Now Reading: Spider-Man (1980-2018) Part 4

Last time we left off right before the infamous Brand New Day era began. There are so damn many hardcovers collecting the next decade of Spider-Man stories that I’m not even going to try to show them all individually. I’ll just stick to the highlights (and lowlights).

So…Brand New Day. This was a weird experimental era of Spider-Man where they made the main Amazing Spider-Man title weekly (though if I remember right, it was actually 3 weekly issues a month and one skip week), canceled the other titles, and put a constantly rotating bunch of writers and artists on to maintain the weekly pace. The first story started off really well with incredible art by Steve McNiven (the real reason anyone likes the Civil War comic) and writing by Dan Slott.

Unfortunately, the other writers in the rotation were nowhere near as good as Slott. Guggenheim is a guy known more for his TV writing and has a pretty bad history when it comes to comics (though they seem to keep giving him work even today for some reason) and the choice of Bob Gale, another TV/movie writer who was “best known” for his work on Back To The Future and not a whole lot else since, was just baffling.

One of the rare great stories of those early days

I love Back To The Future, but the Gale issues are just unbelievably bad. This guy was clearly very out of touch with modern times, giving us embarrassingly bad stories like the introduction of a new villain, Freak, who was a junkie that accidentally falls through a skylight into a lab, finds a bunch of random syringes full of unknown chemicals, and then immediately fully injects them all into himself because that’s how drugs work, right? Frankly, it all came off like some grandpa trying to talk like “the cool kids today talk”. Freak repeatedly referring to meth as “China White” especially made me grind my teeth.

Another problem with this early part of the era was that they insisted on trying to use only brand new villains, because BRAND NEW, right (even though the previous run with JMS had already almost entirely avoided using classic Spider-Man villains for the last 7 years or so)? This started getting old really fast, especially since most of them, except for a few Slott-created ones like Mr. Negative, were miserable failures. There was also that whole business with Jackpot…man, I don’t even want to talk about that. So stupid.

I remember actually dropping the book for a while at the time because the non-Slott issues were so bad. They managed to reel me back in by finally adding some good new talents like Joe Kelly and Mark Waid to the rotation, cutting down on the Guggenheim, and getting rid of Gale entirely. Things finally started getting good, and consistently so, for the Brand New Day era.

It kept getting better too, as they finally dropped Guggenheim, added Fred Van Lente, and started a long-running era called The Gauntlet, which re-introduced and re-invented all the classic big name Spider-Man villains.

Almost all the classics had wonderfully impressive revamps, to the point where it’s hard to narrow it down to a favorite. Mysterio, Doctor Octopus, and Lizard were especially high points in the whole thing. They took these played out old characters and turned them into cool new threats all over again, some of which are still going strong even today. Well, with the exception of poor old Electro. Doesn’t seem like anyone’s capable of making him interesting again.

The long-running Gauntlet era was all building up to this “huge” story, The Grim Hunt, which was a good story for what it was, though didn’t feel all that epic enough to warrant a year or so of build up. It all led to the original Kraven coming back to life who then just kind of disappeared and never came back again afterwards. Still, I’m glad they did though, as most of the stories that led to it were more exciting than the finale itself.

And then there was One Moment In Time…another highly controversial story that Joe Quesada decided needed to be told in order to explain all the huge dangling plotholes that One More Day created. I don’t know that anyone was really all that concerned with this information anymore, since it had already been a few years since OMD and everyone seemed pretty content to just forget about it at that point. I suppose it did succeed in plugging those plotholes, though it didn’t end up adding much to the history of Spider-Man. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it just made me wonder why they didn’t just fix things the way they did here instead of with that awful Mephisto story, but whatever. It’s over and done with…

Anyway, Slott took over full time after that and had a pretty great run filled with almost constant back-to-back epics like Ends of the Earth, Spider-Island, Spider-Verse, The Clone Conspiracy, and more. It isn’t a perfect run, there are some stumbling points like Venom Inc. and such, and Slott can get dangerously self-indulgent at times, but for the most part it’s an impressively long and highly entertaining era of Spider-Man.

And don’t think that I forgot about the best part of the run, The Superior Spider-Man! It’s just that I already wrote a post about that one back in the day. Short version though: one of the most unusual and amazing Spider-Man stories ever (very excited that Superior Spider-Man is about to get his own new book again too)!

Other titles worth mentioning from this time period also include:

Legendary Peter David’s recently concluded Scarlet Spider series (his more recent volume of Spider-Man 2099 was also great) and Chip Zdarsky’s recently concluded run on the latest volume of Spectacular Spider-Man.

There was also Nick Spencer’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man, another one I already wrote a post about a few years back. Today Spencer is writing the main Spider-Man title and it’s going quite well so far.

That’s finally all I really have to say about Spider-Man for now! After reading almost nothing but Spider-Man for the last few months, I’m quite ready for something new. I mean I love Spider-Man and all, but man, several decades worth of comics is a lot to re-read. Damn you Spider-Man, for having too damn many great comics over the years…

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