Monday, March 14, 2011

Marvel Comics Review: Essential Spider-Man #4

Warning: This book is the reason I draw comics.

Not to get too far into it, but this book is seriously the reason I draw comics. Period. I feel like this book is a master class in art and storytelling. The writing combo of Stan Lee and John Romita (Even on the Buscema issues, which are great) is just about perfect, and this is an absolute joy to read and see. I wish there was a big color volume of this on the same kind of paper the Jack Kirby DC books are printed on, but the black and white Essential version is amazing. Jim Mooney's linework in this is an inspiration. If only I could use a brush the way that guy did...

My only complaint on this era of Spider-Man is that the John Romita, Jim Mooney combo didn't go on longer. These guys should have done years more work on Spidey! There seems to be a fine line between who did what on each issue as far as the finished art, but it's as solid as the Kirby/Sinnott ever was. It kills me that this didn't go on longer.

The main idea of this beautiful phonebook of comics is the clay tablet. First it involved The Kingpin, then moved around through the issues, and finally ended up with Man Mountain Marko, then Silvermane. The stories go back and forth between Romita and Buscema on pencils (or layouts, breakdowns or whatever. Mooney brings it all home, no matter who does what) and never loses steam.

I feel like this book is what's missing in comics today. Lee and Romita told a huge story about the clay tablet that was fit for a modern trade paperback, but it was told mostly in single issue stories that fit together nicely.

(SPOILER:) How awesome is it that as the clay tablet story ends, a nice Lizard story begins?

These are quick reviews, so enough with the mumbo-jumbo. This is a good art book, a good story book. If I was teaching a class on writing or drawing comics, this would be the textbook. I'd also throw in Essential Fantastic Four #4, but that's a different review.

Nuff said?

(Naturally, everything here is my own dumb opinion.)

UPDATE: Since Essential Spidey #4 doesn't seem to be for sale on Amazon anymore (Hopefully they'll reprint it, because mine is seriously getting worn out) I'm going to recommend Spider-Man Visionaries: John Romita in its place. It's a good book, and will be getting its own Quick Review pretty soon!


  1. I have to admit, although there are a lot of reasons I like Ditko's Spider-man more, Romita drew such a clean and elegant book, it's hard not to imagine this era as the definitive looking Spider-man.

  2. The John Romita Spider-Man and mid to late run Kirby Fantastic Fours were the items I most coveted in my older brother's comic box. They sparked a LOT of imaginations.

  3. @Aaron: I really really like Ditko's Spidey, but the Romita/Lee issues really hit home for me. I think that I like Romita's plotting and storytelling more.

  4. @Jeff: I always keep Essential Spider-Man #4 and Essential Fantastic Four #4 next to the bed. I love those books, the plotting, stories and dialogue were right on the money.