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Friday, June 21, 2024

The Top 25 Best Spider-Man Comics

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Everything’s coming up Spider-Man lately. Barely a week passes without news of some new movie, TV or game featuring our favorite wall-crawler. And that’s to say nothing of the many promising Spider-Man comics in the works for 2020 and beyond.To celebrate our love of the wonderful wall-crawler, we're looking back on his 25 greatest comic book stories — not an easy feat with nearly 60 years of history to dig through. Be warned, though, if you've never read these stories, there are spoilers within. Most of said spoilers are decades old, but hey, you never know. And just to keep things simple, we’re limiting the list to stories focused on Peter Parker, not other characters like Miles Morales or Spider-Gwen.

Check out the slideshow gallery below or scroll down to see the essential Spider-Man comics every fan should read.

Note: This list has been updated with the latest, greatest Spider-Man comics.The Top 25 Best Spider-Man Comics

25. Spider-Verse

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #9-15 (2014-2015) | By Dan Slott, Olivier Coipel & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Spider-Man crossovers don’t get more epic than this. Spider-Verse pits our hero against the one villain who successfully killed him – vampiric totem-feeder Morlun. Worse, Morlun’s entire family has surfaced with the goal of devouring any and all Spider-Men they can find. Spidey’s only hope is join forces with his counterparts from across the Marvel multiverse and defend the Web of Life before it’s destroyed for good.

Spider-Verse is full of drama and high stakes, but it’s also some of the most fun you’ll have reading a Spider-Man comic. The crossover pays tribute to many different incarnations of the Spidey franchise in comics and television. Even the Spider-Men from the 1960’s animated series and the Hostess Fruit Pies ads are drawn into this fight.

While the main crossover is contained within the pages of the monthly Amazing Spider-Man series, fans really owe it to themselves to read the numerous tie-ins and take in the full scope of the crossover. The Edge of Spider-Verse prologue series is especially key, as it introduces important new characters like Spider-Gwen and Sp//dr. We wouldn’t have the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie without this crossover lighting the way.

24. How Green Was My Goblin/Spidey Saves the Day

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #39-40 (1966) | By Stan Lee & John Romita

By their own admission, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko never had a solid plan in mind for who was behind the mask of the Green Goblin when they created him. Luckily, the eventual decision to make him Norman Osborn in this two-parter became one of the most crucial moments of the entire Spidey saga. Having been recently acquainted with Harry Osborn at school, Norman’s role as the Goblin instantly created a personal connection to the character that would go on to become Spidey’s most popular rogue.

Perhaps more importantly is that not only is Green Goblin unmasked – so too is Peter Parker. For the first time, Peter’s worst fears come to fruition when one of his enemies discovers his civilian identity. The resulting relationship between Spidey and the Gobby is forever altered, giving the duo a twisted, unbroken bond that would later become essential to Spider-Man’s tragedy-ridden career.

23. Goblin Nation

Superior Spider-Man Vol. 1 #27-31 (2014) | By Dan Slott & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Dan Slott has the longest tenure of any Amazing Spider-Man writer, and it goes without saying he did a lot to reshape the franchise and redefine Peter Parker during that time. No Slott-penned storyline was more ground-breaking or controversial than Superior Spider-Man, a book wherein Doctor Octopus’ mind took over Peter Parker’s body and set out to prove himself as the better hero.

It’s a risk that paid off, as the climactic “Goblin Nation” storyline proves. The series wraps in the only way it good, with Otto Octavius fighting a losing battle against a resurgent Norman Osborn and his underground army of Green Goblins. This is Otto’s moment of truth. The series climaxes with his realization that, for all his resources and tech and ambition, he lacks the self-sacrificing nature that truly makes Spider-Man a hero for the ages. His decision to die so that Peter can live again is a perfect end-cap to a years-long character arc. And the scene where Osborn realizes he’s no longer battling Octavius ranks among the best Spider-Man moments ever.

22. The Wedding

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 Annual #21 (1987) | By David Michelinie & Paul Ryan

After killing off Gwen Stacy in order to never see a married Spider-Man, Marvel had Peter and Mary Jane tie the knot – a marriage that would last for over 20 years – in 1987. While the first portion of the issue is essentially a by-the-numbers bout with Electro, the story picks up steam once the bride and groom begin to get cold feet.

