There are cases where trade paperbacks may not contain one story from cover to cover. In fact, Marvel tends to throw in a random one-shot or throw together a few one-shot stories together to make up a 100+ page trade. The new Legends of Marvel: Spider-Man contains three one-shot stories which include Sensational Spider-Man: Self-Improvement, Amazing Spider-Man: Going Big, and Power Pack: Grow Up. Many of these titles were produced to celebrate Marvel’s 80th anniversary, but how do they hold up read in one sitting?
These three stories sort of go together. Two of the stories are Spider-Man one-shot stories and read well since each story has a beginning, middle, and end. The showstopper for longtime fans will be Self-Improvement since it has Erik Larsen drawing and writing the character again. There are some legendary comic book creators involved with this book from Larsen, to Peter David, Tom DeFalco, and Sal Buscema all involved. The opening story entitled “Burn Job” is a fun story based on an idea submitted to Marvel in the early ’80s. There are even two pages going into greater detail about the pitch along with scans of the original pitch included. It’s all really a fun way to show off a black Spider-Man costume, which at the time was wild since Venom had not been created yet. Following this is a Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz story that gets at the heart of why Spider-Man suits up and it’s a nice inspirational tale as he imparts some wisdom on a kid who could easily go down a road as a criminal without his help.
Next up is the Going Big issue, opening with a story by Gerry Conway and Mark Bagley. It looks great and has Spider-Man fighting a character called Coyote who has stolen the powers of Spot. This story actually dips into a message about illegal immigration that’s inspiring. Ralph Maccio and Todd Nauck deliver a short three-page story and then Larsen gets to shine with a werewolf tale. As you might have guessed at this point, this collection is a grab bag of shorter stories collected amongst other short story single issues.
Finally, the last issue collected here is Power Pack: Grow Up #1 by Louise Simonson with art by June Brigman. This book doesn’t fit with the other two. It’s perfectly fine, but it’s odd it’s thrown into the collection since Spider-Man doesn’t even show up. Instead, we get Kate Pryde and Wolverine, which again is fine, but it’s perplexing Marvel thought this made sense to be grouped with the other titles. Likely they needed to reach a certain amount of pages to sell this trade and the two Spider-Man issues weren’t enough. This story also has a younger audience feel to it which doesn’t jive with the other stories. While it isn’t bad by any means, I’m confused as to why it was included here.
If you missed these three one-shot stories this is a fine way to read them to catch up. That said, it’s an odd selection of stories, especially with Power Pack thrown in, and I imagine you’d be better off finding the single issues at your local comic shop.
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