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Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Assassin Nation Review

Some of Todd McFarlane’s most iconic work is reprinted here.

Marvel Comics is slowly but surely collecting every single issue of their books in the Epic Collection format. These paperback collections run 400 plus pages and allow readers to get the full story from beginning to end. In the latest Amazing Spider-Man edition, Todd McFarlane’s iconic run on Spidey continues with books printed in 1989.

So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

Archenemies, assassins and Inferno! David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane’s fan-favorite run continues, as the superstar artist takes on classic Spidey villains Mysterio, Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, Lizard, Rhino and Scorpion! Plus, the web-slinger faces a brutal rematch with his newest and deadliest enemy: Venom! As Manhattan goes mad, Spidey faces down the demonic threat of Inferno…but Peter’s powers can’t save him and MJ from a Christmastime eviction! Then, Spidey tackles international espionage when he’s drawn into the Assassin Nation Plot alongside Silver Sable, roguish gun-for-hire Paladin and Captain America! But when the assassin is revealed, who will survive? Plus, as Atlantis Attacks, Spidey and She-Hulk battle the Abomination! And a classic graphic novel sheds new light on Peter and Mary Jane’s lives!

Why does this matter?

This collection houses a lot of important battles for Spider-Man like the return of Venom, Scorpion, and Mysterio ruining Peter Parker’s day, and even the Hobgoblin vs. Green Goblin match up everyone wanted. This collection also delves into an international crisis with Spidey and Captain America teaming up (a rare thing at the time). Other artists who pop up include Rob Liefeld, Erik Larsen, and Mark Bagley to name a few.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

Credit: Marvel Comics

Collections like this are a nice reminder of how we got here with these characters. Rereading the now-classic battle between Venom and Spider-Man adds clarity and purpose to both characters today. Todd McFarlane is definitely a big part of what made these books sell like hotcakes and his style here changed the industry in a lot of ways. Layouts got creative, especially in how he sliced them vertically, the incredible poses of Spider-Man met no match for the time, and Venom’s somewhat psychotic nature was too good to resist. McFarlane was quite good at utilizing speed-lines to enhance a moment and his chaotic webbing always seems to draw your eye and make you linger.

You can also tell McFarlane bored easily since new elements and techniques were used throughout even this short collection of stories. Take for instance a scene with Spidey swinging at night with the backdrop of a photograph drawn over. It gives the scene a hyper-realistic look and also makes the character pop. There’s also quite a collection of monstrous beasts popping up, all of which seem to suggest McFarlane’s future would soon be filled with drawing demons in Spawn.

This was also an era when Mary Jane and Peter were happily married. The old Parker luck still persisted (they get evicted at one point), but it’s interesting to see how David Michelinie and Gerry Conway made her presence impactful and present in nearly every issue. She’d be off doing a modeling gig and have to do something heroic, or at other times helping with Aunt May in a way that reflected how she was a cornerstone in Peter’s life. He needs her more than she needs him and that strength is ever present.

Venom is kind of crazy in these stories.
Credit: Marvel Comics

It can’t be perfect, can it?

I can’t for the life of me enjoy McFarlane’s rendering of folks outside of the costume. The facial expressions are too cartoony and way over the top, and heads can look squished or awkward. Detailed wrinkles can at times seem overly done and throw off a character and, speaking of which, the consistency of faces ranged considerably from issue to issue. Aunt May could go from a bag of wrinkles to a more sleek but old looking woman. It threw me off more than once and in hindsight may have made McFarlane’s rendering of superheroes and villains pop all the more.

Is it good?

It’s hard to read this and experience it for what it is, since there’s so much history going on. Without a doubt the stories collected here capture an iconic time for Spider-Man, Todd McFarlane, and for Marvel Comics in general. Read this knowing full well you’re reading comic book history.

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Assassin Nation
Is it good?
It's hard to read this and experience it for what it is, since there's so much history going on. Without a doubt the stories collected here capture an iconic time for Spider-Man, Todd McFarlane, and for Marvel Comics in general. Read this knowing full well you're reading comic book history.
Without a doubt history was being made with this series
The art is striking at times and McFarlane seems to be evolving with each issue
Nice to see MJ be a supportive force for Peter, but also heroic in her own right
I can't get over how cartoony McFarlane draws characters without masks

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