Straczynski is the Man
I've been going through my graphic novels recently, and with the current Superior Spider-Man series being a little poor I decided I'd go back and read my favourite collection from what I own, and that's this The Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection. I also plan on reading the remaining volumes after this run, hopefully getting the ones I'm missing, but I just mainly wanted to re-read these fabulous books, and share my thoughts on them.
Spider-Man (Peter Parker) is confronted by a man named Ezekiel, who has similar abilities to him. Ezekiel tells him more about his abilities, and tells him to beware of Morlun, but is this new foe too much for the web-slinger? Also Peter get a teaching job at his old High School.
A new villain named Shade is targeting drug users, making them disappear, and when she's worried her brother may become one of them Jennifer asks for Peter's help. Also when Peter and Aunt May travel to Los Angeles to visit Mary Jane, Spider-Man lands up fighting Doctor Octopus, and a man who stole his technology named Carlyle.
This volume was brilliant, and a nice start to J. Michael Straczynski's run. The way his runs been collected into theses five books is amazing, and the best way for anyone on a tightish budget to collect this spectacular run (yes I've decided to use Spidey puns). Straczynski has been one of my favourite writers over the last few years, and although his current work hasn't necessarily been his best, his work on Spider-Man, Thor, and Supreme Power (even if the follow-up Squadron Supreme series was slightly poor) was phenomenal, and although I was already a fan of both Spider-Man, and Thor he got me into collecting their series, as well as making me a fan of the Squadron Supreme. Anyway he did an amazing job on Spider-Man, and size wise I believe that was the best work he's ever done on a single comic series, as although Thor was just as wonderful, it only lasted 16 issues (the only downside of Siege). What I loved most about his run on Spider-Man was the brilliant new characters he introduced, both friends, and foes (more so foes), as although he'd eventually get round to using more well known villains he created some interesting, and unique villains that were in phenomenal stories, with the first one in this collection being one of them. I also really enjoyed that he made Spidey funny, making jokes at a frequent pace, but not overdoing it, or forcing it into the script, as they felt very natural. Straczynski also did an amazing job of action, and emotion, as he put Spidey in some horrendous positions, and made it very emotional, and dramatic.
The art from John Romita Jr. was also amazing, and although I've not always loved Romita Jr.'s art in the past, I did in this volume. I always try and like Romit Jr.'s art as I know he can do amazing artwork, as he's done a fabulous job on stuff like Kick-Ass, and World War Hulk, and this is also one of his more better pieces of artwork. The main problem I usually have with Romita Jr.'s art is the way he draws face's, and although there are people like Ezekiel, and Aunt May that look a little weird from time to time, overall it's much better than he usually does, and the way he draws both Peter, and Spidey is amazing. To be fair, if he's got his mask on, facial features don't come into it when drawing Spidey, but still he did a fabulous job, and made him look the amazing wall-crawling creature that he is. I also love the way he drew Spidey moving, as he really seems to have Spidey down to a T, as everything from dogging attacks, to web-swinging, to wall-crawling, and especially hanging look very dramatic, and natural, and Romita Jr. truly did an amazing job. As I said though Romita Jr. did however do a brilliant job of drawn Peter as well, as he looked very realistic, and Romita Jr. showed his emotions perfectly. In fact Romita Jr. did a fabulous job of character emotions in general, as you could really feel the mood the character's were in at certain points. There is however an area of art that Romita Jr. truly excels in, and that's action. The action sequences he drew were phenomenal, especially the ones between Spidey, and Morlun, as they were really exciting, and entertaining.
Now I usually talk about certain things I liked throughout the graphic novel, or comic at this point, but due to this being a collection of three stories I felt that it'd be appropriate to talk about them individually, also rating them individually. I won't however be taking more on the writer, and artists unless absolutely necessary, as I've talked about there work in general throughout this entire book, and feel it unnecessary to add anything more.
This story featured some new characters, and the first one was a man with similar abilities to Peter, called Ezekiel. I found Ezekiel a very interesting character, and loved the way he was introduced. I know that some people may think that the long and slow way of introducing a character pays off more, but the suddenness of this was what made it so brilliant, as gave Spidey the reaction of, "wait he's just like me." I did however like that the character remained a bit mysterious whilst being in the open, as although he revealed himself to Peter he also kept a mysterious nature throughout. I also loved how he interacted with Peter, and how he wanted Peter to work for the information. The development of Ezekiel as a character throughout this story was also interesting, and made the story more dramatic, and at times suspenseful.
