For many of these articles, I’ve looked at the most acclaimed Spider-Man stories. And some of those have been the kind of stuff that can’t happen any issue. It’s often material that is consequential or stylistically daring. It can be the first appearances of villains like Venom, the Kingpin or the Hobgoblin. It might include the death of a long-standing character like Gwen Stacy, Jean Dewolff, Ned Leeds or Harry Osborn. It might be something that’s formally inventive like a 22 page conversation between Peter and a supporting cast member about his secret identity, a twelve page encounter between Spider-Man and a fan, or a series of one-shots covering Spider-Man’s friendship with the Human Torch across different eras. Finally, it could be a story where Spider-Man is pushed to his limit in an iconic way like “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut,” Kraven’s Last Hunt, the Morlun saga or the Master Planner Saga.
This leads me to wonder about the stories that don’t wouldn’t fit that criteria. These are the “typical” Spider-Man tales, which technically should be a majority of the material. These are the stories that appear to be fairly normal as far as Spider-Man comics go, but are just told really really well.
So which are the best?
I’m kind of cheating here in that I don’t have a perfect answer to the question. I have seen comics pros praise three different stories as exemplars of what’s best about the series.
I looked at some of the usual suspects: Roger Stern and John Romita Jr’s Cobra/ Hyde two-parter, as well as Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s Unscheduled Stop. I quoted Fred Hembeck on the introduction of the Spider Slayer, and made a case for a four part Lee/ Romita Spider-Man VS Doctor Octopus confrontation.