(Panini Books)

CONSIDERING that at various points in time there has been a Spider-Man monthly comic published every week of the month, plus assorted mini-series, annuals and specials, and the character also appears in two Avengers titles and the Fantastic Four as well as featuring in guest slots in numerous other books, and then try to whittle down 50 years of stories to produce a “definitive” collection, and you’ll see what a momentous task faced Brady Webb, the editor of this latest Marvel Platinum volume.

Of course, you can always pluck for the obvious inclusions – the origin story, the landmark two-part Death of Gwen Stacy (all the more relevant given her appearance in this summer’s movie) – but then it starts to get a bit more tricky…

Do you want to focus on the web-slinger’s varied rogues gallery, his relationship with his supporting cast, his place within the wider Marvel Universe? Would a new reader looking for an introduction to Spidey’s comic book adventures after seeing any of the films really want to be subjected to simplistic tales from the 1960s, period pieces from the 1970s, or more contemporary tales from the past few years?

Ultimately, what we have here is a cross-section of representative tales from the past 50 years, with the following issues collected: Amazing Fantasy #15, Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, 300, 500, 545, 600; Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 and Sensational Spider-Man volume 2 #41.

Apart from the aforementioned tales, this volume also includes the debut of wildly popular adversary Venom, Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane and its subsequent erasure from history by the malevolent Mephisto, and two anniversary issues which serve to reflect on the wall-crawler’s long and varied career.

Despite their importance to the character’s development, I would question the inclusion of a story which shows the now out-of-continuity wedding and two episodes from the four-part One More Day, revealing the critically-derided circumstances behind this event now having never happened. But that’s a personal opinion taking into account the confusion these stories might generate for newcomers, and there’s no denying their significance in Spider-Man’s history.

The creative teams represented here include some of the finest the industry has ever produced, with a roll-call including Stan Lee, Steve Dikto, Gil Kane, Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita, Mike Deodato, Todd McFarlane, David Michelinie, J Michael Straczynski, Joe Quesada, Dan Slott et al.

If you’re looking for a one-book, has-it-all collection of Spider-Man stories from the character’s five decades history, there probably isn’t anything else on the market to rival this book, but with so many other incredible stories not featured, perhaps a second volume would silence those critics unhappy that their particular favourite isn’t included here.