J. Michael Straczynski – commonly known to fans as JMS – is a famed author across multiple mediums. After cutting his teeth on a number of early-80s children’s cartoons, he broke out in 1993 with syndicated sci-fi hit Bablyon 5 – an epic and nuanced take on similar subject-matter to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He also made his entrance into the comics world in the 90s with his creator-owned book Rising Stars.
As you can imagine, fans were excited for him to take over Amazing Spider-Man in 2001 after a few years’ dip in quality of the Spidey flagship – especially as accompanied by classic Marvel artist John Romita, Jr.
Be careful what you wish for…
Amazing Spider-Man by J. Michael Straczynski & John Romita, Jr. is the #39 Most-Wanted Marvel Omnibus of 2017 on Tigereyes’s Secret Ballot. Visit the Marvel Masterworks Message Board to view the original posting of results by Tigereyes and visit The Guide to Spider-Man to read this run today.
Past Ranking: This book ranked #30 in 2014 and just missed the survey in 2016, coming in somewhere between #51-56
Probable Contents: Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #30-58 and 500-508 (though it could stretch as far as #518)
JMS’s run on Spider-Man accounts for 87 issues as gathered in his five-volume Ultimate Collection set, which means we’d be looking at either two hefty 40+ issue volumes or three slimmer 30-ish issue volumes to cover it.
I’m speculating on the former, which would leave a second volume to collect Amazing Spider-Man #509-545, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (2005) #1-4 & 24, Marvel Knights Spider-Man (2004) #19-22, The Sensational Spider-Man (2006) #41, and Spider-Man: The Other (2005) Sketchbook, and Spider-Man: One More Day Sketchbook (2007).
Creators: J. Michael Straczynski & John Romita, Jr. handle the entirety of the run through #508 with few interlopers; #508 is the end of Romita’s run.
Can you read it right now? Yes! This run has been collected in several formats, including oversized hardcover. Head to The Guide to Spider-Man for details. It’s also available in full on Marvel Unlimited.
Spider-Man was on a major high when J. Michael Straczinski took the reigns of his flagship comic in June 2001, but not for the reasons you might think.
Amazing Spider-Man was one of the last Silver Age comics that Marvel relaunched in the late 90s, leaving only Uncanny X-Men to continue its original numbering into the new millennium. Amazing and its sister titles started with a flash with John Byrne co-scripting and pencilling, but faded afterwards during what was a massive overall fade for the comic industry a the time.
Doesn’t sound like a high, right? Well, the high was from Ultimate Spider-Man, the mega-hit launched by Brian Bendis at the end of 2000 that recast a teen Peter Parker into the modern day.
With JMS taking over Amazing eight months into that experiment (and likely hired just as its buzz was starting to be realized), he rightly zigged where Ultimate zagged – he leaned hard into an adult Parker, his rocky marriage, and the lengthy legacy of his Spider powers.
I’m not going to outright trash anyone’s votes, because everyone loves their favorite comics for their own good reasons, but I’m going to level with you right now: this run is close to my bottom choice among Spider-books for omnibus treatment.
First, the run is solely drawn by John Romita, Jr. through issue #508. Modern JRJR artwork is … “not beloved” is a kind way to put it.
Despite bearing some of my favorite Spider-man covers, the interiors of these issues aren’t going to benefit from super-sizing in an omnibus. Some are indefensibly bad. Like, kid in your high school math class doodling in the margins of his notebook bad. Proportions all whacked. No sense of motion.
Sorry, was that not kind?
Second, JMS … again, I’m trying to be kind here, but I don’t think I can be.
JMS fucked up Spider-Man.
He introduces mystical motivations for radioactive spiders, animal totems, old dudes who also have Spider-powers, and cross-dimensional vampires – and that doesn’t even touch the back half of this run, where Green Goblin gets Gwen Stacey pregnant and she gives birth to hyper-fast aging twins before dying, and which ends in the dissolution of Peter & Mary Jane’s marriage by the devil himself.
No, I did not make any of that up. Oh, and he had Doctor Doom cry over an act of terrorism.
In all honesty, it’s not all bad. The aforementioned old dude, Ezekiel, is the rare father-figure that really works well in a Spider-Man story – we get him in small, continuous doses, and he’s the one holding information back from Peter Parker, rather than the other way around. Because of how he holds back information, the information seems more interesting than it is purely as plot.
(If you loved everything about Spider-Verse, then you can think of this as “Prelude to Spider-Verse.”)
Getting Spider-Man away from the Bugle to be a high school science teacher is a brilliant move, letting him be a role-model in a way that had fallen out-of-favor and connecting him to smaller stories. And, this is the most adult I think we ever get to see Peter and MJ’s relationship. Not just that it has its moments of sexiness, but that Mary Jane is a full-developed character with agency that sometimes leads her to disagree with Peter.
Plus, this was a Peter Parker with nuance. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but JMS inhabited his Parker with a decidedly human inner-monologue that was more than just quips. JMS’s Spider-Man felt like a real, grounded human being as much as Bendis’s twin take on the teenage Parker felt modern and current.
On the whole I guess I have to admit that JMS’s Spider-Man isn’t all bad. While some of the stories still make me cringe, it’s more cohesive than what came directly before, and it was essential in setting up all that followed.
Will we see this omnibus in 2018? No.
I think if this was going to happen it would have been to accompany Spider-Verse. Brand New Day (on the poll at #51) is the surer bet for a modern Spider-Man run broken into multiple omnibus volumes.
Would I recommend buying it? Can you guess my answer?
In all honesty, I can see the allure of wrapping this run into an omnibus because it’s by a consistent creative team, but there are many, many Spider-runs more deserving of oversized treatment both for their quality and their notoriety.
The 2017 Most-Wanted Marvel Omnibus Secret Ballot Results
- #60 – What If? Classic Omnibus, Vol. 1
- #59 – House of M Omnibus
- #58 – Captain Marvel by Peter David, Vol. 1
- #57 – X-Force by Kyle & Yost
- #56 – Namor, The Sub-Mariner, Vol. 1
- #55 – X-Force, Vol. 3 AKA Cable & X-Force, Vol. 1
- #54 – Conan The Barbarian, Vol. 1
- #53 – Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron
- #52 – Incredible Hercules by Pak & Van Lente
- #51 – Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day, Vol. 1
- #50 – Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch, Vol. 1
- #49 – Captain America (Silver Age), Vol. 3
- #48 – Doctor Strange by Roger Stern
- #47 – Marvel Horror of the 1970s
- #46 – Killraven
- #45 – Captain America by Mark Gruenwald, Vol. 1
- #44 – Runways by Brian K. Vaughan
- #43 – Superior Spider-Man
- #42 – The Punisher by Rucka & Checchetto
- #41 – Black Panther by Christopher Priest, Vol. 1
- #40 – Avengers West Coast by Roy Thomas
- #39 – Amazing Spider-Man by JMS
- #38 – TIE: Wolverine Vol. 3 AKA by Hama & Silvestri and Avengers by Jonathan Hickman, Vol. 2