Spider-Man Visionaries: Todd McFarlane Volume 1 TPB

Reviewer: Jesse Baker
Story Title: Amazing Spiderman #298 (Chance Encounter), Amazing
Spiderman #299 (Survival of the Hittest), Amazing Spiderman #300 (Venom), Amazing Spiderman #301 (The Sable Gauntlet), Amazing Spiderman #302 (Mid-American Gothic), Amazing Spiderman #303 (Dock Savage), Amazing Spiderman #304 (California Schemin’), Amazing Spiderman #305 (Westward Woe)

Written by: David Michelinie
Penciled by: Todd McFarlane
Inked by: NA
Colored by: NA
Lettered by: NA
Editor: Tom DeFalco
Publisher: Marvel Comics

In the late 1980s, the Spiderman franchise was in a state of flux as Jim Shooter’s tenure as Editor-in-Chief came to a close. Feuding between Jim Shooter, Spiderman editor Christopher Priest, and Amazing Spiderman writer Tom DeFalco resulted in an extremely anti-climatic ending to the long-running Hobgoblin Saga and the controversial “Kraven’s Last Hunt” arc (which ended with Kraven committing suicide) which created a backlash amongst some of the book’s fanbase. On a more positive side, The Powers That Be in charge of Marvel agreed to have Spiderman finally marry long-time girlfriend and confidant Mary Jane Watson. This opened many new doors for the Spiderman franchise, which was in desperate need of a new direction. Meanwhile Marvel wanted a new artist to take over the art chores on the book and recruited a new artist by the name of Todd McFarlane to draw the flagship book, Amazing Spiderman. McFarlane’s arrival also coincided with Michelinie getting permission to go ahead with the creation of a character he had pitched to Marvel several years earlier: the return of the black costume alien who would merge with a new host and seek revenge against Spiderman from trying to kill it. This villain would become Venom and along with the breakout artwork of Todd McFarlane, which had Spiderman moving in ways never seen before including McFarlane’s patented spaghetti-esque webbing, Amazing Spiderman became one of the hottest books around and made Todd McFarlane a superstar.

So Marvel has decided to give Todd McFarlane the Marvel Visionary treatment. Spiderman Visionaries: Todd McFarlane Volume 1 reprints Amazing Spiderman #298-305, which contains the first eight issues of Todd McFarlane’s break-out run on Amazing Spiderman. Here is a description of the stories collected in this trade paperback:

Amazing Spiderman #298-299: As Spiderman fights the generic mercenary Chance and the generic evil corporation known as the Life Foundation, Peter and MJ enjoy their new domestic bliss, culminating in the hilarious sequence where Peter dresses up like a male stripper as a surprise for his wife only to be shocked when Mary Jane brings home some of her friends for a surprise visit.

Amazing Spiderman #300: A double-sized anniversary issue that features the debut of Venom and the return of the original red and blue Spiderman costume. McFarlane’s Venom is relatively tame when compared to the over-the-top version of the character Erik Larsen would popularize when he took over Amazing Spiderman after McFarlane’s departure.

Amazing Spiderman #301: Silver Sable returns for a multiple issue arc as Spiderman helps her investigate the existence of a secret Nazi terrorist cell operating inside the US. The Nazis want Sable dead and find their chance to kill Sable when the bounty hunter is hired to test out a new high rise skyscraper’s security system. So it’s up to Spiderman to save Silver Sable, but Sable’s not as interested in hearing Spiderman’s story as she is in collecting the $100,000 she’ll be paid if she is able to beat the security system. The issue ends with a cliffhanger as Peter is offered a dream job working at a high profile research facility. The only hitch is that the laboratory is in Kansas.

Amazing Spiderman #302: Peter heads to Kansas to take a tour of the laboratory where he’s been offered his dream job, meets up with a reluctant super-hero who gained his super-human speed and jumping powers after being bitten by a radioactive jack rabbit, and fights a disgruntled scientist and his mechanical glove of power. Meanwhile Silver Sable shows up at Sandman’s doorstop and offers him a spot on her bounty hunter team.

Amazing Spiderman #303: As Spiderman and Mary Jane contemplate whether to move to Kansas or not, Silver Sable takes out a full page ad asking for Spiderman to help her and Sandman raid the headquarters of the Nazi Cell from Amazing Spiderman #301. The issue of moving or not moving in the end becomes a mute point as Peter makes the out-of-the-clear-blue decision to stay in New York and go back to college.

Amazing Spiderman #304-305: After learning that J. Jonah Jameson has made arrangements to have his Spiderman photos collected into a coffee table book called “Webs”, Peter Parker reluctantly agrees to head out on a cross-country tour to promote the book starting with Los Angeles, California. But once on the west coast, Spiderman runs afoul of the elderly jewel thief The Black Fox and retired Spiderman villain The Prowler. As the Prowler informs Spiderman, evil businessman Justin Hammer has framed the Prowler’s wife for embezzlement to cover up for some shady stock dealings that his company is involved in and the only evidence that can clear her is hidden inside of a challis stolen by the Black Fox. Meanwhile Mary Jane has a run-in with Jonathon Caesar, the owner of the apartment complex the couple lives in, who makes ominous statements towards Mary Jane that ultimately would bear fruit later on in the Michelinie/McFarlane run.

Besides containing some of Todd’s earliest artwork from back when he was a simple artist and not the evil corporate poseur that he is today, the book features the highly underrated writing of David Michelinie. Michelinie was one of the few writers of Amazing Spiderman who knew how to write the marriage between MJ and Peter and this volume collects some vintage interaction between the two.