Spider-Man: Fear Itself


 Spider-Man: Fear Itself

By Gerry Conway, Stan Lee, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito (Marvel)
ISBN: 0- 87135-752-6

Although an uncomfortable fit as an original Graphic Novel, this taut thriller is a good, old-fashioned, nostalgic Spidey yarn for readers who yearn for simpler times long past. Unlike many all-new works it’s also quite tightly bound to Marvel continuity (perhaps it was intended as an annual but got “promoted” to a more expansive and therefore expensive format?), so if you need a lot of footnotes to read Spider-Man you might want to think carefully before you go hunting it.

The basic plot concerns the return of an old Captain America villain Baron Zemo – radically transformed by Hitler’s geneticist Arnim Zola – who has stolen a new, weaponized drug from the US government. Developed at the company owned by Peter Parker’s friend Harry Osborn, the chemical drives victims mad with fear. In alliance with Nazi-hunting mercenary Silver Sable our hero travels to Bavaria for a life-or death showdown in this terrific ticking-timebomb-thriller.

Although there are some plot holes you could drive a Kampfpanzer through (that’s a big, Nazi tank, you know) the dialogue by two of the wall-crawler’s greatest scribes is still effective and engaging, but the real joy is the last hurrah of the fabulous and criminally undervalued art team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, who had been crafting great comics in innumerable genres since the early 1950s, and were Spider-Man’s artists for a huge part of the Seventies.

We comic fans are a notoriously sentimental lot and until someone gets around to doing a definitive collection of their efforts this very readable book will have to do. Old fashioned hero hi-jinks. Go on. You know you want to…

© 1992 Marvel Entertainment Group/Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.