Today’s the day! Spider-Man: Homecoming has finally arrived and to celebrate, I’ve compiled a list of the all-time, greatest Spider-Man stories. I thought about it long and hard (and pulled from a previous list I made 5 years ago) to bring you the best adventures the wall-crawler had to offer. Here’s a pretty well rounded collection of the most interesting and exciting stories in Spider-man history with a few exceptions. First off, there’s no Amazing Spider-Man #15. This is mainly because while the origin story is important, it’s been revisited so many times over it’s almost like we all know that tale too well. There’s also no Venom stories on this list. Talk about an overrated character, amirite? So now that that’s out of the way, here’s my picks for the Greatest Spider-Man stories. Enjoy!
The Death of Gwen Stacy
Amazing Spider Man #121 – 122 Vol. 1
Creative Team: Gerry Conway (writer) and Gil Kane (artist)
This one is a no-brainer. Before Mary Jane Watson was the love of Peter’s life, Gwen Stacy was the only girl that mattered. So when the Green Goblin decides to mess things up for the wall-crawler by throwing her off a bridge, you can bet there’s gonna be some hell to pay. Peter Parker is a character that, like Batman in a way, is defined by death. But not just the death of Uncle Ben. Spidey is constantly plagued with the fear that his friends and loved ones will die and there’s nothing he can do to save them.
Gwen’s demise rocked Parker’s world and set the standard for the death of a major supporting cast member in a comic book. The follow up issue when Spider-Man faces off with the Goblin is also considered a prime example of a hero having a final showdown with his arch nemesis…well it was final for a long time until someone decided to bring him back. But that doesn’t take away from this powerful story that showcases the dramatic side of the Spider-Man world.
Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut
Amazing Spider-Man #229-230 Vol. 1
Creative Team: Roger Stern (writer) and John Romita Jr. (Artist)
The Juggernaut. He’s big. He’s bad (most of the time). The dude’s tangled with the X-Men and the Avengers and lived to tell about it. He’s the Juggernaut, bitch! So what happens when he’s tasked with kidnapping Madame Web and the Avengers and Fantastic Four are not in town to stop him? It’s up to Spidey to do it all by his lonesome. But the big question is how? This is one of the best stories to showcase how Spider-Man, as amazing as he is, has limits to what he can do as a meta-human. Sure he’s strong. Sure he’s got a lot of stamina. And he can take a hit from the best of them. But this is the Juggernaut. He doesn’t stand a chance on powers alone. So this is where the big brain of Peter Parker comes into use as he’s got to play it smart.
I remember reading this one as a kid and worrying that Spidey had no way of winning. It made for great dramatic tension and it still holds up to this day. I’m not a fan of Madame Web but I love this story. So that tells you something right there.
The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #248 Vol. 1
Creative Team: Roger Stern (writer) and Ron Frenz (artist)
In the history of Spider-Man comics, you will never find a more touching story. It was a story so simple in it’s execution that Roger Stern was sure it was done before in another comic. But apparently not as this issue was released and has become a beloved classic. Tim Harrison (he likes to be called Timmy) is a young boy who loves Spider-Man. So much so that he’s collected everything Spidey he can get his hands on: newspaper clippings, old news footage, even some stray bullets from a robbery thwarted by the web-slinger. This dedication to the wall-crawler gets the attention of the local paper who does a piece on him. And what could be better for the world’s biggest Spider-Man fan than a visit from the hero himself?
This story is one of the best single-issue stories ever put out. There’s no villain, no fight, no crazy action. It’s the issue that drives home why Spider-Man is still one of the best heroes in comics. The surprise ending gets me every time. A powerful piece.
The Death of Jean DeWolff
Spectacular Spider-Man #107-110 Vol. 1
Creative Team: Peter David (writer) and Rich Buckler (artist)
See what I mean? Spider-Man is constantly defined by death. The death of this police captain who was Spidey’s friend just drives this point home. After the killing of this series regular at the hands of a serial killer known as the Sin Eater, Spider-Man is on the hunt to track him down. Daredevil guest stars in this 4 issue story and acts a voice of reason at one point as Spidey is driven to the edge and debates taking justice into his own hands. One of the more darker Spider-Man tales, this story has great pacing and some real in-depth character moments. It really shows that Spider-Man doesn’t need a big, flashy villain to have an action packed story.
