Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: The Goblin’s Last Stand


By Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, John Romita, Gil Kane, Jim Starlin, Paul Reinman, Frank Giacoia, Tony Mortellaro & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-3029-0407-4

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Sheer Blockbuster Entertainment… 9/10

Outcast, geeky high school kid Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and, after attempting to cash-in on the astonishing abilities he’d developed, suffered an irreconcilable personal tragedy. Due to the teenager’s arrogant neglect, his beloved guardian Uncle Ben was murdered and the traumatised boy determined henceforward to always use his powers to help those in dire need.

For years the brilliant young hero suffered privation and travail in his domestic situation, whilst his heroic alter ego endured public condemnation and mistrust as he valiantly battled all manner of threat and foe…

The isolated High School nerd had grown up and gone to college but despite having more friends now, due to his guilt-fuelled double-life he struggled there too. His one glimmer of hope and joy came from finding true love with policeman’s daughter Gwen Stacy

Spanning February 1972 to August 1973, this fulsome, tragedy-tinged full-colour Epic Collection kicks off with the middle chapter of an enthralling 3-part saga depicting our rapidly-maturing hero facing a city seemingly gone mad…

Capitalising on an era rife with social unrest and political protest, Stan Lee, Gil Kane & Frank Giacoia set the ball rolling with ‘The Spider Slayer!’ as the New York City police install spy cameras on every rooftop and discredited technologist Spencer Smythe resurfaces with a far more formidable anti-Spider-Man robot for obsessed Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson to set against the wallcrawler.

The story also features the release of Harry Osborn from drug rehab and former school bully and gadfly Flash Thompson returning from Vietnam, but the big shock is discovering the once-benign Smythe has gone totally bonkers…

Also responsible for and secretly controlling the police spy-eyes, Smythe observes Spidey without his mask and in ‘Squash! Goes the Spider!’ (triumphantly pencilled by the returning John Romita Sr.) the potty professor betrays old employer Jameson, allies with criminal gangs and attempts to plunder the entire city. When the Amazing Arachnid attempts to block the banditry, he finds himself facing the ultimate Spider-Slayer before valiantly battling his way to victory in ‘Spidey Smashes Thru!’

The secret of Flash Thompson starts to unfold in issue #108’s ‘Vengeance from Vietnam!’ (with Romita inking his own pencils) as our troubled war hero reveals an American war atrocity. The event left a peaceful in-country village devastated and a benign wise man comatose and near-dead, consequently setting a vengeful cult upon the saddened soldier’s guilt-ridden heels, which all Spider-Man’s best efforts could not deflect or deter.

The campaign of terror culminates in #109 as ‘Enter: Dr. Strange!’ sees America’s Master of the Mystic Arts divine the truth and set things aright, but only after an extraordinary amount of unnecessary violence for all involved …

Amazing Spider-Man #110 featured ‘The Birth of… the Gibbon!’ (by Lee & Romita) which finds a despondent and world-weary wallcrawler battling another shunned and lonely outcast. Orphaned drifter Martin Blank possesses an anthropoid frame which makes him an outcast and brings out the cruel worst in humanity. When he reaches out in friendship and admiration to Spidey he is rebuffed again and savagely retaliates…

By the time of these tales Stan Lee was easing out of writing and here replaces himself with 19-year-old science fiction author Gerry Conway. The scripts – aided in no small part by the plotting input and mentoring of resident illustrator John Romita – achieved a greater contemporary tone more closely in tune with the times. Combined with the emphatic use of soap opera subplots to keep older readers glued to the series even when bombastic battle sequences didn’t, the series grew to ever greater heights of popularity.

Moreover, as a true sign of the times a hint of cynical surrealism also began creeping in…

The Gibbon returned a month later when psychopathic stalker Kraven the Hunter brainwashes the hapless outcast ‘To Stalk a Spider!’. Gerry Conway’s tenure then takes hold as #112 follows up with another periodic crisis of faith for Peter Parker quits adventuring or in the parlance of the period, ‘Spidey Cops Out!’

The harassed, exhausted hero is ready to chuck it all in until another nightmarish adversary resurfaces as part of a growing gang war…

‘They Call the Doctor… Octopus!’ (Conway & Romita with art assistance from Tony Mortellaro and Jim Starlin) sees the city plunged into chaos when the multi-limbed madman squares off against mysterious gang-boss Hammerhead with a rededicated but fearfully overmatched Spider-Man caught in the middle…

The next chapter in a brutal and comparatively long-running duel for control of New York’s underworld plays out in ‘Gang War, Schmang War! What I Want to Know is … Who the Heck is Hammerhead?’ by Conway, Romita Sr., Mortellaro & Jim Starlin, with our angst-ridden arachnid trapped between the duelling mobs of 1930s movie gangster pastiche Hammerhead and sworn nemesis Otto Octavius; each seeking to top the other’s callous, staggering ruthlessness.

In the melee Spidey is captured by the bizarre boastful braggart and learns how an ordinary amnesiac gunsel was rebuilt into an unstoppable cyborg by a rogue scientist named Jonas Harrow.

