Evolve or Die
I've recently been going through as many of my graphic novels, and comic series as I can, and reviewing them, whilst also planing on reading the Marvel events as they fit in. Anyway I then realised that I should really make a start on my second favourite superhero Spider-Man, especially considering I've been disappointed in the current Superior Spider-Man series, and what better place to start than The Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection.
Spider-Man (Peter Parker) , along with his wife Mary Jane, and Aunt May move into Avengers Tower. Also Spidey, and the New Avengers have to deal with a remeasuring HYDRA, and their collection of rip-off Avengers, current, and old.
Spider-Man learns that he's dying, and the appearance of a new villain called Tracer, as well as Morlun returning from the dead isn't helpful, as to survive Spidey will need to go to drastic measures.
This was yet another brilliant book, but probably one of the weaker in J. Michael Straczynski's run. Overall Straczynski's rin was fabulous, and although this was still a couple of good stories, it wasn't quite to the same level of quality as some of his earlier work. The fact that there are only two stories in this volume opposed to three in the other volumes, due to The Other crossover being twelve issues long it gives less room for error, and only needs one of the stories to be poor to bring the book down, and that's the case here. Although Straczynski did a brilliant job on both stories, the New Avengers one was much better, as it was exciting, and entertaining, as well as dramatic, and at times funny, whilst also having some serious notes in it as well. The Others crossover, which would feature the first four Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man issues, as well as the last four issues of Marvel Knights Spider-Man before it'd be renamed The Sensational Spider-Man, which also had writers Reginald Hudlin, and Peter David working on it on the other hand wasn't as good, and although it was still a good story, it wasn't as good as I'd expect from a long crossover story that's meant to be the biggest story to date. Don't get me wrong, as I said it was good, and I loved how it was the perfect ending point for Straczynski's development on Spidey's mythos, it's just that it was a little too slow, and at times dull, and although it needed the time for realistic development, it simply felt too long. Overall however the writing from all writers was very good, and although not quite phenomenal, still better than a lot of other stories, whether Spider-Man related, or other.
The art in this volume was brilliant, and Mike Deodato, Jr. once again did a phenomenal job. I've always liked Deodato Jr.'s art, but his work on Spider-Man has to be some of the best artwork I've ever seen, as although his art on the various Avengers titles has been more impactful, his art here has been much more realistic, and emotional. The way he draws the character's is nothing short of phenomenal, as they really look amazing, with every minor detail being accounted for. Like always Deodato Jr. also drew the Avengers brilliantly, making them look amazing, and it was nice to see a cross of his art from Avengers, and Spidey mixed into this volume. I also loved how Deodato Jr. handled HYDRA's fake Avengers, as they looked really similar, whilst also being unique, and uniformal, as they looked like a team with matching uniforms, but also like the Avenger members they were impersonating. Dodato Jr.'s action sequences also once again blew me away, and his art overall is amazing, adding more depth, and drama to Straczynski's brilliant scripts. Like the fact that more than one writer worked on the Other crossover story, there was also more than one artist, as although Deodato Jr. would still do the art for the The Amazing Spider-Man issues, Mike Wieringo would do the art for Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man, and Pat Lee for Marvel Knights Spider-Man. Now both these artists also did a fabulous job, and there art is perfectly suited for a Spider-Man series, but unfortunately for them their art was shown next to Deodato Jr.'s, and there's simply no competition, as Deodato Jr.'s is much better. If I had to choice between the two over who's better, I'd have to give it to Wieringo, but there honestly isn't much between them, as they were both good.
Now I usually talk about certain things I liked throughout the graphic novel, or comic at this point, but due to this being a collection of three stories I felt that it'd be appropriate to talk about them individually, also rating them individually. I won't however be taking more on the writer, and artists unless absolutely necessary, as I've talked about there work in general throughout this entire book, and feel it unnecessary to add anything more.
This story moved swiftly from the previous story, Skin Deep, as with both Peter and MJ's flat, as well as Aunt May's house burnt down they're invited by Iron Man (Tony Stark) to move into Avengers Tower. The fact that they're now moving into Avengers Towers shows that not only MJ, and May are finally becoming fully apart of his world, but it also shows how high Spidey's risen in the world, as if a writer decided to burn all his possible living places to the ground a prior to this they'd have to make him fend for himself, and find his own living arrangements, as well as feel responsible for finding May a place to stay. The fact that MJ, and May moved in was also brilliant as we got to see them interact with Spidey's hero friends, the New Avengers, which gave a very inserting, and fun take of all the characters involved.
This story would also mark the return of HYDRA, with this group appearing to be different, having different motives, seeing themselves as the true HYDRA. Now HYDRA's probably the biggest villain organisation in Marvel comics, being the polar opposite of S.H.I.E.L.D., so it's always nice to see them involved in a story, assuming their handled properly. They were, and this was probably one of the more unique showings of HYDRA, as although their overall goals appeared to be the same as ever, they were going in a completely different direction than usual, which lead for a more unique, and dramatic story.
I was ecstatic when Spidey joined the New Avengers, as to have my favourite Marvel superhero join my favourite superhero team was amazing, and for Staczynski to utilise this in this story was brilliant. I also loved that this story started with a very New Avengers feel to it, with them working as a well oiled team against HYDRA, but I also liked that it'd then switch gears, focusing on Spidey, which is the way things should be, as after all it's still his series, and if people wanted to see a fully fledged New Avengers story they'd buy that series. It was also nice that although he felt like the new guy to the team (as some have been Avengers in the past), he was still embraced, and soon felt at home, loving the respect that came with being an Avenger.
