Alternate Cover: Marvel anniversary issues reviewed
Amazing Spider-Man #600, Incredible Hulk #600 and Daredevil #500 all line up to mark Marvel's sort-of-birthday...
It’s tenuous anniversary year over at the House of Ideas! Not only is Marvel celebrating its 75th anniversary (er, if you start count from the time they were called Atlas) but a fairly hefty amount of its comics are hitting major anniversaries too – some more convincingly than others. Sometimes it’s a true celebration of longevity. Other times it’s a marketing gimmick – but which books were worth it, and why?
Amazing Spider-Man #600
Spidey’s 600th issue was a bumper book, featuring a main story the size of several issues alone. This mega-feature was itself followed by a vast array of backup strips from various creators, and a series of fairly amusing fake cover pin-ups. At 104 pages for $5, it was pretty good value, too. The stories weren’t all great, but any dip in quality was made up for by sheer quantity. A fitting celebration for a 600th issue, no doubt.
Even better, Amazing Spider-Man is one of the few comics to actually make it to a major anniversary issue in a fairly unassailable way. Admittedly, Peter was briefly replaced with Ben Reilly for a bit, and there was a renumbering stunt involving John Byrne before the series was eventually returned to the original numbering with #500. And, in fairness, the series has been on a thrice-monthly schedule for over a year now – but as far as the content goes, it’s been Spider-Man all the way.
In stark contrast to Amazing Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk‘s 600th issue was a bit of a joke. For a start, the first volume of Incredible Hulk began life as ‘Tales to Astonish’, an anthology, and the Hulk became a lead feature in a split book from #60 onwards, until with issue #102, it became an Incredible Hulk solo book. That volume ended with #474, and a relaunched series that started from a new #1 continued up until issue #112. A third new Hulk series released 12 issues – totalling 599 Hulk comics – before Incredible Hulk #600 was released. Marvel glossed over the error, and as a result the re-numbering feels more like a cynical marketing exercise than ever.
However, it could be forgiven if the contents of #600 were good. Except, they weren’t. Bruce “The Hulk” Banner only appeared in a few pages while most of the issue starred the red-skinned interloper, Rulk. A backup story featured the new She-Hulk, only recently created and given a fairly lukewarm reception, and the book was capped off by a reprint Hulk: Gray #1 – the first part of a larger story that’s conveniently being reprinted in trade form soon. So, if the re-numbering made it feel like a cynical marketing exercise, that impression wasn’t really helped by that fact that it quite obviously was one.Daredevil #500
Which brings us to Marvel’s most recent anniversary extravaganza. Daredevil was another series that succumbed to the re-numbering practise that Marvel was keen on in the early part of the decade. Much like Spider-Man, however, this series has been fairly continuous – arguably even more so, since Daredevil has never had more than one book, nor been replaced by his own clone (though he did try to pretend he was his own identical twin for a while.)
Daredevil #500 was perhaps the best of Marvel’s recent anniversary issues, featuring a fantastic story that concluded Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s run on the title, an all-new story by the fondly-remembered Daredevil Alumni. Ann Nocenti. and Iron Fist’s David Aja, and a reprint of a classic Frank Miller issue of Daredevil. It might not have been as flashy as Spider-Man #600, nor as diverse as Hulk #600, but it was all top-quality stuff. Even the short pin-up section was full of fantastic new artwork from many of the best Marvel artists, as well as former writer Brian Bendis, finally getting his art published in a Marvel comic. Even the cover gallery seemed like a good idea!