Seconds from death, Spider-Man risks everything on a wild escape bid after overhearing that Ock will be meeting up with an old lady. The agonised wallcrawler fears that his beloved, befuddled, missing-for-months Aunt May is once more sheltering the many-armed menace…

Dashing into the Westchester countryside, Spider-Man breaks in to Octavius’ HQ only to be brained with a vase by the terrified May Parker. Moments behind him are Hammerhead’s goons and, all too soon, ‘The Last Battle!’ is savagely underway…

As the mobsters decimate each other, Spider-Man barely escapes being shot by his closest relative and is more than happy to disappear when the police show up to arrest (almost) everybody…

In the aftermath the Widow Parker astounds everybody by revealing that she will be staying in Octopus’ mansion until he is released…

Amazing Spider-Man #116 began an extended political thriller with charismatic reformer Richard Raleigh opens a savvy campaign to become Mayor, only to be opposed and hunted by a brutish monster and hidden mastermind in ‘Suddenly… the Smasher!’

Older fans will recognise much of the story and art since it was a recycled Lee, Romita & Jim Mooney monochrome saga from 1968’s Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine (retrofitted with additional art by Romita & Mortellaro and bridging scenes scripted by Conway).

The tale is also neatly reconfigured to encompass new subplots regarding May’s absence and Jameson’s involvement and obsession with squeaky clean Law-&-Order demagogue Raleigh…

The drama deepens with ‘The Deadly Designs of the Disruptor!’ as the monster’s masked master intensifies efforts to destroy the would-be Mayor – with only Spider-Man seemingly able to deter the maniac – until the affair finally culminates in a ‘Countdown to Chaos!’ wherein the true architect of the campaign of terror is exposed and destroyed…

Peter’s problems exponentially increased in #119 as a mysterious telegram for Aunt May calls him away to Canada to meet a lawyer named Rimbaud. Before he leaves, however, Peter’s best friend’s father has a disturbing episode.

Norman Osborn had been secretly terrorising New York and plaguing Peter as the maniacal Green Goblin until cured by hallucinogen-induced amnesia. Now as Parker readies himself for a trip to Montreal, Osborn seems to be recovering long obscured memories…

With no other option, our harried hero heads north, arriving in time to be caught in a city-wide panic as another verdant former sparring partner hits town. ‘The Gentleman’s Name is… Hulk!’ (an all-Conway & Romita collaboration) saw the wallcrawler utterly overmatched but still striving to stop the rampaging green juggernaut, spectacularly culminating in ‘The Fight and the Fury!’ (illustrated by Gil Kane with Paul Reinman and inked by Romita & Mortellaro).

With the immediate threat averted, Peter at last rendezvous with Rimbaud only to witness the secretive legal eagle murdered before he can share whatever he knows about May Parker…

Returning home, Parker endures the culmination of a decade of suspense and intrigue on ‘The Night Gwen Stacy Died’ (Conway, Kane, Romita & Mortellaro): the initial instalment of a 2-part tale which gobsmacked fans as the hero’s greatest efforts proved insufficient to save his intended from the insane rage of the resurgent Goblin.

The ultimate nemesis had recovered the lost memory of his evil alter ego after his son Harry fell back into drug abuse. Once restored to his malign potency, the maniac kidnapped Spider-Man’s girlfriend to force a final confrontation…

The tragic episode leads inexorably to ‘The Goblin’s Last Stand!’ one issue later and a grim and gritty new direction…

With Spider-Man accused of murdering Osborn and erroneously implicated in Gwen’s death, Jameson takes advantage of a new kind of metahuman champion in #123; engaging emergent Hero for Hire Luke Cage to bring the webspinner to justice in‘…Just a Man Called Cage!’

However, the clash only proves that the antagonists’ lives are more tragically similar than different and Marvel’s pre-eminent African American adventurer recuses from the case in a most distinctive manner…

To Be Continued…

As if added enticements were even necessary, this splendid collection also features House Ads, the Romita cover to all-reprint Amazing Spider-Man Annual #9 and rare material by Jim Steranko and others only previously seen in the third – all Spider-Man issue – of exclusive company fan-club newsletter F.O.O.M. (Friends of Ol’ Marvel). As well as covers and pin-ups there’s also ‘Bullpen Bios’, puzzles, ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Spider-Man (but were afraid to ask)’, a checklist of appearances and spoof strip ‘The Amusing Spider-Guy’ by Roy Thomas, Len Brown Kane & Wally Wood.

The candid treats don’t end there though. Also on view is original art by Lee & Romita taken from a Spider-Man strip created for Time Magazine with the wallcrawler assessing the chances of assorted Presidential candidates including Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey plus production art, original covers, Kane page layouts and pencils.

The biggest treat is some reproduction pages of Kane’s pencils for Amazing Spider-Man #123. The issue was infamously lost by the Post Office in 1973, compelling Romita to ink and embellish the entire story from preliminary photocopies…

Also included are a range of previous collections covers by John Van Fleet, J.G. Jones and Kane images enhanced by painter Richard Isanove.

Fast-paced, fabulously far-fetched and full of innovative thrills, these tales are quintessential comics magic which constitute the very foundation of everything Marvel is. This sturdy compendium (or ephemeral eBook edition) is an unmissable opportunity for readers of all ages to celebrate the magic and myths of the modern heroic ideal in delightfully decadent luxury and would make an ideal gift.
© 1972, 1973, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.