Comics : Spider-Man Character Encyclopedia (DK)
This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club
This review was first published on: Sep 2015.
Dorling Kindersley (DK Publishing) is a British-based publishing company which specialises in "factutainment" books related to popular culture. This "Spider-Man Character Encyclopedia" from 2014 is one of several such encyclopedia-style products released by DK since they picked up the Marvel franchise back in 2000 or so.
Spider-Man Character Encyclopedia (DK)
Mar 2014 : SM Title
Find ISBN 9781465415745
This book uses the new "compact encyclopedia" format which seems to be DK's recent preference. It is 7.4" x 9.5" with a hardback cover. It contains 208 pages, which (minus four pages for index and splash pages) means 204 character profile entries each of exactly one page. That's the same physical format as the recent DK "Avengers" character profile books.
The interior profiles are also essentially the same format as the "Avengers" books too. Each single-page entry features a main image (almost exclusively from the comics themselves, I didn't spot any "original" or purpose-created illustrations in the book), plus a couple of paragraphs of background.
Two or three additional "factoids" are given, along with one or two smaller inset graphics. A character-specific quote is generally included. Finally, every character has a six-factor "Web File" power grid specifying their rankings in: "Intelligence", "Strength", "Speed", "Durability", "Energy Projection", and "Fighting Skill".
In order to give Spider-Man his dues while still maintaining the strict "one page per entry" rule, our favorite web-head hero actually gets multiple profiles: Peter Parker, Spider-Man, Spider-Man's Costumes, Spider-Man's Identities.
The selection of Heroes, Villains and Neutrals for inclusion is generally commendable. One thing for which I must commend these DK books is their commitment to including the supporting cast. There's no skimping on entries for the way-back friends of Peter who we rarely see these days – folks like Gloria Grant, George Stacy, and Ned Leeds are still recorded for posterity.
Naturally, the "current events" in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) do get the full treatment. Peter's involvement with the Future Foundation in FF in the previous year or two means that this 2014 book justifies entries for Valeria Richards and Dragon Man that perhaps wouldn't have made the cut otherwise.
I suppose it's equally inevitable that [[Screwball]], [[Overdrive]] and [[Paper Doll]] should also appear – it's important to keep up with the current decade, despite the near-overwhelming temptation to fill the index with the many classic villains from five years of web-slinging adventures.
But regardless of the character's original era, the text of each entry works hard to capture the timeless core of its subject, without getting bogged down in the latest details of fast-moving events which might risk becoming quickly obselete.
I do like this new compact format that DK is using. It fits much more easily on a kid's bookshelf, and marks the product as a "book for reading" rather than a "book for sitting under a coffee table".
The clear descriptions and bite-sized annotations are perfect as introductory material for newcomers to the Spider-Man Universe. This book would suit young-hearted Marvel Fans (of ages 8 through to 108) desiring to quickly catch up with fifty years of Spidey's Friends and Foes.
I give it Four Webs.
I have to say that some of those power rankings seem a bit dubious to me. A few examples:
- How come Mysterio (a weedy special effects designer) gets 6/7 for "Durability" and 3/7 for "Strength" while Nick Fury (near-indestructible SHIELD agent) gets 2/7 for both "Durability" and "Strength"?
- Why does Sandman (college drop-out) the normal 2/7 for "Intelligence" as Miles Morales (who attends a special school for over-achievers).
- How come Spider-Man (officially rated in the top 20 brainiest humans in the Marvel Universe, see World War Hulk) only rates a 4/7 for "Intelligence".