It's accurate to say that I'm not pleased with Marvel has done with--see, I almost wrote "to"--the team in the past few years. Reed Richards is a total jerk and borderline evil, Sue Storm is Superman, and their daughter is Stewie from "Family Guy." I've no idea why.
But I can't help but love "FF" (not "Fantastic Four," "FF"). "The art is by Mike Allred" is reason enough and this launching-off issue, as the regular team prepares to set off on a time-and-space-spanning family car trip and hands the Baxter Building over to some temporary replacements, sets the stage nicely and is packed with fun and sad character moments.
"Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1" wins on page count alone: 73 pages packed with feature after feature. And it's still brilliant stuff, even fifty years later.
And yes, Peter Parker has been through some changes since then. He's now a member of the Avengers. It's another move that I don't really understand. Peter Parker? Experiencing acceptance and acknowledgment? You did say "Peter Parker," yes?.
But the pleasure of "Avenging Spider-Man Annual #1" cracks through my crusty reactions. It helps that I try to think of it as an issue of "Marvel Team-Up" featuring Spidey and The Thing (who also is an Avenger now, somehow). And hey! It's an annual with no connections to any mega-crossover-events, so it's a nice self-contained issue.
Dan Slott, the current master of Spider-Man's fate in Marvel comics, has a lot of guts. He concluded Spidey's original series by having Doctor Octopus swap minds with Pete, leaving our hero to "die" (required emphasis) in the battered, aged body of a internationally-loathed super villain.
Yes, we all know full well that the status quo will be restored before the Spider-Man movie sequel is released next year. But Slott has hit on an intriguing premise: in the new "Superior Spider Man," a baddie is now determined to live out the rest of his adversary's life, with the benefit of the expanded perspective and sense of responsibility that Parker's left-behind memories deliver. Further, he's going to take up Spider-Man's mantle and continue his heroic mandate. But he's going to do it better, (hence "Superior Spider-Man"), and naturally he'll execute his acts of genuine heroism from the mindset of an experienced villain.
I wish Marvel had thrown more of its classic graphic novels into the Free 700 mix. I grabbed up "Spider-Man: Hooky," a self-contained epic that can be neatly summarized as "Spidey fights a giant cockroach." But! It's lavishly illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. It's a triple-win to anybody who reads their comics on a Retina-display iPad or MacBook.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.