As September and Spider-Man month draws to a close, I mentioned last week that I had a surprise in store for this week.  I will not disappoint.  Spider-Man is a character that has been through more than 600 issues of his own series and countless guest spots and a number of secondary titles.  Spider-Man has seem more print than a lot of other characters, so this week on Lewis’s Longbox, we’ll be talking a look at milestone issues from Amazing Spider-Man, and since they’re usually extra-sized to denote a special event, so will the column this week.  Get ready!

Amazing Spider-Man #100

Publisher:  Marvel Comics

Date of Publication:  September 1971

Cover Price:   15 Cents

Creative Team: Stan Lee, Gil Kane

I’ll be honest, doing research for this post is the first time I actually read this comic, even though it’s in my collection.  This is the last regular issue of Amazing Spider-Man that was written by Stan Lee, and it’s pretty standard for a story from 1971.  That’s not to say that it’s bad, it’s just that it was a different era and comics were written very differently.  The cover is very reminiscent of the actual story inside, even if it doesn’t include all of faces featured in silhouette.  In this issue, Spider-Man, faced with a quiet night in the city, finds himself thinking about his life.  Naturally, he comes to the conclusion that if he’s going to have a normal life, he has to stop being Spider-Man, and in a move that he hasn’t really tried since, he tries to cure himself in of his spider powers.  This, of course, brings on a mad fever dream where he runs into a lot of his foes, like Green Goblin, Kingpin, Vulture, and Lizard, all of whom he fights while trying to move towards a voice he’s hearing.  As he gets closer and fights each enemy, he starts getting a pain in his side, which then goes to his other side.  Lastly, in a classic comic outcome, he ends up with 6 arms!  Yes, this is the issue where Spider-Man grows 4 extra arms.  I remember that from the cartoon, but I didn’t know it all happens like this.  This was a very entertaining issue, if a little bit simplistic.  A must read for all Spider-Man fans.

3/5

Amazing Spider-Man #200

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Date of Publication: January 1980

Cover Price: 75 Cents

Creative Team: Marv Wolfman, Stan Lee, Keith Pollard

I’m not sure what happened in the last issue, but Amazing Spider-Man #200 sees our favorite wall crawler almost completely powerless at the hands of Mysterio.  Apparently he dealt with fishbowl head in 199, though, because this story focuses on Spider-Man(and Peter Parker) trying to deal with Aunt May’s death, and coming face to face with the burglar who killed Uncle Ben, not to mention the security guard that was chasing said burglar when Peter could have stopped him the first time.  It’s all coincidence, and I get that it’s supposed to tie in to the first Spider-Man story as nostalgian, but let me say, I kind of expected better from a milestone issue.  I appreciate that Spider-Man is learning a lot about himself without powers, and that he’s learning even more about the lengths his determination can go to, but…well, it’s 38 pages long, and it feels about 20 pages too long.  Also, don’t get me started on the dialogue.  I wasn’t around in 1980, but if I were to take this comic as a sign of the times, I’d imagine that everyone was either calling someone a punk, or being called a punk themselves.  It feels dated, in a way that Amazing Spider-Man #100 didn’t.  It’s good for closure on the burglar’s story, but honestly, not much else.

2/5

Amazing Spider-Man #300

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Date of Publication: May 1988

Cover Price: $1.50

Creative Team: David Michelinie, Todd McFarlane, Jim Salicrup

Another milestone for Peter Parker, this issue sees him starting off in the black costume, with Eddie Brock first making his presence known as Venom.  It’s interesting to see the beginnings of his “Lethal Protector” leanings, even here in his first powered appearance.  Reading comics through the 90′s, I know his origin story front to back, so that part of the issue was just interesting to see written in another style.  It’s also really interesting to see Spider-Man trying to come to terms with his first villain who’s able to evade his spider sense, although I’m not too crazy about his lax attitude on killing something, even if it is an alien.  All throughout the issue, which is 41 pages, but doesn’t feel that long at all, we see the epitome of Spider-Man, the come-from-behind attitude that has come to embody the character.  By the end of the issue, we see Peter back in the red and blue, which he’s stayed in for most of the rest of his run, with a brief change back to the black.  What’s also interesting is McFarlane’s art.  In this issue, I could see the first changes from a classic art style and page layout, to a more modern feel.  We have full page spreads, non-standard page layouts, and much more that denotes the changing times and the changing tastes of comic fans and the comic industry.  This landmark issue actually feels like a landmark.

