Friday, December 23, 2011

Spidey Sunday Spectacular

Marvel, 36 pages, $ 3.99

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Marcos Martin
Colorist: Muntsa Vicente, Javier Rodriguez
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

This book reprints 12 two-page “Spidey Sunday” strips originally published in Amazing Spider-Man #634 through 645, as well as the “Identity Crisis” short from issue #600, all of which were written by Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee and drawn by Marcos Martin, who is probably one of the Top 5 artists working in commercial U.S. comics right now.

And, boy, does Martin go to town here. One of the first times the Spanish artist made my Jaw drop was when he drew a beautiful panorama of 1930s New York City in a double-page splash in the Captain America 70th Anniversary Special a couple of years back.

This time around, he’s doing it times 12, basically: The city doesn’t feature prominently in all of the panorama spreads collected here, but they still all somehow manage to have the depth of a cityscape. It’s incredible what Mr. Martin brings to the table in terms of depth and perspective and page layout. The lines and figure work look equal parts Steve Ditko and HergĂ© here. Most of all, though, Martin’s art suggests a sense not just of movement between the individual panels, but of rhythm—something that virtually none of his peers manage of pull off on a consistent basis. The earlier 12-page story included here as a back-up is less spectacular visually, but still hints at Martin’s gigantic potential as a storyteller.

I know I don’t give colorists nearly enough credit in my reviews, and that said, the bright, perfectly nuanced color work Muntsa Vicente applies to Martin’s art on these two-pagers plays a huge part in their appeal. It’s lovely stuff.

Stan Lee is being Stan Lee, which is to say expect to be won over by the charm rather than by the complex plots or suspense. Mostly, Mr. Lee’s aim seems to be to give his collaborator a frame in which to work his magic and then step out of the way. The result is a harmless and inoffensive romp, but every now and then Lee takes you by surprise, goes meta and casually reminds you that he knows his stuff and still has a trick or two up his sleeve. For instance, I love the part when the bad guys go “No time to explain. It slows down the story!” I wish Mr. Lee had told this to all those goofy “New 52” writers. He’s still very much on top of this.

So, all told, there are worth ways of cleansing the palate for 2011 than this book, in terms of reviews. If you don’t already have the Amazing Spider-Man issues this originally appeared in, track down a copy—the art alone is more than worth the price of admission, and Stan Lee still knows how it’s done.

Grade: B+

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