MJ ponders becoming domesticated, giving up her life of parties and rich boys to become the wife of a superhero. For his part, Peter reflects on Gwen’s death and how his being Spider-Man directly contributed to it. Each situation is made worse by the fact that neither one of them can talk to anyone – except each other – about their fears. It’s a heartfelt look at the couple’s relationship using the usual storytelling tropes of a sitcom-like wedding episode.

Ultimately, of course, the couple goes through with it and live happily ever after. At least until Mephisto did that mind-erasey thing many years later…

21. The Gift/The Conversation

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #400 (1995) / The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #38 (2002) | By J.M. DeMatteis & Mark Bagley / J. Michael Straczynski & John Romita Jr.

Technically we’re cheating by including two separate stories here, but it seems fitting to spotlight two single issues that approach a similar concept from radically different angles. Both “The Gift” and “The Conversation” deal with the fallout of Peter finally revealing his secret to Aunt May.

The former takes place in the midst of the infamous Clone Saga storyline. And while fans would just as soon forget most of that bloated crossover, Amazing Spider-Man #400 stands out as a true highlight. Peter faces one of the greatest tragedies of his life as he opens up to a dying May. Before she passes, May reveals she had always known her nephew was Spider-Man. Truly, it’s one of the most poignant Spider-Man moments ever, even if Marvel wiped the slate clean by revealing May had been replaced by an impostor.

Writer J. Michael Straczynski revisited this concept several years later in his Amazing Spider-Man run. Shortly after his near-fatal run-in with Morlun, an unconscious, still-costumed Peter is discovered by his aunt. This time, however, May has a much harder time accepting the truth. The twist comes with JMS giving May her own share of guilt over Ben’s death – it seems the pair had a tiff the night he was killed, and she’s felt responsible for what happened.

After being afraid of telling Aunt May for so many years, the two are brought even closer together by a shared guilt and mutual understanding. JMS manages to avoid the expected beats of the conversation and instead provides a fascinating new layer to the May/Peter relationship. It’s a shame that Marvel again reverted to the status quo by restoring Peter’s secret identity. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

20. Ultimate Fallout

Ultimate Comics Fallout #1 (2011) | By Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley

Though the original Peter Parker has never really died, Marvel Comics shocked us all when the Ultimate version of Spider-Man – a character under the guidance of writer Brian Bendis for over 10 years – got the axe. Fortunately, the unique setup of the Ultimate Universe allowed his death to be one of meaning and consequence, eventually resulting in new web-head Miles Morales taking over thwipping duties.

However, it was the very first chapter of Ultimate Comics Fallout that was the best moment to follow Peter’s tragic death. As we know, Spider-Man isn’t typically liked by the public. But here, once he was removed from the equation, we got to see a public show of appreciation at Peter’s funeral that we can only imagine would be on par with someone like Captain America. New York City showed their gratitude for this kid – now revealed to the world as Peter Parker, high school student – and the tears came fast and furious.

The pivotal moment comes at the issue’s conclusion, when Aunt May is confronted by a little girl who had been saved by Spider-Man and offers her a hug. It’s a gut-wrenching finale to a heroic life, and proves how essential Peter’s legacy is to the Ultimate Universe.

19. Spider-Man/Human Torch: I’m With Stupid

Spider-Man/Human Torch #1-5 (2005) | By Dan Slott & Ty Templeton

The Peter Parker and Johnny Storm relationship is one of the most fascinating amongst superhero friendships, and perhaps no other comic has explored it as well as this mini-series from 2005. A collection of five stand-alone stories that occur in-between the pages through the history of Marvel – from the earliest days of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four right up through the run of J. Michael Straczynski – Spider-Man/Human Torch is a love letter to not only the Peter/Johnny bromance , but Spider-Man’s history as a whole.

