Archive for March, 2010

The Fantastic Four #3

March 31, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
March 1962
***
The FF face an evil hypnotist in a hole-ridden Silver-Age plot. Of course, there’s Kirby’s flair for monsters—the belligerent Thing included—& the issue does offer genre innovations: matching unis, an absence of double lives/secret IDs, & in-fighting that causes the teenaged Torch to quit the team.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #2
next issue: The Fantastic Four #4

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The Fantastic Four #2

March 30, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
January 1962
***

The Four’s rep gets sullied by a cadre of green, shape-shifting alien impersonators. The plot’s a scrap of sci-fi paranoia, with anti-McCarthy undertones. But the vivacity of Kirby’s panels & the team’s outsider status/inner dissension is great—esp. the violent, tragic self-hatred of the Thing!

last issue: The Fantastic Four #1
next issue: The Fantastic Four #3

The Fantastic Four #1

March 29, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
November 1961
****

The concept’s still nascent, but it’s no mere JLA knock-off. This team isn’t far removed from the Marvel monsters that it fights under the Earth’s surface—esp. the Thing! Just walking down the street, their mutated bodies nearly spark a riot. A rocket launch adds a New Frontier modernity to the mag.

next issue: The Fantastic Four #2

The Amazing Spider-Man #38

March 28, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
July 1966
*****
Ditko jams his last issue w/ small ironies & hard luck. A palooka gets super-strength in a TV-studio science accident. It’s fame for this ordinary Joe & bupkis for Pete, kept busy when Norm Osborne puts out a hit on him. Ditko also tips his Objectivist hand by having Pete sneer @ a campus protest.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #37]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #39]

The Amazing Spider-Man #37

March 27, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
June 1966
****
It’s Ditko’s penultimate issue, but you wouldn’t know it. He intros a complex new foe: industrialist Norman Osborne. He’s mean to his son (Pete’s fellow student, but no friend), he’s pals w/ JJJ, &, ironically, he’s saved by Spidey from a mad scientist w/ a pair of robots (one a green amoeba!).
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #36]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #38]

The Amazing Spider-Man #36

March 26, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
May 1966
***
A crackpot beatnik gets super-strength from a meteor till Spidey ends his criminal shenanigans. The standard Silver-Age plot gets lifted by Ditko’s awesome costume design & the baddie’s well-done ‘tude of lazy egotism. Meanwhile @ college, Pete’s developing a Beatrice/Benedick affair w/ Gwen Stacy.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #35]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #37]

The Amazing Spider-Man #35

March 25, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
April 1966
***
Spidey once again faces the bronze-bodied super-hoodlum (see #28) who seems to inspire Ditko visually. The issue looks good, but its dust-up is padded out w/ large panels & the story is boilerplate superheroics. Small pleasures include a dialogue-free page & the verve of every Lee/Ditko issue of Amazing.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #34]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #36]

The Amazing Spider-Man #34

March 24, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
March 1966
****
After that last 3-issue arc, this ish & the next few feel like a coda to Ditko’s run. He’s not phoning in his work, of course, but it takes him time to regain his momentum. Here, big-game hunter Kraven impersonates Spidey to draw him into a showdown. And on campus, a blonde vamp co-ed eyes Pete.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #33]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #35]

The Amazing Spider-Man #33

March 23, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
February 1966
*****
Spider-Man comes to its justly praised climax as Pete, inspired by his filial duty, pushes thru his exhaustion & rectifies his original failure to protect his uncle. The conclusion of a 36-issue tale, Ditko’s comic-book adventure about growth & maturity is a triumph of art & story.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #32]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #34]

The Amazing Spider-Man #32

March 22, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
January 1966
*****
The Master Planner arc is a dynamo, starting w/ his ID reveal: Doc Ock! His men steal an isotope that might heal Aunt May—& Pete’s the cause of her illness, due to a radioactive blood transfusion back in #10. So Spidey turns NYC upside-down, finally bringing Ock’s underwater base down upon himself!
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #31]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #33]

The Amazing Spider-Man #31

March 21, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
December 1965
*****
The hippest cover yet: stylized spider pop-art! A juicy action plot sees Spidey tangle w/ a spy-fi cadre—complete w/ underwater lair & mystery leader! But that pales beside PP’s glum debut at college: w/ Aunt May hospitalized, he’s too glum to make a good impresh on a blonde co-ed.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #30]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #32]

