“Is it goo-” *twhip*
Volume 3 in the Epic Collection line, The Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Spider-Man No More is populated by a number of iconic stories. In addition to the tale the collection gets its name from, the volume opens with the Green Goblin’s discovery of Spider-Man’s alternate identity, as well as the reveal of his own. A chapter or two later, and you get one of the most famous moments in comic book history as Peter Parker is finally introduced to Mary Jane Watson. Longtime members of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery like Rhino, Shocker, and Kingpin all get their introductions here, and other historic foes like Lizard and Kraven have their return bouts in these pages.
This is a big part of the draw of these collected volumes. Classic stories by true titans of the industry in Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. That it’s a collection of stories about one of the most famous superheroes in the world almost comes as an added bonus.
Confession: I’m not the biggest Spider-Man fan in the world, but I can’t help but fall in love with the storytelling here. Lee and Romita do an utterly fantastic job balancing the lives of Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and the push and pull between the man and his alter-ego will tug at you. You’ll get just enough of Peter Parker before the web swinging begins and it’s exciting, but you won’t be able to help wishing you could stay in Peter’s world a little longer. And vice versa with Spider-Man’s adventures.
In fact, it is Peter’s story that provides the connective tissue to the stories as he faces his growing responsibilities and desire to date. You’ll feel his anxiety as he worries about Aunt May’s health (and laugh as she worries about his) and you’ll experience his dilemma when he contemplates whether to pursue Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane (insert your “Why not both?” memes here).
There’s not much that needs to be said about Romita’s art. The dynamic fights and action, the handsome men and gorgeous women, the drama and emotion – it’s all found here. Romita’s work is genius in the way it balances the soap opera of Peter Parker’s life with Spider-Man’s high stakes action and makes those seemingly disparate pieces fit together visually.
Any time you’re dealing with material this old, the lingo can get a bit awkward. There’s the somewhat innocuous issue of Mary Jane referring to Peter as “Dad”, but there’s also some things that don’t jibe with modern sensibilities, such as when a caption refers to Betty Brant as “another female.” While things like that are a bit messy, it’s nice to see these issues reprinted with their original verbiage.
While the collection features a number of famous moments, not every story here is a standout. A two-parter featuring the new Vulture and Kraven the Hunter is a fun read but doesn’t quite have the punch of the stories that make this collection must-have… with one caveat. This material has been collected before, across a number of editions throughout the years, and while this particular version has some nice supplemental material (including John Romita’s first sketch of Mary Jane), it may not be worth the cash if you already have these stories.
Is It Good?
The Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Spider-Man No More hits a real sweet spot in the character’s mythos, being early enough to still have one of the character’s original creators, but after the book had found its groove. Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. are firing on all cylinders here, and while not every piece is a hit, there’s more than enough to make this collection worth having.