Covering everything from the emotional downturn of Peter’s life after the death of Gwen Stacy, to his romance with Black Cat, to poking fun at the Clone Saga, to in-jokes about the symbiote costume and beyond, the series reaffirms Peter’s role as Spider-Man by showing us that despite everything he’s lost, he’s gained family and friends that are irreplaceable. Perhaps it’s summed up best when Johnny references the ol’ “Parker luck” – a phrase that’s typically been used to describe Peter’s constant tribulations – and shows him that from the outside, Peter’s got everything a guy could want.

18. The Original Clone Saga

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #139-150 (1974-1975) | By Gerry Conway & Ross Andru

Before the much-maligned and seemingly endless Clone Saga of the mid-90s, there was the original Clone Saga published in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man in the 70s. The story is about the Jackal – originally Miles Warren, Peter Parker’s biology professor at ESU – who we learn had a secret obsession with Gwen Stacy and blames Spider-Man for her death. Out of his pain he clones both Gwen and Peter, leading to a rather tormenting series of events for the wall-crawler.

In a lot of ways, the story is Peter’s worst fears brought to life. He’s forced to physically confront his guilt by looking Gwen in the eyes, never mind facing the man he holds responsible for her death – himself. If there’s any point of weakness to attack amongst Spidey’s repertoire of spider-strength and agility, it’s his endless guilt for those he’s caused to suffer. Though the clone thing would grow out of hand in the years to follow, the initial dramatic implications of the plotline are too meaty to ignore.

17. Cracked Hourglass

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1 #308-309 (2018) | By Chip Zdarsky & Chris Bachalo

Marvel revived Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man in 2017 as a companion to the ongoing Amazing Spider-Man series, one aimed at telling a more intimate series of stories in an era where Peter himself was at the head of a multinational corporation. Nowhere did that formula work better than in the two-part “Cracked Hourglass” storyline.

Easily one of the best Spidey vs. Sandman stories ever told, “Cracked Hourglass” is a testament to the fact that even Peter’s worst enemies have real depth and humanity. In this story, Flint Marko faces his imminent death, even as he grapples with strange memories of a life he never lived. The result is a story that manages to balance high-concept science fiction with a very grounded story about one sworn enemy doing his best to save another. The two issues are cleverly structured so that the first revolves around Sandman confronting his mortality, while the second is about the even greater fear of a life without end.

16. And Death Shall Come

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #90 (1970) | By Stan Lee & Gil Kane

The worst mistake the Stacy family ever made was getting involved with Peter Parker. Though the Death of Captain Stacy storyline, which came to fruition through a battle with Doctor Octopus, ran for numerous chapters before the actual death happened in Amazing Spider-Man #90, it’s this climactic chapter that marks the first significant tragedy in Peter Parker’s life since the death of Uncle Ben. Captain Stacy had become something of a surrogate father to Peter – a mentor – and readers suspected that the character knew Peter’s secret about being Spider-Man. It wasn’t until this issue that those suspicions were confirmed, as Stacy lay dying in Spider-Man’s arms.

It’s a brutal moment in which Peter realizes, once again, he’s to blame for the death of a loved one. Modern readers have the benefit of an added dramatic beat when Captain Stacy begs Peter to protect his daughter, Gwen, to which Peter promises that he will. Of course, only years later, Peter would fail to keep his promise. More immediately at the time though, Captain Stacy’s death led to a new complication in Peter and Gwen’s relationship when she blamed his alter-ego for the death of her father.

15. The Gauntlet

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #611-637 (2009-2010) | By Various

During the Brand New Day era of Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel employed a rotating lineup of artists and writers to tell a single Spider-Man epic published three times a month for several years straight. That process culminated in The Gauntlet, an ambitious and hugely influential look at one of the most harrowing ordeals in Spider-Man’s career.

Not unlike the Knightfall crossover in the Batman books, The Gauntlet deals with a mysterious enemy manipulating Peter Parker and pushing him to the physical and psychological breaking point. Each story pits Spidey against a different foe, with the common thread being that most battles end with Spidey in an even worse state than before.

The Gauntlet contains multiple all-time classics like “Rage of the Rhino” and “Shed,” both of which tap into the human, tragic sides of Spidey’s iconic rogues. But to get the full impact, it’s best to read this entire grueling saga from start to finish.

