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The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time
Ultimate Collection

If you've been following all the various comics furors as 2012 shifted to 2013, you will have noted people getting outraged by Dr. Otto Octavius becoming the Superior Spider-Man. Some people got so upset that they stopped buying Spider-Man, or claimed to stop.

This is nothing new with the title, as we could go with -- 1) Norman Osborn slept with Gwen Stacy, 2) Peter Parker was a clone all along, 3) MJ and Peter sold their marriage to Mephisto to save Aunt May's life and 4) I'm probably missing something.

In truth, I stopped after #3, though I started up again because I was intrigued by what writer Dan Slott was doing with this new "Superior" Spider-Man.

However, this past week I stumbled into Midtown Comics in Times Square and picked up a bargain too good to pass up, a collection that fills in a large part of what I had been missing. With "Big Time," I confirmed what I'd feared -- that Slott had been writing a really good Spider-Man all along, moving the character forward in ways that Marvel clearly wanted to do and, let's face it, really should have happened.

Take for instance Otto Octavius' recent horror that Peter never got a doctorate. Well, it's foreshadowed in "Big Time" by both the villain's finally admitting that Spider-Man has to be some sort of genius worthy of grudging respect, and Aunt May's prodding Peter to get a day job working in scientific research.

It had been flirted with before, but it's been long overdue -- after all, the kid worked out webshooters and spider-tracers in high school. Like Bruce Banner over in the Indestructible Hulk, there's a ridiculous amount of good Peter Parker could do without Spider-Man.

The collection is full of highs and lows, mostly charmingly written by Slott with a variety of artistic collaborators, including Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin and Stefano Casselli. The styles vary, but some of it is absolutely beautiful, and I appreciate the way Martin can evoke Ditko without slavishly copying the master's work.

A few fill-in issues get collected here, too (this covers Amazing Spider-Man #648-662 plus 654.1), with Fred Van Lente and Christos Gage stepping in. Those stories don't quite have Slott's charm, but they work well enough on their own.

The title works, too. Peter Parker really had hit the big time, serving as an Avenger, a member of the Fantastic Four, and finally having a job with a company he worshipped more than Apple. There's also a different love interest (and yes, still a gap between this and Superior Spider-Man) and the rare growth in character of J. Jonah Jameson.

The only caveat I'd put in is the problem a lot of recent reprint volumes have -- Spider-Man occasionally deals with the repercussions of cross-over events. Norman Osborn's status varies from issue to issue without much explanation, and Spider-Man joining the Fantastic Four is the result of Johnny Storm's temporary "death" in Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four, but there's an assumption you're already steeped enough in the Marvel Universe to know that.

Sure, I did, but many of these stories are as much those of the Avengers and Fantastic Four as Spider-Man. All I'm saying is there should story and character development free of the larger Marvel Universe.

It's a hefty entertaining read for a reasonable price. Slott and Spider-Man work together well, and I'm glad there's a volume like this available for those of us who finally overcame their pride and admit we just love Spider-Man.

Derek McCaw

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