Amazing Spider-Man: Mark of the Tarantula

Amazing Spider-Man: Mark of the Tarantula
Spider-Man Mark of the Tarantula review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-0-7851-8510-9
  • Release date: 2013
  • UPC: 9780785185109
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

The consensus regarding Roger Stern’s most memorable Spider-Man action stories would be the desperate struggle with the Juggernaut and the Hobgoblin sequence. They’re found respectively in Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, which precedes this collection, and Origin of the Hobgoblin, which follows it. So where does it leave this selection?

Well, possibly as under-rated. Their placing alone indicates Stern and John Romita Jr were on a very fine run in 1983, and if you allow for the conventions of the era – not many large panels, loads of thought balloons and much dialogue – they’re still very readable.

They begin with a two-part cracker picking up on Stern’s separation of the Cobra from his old villainous partner Mr Hyde, founded on the latter’s pathological personality being unable to accept the partnership being dissolved. Spider-Man again being outclassed in power terms is mixed with fine foreshadowing regarding the supporting cast that comes to fruition in the title story.

That runs to four chapters and is sparked by the Daily Bugle’s reporters investigating shady activities at the Brand Corporation, and it’s good. The investigation is dependent on locating a source who’s on the run, and there’s a price on his head attracting a couple of villains. In his introduction to these stories as reprinted in the hardcover Marvel Masterworks, Stern reveals he didn’t much care for the Tarantula as a character, which explains what happens to him irrespective of carrying the volume title. The Bugle has been integral to Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s lives over the years, and Stern’s use of it sparkles, featuring several staffers beyond the usual delight of seeing J. Jonah Jameson’s regular humiliation. However, any decent writer ought to come up with comedy moments for Jameson, but Stern justifies him as a journalist amid a tightly plotted thriller with a good role for an anti-hero.

Throughout his Spider-Man stories Stern filters in villains not regularly associated with him, and the Stilt-Man is another. One of Daredevil’s earliest foes, as the splash page notes, no-one takes a guy in an armoured suit with extendable legs seriously anymore. Plotted by Stern, scripted by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Bob Hall, it’s the weakest story here, but features a thoughtful and unpredictable conclusion.

Monica Rambeau is introduced in the final story, her origin lying in Marvel wanting to ensure their trademark on the Captain Marvel name didn’t lapse, having killed the previous incumbent. Given corporate necessities rather than creative process being the spur, it could have been a disaster, but while no classic, there are interesting choices, such as having Captain Marvel not only a woman, but a black woman also. This is very much her story, though, with Spider-Man forced in.

A bright spot is Romita Jr’s pencils being given a sumptuous gloss by his father occasionally supplying the inks. He’s one of five inkers, the pages looking their best when Frank Giacoia’s involved. Romita Jr’s earlier work on Spider-Man was limited by use of a grid layout that didn’t always serve the story’s strengths, but the art here is very very good, becoming more imaginative and dynamic.

All Stern’s Spider-Man work can also be found in Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus, where Romita Jr’s art really looks great on the oversized pages. These stories are also supplied in Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Volume 22 and in black and white as Essential Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 11.