Spider-Man Vs. Mysterio

By Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, Gerry Conway, Roger Stern, Howard Mackie, Peter David, Dan Slott, John Romita Sr., Ross Andru, John Romita Jr., Marie Severin, Alex Saviuk, Todd Nauck & Marcos Martin, with Don Heck, Javier Pulido & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1871-2 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Fabulous Fights ‘n’ Tights Fantasy… 8/10

Heroes are only truly defined by their enemies and superheroes doubly so, with the added proviso that costumed crusaders generally have a rogue’s gallery of fantastic foes rather than just one arch-nemesis. Even so, there’s always one particular enemy who wears that mantle: Moriarty for Sherlock Holmes; Blofeld for James Bond; Luthor for Superman.

Spider-Man has always had two top contenders… but Mysterio was never one of them.

However, this nifty trade paperback (and eBook) compilation gathers many of the now-cinematic evil enigma’s key and most entertaining clashes with the Wondrous Wallcrawler, tracing his devious development whilst offering an uncomplicated, no-frills thrill-ride of frantic spills and chills, equally appetising to film-inspired new meat and grizzled old veterans of the Fights ‘n’ Tights arena.

Collecting Amazing Spider-Man #13, 66-67, 141-142, 618-620; Web of Spider-Man #90; Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11-13 and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #50-51 – collectively spanning June 1964 to April 2010 – the moody menace manifests sans preamble in ‘The Menace of… Mysterio!’ (by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko from Amazing Spider-Man #13).

Here a chilling super-foe premiers in the form of a seemingly eldritch mercenary hired by publisher J. Jonah Jameson to capture Spider-Man. Eventually, however, the bizarre bounty-hunter reveals his own dark criminal agenda and is exposed as a scientific trickster not a mystic marauder…

When Ditko quit Marvel the webspinner’s adventurers were limned by John Romita and a succession of stellar associates. One of most spectacular collaborations came in Amazing Spider-Man #66-67 (November & December 1968) as Lee scripted a psychedelic blockbuster for Romita, Don Heck & inkers Mike Esposito (Mickey Demeo) and Jim Mooney to illuminate. This time, the psychotic special-effects mastermind returns seeking loot and vengeance in ‘The Madness of Mysterio!’ as the master of FX illusions engineers his most outlandish stunt, with the wallcrawler subjected to a bizarre form of mind-bending resulting in an all-out action-packed brawl entitled ‘To Squash a Spider!’.

Perhaps more interestingly, this yarn introduces Randy Robertson, college student son of the Daily Bugle’s city editor and one of the first young black regular roles in Silver Age comics.

Lee and his staff were increasingly making a stand on Civil Rights issues at this time of unrest and Marvel would blaze a trail for African American and other minority characters in their titles. There would also be a growth of student and college issues during a period when American campuses were coming under intense media scrutiny…

Jump forward a few years to February & March 1975 and Amazing Spider-Man #141-142 and – as Peter Parker comes to terms with the death of first love Gwen Stacy – a long-running comedy thread ends with the frankly ridiculous Spider-Mobile crashing into the harbour, thanks to a series of apparent hallucinations, but the wallcrawler barely has time to care as a supposedly long-dead enemy returns in ‘The Man’s Name Appears to be… Mysterio!’

Despite the psychological assaults escalating and Parker continually questioning his own sanity, the mystery is solved through rational deduction and violence in ‘Dead Man’s Bluff!’, with all entertainment coming courtesy of Gerry Conway, Ross Andru & Esposito…

Even more years later, a fanciful piece of classic Spider-history is unpicked by Roger Stern John Romita Jr. & Mooney in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #50 and 51 (from January & February 1981) as ‘Dilemma’ and ‘Aliens and Illusions!’ (the latter pencilled by Marie Severin) reveal how special effects guru Quentin Beck was secretly battling the Amazing Arachnid long before he adopted his luminous fishbowl hat and green tights…

Crafted by Howard Mackie, Alex Saviuk & Sam de la Rosa, Web of Spider-Man #90 (November 1992) was part of the wallcrawler’s 30th anniversary celebrations. ‘The Spider’s Thread’ again delves into secret personal history as the hero’s old theatrical agent returns, presaging a manic series of attacks from an army of impossible foes… until Spidey discerns his real enemy in ‘Sleight of Mind!’

Set during the first superhero Civil War, 3-parter ‘I Hate a Mystery’ is by Peter David, Todd Nauck, Robert Campanella, & Rodney Ramos and comes from Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #11-13 (October-December 2006). Peter Parker has recently gone public with his identity after acquiescing to the Super Human Registration Act, but his life as a high school science teacher is shattered by press intrusion and the vengeful acts of three separate but equally unhappy Mysterios…

The dramatic quotient of this collection cranks into overdrive for concluding extended epic ‘Mysterioso’, originally seen in Amazing Spider-Man #618-620 (March & April 2010), by writer Dan Slott and art team Marcos Martin, Javier Pulido & Javier Rodriguez. Divided into ‘Un-Murder Incorporated’, ‘Re-Appearing Act’ and ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, the wallcrawler’s war against Mr. Negative and an army of old enemies takes an even darker turn after Aunt May is turned evil and a seemingly undead Mysterio is hired by cyborg mafioso Silvermane to destroy his bitter rival Hammerhead. The chaotic final clash is even more confused and cataclysmic and leaves us all on a tense cliffhanger…

Adding extra sheen are info pages, cover reprints (from Spider-Man Classics, Marvel Tales and others), variant covers and pin-ups by Ditko, Dwayne Turner, Romita Sr. and Jr. and Joe Quinones, plus Marvel Handbook fact-pages on all three villains who have thus far played Mysterio.

Epic and engaging, this grab-bag of aerial assaults and titanic tussles is pure comicbook catharsis: fast, furious fun and thrill-a-minute-melodrama no fights ‘n’ Tights fan could resist.
© 2019 MARVEL.