Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #85, 86; Web of Spider-Man #20

A few days ago, I wrote a review of a 2008 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man that was really critical of the violence of that era as well as the art and storytelling. At one point in the review, I noted that a story like that could have been done in the 1980s without as much violence and still have been good.

Well, in my recent FCBD quarter-bin quest, I came across a number of 1980s Spider-Man comics, so I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

Of all the comics I came across, I decided to grab these three. The Web of Spider-Man issue I picked up because it was a 1986 Marvel 25th Anniversary cover. Spectacular #86 was an Assistant Editors’ Month issue. #85 was right before that one and had the Hobgoblin on the cover. So it was, in part, a window on early1980s Marvel and 1980s Spider-Man, an era that I’ve always been curious about (for some reason much of Marvel after 1987 is not as intriguing to me as the stuff before it … I don’t know why this is).

The Hobgoblin storyline I remember being one of the biggest mysteries of the early 1980s. During my first few years of collecting comics, I’d often see books from this storyline in back issue bins or even on the wall of my LCS. It was a character who seemed related to the Green Goblin but wasn’t him, and whose identity was a complete secret for a long time with a long list of possible suspects. I’ve actually never read the whole storyline, so I don’t know who is behind the mask, and if I recall correctly via my reading of websites like CBR, it was meant to be one character but wound up being someone else (and DC would never ever do something like that).

This issue is a really solid one. You’ve got Spidey taking on the Hobgoblin who was presumed dead in an earlier issue but is very much alive and has not only found the Green Goblin’s secret lab but seems to be conducting experiments on himself to get some of the Goblin’s power. There’s a Peter Parker subplot involving a number of his friends and supporting cast members who are in their twenties and are marrying and having kids. And there’s the romance between Spider-Man and Black Cat. It’s a comic book crammed with a whole lot that has an ongoing story but doesn’t feel like you had to have been a regular reader to know what’s going on. It’s the type of storytelling from this era that I absolutely love done by one of the better writers of the time, Bill Mantlo with solid Marvel house-style artwork by Al Milgrom and Jim Mooney.

Issue #86 is an Assistant Editors Month story done by Fred Hembeck that has Spidey and Black Cat taking on The Fly and is full of the silliness and hijinks you’d come to expect from both Hembeck and the Assistant Editors’ Month concept. There’s also a fair amount of Marvel Bullpen zaniness that helps take us out of the typical Marvel art into Hembeck and back out of it without it interfering in the ongoing storyline. Again, fun comics not taking themselves so seriously.

Now, when it comes to Web of Spider-Man, this is an odd series to begin with. I’ve only really ever owned four or five issues of this book: the two that were part of the “Kraven’s Last Hunt” storyline, the anniversary issue from 1992, and those issues that were collected in trade paperbacks I own. Otherwise, all I know about it is that it was kind of the “red-headed stepchild” of the Spider books, coming into being after the cancellation of Marvel Team–Up. Like I said, I grabbed this issue because it has a Marvel 25th Anniversary cover. Unfortunately, it’s one of the more boring covers being that it’s just the Spider-signal (the other two feature Spidey himself). But the story inside isn’t too bad.

Peter Parker and his co-worker Joy have been sent to London to cover something for The Daily Bugle and wind up getting caught up in terrorist activities by groups that I think are part of the independence movement in Northern Ireland. So instead of this being a supervillain story, this is more “international intrigue”-type stuff for Spider-Man and involves a bunch of cloak-and-dagger stuff that isn’t usually his thing. It is a weird fit for our character, as it seems more in line with some of Denny O’Neil’s 1970s Batman issues where millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne happened to be traveling internationally and Batman came along with him. And honestly, that makes more sense than poor newspaper photographer Peter Parker.

Still, I really enjoyed this book. David Micheline, who would go on to write one of the most notable Spider-Man stories of the late 1980s and early 1990s and was one of the best writers that Marvel’s Star Wars series ever had, writes a tight, intriguing plot. Marc Silvestri handles the pencils on this and they’re really good. I was hot and cold on Silvestri’s X-Men work during the latter part of the 1980s and that’s mainly because I wasn’t the hugest fan of the stories that Chris Claremont was telling. But he seems to really fit this type of Spier-Man story and I might be interested in reading through these early Web of Spider-Man issues on Marvel Unlimited.

These aren’t in great condition and I’m not really interested in starting a Spider-Man comic book collection, but Brett’s got a decent-sized Spidey comics pile going so I might leave them there.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?


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