It’s hard to believe, but five years ago Marvel Comics released the Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus Volume 1, and it has taken that long to see them release a follow-up volume. The first volume contained the complete Stan Lee / Steve Ditko run on Amazing Spider-Man, comprising issues #1-38, plus Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1-2 and Amazing Fantasy #15. This newly released, highly-anticipated volume contains Amazing Spider-Man #39-67, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3-5 & The Spectacular Spider-Man #1-2. This entire collection is written by Stan Lee, with art by the brilliant John Romita Sr. Steve Ditko set the original style for Spider-Man, but John Romita Sr. was also a huge influence on future Spider-Man artists, as he made Peter Parker and his supporting cast look better than ever before. Romita had been an extremely successful artist on romance comics, and as a result he brought a very different sense of style to Spider-Man and his supporting cast. The characters weren`t overly built or muscular like Jack Kirby’s characters, but were instead very attractive looking, with Romita excelling on the facial expressions the characters had.
This collection represents a very different era in the history of Spider-Man as a character, as the art was only part of a major shift that the character saw. Ditko’s issues were dominated by the creepy and weird, as Ditko specialized in characters and concepts that tended towards that direction, whereas Romita’s take on super-heroes was a bit more glamourous. It was during Romita’s tenure that Mary Jane Watson was first seen on-panel, as previously we had only ever seen her figure and face behind all manner of pots, flowers, etc, as part of a long-running gag. Romita brought Mary Jane Watson to life, just in time for her and Gwen Stacy to vie for Peter Parker’s affections, in an Archie/Betty/Veronica kind of way. Peter’s personal life become more interesting, enjoyable and optimistic during the issues featured in this collection, which stand in stark contrast to the first volume. Peter Parker started to hang out with a group of friends, which included Harry Osborn, Gwen, MJ and Flash Thompson, as opposed to the first volume, when he was much more of a loner. The first two issues included in this volume feature the infamous storyline wherein Peter Parker is captured by the Green Goblin, who reveals himself as Norman Osborn. It’s hard to believe now that this storyline is John Romita Sr.’s first work on this title, coming right on the heels of Steve Ditko. It’s intriguing to see how Romita’s style evolves over the course of a few issues, as he moves away from a style mimicking Steve Ditko to a style more his own . The characters featured here include Green Goblin, Rhino (in his first appearance), the Lizard, the Shocker (in his first appearance), Kraven, Vulture, Vulture II (in his first appearance), Kingpin (in his first appearance), Dr. Octopus, Spider-Slayer, Medusa and Mysterio.
With the issues in this collection, you see changes in how the issues are written, with more and more of them having storylines which last a couple issues, with one villain at the center. This was seen far less in the first thirty-eight issues of the series, as there were new villains introduced almost every issue, whereas with this collection’s 29 issues of Amazing Spider-Man there were far less villains used overall. This isn’t a detriment at all, as Stan Lee uses the increased page-count for the total story to make the story more dynamic and epic, and not simply contained to one issue. Given the historical context of these issues, it was breaking the mold to not be confined to simply one issue to tell a single story. There’s still a number of done-in-ones, but there are more ongoing plotlines throughout, which make the reading experience that much more enjoyable and complex.
The artwork in this collection is absolutely fantastic. As much as I’m a huge fan of Steve Ditko’s revolutionary work on Spider-Man, I’ve always preferred John Romita Sr.’s take on the character, particularly his supporting cast. He illustrates such dynamic looking characters, whether they be super-villains, super-heroes or mere civilians, but imbues them with life and energy.
Although this Omnibus comes with a hefty price tag, it’s well-worth the price. You can’t count yourself as a true fan of Spider-Man without experiencing his original adventures, whether it be from the first volume, or this volume. The adventures are fun, and set the stage for years of stories to come. Amazing Spider-Man #39-40 are landmark issues because they were the first time that Spider-Man was truly unmasked by a villain. It feels more commonplace now, but it was a huge deal at the time, as was Amazing Spider-Man #50, where Peter Parker decides to quit being Spider-Man for good. Now, it’s a well-worn cliché, as is the cover to the issue plus a panel in the issue where the Spider-Man costume is in the trash (as later seen in the film Spider-Man 2), but at the time it was unheard of, and more thrilling as a result. This is a collection that is a joy to read, as Lee and Romita tell fun stories featuring the wall-crawler and a truly eccentric cast of characters, both civilians and super-villains. Highly Recommended!