The Amazing Spider-Man #30

March 20, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
November 1965
****
Check out the deco cover: the forced perspec of searchlights & toppling water-tower, the tiny figures & tinier cop cars! The rest is small potatoes, as Spidey runs down a cat burglar but overlooks a cadre of gasmasked goons. Even so, Ditko’s art seems more emo & expressive the last few issues.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #29]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #31]

The Amazing Spider-Man #29

March 19, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
October 1965
***
Ditko, time-squeezed maybe by the ’65 Annual this month, delivers a ho-hum comic. The panels are unusually big—there’s even one 2×2 layout—& a dullish villain (the Scorpion, a strong-man thug). It’s enlivened mainly by the fishbowl cover & a final page that reminds us starkly of Aunt May’s frailty.
[continued from The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2]
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #28]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #30]

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2

March 18, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
October 1965
****
Tho’ it’s in an Amazing Annual, the story’s actually a Strange Tale: Spider-Man plays second banana to Doc Strange when a sorcerer burgles Strange’s pad for a magic wand. High on art but not on plot, this team-up is The Steve Ditko Show—most  obviously during Spidey’s tussle in a Ditko Dimension!
[continued from: The Amazing Spider-Man #26]
[continued in: The Amazing Spider-Man #28]

The Amazing Spider-Man #28

March 17, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
September 1965
*****
Forget for a sec the awesome neon-&-black cover. This ish is an essential chapter of Ditko & Lee’s bildungsroman: Peter graduates from high school. For all that, it’s played straight, w/out no heroics—just a diploma & scholarship. The  first half sees Spidey, in the dark, best a hoodlum w/ metal skin.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #27]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #29]

The Amazing Spider-Man #27

March 16, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
August 1965
*****
Part 2 of the gangland war arc hits the spot w/ a joyously giant brawl (Spidey & 3 cops vs. Goblin, a rival kingpin, & a warehouse of goons).  Then denouement as the kingpin’s unmasked—he’s just some hood!—& Pete takes his aunt to the movies. Note: the NYPD (ie the comic) is racially integrated.
[continued in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2]
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #26]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #28]

The Amazing Spider-Man #26

March 15, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
July 1965
*****
With Ditko in charge, Amazing gains steam. Last ish, bad-luck Pete lost both costume & spare; an ill-fitting rental provides comedic visuals.  And Goblin’s back, vying to be kingpin w/ a new masked big man—which matches the MO of a paroled reporter (see #10) who has a false ID. Cliffhanger!
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #25]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #27]

The Amazing Spider-Man #25

March 14, 2010

Steve Ditko/Stan Lee
June 1965
*****
JJJ once again proves to be our hero’s worst enemy, renting a spider-killing robot w/ a video-screen head & creepy metal cilia. But the ish isn’t just frantic action. Pete sells his boss on the ‘bot = nice irony, plus Pete’s love triangle gets goosed up by a cute neighbor (face coyly hidden).
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #24]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #26]

The Amazing Spider-Man #24

March 13, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
May 1965
*****
The sizzling Spidey of late ’64 returns. W/ girl troubles, no cash, & the Bugle on his case, Peter’s in the dumps—& he starts cracking up! Once again, he visits an analyst (see #13), where he has a few optical hallucinations! It’s really Mysterio’s plot to unmask Spidey, foiled, ironically, by JJJ.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #23]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #25]

The Amazing Spider-Man #23

March 12, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
April 1965
****
This brisk actioner is more in line w/ classic Amazing than the last few, even if it doesn’t break new ground.  Spidey rounds up a crime syndicate before the Green Goblin can muscle their boss out. A bit of melodrama, a bit of humor (Pete phones Aunt May mid-fight!), & a red herring for the Gob’s ID.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #22]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #24]

The Amazing Spider-Man #22

March 11, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
March 1965
***
Tho’ Ditko never phones the art in, this ish (like the last two) treads water. Spidey again faces the corny Circus of Crime, which now includes his first female foe. She’s a snake-handler who plays the “you wouldn’t hit a girl” card. Still, lovely fights, esp. Spidey’s match w/ an enormous python.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #21]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #23]

