Essential Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2

Essential Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2
Essential Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man Vol.2 review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-0-7851-2042-1
  • Volume No.: 2
  • Release date: 2006
  • Format: Black and white
  • UPC: 9780785120421
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

By the time Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man was ending its third year of publication it was already looking a tired title. Bill Mantlo would later return to the series and put in a notable shift, but his stories from 1979 skirt mediocrity. The villains Spider-Man meets tell their own tale. There’s Stegron the Dinosaur Man; Swarm, a villain consisting of thousands of bees, and a guy able to manifest lumpy demons. The lack of inspiration isn’t elevated by Jim Mooney, who draws most Mantlo scripts efficiently and functionally without producing a single panel to linger over.

What a relief, then to arrive at a Spider-Man annual in which John Byrne’s art is everything that Mooney’s isn’t, starting with dynamic. Marv Wolfman over-writes Dr. Octopus’ dialogue, but keeps a good mystery going, which makes the ordinary conclusion provided by Mantlo and Rich Buckler all the more disappointing. Byrne is back later in the collection for a team-up with the Fantastic Four who need some help with the Frightful Four and their newest member. Mantlo’s best is the horror of Spider-Man transformed into the Lizard, which at least shows some imagination.

Mantlo’s strength is convincing civilian scenes, at the Daily Bugle, at university, and Peter Parker with his friends. It’s something Roger Stern would later excel at, but during his practice run for Amazing Spider-Man he almost entirely neglects the supporting cast in favour of superhero action. It’s slightly better than Mantlo’s work to start with, but not greatly inspiring either, and very much of the era with thought balloons in abundance. While Mooney doesn’t draw as many of Stern’s stories the primary artist is Marie Severin, very good technically, but no more contemporary than Mooney.

Stern’s writing, though, is a learning process and an upward quality curve. He enjoys pitting Spider-Man against villains far more associated with other Marvel characters, and while we’re not near peak Stern in this collection, at least these are more creative superhero stories than the first half of the book. As noted, Mantlo takes over again for Vol. 3, which is altogether better.

If you do want these stories and want them in colour, then they’re spread across Marvel Masterworks: The Spectacular Spider-Man Volume 3 and Volume 4, while much of Stern’s work is found in Spider-Man Visionaries: Roger Stern. His entire Spider-Man output is combined in Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus.