Can you even believe that anybody at Marvel thought that giving up Amazing Spider-Man at #441 and re-starting with Volume 2 was a good idea? Kind of shows how short-sighted the Spider-Editors at the time had become! Well, fortunately Joey Q had the brains and the skills to gracefully back-out of that fiasco, and the reward was ASM #500.
For his "birthday" in that issue, Peter got to spend five minutes with his Uncle Ben. Marvel's reward is the chance to cash in with some deluxe collected editions, and if you ask me, they've earned that reward fair and square!
This is a full-sized hard-back book, the same size as all the other big-format Marvel is putting out, which is roughly 7.5" x 11". Underneath the bright dust-jacked there's a textured black hard cover with embossed silver lettering, which looks real sharp. I'd be tempted to take the jacket off to show the book at best effect.
Now, obviously this book reprints ASM #1-#500 (and Amazing Fantasy #15 too, for completeness). There's 320 pages in the book, so there's not enough for one page per picture. In fact, there's one page of text for each year, then some of the covers are four-per-page, and some are one-per-page, in whatever proportion is required to make the maths come out right.
The paper stock is glossy with dark black borders on the pages. The covers are scanned from real comics, and in what actually turns out to be quite a nice touch, some of the early covers have a hint of wear about them, giving a convincing sense of authenticity. There's no bits missing or anything, but there's just enough wear to remind you that these are real comics, and they're forty years old, and that's a long time for a comic to still be running strong.
The text page per year consists of two parts. The first is written by our very own SpiderFan EIC, Jonathan Couper-Smartt. That bit covers the events of Spidey's career during the year in question. Who he fought, who he fell in and/or out of love with. Who died. Who got buried alive, etc, etc.
The other half of the page is written by Marvel regular Kit Keifer, and that covers the real-world events of the time. Vietnam, Woodstock, JFK, then later it's M*A*S*H the Movie, The A-Team, collapse of the Berlin Wall, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Pop culture mixes with defining historical events in a major league nostalgia trip.
And in the end, that's what this book is about. It's a well-targeted coffee table book that's pretty much guaranteed to carry any Spidey fan (current or long-lost former reader) back to an age which with the passing years has gained the illusion of simplicity. Maybe your mum threw out all your comics, but with this book at hand, you can always relive the memories.
Just to throw something on the minus side, maybe the HSV color balance throughout the book is a bit too "white" in some of the covers in the mid-hundreds. At least, it is in my copy. Hah! There ya go, I said something bad about it.
This is a nice book. It lists at US$50, but you can get it for $33 at Amazon, which really makes it very good value for money. Perfect for the coffee table, for a Father's Day present, or even just to browse through of an evening to take you back to whatever era you first started reading Spidey.
Hey, in spite of the new material, I guess it's still at heart a reprint book, so we can hardly give it a full five webs. Let's give it four webs, and a solid recommendation.