry Conway sets a tense thriller around this emotional hotbed, and were it not for the conclusion being well known (and revealed by the book’s title) it would still surprise today.
The Gwen Stacy story can be found in black and white on pulp paper in Essential Amazing Spider-Man volume six, and also in Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy, the 13th volume of Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man, and in the UK as the pocket-sized The Night Gwen Stacy Died. The earlier material is in the tenth Marvel Masterworks volume of Amazing Spider-Man and Essential Amazing Spider-Man volume five. In the UK this collection can also be found among the material collected for Hachette’s partwork Ultimate Graphic Novels Collection.