This story would also have a fake Avengers team from HYDRA, featuring fake versions of, current Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, and former Avengers Thor, and Hawkeye. This was a brilliant thing to include in this story, as what better way to have a Avengers story then to have the enemy have their own set of Avengers. What I really liked about these fake Avengers though was that they didn't only have the retro Avengers look, but they were all in similar uniform, with them all being in green, and yellow, with a huge HYDRA symbol featured somewhere on them, in clear view. It was however also nice that their personalities were nothing like the Avengers they were copying, as that would be a little too predictable, making the whole idea of fake Avengers a bit rubbish, whereas the way Straczynski handled them was brilliant, and perfect for this story.
With MJ, and May moving to Avengers Tower with Peter it also allowed them to meet new people, and May in particular seemed to like the Avengers butler, Jarvis. When they first met it was brilliant, as you have this strong minded woman in May forcing Jarvis to take a break and allow her to do something for him. This would then lead into what looked to be the start of a relationship, as Jarvis would occasionally put his arm around her, and it even started to hold hands at one point. I think this is nice for both characters as May has been lonely for years, and as far as I know Jarvis has never had a romantic interest, so it's nice to see this possible relationship grow.
Although not the best story in Straczynski's run this was still an amazing story, and the best in this volume. It was also a very fun, and exciting story, and the mixture between Avengers and Spidey was perfect, with Spidey still controlling the series.
As I said earlier this story would feature three writers, and although I've not went into more detail about the writing of individual stories so far in my reviews of Straczynski's run I felt that this was an exception. I liked how the writers were spread out into groups with each writer writing a group of three issues, one for each series, then a final issue of the series their mainly working on. Now as well as this there were clearly three different styles, and it appeared that these were three different acts, and although this was interesting it didn't really help the story, as I personally felt that it slowed it down a little, whilst also making it slightly weird, and confusing at times, mainly between writers changing.
The story itself centred around Peter getting the news that he's dying. This was actually speculated in the New Avengers story, but to see it worked on more in this was brilliant, and the idea of a story being centred around that intrigued me, just a shame that the story itself was too long, and a little slow. Anyway, the thought of Spidey dying isn't something that should be taken lightly, as comic book deaths are usually frowned upon, especially if they've been handled wrong. The fact that Spidey was supposedly dying was however a good thing for this story, and probably one of the best things about the story. The way Straczynski, and the other writers handled the possibility of the death was also brilliant, and the emotion, and drama, as well as suspense really helped make this story as good as it was.
This story would also feature the introduction of yet another new villain, and a return of an old one, but lets start with the new one first. The new villain was called Tracer, and although he wasn't the best villain to be created during Straczynski's run, he was still very interesting, and brilliant for the opening part of this story. The name itself was ironic, as with Spidey having his own Spider-Tracer's, it's weird that he should face a character named Tracer. The thing that was probably most unique about Tracer, which was also the thing I liked the most, was that he appeared to be the type of villain that's only really added as a bit of fun, being washed under the carpet in less than one issue, whereas he was actually very formidable, and interesting, and not easy to beat. I also felt that he added fun to this story, which was nice, especially considering it would become very serious, and emotionally driven.
The villain that returned was none other than the first villain Straczynski created, Morlun. Now I wasn't entirely sure if I liked the return of Morlun, as although I loved him in the Coming Home story, I wasn't sure if bringing him back was a good thing. I say this as he had a brilliant battle with Spidey in that, and although he also had a good fight in this story, I felt that his presence was a bit forced to help the background of the story, as there wasn't a huge explanation as to how he's back from the dead, and the way he exited the story was also a bit too sudden. Overall I liked that he made an appearance, just wish he'd have been used a bit better than he was.
WARNING: ONE MAJOR SPOILER AS WELL AS THE ODD SMALL SPOILER THROUGHOUT REST OF THIS PART OF THE REVIEW!
I don't like spoiling anything in my reviews, but sometimes it's just too hard. This paragraph will contain the big spoiler, although it's not that big to people that follow Spidey. The only spoilers after that will be minor, and again people that know their Spidey knowledge will know about it already. Anyway Spider-Man does die. Now obviously he doesn't stay dead, as he was in comics just before the start of the year, and also featured in the Civil War story that followed straight after this, but there was a point in this where he died. I found this very interesting, and besides the minor fighting that was involved in this story, this was probably the best bit, as Straczynski took his mythos development to another level, and although I won't go into full details as to avoid spoiling everything, but I will say that it was brilliantly thought out, and very clever.
This story also saw Tony talking to Peter about redesigning his costume. This was a brilliant speculation, as the Iron Spider Costume that Tony would go on to create for Peter was amazing, and one of the more spectacular variant costumes that Spidey's had, and although when I first saw it I wasn't 100% fond of it, it's grown on me throughout seeing it in other stories, so to see the root of the costume in this story was nice.
Although this was slow, and dull at points, this was still a good story, but just a little too long. It had a lot of emotion, as well as some action, and fun, and it's a shame that it wasn't better, as with the core story it should have been.
Although this wasn't the best volume in Straczynski's run it was still very good, as although the Others was a bit disappointing, New Avengers was brilliant. The volume also had it's fair share of action, fun, and emotions, and although at times it could have been better it was still overall better than a lot of other books. I would still highly recommend this book, as it was still very good, and and overall this collection's the perfect way to collect Straczynski's run.
Overall Rating: 4/5
The next Spider-Man book I'll be reviewing will be The Amazing Spider-Man by JMS Ultimate Collection Volume Five, which contains Civil War: Spider-Man.
Before that however I'll be reviewing Civil War itself.