Marvel Comics Digest #1

WRITERS: Various Writers
ARTISTS: Various Artists
INKS: Various inkers
COLOURS: Various Colourists

This massive experience showcases a handful of adventures spanning over half a century of Spider-Man stories, from golden age tales by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to a recent team-up as “Ultimate Peter Parker!”

From the beginning, we dive in to a jumbo-sized book filled with over 220-pages and a dozen stories, opened by the 1966 tale from Amazing Spider-Man #38, “Just A Guy Named Joe,” featuring the art of one of the most iconic and recognizable to be seen in a comic panel, Steve Ditko.

The story, written by Stan Lee, centers around aspiring-yet-failing boxer, Joe Smith, whose interaction with spilled chemicals eventually sends him into a frenzy that Spidey has to deal with. In the meantime, a bounty has been placed on his head. A subplot of the comic touches on the relationship of Betty Brant and Ned Leeds.

Leap forward a decade to 1976 as we enter four successive issues of Amazing Spider-Man, beginning with #156. Ross Andru takes up the pencil for this series in a tale written by Len Wein.

It is the wedding day of Ned Leeds and Betty Brant, and what good wedding in a superhero story could take place without the intrusion of a villain? Certainly not this one, as the Mirage appears with a gang of brutes. Our hero, Peter Parker, must confront our villain without giving away his secret identity.

The continuing three issues focus on Doctor Octopus, Aunt May, and the ghost of Hammerhead. An accident occurred at a nuclear reactor during an altercation between Octopus and Hammerhead, and in the subsequent explosion, Hammerhead was killed. However, his ghost continues to haunt Doc Ock, swearing revenge.

The next entry in the Digest is an updated retelling of Spider-Man’s beginnings from Marvel Age Spider-Man #1 and #6 from 2004 in a pair of tales featuring the Vulture. We meet a young Peter soon after the onset of his powers. Aunt May reveals to him that their finances are dire, and after Peter sees a reward for photos of the Vulture or Spider-Man, he begins to explore his potential as a photographer.

The updated art of Mark Brooks, while certainly not as iconically vintage as the previous pencillers, is a nice update. The story by Daniel Quantz seems to be aimed toward a slightly younger audience, but also reminds us that Peter Parker is still a vulnerable person.

Moving to 2005, Marvel Adventures #2 and #3 are the next issues featured in the digest, a pair of tales involving the Sinister Six. Doctor Octopus escapes from Riker’s Island and enlists the help of Sandman, Kraven, Mysterio, Electro and the Vulture in a plot to destroy our favourite teenage arachnid. Meanwhile, Peter worries as he finds that his powers are failing him and has to resort to more practical means to take on his adversaries.

Patrick Scherberger takes on the art for this pair of comics, presenting a style not dissimilar to that of Mark Brooks. Erica David’s storytelling brings forth some amusing and witty moments from Peter as he wrestles with having to battle baddies without his trademark abilities.

2012’s Ultimate Spider-Man #1 also makes its way into the collection, as a tale torn from the TV screen. The art style bounces around a little bit as Peter gives us, in his own words, an “origin story remix” in the middle of a fight against the Shocker. With his own pseudo-fourth-wall-breaking, imagery such as an arguing angel and devil on his shoulder in cutesy-cartoon form and the addition of a life bar meter, this issue reads a lot more like a Deadpool adventure than a Spidey story.

As mentioned, incorporation of overly cartoonish imagery coupled with art you would expect from a television animation, some readers may find this portion of the digest a tad childish compared to the look of the golden age adventures. But that’s just one reviewer’s opinion. It does, however, segue well into the final issue between the covers, as 2015’s Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors #8 is showcased.

The issue introduces our favourite web-slinger to the Merc with a Mouth aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Deadpool is hunting an agent who stole an encrypted drive with the identities of every known superhero, and Peter, who seems envious of Deadpool’s hero-for-hire lifestyle, accompanies him along on his search. As one would expect from any comic with Deadpool featured, much ridiculousness ensues as the duo hunt for the stolen drive.

All in all, this gigantic collection is a great way to broad stroke some of the various artistic styles and storytelling tropes of Spider-Man over the past half-century. With the numerous amount of team-ups that Spidey has had, I am a bit surprised that neither Wolverine nor Daredevil made an appearance. However, I am a bit disappointed that of the many artists to be featured among the pages, Todd MacFarlane was not one of them.

As always, you can find this digest at Marvel or using www.ComicShopLocator.com

RATING (1-5): 4

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