This story also delved into the mythos of Spidey, something that surprisingly hasn't been done before. Ezekiel is used to deliver this added info, as he tells Peter about the background of his powers, and how he's a totem. Now I found this really interesting, as besides being the perfect foundation for this amazing story, it also left me as a reader with questions throughout, even though it explained most of it. I also liked how this made Peter question himself, and the way this would shape the story was brilliant. I also found it interesting that this also went into Spidey's villains, and although I won't say any more as to avoid spoilers, overall the mystery, and drama behind these revelations made it one of the most unique, and interesting background development that I've seen in a story.
As I said earlier Spidey didn't just get new friends in this story, he also got a new enemy in the form of Morlun. What I liked most about Morlun was that he fit into this story perfectly, as everything was brilliantly thought out, with Morlun centring around the mythos that was developed in the story. Morlun as a character was also very interesting, as he seemed at times remorseful, and didn't seem evil, but at the same time he knew that he needed to kill Spidey, and that although it wasn't personal, it was necessary. This also showed depth to the character, as he was both emotionless, as well as being remorseful, as he didn't appear to care about what he was doing, but at the same time felt that it was a shame that he had to do it.
The fight between Spidey, and Morlun was phenomenal, and really stole the story. With it lasting about half of the story you'd think that it'd be a bit slow, and dragged out, but it was far from that. The fight wasn't just exciting, it was also full of emotion, and drama, and both Straczynski, and Romita Jr. really did a tremendous job of it. I also loved how Straczynski knew when to slow the fight down a bit, to give some diversity, as if it was pure fighting for the full length the battle lasted it'd start to feel a bit strung out, as well as a bit unrealistic, but with the perfect break points it made for a very smooth, and entertaining fight.
The Coming Home part of this book finished with a side story that showed the affects of 9/11. I read a similar story to this in Captain America #1, and like Captain America it did a brilliant job of showing the affect that 9/11 had. The issue itself was full of emotion, and it really showed the kind of impact that this kind of tragety can have on the world, and Straczynski did these emotions perfectly. What I liked most about the issue was that although it had all these great superhero's, and villains united in this cause, it showed that the real hero's were ordinary people, and mainly the Fire Department, as they were the real hero's, and they deserved the credit for what they did to save as many innocent lifes as they could, with some even being fatalities themselves.
This was a brilliant opening story for Straczynski's run, and it was truly epic, being exciting, and dramatic, as well as emotional, and interesting.
This was a much shorter story that revolved around Aunt May dealing with learning that Peter is Spider-Man. Straczynski doesn't hold back, as not only does he deal with the background, and mythos to Spidey's powers in the last story, he then moves on to having Aunt May learn Peter's secret. Again I'm surprised that this hadn't already been done by then, but at the same time am happy, as Straczynski did a marvellous job with it. The emotion throughout this part of the story was amazing, and very realistic, as he didn't give an over dramatic sequence. I won't go into any more details as to avoid further spoilers, but the emotion in this was brilliant, and the way he wrote the dialogue between Peter, and May was perfect.
This story also saw Peter helping out one of his students, who's having a hard time outside of school, and who's brother's in even worse trouble. Again I won't go into details as to avoid spoilers, but I will still say what I thought of this. The main thing that this did was set-up the first part of the next story, but besides that it also did an amazing job of showing that not everyone has the perfect life. Again this was a very emotional sequence, and Straczynski really knows what he's doing, as he can produce some fabulous emotion sequences, whilst also giving humour, and action at appropriate times. I also liked how this story had a little bit of mystery to it, as without going into detail there was a part of this that made it obvious that it wasn't quite finished, making the prospect, and though of what might happen next very interesting.
This part of Revelations featured a silent issue that was part of the 'Nuff Said concept that had most of the series at the time having one issue that's told purely through art. Although this wasn't a bad issue it wasn't the best silent issue that I've ever read, and what hurt the overall rating of the story. As I said it wasn't bad, but it didn't really do a lot for the story, besides hint at things that would happen in the future, as well as showing how May's coping with Peter being Spider-Man. It was however emotional to a certain extent, and although it wasn't that necessary for the story, it wasn't bad considering it was part of a concept (as these concepts can sometimes make, or ruin a series).
