Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: John Romita Jr and John Romita Sr (p), Scott Hanna (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
After getting a look at what appears to be his final moments, Spider-Man finds himself in the past, as he's arrived only moments before the accident that gave him his powers, and he has to decide whether to interfere in this moment and forever change his future. He then embarks of a trip to the present via a series of stops in his history where he relives various triumphs and tragedies that he's encountered over his career. We then see his efforts in the present help to advert an impending disaster.
I suspect one's enjoyment of this issue is dependent on how big a fan one is of Spider-Man and his rather colorful collection of super-villains, as this issue is little more than a tour down memory lane as Spider-Man moves forward through the time stream, and along the way he finds himself briefly inserted into the middle of some of his earliest encounters against the Sandman, the Vulture, the Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, and just for a change of scenery a rampaging Hulk. He's also on hand for the death of Betty Brant's brother, the ever famous lifting sequence, and of course no trip through Spider-Man's past would be complete without a visit with Gwen Stacy's final moments. We're also given a look at what appears to be Spider-Man's final battle, and I have to say I'm not overly impressed, as I'd like to hope that Spider-Man would get a more memorable final battle than one against a bunch of generic police thugs. In the end this issue should be a welcome reading experience for fans who have read Spider-Man's early adventures, as I found myself tracking down my well worn Essential Spider-Man volume, to enhance this trip down memory lane and while I feel the issue missed some highlight moments (e.g. the moment where Peter realized the true identity of Uncle Ben's killer, the death of Captain Stacy), for the most part this was an engaging trip through Spider-Man's formative years, and a fun way of celebrating his 500th issue.
As for the art, this is an issue that lends itself extremely well to the comic book artist, as essentially this is a series of action sequences, many of which have already been proven classic visual moments. I mean John Romita Jr. is given half-a-dozen battles between Spider-Man and members of his Rogues Gallery to offer up, and it's clear he's having a grand old time recreating the look and feel of these early battles (though I do want to mention that the Electro battle should've been set inside a prison, and not on a rooftop). There's also the ever impressive double-page spread that features Spider-Man in a heated battle with pretty much every villain he's ever run up against, as this is truly a poster worthy piece of art. As for the final pages that are offered up by John Romita Sr, I have to say that this was a wonderful trip down memory lane, and I'd love to see him deliver a Spider-Man miniseries in the future. I'd even accept a one-shot.
A pretty entertaining celebration of Spider-Man's early years, as it's rather easy to dismiss the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era as a product of it's time with it's rather simplistic plots, and the standard goofy Stan Lee dialogue. However, this issue acts as a wonderful reminder that if nothing else these issues were all about action, and the sheer wealth of characters that were introduced in these issues that are still being used today is truly extraordinary. This issue also acts as a solid reminder of just how much Spider-Man has grown as a character, as we get to see his thoughts of these various battles, and in a particularly memorable scene we see Spider-Man questioning whether this seemingly endless fight is worth it. Now Peter's rooftop conversation with his mystery guest-star delivered a message that I felt was far too melodramatic to be effective, but the appearance by this character was an unexpected surprise, and overall this issue made for a fine celebration of the reasons why Spider-Man has remained my favorite hero for going on 20+ years now.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!