Kraven’s Last Hunt
Web of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132
Creative Team: J.M. DeMatteis (writer) and Mike Zeck (Artist)
This is probably the darkest Spider-Man story out there. It’s also one of the more memorable ones from the 80’s. Kraven has his crowning moment as one of the greatest Spider-Man villains ever, and it’s his last time at bat (that is until they brought him back like they bring everybody back). Kraven kidnaps Spider-Man and burries him alive. He then takes up the mantle of the Spider to prove he can be a better vigilante than him. All the while, Kraven torments and prods Vermin, a third-tier mavel villain, and prepares him to fight against Spidey when he breaks free of his six-foot-under cell. The whole idea of Kraven proving him Parker’s better by taking his place was extremely creepy, made all the more so by Zeck’s haunting visuals. I believe this book still holds up today and is the quintessential Kraven story. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this masterpiece, take a listen to the Back Issue Bloodbath episode we released last month.
Amazing Spider-Man #30-35 Vol. 2
Creative Team: J. Michael Straczynski (writer) and John Romita Jr. (artist)
Yes, JMS is one of those creators who really messed around with Peter Parker’s world and even helped with the One More Day Fiasco. But before that, and before he had Peter turn into a giant spider, and before he had Gwen Stacy sleep with Norman Osborn, he was actually writing some pretty good stuff. None of his run stands out more than the first arc, Coming Home. In it, we’re introduced to 2 new characters. The first is a mysterious man named Ezekiel who has considerable wealth and similar powers to our Spider-friend. The other, Morlun, a super-powered type that sucks the life force out of others. Both challenge Parker in their own way. Ezekiel begins a philosophical discourse with Spidey, leaving him with more questions than answers. Morlun takes Parker to his breaking point as of the toughest foes Spider-Man has ever faced. Both were intriguing characters who came around at the right time.
JMS was the right man for Amazing Spider-Man at this time. Spidey hadn’t been relevant for over 10 years at the time and Straczynski gave the franchise a good shot in the arm. Plus this story ended with a moment that no fan ever thought they’d see as Aunt May has a big moment here. It’s a great story and well worth any Spider-Man fan’s time.
Spider-Man: Blue #1-6
Creative Team: Jeph Loeb (writer) and Tim Sale (artist)
Peter Parker was going to spend the rest of his life with Gwen Stacy. At least that was what he planned. Turned out they only got to spend the rest of Her life together. But this story looks back to the time where Peter and Gwen first got together. Told as a flash back tale, Peter must defeat a gauntlet of villains before facing off with a mysterious man in the shadows (who may or may not be a Hunter!). This was the second in the series of “color” books that Loeb and Sale released through Marvel (along with Daredevil: Yellow and Hulk: Gray) and it is by far the best. It’s probably my favorite Loeb/Sale collaboration to date. Not only do we get some great introspection into Peter’s feelings about his relationship with his first love, but also we get to see a snapshot of the Spidey cast at a time when they were most in flux. Gwen, Flash, Harry Osborn, Mary Jane and Peter were all coming of age, taking the leap from adolescence into adulthood.
This is a great look at both what makes Peter Parker one of the most relatable comic heroes as well as what makes the Gwen/Peter relationship just as important as his relationship with Mary Jane. Not to mention, it features a slew of classic Spider-Man villains brought to life by Sale’s signature style. An Instant Classic.
Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Sara Pichelli (artist)
If you saw the previous list of Greatest Spider-Man Stories I put out five years ago, this story was not on it. This would have to do with the fact that it didn’t exist yet. It’s safe to say that I think this is the best Spider-Man tale to be produced in the past five years. While out on patrol, Parker finds himself in a scuffle with Mysterio that ends up sending him to another dimension. That dimension happens to be the now defunct Ultimate Universe where younger Peter Parker has passed on and Miles Morales has taken up the mantle.
This is the team up that has everything you want. There’s rousing adventure, the fish out of water element that works with Spidey so well, and some heart felt moments between characters that you never thought would meet. It’s Bendis’ best Spider-Man tale for both Parker and Miles. Many folks agree apparently, as a sequel series is coming soon.
So that’s my list for the Greatest Spider-Man Stories. Some of you might disagree with a few of my choices or omissions, but these are the Spider-Man stories that stand out as the hallmark of quality when it comes to Marvel’s Greatest Hero. So check ‘em out and enjoy.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!