14. Ultimate Venom

Ultimate Spider-Man #33-39 (2003) | By Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley

Though he’s enjoying a huge resurgence in the main Marvel Universe, at the time of Ultimate Spider-Man’s Venom arc, the character had become a stinging reminder of the excess of the 90s. However, with his rejuvenation of Spider-Man’s world under the Ultimate banner, Bendis found a way to make Venom and Eddie Brock a key part of Peter Parker’s history and bring back the flesh-devouring “symbiote” in a way that was integral to Peter’s personal history. Now a forgotten childhood friend of Peter’s, a college-age Eddie is continuing his father’s work on a cure for cancer in the form of a “bio suit” – a project his father had been working on with Peter’s father.

The two quickly reconnect, but not before the black slime hits the fan. When Peter discovers what the experiment is really capable of, he realizes that Eddie is not the person he thought he was. Bendis manages to weave the Venom story into the death of Peter’s parents, suggesting that their death might not have been an accident after all. Like most of Bendis’ Marvel Ultimate Universe successes, Venom is to be commended for streamlining one of the more outrageous elements of Spider-Man’s history and transforming it into something new, interesting, and best of all – central to Peter’s origins.

13. The Commuter Cometh

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #267 (1987) | By Peter David & Bob McLeod

In a lot of ways, The Commuter Cometh is the quintessential Peter David story. The concept is so simple yet approaches the central character from an angle never really explored before, with plenty of humor to boot. Here, David presents Spidey in what is essentially a fish-out-of-water story, bringing ol’ web-head out of his comfort zone of Manhattan high rises and bustling streets to – gasp – the suburbs.

This isn’t a showcase of spectacular rogues or a deep exploration of Peter Parker’s guilt (though there’s plenty of that elsewhere on this list). It’s pure and simple fun that explores Spidey’s relationship to New York City and perhaps, his over-reliance on its architecture. David and McLeod play up the situational comedy for all its worth, from having a little kid offer Spidey his big wheel for transportation to the wall-crawler having to just suck it up – and take the bus. It’s a comedic masterpiece that shouldn’t go unread by any fan.

12. No One Dies

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #655-656 (2011) | By Dan Slott & Marcos Martin

Sadly, though Spider-Man is one of the most fun, good-natured superheroes around, many of the stories that define him and are the most fondly remembered revolve around one topic: death. Such is the case with No One Dies. Though it’s a two-part tale, it’s really the first half that makes this a story worthy of this list. Reeling from the death of Marla Jameson, JJJ’s beloved wife, Spidey’s cast attends her funeral rendered in silent-but-gorgeous fashion by artist Marcos Martin. Later, Peter falls asleep into a hellish nightmare, confronted by all of those that he’s failed to save.

Slott runs the gamut with cameos of dead characters, from the usual folks like Uncle Ben and the Stacys to the less expected like Rhino's wife Oksana Sytsevich and Timothy Harrison (of The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man fame). Peter, wracked with guilt, wanders through the dreamscape trying to make sense of the mess he’s made of everyone else’s lives. More startlingly, he comes across his parents, who now have no faces because his memories of them are so vague. He relives the night of Gwen’s death while she talks to him, head drooping to her side from a broken neck. Scene after scene features Peter’s world getting turned upside down as we truly feel for our hero – but the masterstroke is in knowing that there’s plenty of truth within the horror. Slott also manages to turn the issue into a meta-commentary on death in comics, repeating how it seems to be only the bad guys who come back from death time and again.

However, the pain and torture all leads to a new place for Peter, as he comes out of the issue with a new vow that has since come to define Slott’s run on the book: under Spidey’s watch, no one dies. Holding himself to such an impossible standard had a profound impact on Spidey for years to come.

11. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut

The Amazing Spider-Man #229-230 (1982) | By Roger Stern & John Romita Jr.

There’s nothing overtly remarkable about the plot of this now-classic storyline. It’s something we’ve seen before in countless superhero comics before and since – unstoppable force meets immovable object, good vs. evil, superhero stopping supervillain from doing something dastardly. But Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut is a prime example of how pitch-perfect characterization and enticing action can take even a by-the-numbers story and elevate to something worthy of being included on a list like this.

