Amazing Spider-Man #258: Reviews of Old Comics
Let’s try to get these Reviews of Old Comics going again, shall we?
As if our Spider-Man: Homecoming Banner wasn’t a giveaway, this is Marvel Month at Needless Essentials Online. It seemed fitting to start with a Spider-Man comic. Wanting to pull from the run that featured the art of Ron Frenz, my first instinct was to do a review of the return of his original costume, but that issue featured the “origin” of Mary Jane Watson, and feeling rather disappointed after reading it for probably the first time since I was a teenager, opted instead for the previous issue, which revealed the black costume he sported after Secret Wars as an alien symbiote, which would later become the villain Venom. This series set the stage for a character that has become almost as popular as the one that spawned him.
For the record, my copy is all digital, from the 40 Year Anniversary Collection 11 CD set of Amazing Spider-Man comics put out in 2004 from Topics Entertainment. It contained PDFs of the first 500 issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Amazing Fantasy #15. I recommend it if you can find an affordable box.
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Penciller: Ron Frenz
Inker: Joe Rubenstein
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Cover Artist: Ron Frenz and Joe Rubenstein
Mary Jane Watson has just told Peter Parker that she knows he’s Spider-Man. Trying to find a way to deal with this bombshell, the Black Cat comes in through the window, further blowing Peter’s secret identity out the window. Mary Jane runs out and Peter’s black costume keeps the Black Cat from doing likewise, despite being camouflaged as his civilian clothes. This further concerns Peter.
In New Mexico, Thomas Fireheart returns to his company and requests everything his assistant can find on Spider-Man, so he can be better prepared for their “next and final meeting.”
Peter and Mary Jane both dwell on how badly they’ve ruined their relationships with friends and family. Exhausted, Peter falls asleep in a chair. While he does, his costume crawls over onto him and sends him outside, yet still asleep beneath his mask and dreaming. In his nightmare, Peter, looking like he did in high school, is running from his black costume, but is saved by his old red and blue costume, before both fight directly over him, pulling him in different directions. This wakes Peter up. Realizing that he’s slept through almost an entire day again, he dons the black costume and heads to Reed Richards for answers about his new costume. Reed Richards runs an exhaustive series of tests on it.
The Hobgoblin is visiting the criminal mastermind known as the Rose. Worried that he is facing an impostor, the Rose sends several of his best men against him as a test. When they are bested in only five seconds, he admits that he is dealing with the true Hobgoblin.
Reed Richards informs Spider-Man that his costume is a living, alien symbiote. It resists Peter removing it, forcing Peter and Reed Richards to blast it off with a sonic cannon and capturing it in a sealed container. Needing to preserve his secret identity, the Human Torch provides Spider-Man with an old Fantastic Four costume, but since they have never used masks, a paper bag has to do. He drops him off on a nearby rooftop. However, seeing a shoot-out with police that is endangering innocent bystanders, he gets involved, and finds himself accosted by reporters wanting to know who he is. He runs away, dejected in a summer snowstorm started by events in Thor #349.
Mary Jane comes over later as Peter digs out his old web shooters, in disrepair. She promises to share some of her secrets with him in an effort to mend their friendship. In the Baxter Building, the symbiote fights against its confinement, plotting revenge.
I’ve often been a harsh critic of Tom DeFalco and his writing. However, here he does some good work bringing and end to the story of the alien costume, albeit a full month before we learned how he got it in Marvel Super-Heroes: Secret Wars #8. Great timing with that one. The Puma subplot is of minor significance, and in retrospect, never quite took off. The Hobgoblin could have probably used that extra page to further flesh out his threat. As it is, what should be an impressive fight is relegated to a single page. The “unknown super-hero” bit is a little silly, but does lighten an otherwise emotionally heavy story.
Ron Frenz remains one of my favorite Spider-Man artists. I actually think he’s one of the most underrated artists to ever draw Spider-Man. His art during this time was very reminiscent of Steve Ditko’s classic take on the wall-crawler, albeit a little “sketchier” in style, but that quality has its own appeal. His Black Cat doesn’t have quite the same appeal that other artists’ renditions of her at the time did. I even prefer Al Milgrom’s version to Frenz’s, and I’m generally not a fan of Milgrom’s art. That might be because he was being inked by Jim Mooney on his Black Cat stories. Aside from that, Frenz on Spider-Man just seems a little special.
This issue has been collected by Marvel a couple of times, in The Birth of Venom and the Complete Alien Costume Saga. It is available online at Marvel Unlimited and Comixology. A physical copy shouldn’t cost you more than $15.00, about where it’s at in price guides, depending on the condition, and one in more well-read shape (Fine or less) might even be found in dollar boxes. Heck, if you want a slabbed one, it shouldn’t be too expensive.
FINAL RATING: 7.5 (out of a possible 10) Ron Frenz is one of my favorite Spider-Man artists, so he gets the lion’s share of positive points for the comic. DeFalco’s story is strong, but a little flawed, in my opinion.