Review by Frank Plowright
When the Human Torch died – don’t worry, it was merely a temporary inconvenience – an eccentric stipulation of his will was that Spider-Man replace him in the Fantastic Four. He agreed, and an entire platoon of creators detail his interaction.
It’s the opening story that’s the best. Dan Slott runs through what a fantastic day you can have with the Fantastic Four and Javier Pulido’s delicate cartooning isn’t too far removed from Marcos Martin on the previous collection (Matters of Life and Death). Pulido’s on equally fine form for a later glimpse at a typical day for Spider-Man. Slott then takes Spider-Man and the FF to investigate a dimensional breach on a remote island. It’s a clever story, dialogued by Fred Van Lente, and well drawn by Stefano Caselli and Mike McKone, which simultaneously moves Peter Parker’s relationship with Carlie Cooper a step forward. She’s been harbouring growing suspicions that Peter Parker isn’t being completely truthful with her.
It’s from this point in the book that quality slippage occurs. Slott absents himself, and while none of the remaining writing is bad, it doesn’t match the inventive qualities Slott brings to the title. It makes sense that if Spider-Man is going to be taking a class at Avengers Academy that title’s writer Christos Gage steps in, but his page count is extended way beyond his plot. It might also have been nice if someone had removed the blurb at the end promising one story, when the book continues with entirely different material.
The remaining content hoovers up what was back-up material in the Spider-Man comics, and there’s a reason it wasn’t the lead. Rob Williams supplies an overdose of snappy dialogue in a teaming with Ghost Rider, a new Power Man is introduced by Van Lente and Reilly Brown, and the best of these back-ups is Frank Tieri’s eight page redemption for an inept villain, well illustrated by Javier Rodriguez. The promised return of Anti-Venom actually occurs in the next volume, conveniently titled The Return of Anti-Venom, and if you’d prefer a larger collection incorporating this and the previous volumes it’s Big Time Ultimate Collection vol 1.