Roger Stern presents a streamlined tale that nixes most of the common tropes of Spidey storytelling – tropes that appear in most other entries on this list – like Aunt May in peril, relationship troubles, and/or overwhelming guilt over the death of various characters. Instead, Stern delivers a hard-and-fast action-packed adventure that encapsulates the “superhero” side of Peter Parker’s life to the fullest.

10. Spider-Man!

Amazing Fantasy Vol. 1 #15 (1962) | By Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

What can one really say about the tale that started it all? Spider-Man’s debut covers all of the basics that remain the core of the character to this day – Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, gets powers, smugly lets a criminal escape, said criminal later murders his Uncle Ben, and out of the pain and guilt of that situation, the heroic Spider-Man is born. In the span of only a few pages, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko gave the world one of the most iconic — and tragic — origin stories of all time.

Though many have added to its legacy since 1962, the core has always remained the same in every single retelling. Say it with me, kids: with great power comes great responsibility.

9. If This Be My Destiny

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #31-33 (1965-1966) | By Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

This tale from early in Spider-Man’s existence is essential for so many reasons. From a historical perspective, this story – issue #31 in particular – is noteworthy for Peter’s enrollment in Empire State Universe and thus, his first meeting with Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn, two characters that would go on to become key staples in Spider-Man mythology. More importantly, this story serves as a template that Spider-Man adventures would replicate for eternity. It’s literally got it all – Peter’s love troubles (here, though, it’s with Betty Brant – and he’s kind of a jerk to boot), Aunt May in dire peril, a classic rogue behind an elaborate plot, Peter’s dependence on his science skills to save the day, and even J. Jonah Jameson piling onto Peter’s troubles by trashing his photos. All of the elements are there, and the result is a thrilling entry into the web slinger’s career.

Most importantly, though, is the work of Steve Ditko. This is some of the best action you can find on a comic book page, in 1965 or currently. Of course, this story is perhaps most remembered for its now-iconic splash page of Spidey freeing himself of the debris he’s trapped under. It’s not only the moment itself, but the pages leading up to it – trapped under the heavy weight of it all, time running short to save Aunt May from death – Ditko’s pacing is the definition of storytelling perfection, keeping the reader thrilled and enhancing both the inner and outer strength that has since become synonymous with Spider-Man.

8. Best of Enemies

Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1 #200 (1993) | By J.M. DeMatteis & Sal Buscema

Best of Enemies is one of those stories that harps on all the right emotional beats. Having gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, Best of Enemies begins with Harry Osborn – now the Green Goblin – closing in for the kill on Peter, ready for a final confrontation with his former best friend. However, it’s clear that Harry is bonkers as he constantly waddles back and forth between his violent demeanor as the Goblin and a loving husband and father. The story builds to the climactic showdown between the former best pals after all of the parties involved are brought to their breaking point and tensions are high.

Though they spend the entire issue proclaiming their hate for one another, Mary Jane’s constant reminders of how close the three of them used to be – and Gwen, too – plays an omnipresent role that looms over every blow traded between Spidey and the Goblin. In the end, Harry dooms himself, Peter, and, unbeknownst to him, his young son and Mary Jane to die in an explosion. With Spidey drugged and unable to move, Harry finally acts valiantly to save MJ and his son, and then finally defeats his demons when he goes back to save Peter, too. Tragically, Harry collapses and dies with Peter by his side.

It’s another devastating blow for Spider-Man that would haunt him for quite some time to come, but it’s equally tragic for Harry himself. J.M. DeMatteis depicts him as a man claiming to have surpassed his father in every way – achieving his goals without forgetting his family and friends – yet is really just a scared little boy trying to live up to daddy’s expectations. Only at the end, in death, does he finally step out of his father’s shadow.

7. Spider-Man No More

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #50 (1967) | By Stan Lee & John Romita

Not only does this classic Spidey tale hold the first appearance of Wilson Fisk – The Kingpin of Crime – but it’s also become the template for all future “the hero gives up” stories. Here, Peter Parker realizes that he’s serving a public that will forever be unappreciative, meanwhile ignoring his personal life – friends, family, and school work. He quits – resulting in the iconic John Romita imagery of Spidey’s outfit in the garbage can – only to find his mission reaffirmed after rescuing a security guard that reminds him of Uncle Ben.

