Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Volume 22

Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Volume 22
Alternative editions:
Marvel Masterworks Amazing Spider-Man Volume 22 review
Alternative editions:
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-1-3029-2222-1
  • Volume No.: 22
  • Release date: 2020
  • UPC: 9781302922221
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

When Roger Stern became regular writer of Amazing Spider-Man the series had been in the doldrums for several years, as seen in the past few Masterworks volumes. Stern, though, didn’t need to settle into the complications of Peter Parker’s life. He arrived fresh from a spell on Spectacular Spider-Man, where he’d gradually learned the ideal balance between superhero action, Parker’s many ongoing problems, and his compelling supporting cast. Most of this selection remains very readable provided you’re comfortable with the stories being of their era, meaning big panels are restricted to splash pages, thought balloons are plentiful, and those dialogue balloons are also packed.

Stern’s introduction confirms what many suspected, that the Vulture was his favourite old villain, and his opener is a decent set-to as seen on John Romita Jr’s sample page. While not always given the most sympathetic inkers, Romita’s storytelling skills and character moments really shine on every page here, and his art alone elevates Stern’s work from that seen in Marvel Masterworks: Spectacular Spider-Man Volume 4. Even relatively early in his career Romita’s art is clarity personified, and as the Vulture page shows, his sense of action isn’t limited by being restricted to a six panel layout on most pages.

A four-chapter story occurs near the end, but Stern otherwise doesn’t extend beyond two, and a characteristic of his run is pitching Spider-Man against foes more usually associated with other Marvel heroes. Appearances from Stilt-Man and the pairing of the Cobra and Mr Hyde are solid, but pitting Spider-Man against the Juggernaut supplies the most memorable encounter here, and is the reason a separate hardcover collection featuring half this content is titled Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut. Spider-Man is tasked with stopping a foe considerably more powerful than he is, and Stern supplies one possible solution after another, ensuring each of them fails until the masterstroke at the end. He’s also cheeky enough to hint in the following story that it didn’t work either.

How good Stern’s work can be is there for comparison with the one story provided by Jan Strnad. Uncharacteristically lacklustre art from Rick Leonardi doesn’t help, but even Stern at his weakest (on a going through the motions Foolkiller story) is significantly better than this.

Credit is due for finally giving Aunt May some cheer. Stern didn’t create the character of Nathan Lubensky, but beefs him up into a suitable companion and possibly something more. The creation of Monica Rambeau is also down to Stern. She’s one of Marvel’s earliest African-American heroes, here using the then vacant Captain Marvel name, but while the intentions are good, it’s one of the weaker inclusions, not least for barely featuring Spider-Man.

The collection stops just short of Stern introducing the Hobgoblin, saved for Volume 23, but if you’d prefer the material from both along with much more in an oversized format, Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus provides it. Much of the collection can also be found in paperback as Mark of the Tarantula.