The Amazing Spider-Man: The Complete Alien Costume Saga – Book 1


By Tom DeFalco, Al Milgrom, David Michelinie, Louise Simonson, Cary Burkett & Tony Isabella with Roger Stern, Jim Owsley & Bob DeNatale, Ron Frenz, Greg LaRocque, Rick Leonardi & Paul Neary with David Mazzuchelli & various (MARVEL)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-8867-4 (TPB)

Spider-Man exchanged his heavily-copyrighted and thoroughly trademarked costume whilst on another planet during the first Marvel Secret Wars. It was replaced with a magnificently stylish black & white number for the duration of the 12 issue maxi-series in his own titles (except the all-reprint Marvel Tales) which over the course of the year revealed the true horrifying nature of the extraterrestrial ensemble…

Collecting Amazing Spider-Man #252-258; Marvel Team-Up #141-145 and MTU Annual #7 and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #90-95 and covering May-November 1984, this rather rare paperback or instantly accessible digital tome seeks to chronologically cover all the bases in regard to the black bodysuit’s every appearance and thus opens with relevant clips from clips from Secret Wars #8, 9 and 12

Continuity-wise, the extended epic opens at the conclusion of the Secret Saga with Spider-Man and Curt Connors – occasionally lethally maniacal monster the Lizard – explosively returning to Earth after a week when the world’s greatest heroes and villains had simply vanished.

To clear up any potential confusion: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars debuted in May 1984 and ran for 12 monthly issues until April 1985. In it, a selection of metahumans good and bad were shanghaied by a godlike being dubbed The Beyonder: compelled to interminably battle each other. Every other Marvel comic  of that month chronologically occurred in the apparent aftermath of that struggle with most of the returned heroes and villains refusing to divulge what had happened on Battleworld …a cheap but extremely effective ploy which kept fans glued to the Limited Series in the months that followed.

This compendium catapults us into action with ‘Homecoming!’ by Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz & Brett Breeding as spectators in Central Park see a mysterious black garbed stranger explode out of an alien artefact … only the first of many costumed characters to escape the Beyonder’s world.

Spider-Man takes the shell-shocked Connors back to his family and then begins to explore his new uniform: a thought-controlled, self-activating, metamorphic ball with chameleon capabilities, able to construct webbing out of its own mass.

The smart-cloth is astonishing, but weary Peter Parker has family to see and a city to reacquaint himself with. The hero promises himself he’ll further research the incredible material at a later date…

Not included here, Marvel Team-Up #140 posed a morally trying dilemma as a city-wide blackout provoked riots and looting. Spider-Man was on scene when a pawnshop owner was shot dead and the next day, lawyer Matt Murdock was appointed to defend a teenager indicted for the murder. Parker was there too, and knows the kid is innocent. As Spider-Man investigates, Daredevil’s old flame Natasha Romanoff volunteers to fact-find for the overworked attorney. When investigations overlapped a street gang was confirmed to be behind the incident, but the new murder suspect triggered a deadly car chase and hostage situation before being apprehended. Frustratingly – although responsible for much of the tragedy on that night – he quickly proves to also be innocent of the pawnbroker’s death…

This yarn happened at the beginning of Secret Wars and it’s a much-altered Spider-Man who joins Daredevil and the Black Widow in obtaining ‘Blind Justice’ in #141 (by DeFalco, Jim Owsley AKA Priest, Greg LaRoque & Mike Esposito) as the heroes uncover New York mob connections, a trail to Kingpin Wilson Fisk, the real killer and the true nature of the kid they’ve been defending…

In Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, Al Milgrom & Jim Mooney’s ‘Where, oh Where Has My Spider-Man Gone…?’ sees occasionally reformed adventurer and thief the Black Cat scouring the city and encountering many foes and friends before finally finding her transformed man, after which the wonderful Rick Leonardi & Bill Anderson illustrate DeFalco’s powerful crime thriller ‘By Myself Betrayed!’

Here a prominent football player, sucked into gambling and match-fixing, drags the Web-spinner into conflict with new gang-lord The Rose. As his new uniform increasingly, obsessively amazes Peter with its rather disturbing autonomy (it comes to him unbidden and regularly envelops him while he sleeps), the hero uncomprehendingly alienates his beloved Aunt May when he drops out of college…

Milgrom & Mooney’s ‘If it Wasn’t for Bad Luck…’ in PPSS #91 sees the Black Cat keeping secrets from her frankly now-creepy paramour even as mutant menace the Blob goes on a grief-fuelled rampage before Amazing Spider-Man #254 questions ‘With Great Power…’ (DeFalco, Leonardi & Joe Rubinstein) as the ebon wallcrawler battles terrorist mercenary Jack O’Lantern for possession of a hi-tech battle-van designed and built by the terrifying Hobgoblin. Peter should have been reconciling with May, and suffers another heartbreaking personal setback…

PPSS #92 (Milgrom & Mooney) bombastically introduces the Kingpin’s latest diabolical fixer in ‘And the answer is…’, with the Cat desperate to keep Spider-Man in the dark about her deal with Wilson Fisk, whilst Marvel Team-Up #142 and 143 take the wallcrawler very far from home in a cosmic mini epic by David Michelinie, LaRoque & Esposito.

