Today, my journey through Marvel’s most iconic first issues and first appearances takes me to 1988, which saw the debut of Spider-Man’s most iconic foe, the monstrous Venom, in The Amazing Spider-Man #300.
Written by David Michelinie, drawn by Todd McFarlane, colored by Bob Sharen, and lettered by Rick Parker, this is a landmark issue in every sense. It’s oversized, its effects still echo through the Marvel Universe today, and it’s celebrating both the 300th issue and the 25th anniversary of Spider-Man. As with most of the Marvel Firsts series, I’ve never read this issue before, as legendary as the storyline is in the comic book industry… so let’s see how it holds up to new readers today.
Now, I admit… I’ve never consistently followed Spider-Man. When I started reading comics regularly in the late 2000s, titles like Captain America and Avengers were flat out easier to jump onto. Spidey’s popularity, just like the X-Men, make his many titles a bit more of a task to follow, partly because of the sheer amount of history but even more because of how many Spidey-centric titles are being published at once. I have, though, sampled from many different eras of Spider-Man, from the very beginning all the way up through the current Dan Slott run… and of all those great issues I’ve read, no one draws Spider-Man on Todd McFarlane’s level.
I’m no huge fan of the ’90s, but this clearly sticks out as the most visually engaging Spider-Man action I can think of. McFarlane’s depiction of Spidey swinging through New York City, shooting out intricately drawn webs, and throwing down with Venom is nothing short of visionary. The scenes with Peter and MJ suffer a bit in comparison, especially with some of MJ’s more questionable fashion choices that didn’t really age well… but damn.
The story, even having not read the issue prior to this, is one with which I was familiar. Eddie Brock is disgraced journalist who blames Spider-Man for his downfall. He makes money these days writing articles about celebrities in tabloids that he describes as “venomous,” which might have been a cringe moment for someone else, but this on-the-nose line totally works for Eddie here. Because Eddie? He’s crazy. His backstory is not that of a good man whose woes have tragically pushed him to villainy. No, the fact that he blames Spider-Man comes off as absolutely insane, backed up by the fact that he dresses up like a priest and takes Spider-Man to the top of a church to murder him. I expected to get way more screwed up Venom scenes here, but was instead surprised by how much of Eddie’s psychopathy seemed to be coming from the man rather than the monster that had taken hold of him.
With stunning art and a pretty cool story that genuinely surprised me even though I thought I knew what was going to happen, Amazing Spider-Man #300 lives up to its legacy.