4/5

Amazing Spider-Man #400

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Date of Publication: April 1996

Cover Price: $3.95

Creative Team: Stan Lee, J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Bagley, Danny Fingeroth

This issue represents the first milestone issue I ever owned chronologically.  Meaning, I got it when I was 12 as part of a pack of Spider-Man comics.  The issue takes place pretty much smack dab in the middle of the Clone Saga, so we have The Jackal in a mental hospital(with a moment of lucidity that lets us know to expect more from him soon), lots and lots of Scarlet Spider, and a Kaine sighting.  This is also the first Amazing Spider-Man milestone issue that includes more than just the main story.  There’s an introduction by Stan Lee, and a couple back up stories, but this issue is most notable for being the death of Aunt May.  I know she’s back around now, and she was back even before all this Brand New Day stuff, proving that even a non-powered person can come back from the dead in the Marvel universe.  The back ups consist of some in-between stories featuring Ben Reilly dealing with the news that he’s a clone, and even the main story dips into that well a little bit.  It seems like they were using this issue to drum up interest for The Untold Tales of Spider-Man, which would tell the stories of Ben Reilly after her left New York.  The art is pretty much in modern style, so there’s not really anything to get used to, but it is a lot of fun to look at, if a little over-inked.  In spite of the Clone Saga stuff, this is a solid issue, with a lot of heart and emotion, and is well worth your time.  You can probably find it pretty cheap in the long boxes at a comic show.

4/5

Amazing Spider-Man #500

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Date of Publication: December 2003

Cover Price: $3.50

Creative Team: J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr., John Romita Sr., Scott Hanna, Axel Alonso

Oh man, is this issue a lot of fun.  I loved Straczynski’s run on Spider-Man, and this issue is no different.  Now, I didn’t read the stories before it, and the issue says that it’s part three, but I know that it sees modern-day Peter Parker being tossed around through time, to different parts of his career, as orchestrated by a spell from Stephen Strange.  It’s interesting to see all of what I think of as ke parts in Peter’s career as Spider-Man, drawn mostly by John Romita Jr., and written by Straczynski.  Peter fights his way through memorable battles with The Sandman, The Vulture, The Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, The Hulk, the epic scene from Amazing Spider-Man #33 where he lifts literally tons of machinery because there’s no other way to save Aunt May’s life, the death of Gwen Stacy.  It’s some epic stuff we go through here, all so Peter can help Doctor Strange save the world from Dormammu and the Mindless Ones.  As a gift(and because it’s his 500th issue), Spider-Man gets 5 minutes to talk with his Uncle Ben.  It’s emotional, it’s well written, it’s everything you want it to be.  It’s great, and in another 500 issues, I don’t know if you could top it.  Of all the comics I’ve read in the past 10 years, in all the comics I’ve read for review purposes, it’s my favorite, because it pays such respect to our hero, and it takes all of the great moments he’s had and shows us why he’s great.

5/5

Amazing Spider-Man #600

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Date of Publication: July 2009

Cover Price: $4.99

Creative Team: Dan Slott, John Romita Jr., Stephen Wacker

This is a whopper of a comic.  It comes in at a hefty cover price of $4.99, but what you’re paying for is all value.  111 pages, not a single ad, and most of it’s the main story.  I don’t know if you know, but for a long time, the Spider-Man writers were banned from using classic villains after Brand New Day.  This issue marks the first of the new villains, in the form of Doctor Octopus.  Dan Slott kicks off the return of the bad guys here with a stellar turn at Doc Ock, addressing something that I’ve considered before, but haven’t read anyone take on before: the fact that even though he has mental control over his metal arms and he has a genius level intellect, Otto Octavius is still just a regular guy with metal arms being beaten on by metahumans with super strength and peak-level human athletes.  Dan Slott’s Doc Ock is exactly what I always wanted him to be: devious, cunning, yet convinced that his schemes are for the greater good.  This was a great way to kick off the Gauntlet and the Grim Hunt, both of which were fantastic.  I, for one, cannot wait to see where Slott takes the character and his cast next, but the bottom line for this issue is this: if you missed it, if it slipped your mind or the five dollar price tag scared you away, then you need to fix that.  Get this issue somehow (preferably by paying), read it, and love it.

5/5

And that’s it for this week!  I hope you enjoyed the double-sized fun, and if you want more, then just head over to my blog, By Odin’s Beard!  I’d love to hear from you.  Until next week!