‘Foiled!’ sees living light source Monica Rambeau (the second Marvel Captain Marvel) trapped in energy form following a high-tech heist and dependent on Spidey and Titan Starfox to save the day and secure a trans-dimensional remedy in ‘Shifts and Planes’

In Amazing Spider-Man #255, DeFalco, Frenz & Rubinstein introduce charismatic septuagenarian cat-burglar Black Fox(whose outfit coincidentally resembled Spidey’s new kit) who is a hapless pawn and target of the ruthless but cash-strapped Red Ghost and his Super-Apes in ‘Even a Ghost Can Fear the Night!’ Compelled to rob until caught by Spider-Man, the Fox orchestrated a spectacular battle between the hero and the Ghost before getting away with all the loot…

Marvel Team-Up Annual #7 (by Louise Simonson, Paul Neary & Sam De La Rosa) saw Spider and Cat meet Alpha Flight as a certain Elder of the Universe goes after aliens to complete a set and falls for ‘The Collected Spider-Man’.

The issue also revealed ‘No Place to Run’ for a loving ordinary couple forever unsettled by witnessing the world of Superheroes and villains by Bob DeNatale, David Mazzuchelli & Brett Breeding…

Milgrom & Mooney crafted ‘A Hot Time in the Old Morgue Tonight!’ for Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man#93 as The Answer stalks the Black Cat to unearth Spider-Man’s secrets, only to see love being poisoned and Spidey’s suit start to malfunction…

Subsequently kidnapping the Cat is only part of his masterplan – as is letting the wallcrawler win her back…

Cary Burkett, LaRoque & Esposito pit the webslinger and Moon Knight against Chinese ganglord White Dragon in ‘My Sword I Lay Down!’ as a prelude to Milgrom & Mooney bringing Cloak and Dagger into the game with PPSS #94’s ‘How Ya Gonna Keep ‘em Down at the Morgue After They’ve Seen N.Y.C.?’ as the Kingpin resurrects his former rival Silvermane and the mindless cyborg goes wild. The tale ends but does not conclude here with #95 and ‘The Dagger at the End of the Tunnel’ as the Kingpin’s grand scheme is exposed and one hero falls…

Closing the team tussles, MTU #145 (September 1984, by Tony Isabella,  LaRocque & Esposito) delivers ‘Hometown Boy’: from the period when Tony Stark first succumbed to alcoholism. He lost everything, and friend/bodyguard Jim Rhodes took on the role and duties of the Golden Avenger. As Stark tried to make good with a new start-up company, this engaging yarn sees the substitute hero still finding his ferrous feet whilst battling oft-failed assassin Blacklash (formerly Whiplash) at a Cleveland trade fair, as much hindered as helped by visiting hero Spider-Man wearing his enigmatic black duds…

Having granted readers a period of adjustment, the saga hits its stride in Amazing Spider-Man #256 as ‘Introducing… Puma!’ finds an increasingly weary and listless Spider-Man attacked by a Native American super-mercenary hired by the Rose. The Arachnid’s gang-busting crusade beside Black Cat was making life too hot and unprofitable for the ambitious mobster…

That calamitous clash carries over into ‘Beware the Claws of Puma!’ furiously escalating until The Kingpin steps in to stop it, forcing the Rose to ally himself with the murderous Hobgoblin. The issue ends with an exhausted Parker confronted with a stunning revelation from former lover Mary Jane Watson

The shock prompts Peter into seeking out ‘The Sinister Secret of Spider-Man’s New Costume!’ Plagued by nightmares, perpetually tired and increasingly debilitated, the webslinger visits the Fantastic Four and is disgusted and horrified to learn that his suit is alive: a parasite slowly attaching itself to him body and soul…

Meanwhile, Hobgoblin and the Rose’s uneasy alliance has resulted in bloody, undeclared war on the Kingpin…

With Reed Richards’ help the creature is removed from Spider-Man and imprisoned, but the story is still unfinished and there’s so much more to come.

To Be Continued…

Also on show here are Leonardi designs from Mike Zeck’s design for the black costume from Marvel Age #12; text pieces by Bob Sodaro & Mark Lerer from #14; covers by Ron Lim, Larry Mahlstedt, Keith Williams, Milgrom, Terry Austin, from Marvel Tales #266-272 (reprinting the Amazing Spider-Man stories) and two previous collection covers by Ron Frenz, Rubinstein and John Romita Sr.

Rounding out this initial collection is a foreword by Jim Salicrup from the 1988 collection; seven original art pages by Frenz & Breeding, LaRocque, Rubinstein & Esposito, and front and back covers from Essential Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man volume 4 by Milgrom, tom chu and Tom Smith.

This run of tales marvellously rejuvenated the Amazing Arachnid: kicking off a period of gripping and imaginative stories that culminated with the creation of arch antihero/villain Venom and today’s whole symbiote super-subculture.  If you’re a fan of superhero comics these are tales you just don’t want to miss, specially in Spder-Man’s anniversary year!
© 2019 MARVEL