Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus

Writer / Artist
Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus
Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-1-3029-2837-7
  • Release date: 2014
  • UPC: 9781302928377
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Anthology, Superhero

Roger Stern’s spell on Spider-Man is highly regarded, hence this Omnibus compilation of his 1980s stories, most drawn by John Romita Jr, originally issued in 2104 and reprinted seven years later. Until now, reprints of the material have been sporadic, and the same stories tend to feature again and again, with the most prominent collections being Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut?, Marvel Masterworks: Amazing Spider-Man Volume 22, and 23, Mark of the Tarantula and Origin of the Hobgoblin.

However, this collection acknowledges his beginning as writer of Spectacular Spider-Man before his more acclaimed Amazing Spider-Man. A run of these stories was issued in 2007 as Marvel Visionaries: Roger Stern – Spider-Man, but was incomplete, cutting off at the end of a White Tiger crossover, while the complete selection can also be found in Marvel Masterworks: The Spectacular Spider-Man Volume 4. Those in the earlier collection had some spark, but were definitely Stern learning on the job, and while at the beginning he concentrates far more on Spider-Man, by the end of this section he’s striking the right balance between action and Peter Parker’s problems and supporting cast. It’s also interesting that sometime artist Marie Severin supplies plots.

Stern’s earliest Spider-Man is also plagued by the lack of a continuing artist, and several whose styles are resolutely old fashioned, while his writing also reflects the era, with the thought balloon count high and the dialogue balloons filled. However, look beneath the surface and the plots become stronger, less predictable and more accomplished. It’s apparent when Spider-Man tackles Jack O’Lantern, laid out by Jim Shooter of all people. Although it looks ordinary and features a dumb villain, it’s a tightly-plotted gem.

By the time Stern transfers to Amazing Spider-Man all stories are at least reasonable, and the switch offers one major bonus in the form of regular art from John Romita Jr. It’s nothing like the style he later used, and initially looks old fashioned because big images are restricted to splash pages, but the storytelling is rock solid, if not given the most sympathetic inking from Jim Mooney. There are also times when Romita lays out the pages to be finished by people usually credited as inkers, one being Klaus Janson, whose brushwork more greatly resembles Romita’s later chunkier style.

Stern rarely uses Spider-Man’s stock villains, instead joyously matching Spider-Man with villains usually associated with others, and two-part stories featuring the Juggernaut and Mr. Hyde stand out. Stern really moves into high gear with the introduction of the Hobgoblin and the mystery of who he is. Also standing out are ‘Daydreamers’ in which characters dream their own fantasies, the tragedy of ‘The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man’, which has made many Spider-Man best of lists, several good stories featuring the Vulture, while ‘Spidey Intellectual Stories’ is still funny. Stern was also in place for the introduction of Spider-Man’s black costume.

The massive caveat throughout this collection is that the stories look and read as old-fashioned, but the talent lies beneath. If you can live with that, there’s enjoyment to be had.