Review by Frank Plowright
With Spider-Man and his world occupying so many titles, this oversize hardback collection was created as an annual anthology intended to collect the best Spider-Man stories of the previous year, in this case 2001. While from the marketing view it may make perfect sense, it’s an odd editorial decision, not least because Spider-Man stories at the time extended over multi-issue arcs instantly limiting the selection. It was also the case that one Spider-Man title ranked head and shoulders above the remainder, and volumes 3–5 were exclusively culled from J. Michael Straczynski’s work.
He and John Romita Jr are the primary contributors here with their first Spider-Man story arc. It introduces the evasive Ezekiel and sets up a battle with the seemingly unstoppable Morlun, who’s compelled to hunt Spider-Man due to previously unconsidered aspects of his origin. In other hands this might come over as unwelcome tinkering for the sake of it, but Straczynski’s idea and delivery are rock solid and have further repercussions later. It’s a landmark story collected individually as Coming Home.
Three chapters are sourced from Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, a title designed to spotlight characters associated with Spider-Man and top rated creators unwilling or unable to contribute to a regular series. Peter Millgan and Duncan Fegredo’s two-part examination of The Rhino, and his newly increased intelligence is terrific, funny and heartbreaking. Not so funny, but equally good is Greg Rucka and Eduardo Risso’s dark tale of the Kingpin summoning one of his long-serving lieutenants after an operation he planned goes wrong.
Perhaps on the basis that the collection had to cover all Spider-Man titles we also have ‘The Big Score’ by Paul Jenkins and Staz Johnson, following a private eye convinced he’s discovered Spider-Man’s civilian identity. The ending is well conceived, but the quality falls well below the remainder of the book.
Rounding out the volume, the spotlight shifts to the alternate Earth of the Spider-Man appearing in the Ultimate line-up. As Spider-Man’s presence is minimal in this three-part story, it’s an odd editorial selection, probably based on some interesting Bill Sienkiewicz art. The focus is largely on the Punisher and Daredevil, the latter representing a crooked cop in his civilian identity as a lawyer. Brian Michael Bendis moves the script along in his customary fashion, but it’s not three chapters worth of plot.