X-Men: The Ultimate Guide appeared last year, courtesy of DK Publishers, and neatly timed to tie-in with the movie. No surprise that with the upcoming Spidey film, there's a Spider-Man: The Ultimate Guide hitting the shelves around October 2001.
DK Publishers are pretty prolific in this sort of field. As well as producing non-fiction books for young people, they specialise in mostly-fiction books for the young and the young at heart. Books featuring diagrams of Star Wars droids, and such. They're pretty accomplished, so you would certainly expect something quite professional.
Furthermore, the book is written by Tom DeFalco, who certainly has all the right credentials. And, like every other Spidey book in the last twenty years, Stan Lee gets his name on there too, with a Foreword.
Spidey has never had his own biography book. And now with nearly 40 years of frantic history, surely the task is too large for a single book. Surely such a book (clearly thrown together to profit from the convenient upcoming film and hence targetting a wide audience) will fail to reach any acceptable levels of quality or depth of coverage that hardcore Spidey fans will demand.
Sorry to disappoint you folks, but this book DOES make the grade. It totally rocks. It's thorough, attractive, professional, well-balanced, richly-illustrated, and... well... a completely Essential Guide to Spider-Man.
For the new-comer, it will provide hours of perusing pleasure. It will introduce you to Spider-Man from the 60's to the 00's. It covers Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Girl, The Re-Launch and Ultimate Spider-Man in a balanced, instructive format. It covers all the major aspects of Spider-Man, his world, his foes and friends, all in 168 large glossy pages of hard-covered pleasure.
For me, and other long-time fans, it's a long-overdue testament to our favourite web-slinger. If (like me) you've read nearly every Spider-Man comic, then you won't find much you didn't know - but the sheer pleasure of seeing all of this history finally compacted into one worthy volume is pretty darned satisfying in itself. The only question I have is why it took so long for this to happen!
About time! For me, the most depressing thing is that this book packs nearly as much info into one volume as a website that was seven years in the making. At US$19.19 RRP, this belongs on every Spider-Fan's bookshelf.
Perhaps if I had written it, I would have included a few more hard-core details - perhaps a detailed list of Spider-Man comic titles and guest appearances, as in our Spider-Man Comics Database, or something else to make the book feel a little more 'authoritative'.
But this book isn't aimed at that sort of hardcore collector, and maybe I'm a little glad for that... since it still leaves room for Spidey research sites like ours!
You're a Spider-Fan? Then you should own this book.