This is a theme that Spider-Man would undergo many times during his existence, but it’s never been executed with quite as much grace and simplicity as it is in Amazing Spider-Man #50. This story became so iconic, in fact, that it served as the subplot of Spider-Man 2, which is almost universally hailed as the best Spidey movie to date and one of the best superhero movies in general.

6. Kraven’s Last Hunt

Web of Spider-Man #31-32, The Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132 (1987) | By J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Zeck

Kraven’s Last Hunt is one of the most memorable Spider-Man stories of all time, without a doubt. The story features Kraven the Hunter completing the ultimate challenge – “killing” Spider-Man, his ultimate game, and replacing him, only to allow Spidey to awaken to see how thoroughly defeated he’s been. Though predominately a story centered on Kraven himself, this arc does hold some nice moments for the newlywed Peter and Mary Jane. Here, we get the first real test of their resolve as a married couple when Peter is “killed” by Kraven, causing him to disappear for two weeks. Upon his return, we witness Spidey’s devotion to his city as he leaves his new wife at home to capture the murderous Vermin, who Kraven has set loose upon New York.

At the end of the day, though, this is Kraven’s story. It’s an exploration of what happens when a villain achieves his ultimate goal. What happens when Kraven utterly defeats Spidey? What would happen if Lex Luthor killed Superman? What if the Joker killed Batman? What would their purpose be then? That’s the kind of idea explored in Kraven’s Last Hunt, and as we see, the results leave us bizarrely teary-eyed over a character we should hate.

5. To Have and to Hold

The Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1 | By Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca

No other story has so perfectly captured the essence of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s relationship than this one. Released in 2007, before the dividing force that was One More/Brand New Day, this one-shot finds MJ being interrogated by S.H.I.E.L.D., who is on the hunt for Spider-Man after his identity has been made public in the wake of Civil War. Stalling for time, MJ recounts some of her most potent memories of their times together, while Peter does the same from his own perspective elsewhere.

What results is a stunning account of true love and the definitive reason why MJ will always be the girl for Peter. In a life so rife with tragedy, this story shows the good that came out of it all. And, in light of the dissolution of both Peter and MJ’s marriage and Spider-Man’s public identity, this story holds even more impact in that it too now is tragic; this utterly pure relationship has been lost to the need to “freshen up” Spider-Man’s world. Fortunately, these kindred spirits find themselves together once again in Marvel’s current comics.

4. The Death of Jean DeWolff

Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1 #107-110 (1985-1986) | By Peter David & Rich Buckler

This classic Spidey tale is notable for many reasons. It does so much in the space of merely four issues, and not just in tackling the main mystery at hand. The first thing of note is the bizarre structure of the story. Despite the arc being named after her, DeWolff’s death is merely a footnote, the first victim of a larger murder mystery. She’s dead by page 3 of the first chapter, in her sleep, and without much fanfare. Indeed, this is a grim tale that pushes Spider-Man to his limits like few stories have done. Because of this, there’s an element of realism that was few and far between for Spidey at the time – the deadly killer known as Sin-Eater wasn’t a super villain in the least. In addition to pushing Spider-Man’s conscience and morals to the extreme – reminiscent of his moment of rage against the Green Goblin in The Night Gwen Stacy Died – this story wound up planting some early seeds of the idea that the black symbiote costume was affecting Peter’s personality.

Finally, The Death of Jean DeWolff holds a stepping stone for the relationship between Peter Parker and Matt Murdock, Daredevil. Though secondary to the ongoing murder plot, Daredevil’s involvement is crucial because he acts as a balance to Spider-Man’s unleashed fury at the climax of the story; had it not been for Daredevil, the man known as Sin-Eater could very well have been beaten to death by the web-slinger himself. Spectacular Spider-Man #110 also features the two heroes sharing their secret identities with one another, an act that would bring them closer together than ever before.

