Monday, April 18, 2005

Best of the Bins 4

The Amazing Spider-Man #240 & 241
Written by Roger Stern
Illustrated by John Romita, Jr., Bob Layton and Frank Giacoia
(Marvel Comics)

I actually won my copy of ASM #240 at a Fun Night that my school was putting on. It was one of those mystery fishing games, or possibly a bean bag toss prize, I'm not really sure anymore. But I can say that this issue, and the issue following it, are pretty much responsible for getting me involved in the collecting and reading of comic books.

About a month after getting #240, I was in my local 7-11 to get some candy, or a Slurpee or something when I saw #241 sitting in the spinner rack. It was at this crucial moment where it dawned on me that this was part two of the great Vulture story that I read in that other comic. I knew that I had to have it, and after much begging and pleading to the parents, I did. The rest, as they say, is history.

As for the story itself, the first issue (titled 'Wings of Vengeance') was a perfect jumping on point for new readers - or any reader for that matter. We meet Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture, who is now living on the west coast, far away from Spider-Man and happy to not have to be dealing with him or his ilk on a daily basis. He stumbles upon a news article in The Daily Bugle stirring up bitter memories from his past that set him on a path back to New York and revenge.

Naturally a scheme is set into motion that will undoubtedly pit Toomes against your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

This was, and still is, some of my favourite Roger Stern stuff. I know people would argue me on this point, but I think Stern was pretty much at the top of his game during this period. Sure, the story does feel a bit dated (the indicia puts it at 1983), but it doesn't feel at all tired or cheesy to me.

It was also during this time John Romita, Jr. was just starting to show what he could really do on a comic book page - and just look at those covers. Great stuff. The layouts were pretty standard - roughly 6 panels a page - but the body language of the characters and the pacing of the stories were just classic Spidey. The only thing that really differentiated these tales from the Spidey stories of the '60s was the more 'sophisticated' soap opera elements of Peter Parker's life. A little corny by today's standards, sure, but less-so than the Conway stories of the '70s and the overdramatized stuff we see on the shelves today.

This was just good old solid storytelling without a lot of flotsam and jetsam to bog it down.

And 22 years later, I still love reading these issues.


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