The superhero genre is unabashedly and uniquely American, as such most comic characters stand for many ideals of the American people. Ideals such as Independence, Pride, Truth, Justice, The American Way, Blowin’ Crap Up, and many others. No other character is quite as American as this week’s focus on Point of Entry. That’s right! Super… Oh, wait. It’s actually Spider-Man. Unlike DC Comics and their occasional reboot or timeline cleanups, Marvel has a condensed timescale. This means that all of their published stories have happened the way they happened, unless magic or other means erases them. Supposedly, all of the Marvel universe has happened within 15 years time. With a publishing time frame of 55 years, that’s a whole lot of stuff to remember. Fortunately, as with almost every publication out there, story comes first, so it isn’t imperative that you read every single issue. If you want to do that, then I suggest you start with the first Point of Entry.
Marvel has a fantastic series of black and white mega collections of most of their original runs and older stores. The line, called Marvel Essentials, collect upwards of 20 issues per volume, only costing 20 dollars. It’s a great way to read all the original stories for your favorite characters. In Spider-Man’s case, there are eleven volumes, ultimately collecting 270 issues. Almost all of these are his High School and University years, showing his struggle with fighting crime, dating, and schoolwork. The early days of Peter Parker speak to a great deal of people, young people worrying about being bullied, worried about that next test, worried if anyone will like them. Spider-Man went through all that, all while holding an immense secret and responsibility. The early days of Spider-Man taught us that no matter what, we always have to be true to ourselves and try to do the right thing, but if we fail, at least we’ll know we tried.
This second Point of Entry skips a good deal of story and time, like the original Venom story, the marriage of Peter and Mary Jane, and the death of Kraven the Hunter, I recommend reading those three major events before jumping into the J. Michael Straczynski era. This 74 issue run starts with Peter’s return to school in the form of a High School science teacher, and ends after he’s revealed his secret identity to the world. Fortunately, this run is fairly easy to track down, released as collected editions with just a Volume number attached. Thirteen volumes, 1-12, ending with One More Day. The Heroic Way encompasses stories about Peter joining the Avengers, gaining new powers, and learning of a multiversal web of life. The Heroic Way is big on production value and story, so much that you won’t want to stop reading.
The Brand New Way
Of the Points of entry on this list, this is one of the easiest, as it is a rare Marvel reboot. Peter made a deal with a demon to erase his marriage to Mary Jane, thus negating around 30 years of stories. His secret identity safe again, Spider-Man begins to tackle crime in a major new way. This Point of Entry starts immediately after the end of Straczynski’s run with a story titled Brand New Day. It’s a little difficult to follow, because the trades that make it up aren’t numbered. This time frame of Spider-Man was interesting because Marvel published the title three times a month, swapping out creative teams, but operating as one massive unit. You’ll start with Brand New Day, of which there are three volumes, and then Kraven’s First Hunt. From there, you can pick and choose what you want to read, but I highly suggest reading them all (A quick Wikipedia search will show you all). The must reads are New Ways to Die, Election Day, 24/7, American Son, and Return of the Black Cat. All of this eventually leads to one of my personal favorite stories ever, The Gauntlet. The five volume series features Spider-Man fighting new and/or improved versions of his greatest enemies, eventually leading to The Grim Hunt, resurrecting Kraven the Hunter.
After the Grim Hunt storyline, Spider-Man took a different direction, with Peter Parker working for a company made up of geniuses, continuously creating the next big thing. This Point of Entry sees the introduction of Doctor Octopus’s newest incarnation. Otto Octavious, having taken so many super powered punches to the head over the years, is suffering from a degenerative condition that forces him to be less and less reliant on his organic body. The Superior Way Point of Entry is all about him controlling things in the background of Peter’s life. The big trades to get for the best story are Big Time, Spider-Island, Flying Blind, Trouble on the Horizon, Ends of the Earth, Danger Zone, and Dying Wish. All of this culminates with Peter’s mind being swapped with a seconds from death Doc Ock. Thus ending The Amazing Spider-Man title, and beginning The Superior Spider-Man. Superior met with a great deal of fan backlash, despite the high number of sales. During it’s run, it won many people over, with it’s complexity and levity. Elements of Superior are still in play, with Peter running his own company started when Otto was in charge of his body. That brings us to the current Point of Entry
After the Superior Way, The Amazing Spider-Man title came back, and Peter began the journey to find out how much his life had changed since being taken over by Doc Ock. Almost immediately, however, he finds himself wrapped up in a multiverse jumping story called Spider-Verse. Vampires who feed only on Spider powered beings have begun raving the multiverse, according to a prophecy, and only Marvel 616 Peter can best them with help from multiple other versions of himself. After the grand fight of Spider-Verse, Peter settles into his role as successful CEO of Parker Industries. That brings us to current publications.
There we have it, 5 different Points of Entry for Marvel’s most popular character, Spider-Man!
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