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I remember 1990 very well. I was off and running at college without a worry in the world, well there was one worry – I collected comic books. Yes even back then I would have been shamed if anyone found out: my family, my fraternity brothers and my girlfriend. Not only did I have all that to deal with but I went to college in a small town that didn’t have a comic book store. My LCS was 200 miles away back in Detroit, but as I was saying I do remember that magical summer of 1990 – and Todd McFarlane was right there with me.
I was a Marvel guy back then and I had to literally memorize art styles, writing habits, continuity and who was on what book. Not to get all nostalgic but it was a lot harder to figure everything out with no internet to log on to but it was a whole lot more fun. I can’t recall when, where or how I got the news, but hot shot Todd McFarlane, who was coming off of Amazing Spider-Man was starting up a brand new Spidy series – simply titled: Spider-Man; no Amazing, Spectacular or Web Of in the moniker. I’m sure MacFarlane could have gone with any adjective he wanted to, but with his explosive art and story telling ability he left it up to the reader to fill in the blank.
Now Marvel has once again collected the first five issue storyline called Torment as part of their Marvel Premiere Classic Hardcover line of books (Variant Volume #27). They previously did so a few times but only as a Trade Paperback. McFarlane does just about everything (art, write, color, covers) but does get some artistic help from Bob Sharen and Gregory Wright, Rick Parker also does the lettering.
The story is set up in a noir style with giant backdrops of New York City. In fact upon rereading the first few pages it I could have been a Frank Miller Daredevil book. It’s a typical day for Peter and Mary Jane, a free wheeling couple; he jokes while she laughs along for they know, as well as the reader, that at the end everything will work out fine because Spider-Man always saves the day. But what happens in between the five issues? What does McFarlane have in store for our hero? It turns out Spidey gets a beat down by his old college professor Dr. Curt Conners aka The Lizard and it’s a bad one. But the Lizard is being manipulated by The Witch aka Calypso, who is an associate of the original Kraven The Hunter, and feels the thrill of the hunt herself. By poisoning Spider-Man and a manipulating the Lizard, a whole lot of tormenting is going on.
Besides this collected edition reprinting #1-5, there is also Marvel Age #90 (1990) in which McFarlane does the interior art and the cover and is interviewed inside. There is also a very funny piece by Fred Hembeck, where Spider-Man is covered in bandages and complains that he wants nothing more to do with Todd MacFarlane because all he does is beat the crap out of him. One problem with this satirical farce is that it gets lost in the gutter of the book and one funny punch line is unreadable. It does have an introduction by Jim Salicrup, who was the editor on the book at the time, but it’s just a reprinting of his intro from the1991 first trade paperback printing. This is rather disappointing. I would of like to of seen a reflection of this material by some one from today (Brian Michael Bendis, perhaps?) and why this story has stood the test of time.
As per other MPC’s Marvel has reprinted not only the cover art for each individual issue, but also the variant cover art of which there were several. This was the beginning of the foil cover age at Marvel and just about every book was had silver all over it. I can say that reprinting a foil cover does not work. What Marvel has done here, does not give the original artwork justice. The variants come out flat and dark, not at all how they looked on the newsstand 18 years. Sure, it’s nice to have them included, but it’s true when I say they have lost their luster. Track them down at a convention to understand what I mean. Lastly, I should let you know that, this book works very well as a pseudo-sequel to Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt, which was collected as the very first Marvel Premiere Classic Hardcover.
When it was released Torment didn’t get the best reviews, but I think it has aged fairly well. The pace is exciting, the horror is a page away and there isn’t too much MJ, which in this case is a good thing. I’d like to see Marvel continue on with McFarlane Spider-Man run; it doesn’t have to be in hardcover either. I think the Classic line of trade paperbacks would do nicely.
Marvel Premiere Classic: Spider-Man: Torment (Variant Volume 27) Collects Spider-Man #1-5 and Marvel Age #90, 136 pgs, $19.99
For more comments on this book and the latest Collected Edition news on the upcoming Fantastic Four Omnibus by Mark Millar and Brian Hitch and the Wednesday Comics series of Trade Paperbacks, please listen to the Podcast.
Collected Comics Library Podcast #232
24,417Kb; 25m 46s
All this and the New Releases of the Week.
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