Skip to main content

Spider-Man: The Gauntlet, Vol. 3: Vulture & Morbius

Review

Spider-Man: The Gauntlet, Vol. 3: Vulture & Morbius

Written by Fred Van Lente, Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, and Tom Peyer, Illustrated by Fabio D'Auria

The more I read Spider-Man, the more I like him—and I’ve read a lot of Spider-Man.

Some of my best memories are digging through old comic collections for Erik Larsen’s “Return of the Sinister Six” storyline and spending long winter afternoons seeing weirdo animal-centric supervillains get systematically clobbered by Spidey. The Gauntlet has all of that infectious enthusiasm and more.

Amazing Spider-Man #625, contained in this collection, is now one of my favorite single issues of all time. Not since Evan Dorkin’s “Thing” miniseries has a comic actually reached this far into my tear ducts and squeezed so tenaciously. Rhino, a classic Spider-Man bad guy, has retired and become a steadfast pacifist and husband, so when a new Rhino appears and wants to ritualistically take the mantle from him, chaos ensues. The combination of emotive art, multiple narrators, and the beautiful tragedy that Marvel is so good at makes these few pages worth the price of the entire collection. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

This is absolutely not to say that the other stories here are any less excellent. While many of the interactions here hinge upon Spider-Man continuity, every issue begins with a perfectly honed summary of everything you need to know, so you’re not missing anything at all if you jump in here. Tales range from a teenage vampire love story involving Morbius (whose artist, Joe Quinones, does a stunning Mike Allred impression while retaining his own sense of style), to a typical cross-city chase with the new Vulture, to a great story about the elder Vulture in prison, and Spidey’s difficult quest to aide in the recovery of an old friend who has lost his legs. At one point, Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker, even sacrifices his own job in order to protect an innocent man, reminding us that the best Spider-Man stories aren’t just about a guy in a costume punching things, but about a regular guy struggling to do right among countless conflicting interests.

Spider-Man’s a good guy, at the center of it all. Maybe he’s the nicest, most honorable superhero there is. He doesn’t have a mysterious past or a hidden agenda, and he’s been martyred and remartyred so many times that he’s truly the graphical equivalent of the biblical Job, but he always struggles back to his feet by continuing to do the right thing. If there’s ever been a hero to serve as a role model, it’s the Spidey within these pages.

All of this is an ideal cross-section of what Spider-Man has to offer longtime readers, in one convenient package. Spider-Man is generally appropriate for all ages, though he’s obviously been having naked fun with sometimes-bad-girl Black Cat at the beginning of a story. There isn’t much blood to worry about, and discussions of an interprison race war might be a bit mature for some readers, but it definitely should not be enough to deter teenage readers from this exceptional run.

Reviewed by Collin David on July 20, 2012

Spider-Man: The Gauntlet, Vol. 3: Vulture & Morbius
Written by Fred Van Lente, Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, and Tom Peyer, Illustrated by Fabio D'Auria