This final hardback collection of J. Michael Straczynski’s run combines the separate collections Skin Deep and New Avengers, and delivers two very good stories, their tone extremely different.

‘Skin Deep’ reveals there was a brief time when Peter Parker wasn’t the chief victim in his high school. For a brief period there was also Charlie Weiderman. Similarly bright and nerdy, he might as well have had a target on his back, but whereas the pre-Spider-Man Parker could count on love, support and comfort at home, Weiderman’s domestic life lacked that fallback. The story of their youthful interaction, illustrated by Mark Brooks, threads through the tale of Weiderman’s re-appearance in Parker’s adult life.

Now a qualified research scientist, he’s seeking funding to develop an all-over protective bodysuit for the military, duly provided by Tony Stark. Weiderman’s methods, though, have never been stringent, and a willingness to cut corners ends in disaster. Given great power, Weiderman has little thought of great responsibility and there are innumerable scores to be settled.

The consequences of that lead into Straczynski fully integrating Spider-Man’s title with his then new position among the Avengers. Long diminished terrorist threat Hydra re-emerges with faux Avengers of their own and a plan to re-establish their credibility as global players. A great sequence requires Spider-Man to disable a missile with a toxic payload. This is a widescreen action adventure, and the art team of Mike Deodato and Joe Pimentel deliver the required visuals.

From the glimpse at the youthful Parker, through Aunt May’s integration into the Avengers’ household and Mary-Jane’s problems with a tabloid photographer, there’s the full compliment of character-based distraction as well.

Sadly this is the last of the hardbound Best of Spider-Man collections. Spider-Man’s story continues with further individual volumes collecting Straczynski’s work.