Although short, this was still a very good story, and a great continuation of Straczynski's run. It was also very emotional, and dramatic, and had some brilliant set-ups for future development, and is the perfect type of story to bridge between events.
Until the Stars Turn Cold
This story was mainly in two halves, with the first half dealing with yet another new villain called Shade, who's been making down, and outs, and druggies disappear to the Astral Plane. Although not quite as interesting as Morlun, he was still interesting, and worked perfectly with the story he built-up from Revelations. Although I won't go into details, as to avoid spoilers, it was the backstory to Shade that I found most interesting about him, and apart from being interesting it was also dramatic, and showed that he was a dastardly character before getting his powers. His powers themselves were also interesting, and although I've seen similar in the past they were still fairly unique, and again perfect for this type of story, whilst also adding mystery as well.
Due to the Astral Plane being a key part of this story you'd expect Doctor Strange to make an appearance, and he does. To be fair this was probably one of the worst appearances of Doctor Strange in a comic, as although he's the perfect man to help Spidey travel to the Astral Plane he doesn't really do much else. Besides that it was still nice to see him make an appearance, even if very brief, as it did help move the story on swiftly, and although I was disappointed at the appearance being so short it didn't really take anything away from the story. Also it was probably needed, as how else would Spidey get to the Astral Plane.
This story also sees Aunt May continuing to deal with the fact that Peter's Spider-Man. She does this by cancelling her subscription from the Daily Bugle in person, as trying to heighten Spider-Man's image. We saw some of this in the 'Nuff Said issue, but it was still nice to see her continuing her campaign, and to be fair if she was going to accept Peter as Spider-Man this is the sort of thing I'd have expected her to do. The conversation between May, and J. Jonah Jameson was also very entertaining, and one of the most entertaining things about May learning Peter's secret. I also liked how Jameson pointed out that she used to see him as a monster, wondering why she's changed her opinion now, which was a nice reminder, and a good question (one I was asking to a certain extent myself).
Both parts of this story also had the development of Peter, and MJ's relationship. MJ, and Peter have been separated for some time (or at least appears this way, haven't read prior to Straczynski's run), and when MJ comes to visit Peter's meant to meet her. Not everything goes to plan however and Peter then needs to go to LA to try, and explain things. It was hinted in the 'Nuff Said issue from that MJ may appear in this story, and I'm happy she has. What I like most about how Straczynski's handling the Peter, MJ relationship is that he's taking it slow, and not making it easy for the two to get back together. This leaves a very dramatic, and suspenseful tone, as it keeps the reader speculating on when they'll get back together (as it's obvious it'll happen at some point). I also loved how despite this it was still very emotional, as you could tell that they had strong feelings for each other, but at the same time that things were complicated, which was nice, as it shows realism, as no relationship fixes itself easily, and needs time.
The second half of this story featured the return of an old villain, and the appearance of another new villain. The new villain, Carlyle steals Doc Ock's technology to make himself into a new, and in his mind improved version of Doc Ock, and not happy with this Doc Ock seeks revenge. Coincidently this appears to be happening in LA just as Spidey's there, and when the two land up fighting each other he intervenes and is stuck in the middle. This mix of old, and new was brilliant, as it's the first time Straczynski's introduced a well known villain, but in a unique way. The fight between the three was also fantastic, and very exciting, and once again Straczynski really seems to be giving it hard to the wall-crawler. I also loved the newer, sleeker design for Carlyle's new Doc Ock suit, and Romita Jr. did a fantastic job drawing it.
Another amazing story, and Straczynski once more proves why he's the man when it comes to Spider-Man. These were two really interesting, and fun stories, that are exciting, and dramatic. They were also connected perfectly, with the development of the Peter, MJ relationship spilling into both, making the whole thing feel like the same story.
This is an amazing collection of three fantastic stories, and this collection of five books is the perfect way to collect Straczynski's run. These stories were both mysterious, as well as exciting, and interesting, and the perfect start to what would become one of my favourite runs on Spider-Man. I'd highly recommend this to anyone, as they are very unique stories, that are action packed, humorous, and mysterious.
Overall Rating: 5/5
The next Spider-Man book I'll be reviewing will be The Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection Volume Two.