The Amazing Spider-Man #21

March 10, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
February 1965
***
#21 features not only Johnny Storm but also his gal & one of his foes: a villain whose armored suit incl. creepy suction-cupped finger prongs. The plot is meant to play Spidey off a hero at ease w/ himself & popular w/ the public. But these notes are sounded better elsewhere in Ditko’s run.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #20]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #22]

The Amazing Spider-Man #20

March 9, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
January 1965
****
If it was in doubt, this ish sees JJJ earn the title of Spidey’s archenemy. He hates Spidey so much he finances a new foe, the Scorpion (less visually cool than prior Ditko costumes). And bravo to Ditko’s 3×3 layout, which allows him to manipulate pace yet lose none of his splendid articulation.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #19]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #21]

The Amazing Spider-Man #19

March 8, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
December 1964
*****
Plotwise, Amazing returns to its zippy status quo. Spidey’s his happy-go-lucky self again, rescuing the kidnapped Human Torch from the Sandman & assorted toughs; he doesn’t even care that Betty’s dating a cub reporter. It’s on layout that Ditko innovates, testing a 3×3 grid that packs more action in.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #18]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #20]

The Amazing Spider-Man #18

March 7, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
November 1964
*****
Parker doesn’t face a superbaddie here, just rotten circumstances! (Okay, he runs from a fight w/ Sandman.) With Aunt May needing constant care, Pete can’t salvage his alter ego’s rep on the streets. JJJ is grinning, Johnny Storm is moping, & Flash Thompson gets beat up for his Spidey support.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #17]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #19]

The Amazing Spider-Man #17

March 6, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
October 1964
*****
Is Spidey idolized or reviled? Well, Pete’s teenage love triangle, simmering for months, boils over like he’s Archie. Worse, he loses the support of Spidey’s fan club when he bails on a fight (Aunt May’s sick—again!).  All this plus a resurgent Green Goblin & a guest app by heartthrob Johnny Storm!
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #16]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #18]

The Amazing Spider-Man #16

March 5, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
September 1964
***
A real comedown after the Annual,  #16 revisits one of Marvel’s Silver Age-iest concepts, the Circus of Crime. Sure, the setting plays to Ditko’s acrobatic style, as Spidey rockets around the big top. But the ish is a soggy pretext to entice readers to the newly-minted Daredevil, a blind superhero.
[continued from The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1]
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #15]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #17]

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

March 4, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
September 1964
*****
Amazing‘s first annual is spectacular, a comic-book classic. Spidey’s foes band together as the Sinister Six & kidnap his girl (&, coincidentally, his aunt). Unfortch, Pete’s anxiety has unconsciously repressed his spider-powers! Still, he courageously dispatches them in a half-dozen A+ splash pages. The action’s balanced by comic beats, mostly w/ JJJ, & by guest apps from Marvel’s other superheroes.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #15]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #16]

The Amazing Spider-Man #15

March 3, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
August 1964
****
Ditko adds another visually memorable villain to Spidey’s roster. Kraven, a big-game hunter w/ jungle beatnik style, challenges himself to capture Spider-Man in a thrilling nighttime chase thru Central Park. Breathless action leaves only a little time for Parker’s girl woes & money problems.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #14]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #16]

The Amazing Spider-Man #14

March 2, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
July 1964
****
I suspect Lee mandated this trip to New Mexico, to engineer a fight btw. Spidey & the Hulk. On a film shoot, our hero faces the Enforcers & a new foe, the Green Goblin. Ditko gives Gobby a pip of a design—elfin ears, a green/purple color scheme, & a Kirbytech broomstick—but no personality.
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #13]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #15]

The Amazing Spider-Man #13

March 1, 2010

Stan Lee // Steve Ditko
June 1964
*****
This ish, the new foe who cleans Spidey’s clock (atop the Brooklyn Bridge) in round 1 & gets kayoed in round 2 is Mysterio, an FX stuntman whose style riffs on Dr. Strange. What lifts #13 above a typical v.g. Amazing ish? Spidey, worried that he’s getting a split personality, visits a shrink!
[last issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #12]
[next issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #14]