3. The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #248 (1984) | By Roger Stern, Ron Frenz & Terry Austin

You won’t find supervillains here. No "Parker luck" to speak of. No clones, no guilt trips. This short back-up story is one of those tales that hits like a truck the first time you read it, then never leaves your memory. It’s a simple story about Spider-Man visiting his number one fan, a young boy that collects all sorts of Spidey memorabilia – newspaper clippings, remnants of his battles with supervillians, even the derogatory headlines spearheaded by J. Jonah Jameson.

On first read, it’s a bit of an odd recollection of Spider-Man’s origin, but the twist comes when Spidey opts to reveal his secret identity to the boy. Even then, the reader stands shocked and rather confused as to why Peter would do such a thing after being so protective for all those years. Finally, the last page comes as we watch Spidey swing away from the boy’s home – a center for terminally ill patients. There’s one panel with Spidey standing atop the hospital’s wall – he’s cast in shadow and we’re at a bird’s eye view – but we can see Peter holding his head in his hands in grief. It’s heartbreaking; a classic example of a superhero having so many wonderful abilities but not being able to do a single thing about one of life’s greatest villains: cancer.

It’s a touching story about Peter’s passion to do good and a reminder that despite all of the slanderous headlines Spidey’s endured throughout the years, the opinion of an impressionable child is one hundred times more important to him.

As an honorable mention, it’s also worth checking out 2019’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #6, which sees writer Tom Taylor and artist Juann Cabal tackle a similarly heart-wrenching story about Spidey bringing joy to one fan’s life.

2. Spider-Man: Blue

Spider-Man: Blue #1-6 (2002-2003) | By Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

As with all of Loeb and Sale’s “color” books at Marvel, Spider-Man: Blue takes a look between the panels of the hero's formative years, in this case Spidey's budding romance with Gwen Stacy – which grows complicated by his first meeting with Mary Jane Watson. While the story holds the familiar structure of a trip through Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, the series is framed around Peter speaking into an old tape recorder on Valentine’s Day, trying to capture his feelings in a recording to Gwen that she’ll never hear.

The story is honest and heartfelt, capturing one of Peter’s greatest tragedies through the eyes of the modern day incarnation of the character. It’s an area that’s traversed often, but it’s never been as personal as it is Blue. We get to witness moments from classic Spidey history (although with some continuity adjustments) – from “Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot” to Flash Thompson joining the army and more – but Loeb shows us how all of those moments are inevitably tied to Peter’s feelings for Gwen.

Best of all, the ending manages to encapsulate and reaffirm the relationship between Peter and MJ as well, when she overhears most of his recording. Instead of being angry for remembering another woman, she simply asks Peter to say “hi” to Gwen for her. It’s a sweet moment that reminds us of how important everyone in our lives can be; how every relationship contributes to, and hopefully betters, who we are as people.

1. The Night Gwen Stacy Died

The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #121-122 (1973) | By Gerry Conway & Gil Kane

If Uncle Ben’s death was the moment that defined Peter Parker’s transformation into the wall-crawler we know and love, then it was Gwen Stacy’s death that defined what his life as Spider-Man would forever become. Shocking at the time and devastatingly potent today, Gwen’s death has become as important to Spider-Man’s trajectory as a hero as Uncle Ben’s death, if not – dare I say it – more so.

While Gwen’s death would go on to become an important part of Peter’s life in future issues in terms of his guilt and fear of close relationships, the immediate impact within this story is perhaps more important for Spidey in the long term. Here, Peter is overcome with rage like we’ve never seen him before, ready to kill Norman Osborn — in or out of costume — over the death of Gwen. When he finally confronts Green Goblin, he stops himself from beating the villain to death, only for Norman to be killed by his own glider – a scene used in the climax of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie.

Peter undergoes a new awakening in light of Gwen’s death and his subsequent rage. He realizes that death should mean something – even for the bad guys – that it’s a final judgment he’s not qualified to make. Through being broken by the death of his first love, Peter learns that revenge isn’t the solution to his problems – a lesson he’d carry for the rest of his life.

What are your favorite tales of wall-crawling adventure? Sound off in the comments below! And be sure to check out IGN's picks for the 25 best Batman graphic novels for good measure.

Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.

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