Monday, May 31, 2010

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #37

Well, not to go all "old fogey" on everyone, but Annuals have gone to hell.

Not that there's anything wrong with the content here - the issue contains two fun stories by two excellent writers: Karl Kesel on the first story, revealing the first time Spider-Man met Captain America; and Kurt Busiek revealing how Spidey first met an even bigger name in comics - Stan Lee!

No, the problem is in the comic itself. Annuals were always special issues, packaged into huge, square-ended comics loaded with original stories, special features, reprints, posters and lots of extras. This issue of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual looks exactly like a regular issue of that comic - and it costs the same as a regular issue, with a price tag of $3.99.

(To be honest, I almost overlooked it, thinking it was just another regular issue of Spider-Man. If I hadn't caught the return of "Untold Tales" mentioned in the corner of the cover, I would have passed it by.)

Luckily, both stories are lots of fun. Kesel's story (why isn't he writing lots more comics?) features Cap meeting Spidey during a battle with the Sandman, and then encountering a deadly foursome of Rogue Scholars whose powers are great fun as they're based on some famous names that should delight any nerd (like me). This team, I'd love to see again.

Busiek's welcome return to Untold Tales of Spider-Man features a meeting between Spidey and Stan, following up on the conceit that Marvel's comics are created with the cooperation of heroes like the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. It's a fun tale with several cameos and a few surprises along the way.

So what's to complain about? The product may be thinner and the price higher, but at least the content is solid. But they could have thrown in a couple of pin-ups to sweeten the deal. Or maybe just put the word "Annual" on the cover.

Grade: A-

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