Marked For Destruction By Dr. Doom
Coming off the heels of four fantastic issues, this month's issue which sees the series go monthly as Spider-Man sets himself up against the Fantastic Four's nemesis Doctor Doom is the weakest offering yet. While not a bad issue by any means—and heaven knows we've had plenty over the past few months—this apparently inevitable clashing of Doom and Spidey is kind of fun, but relies too heavily on splitting the comic right down the middle for setup and action. What worked most about previous issues (and set Spider-Man aside from his peers) was that the action would be split into two, and the drama and tension would be equally spread across the panels. What happens here (and it's something that Lee explicitly refers to half-way in) is that we get 12 pages of exposition, and then 12 pages of this supposedly epic battle.
What Lee gets wrong however, is that we readers are groaning our way through the first half of the story in order simply to get to the real meat which is the eventual battle between Doom and Spider-Man. Wrong. The first half of the story which deals almost exclusively with further developing Peter's character and his internal moral conflict regarding his superhero dichotomy is what propelled me through the first twelve pages; not the prospect of seeing Doctor Doom somehow escape once again, this time from Spider-Man and not The Fantastic Four. Having received more characterisation than any other hero thus far in the Marvel canon, Parker is already becoming the fully realised character that he would eventually become—something that readers had already responded positively to and thus demanded that the series be delivered to them every month instead of bi-monthly. Sure, Spider-Man is pretty cool, and Ditko sure grabs you by the eyeballs everytime you open one of these up, but it's the central character and realistic writing dripping with pathos from Lee that grabs your imagination and sympathy which, believe it or not, sells more comics than EPIC CROSS-OVER BATTLES. Or at least, I hope it does.
Perhaps the biggest flaw with this issue then is that Lee neglects the reader to instead submit to his 12-page action encounter which never really takes off like it should. I mean sure, there's the overhanging fact that Doom more or less takes it to Spidey before the Fantastic Four show up and chase him away, but aside from that it's all just a little bit pedestrian in comparison to some of the better Spider-Man or even Fantastic Four battles. Nevertheless, despite some problems being present that weren't there when Spider-Man was produced every couple of months (one can't help but assume this helped keep the quality consistently top-notch as even Ditko's art works comes off as a little rushed here), it's still a fun read packed with the characterisation and quirks that have made this series a joy to read thus far. I can only hope, however, that the series makes a U-Turn and doesn't begin the nose-dive that most series' have made following their impressive debuts.
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