Essential #7: The Amazing Spider-Man
by various writers & artists (Marvel Comics, 2005)

I was much younger when I last read an Amazing Spider-Man comic book. Reading the massive Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man #7, which reprints issues from the mid-1970s, made three things apparent to this now more mature reader.

• The artists from this collection were exceptional.

The art is reality-based and melodramatic. Men are more muscular and women are more beautiful than in this world. Even the drama of New York City skyscrapers is heightened through exaggeration. This is heroic literature dressed in circus costumes. Visually, it's life lived BIG.

• The stories were well crafted, melodramatic and formulaic.

Melodrama is "a play full of suspense in a sensational and emotional style," and after enduring a smattering of personal problems related to his job or his friends or family, Spidey always faces, and eventually defeats, a villain. That's formula.

• Spider-Man's adventures were not written for older adults.

Peter Parker is a young man in these stories, but his personal problems wear only the sheen of reality. Life is actually more complicated and painful, filled with greater disappointments and fewer resolutions than in Spider-Man's world. Our villains aren't as easily recognized; they don't wear costumes.

But, then again, that is as it should be. Spider-Man exists so that we can escape the real world. And he does his job well.

So did the writers -- Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin and Len Wein -- and artists -- Ross Andru, Sal Buscema and Gil Kane -- on these stories. Essential: The Amazing Spider-Man #7 is recommended.

review by
Michael Vance

1 December 2007

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