I've been revisiting (and visiting for the first time) Marvel's -1 books which were coverdated for the summer of 1997.
First of all, these books had a hand in starting the untraditional numbering of comic books, which I've grown to hate. I know stuff like Tales To Astonish becoming The Incredible Hulk happened but after all the #0's and #-1's, all the reboots and returns to the old numbering have taken the magic out of anniversary issues. But anyway...
So far, I've read -1 issues for Ka-Zar, Daredevil, Untold Tales Of Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man. I'd forgotten that Stan Lee makes cameos in each ish, pretty good ones, actually. A nice preview of what would come in the movies.
Daredevil -1 was written by Joe Kelly with art by Gene Colan. Stan plays the bus driver as Matt Murdock and his dad Jack are traveling to State University, after Matt's accident but before he becomes Daredevil. There are plenty of honest and touching moments between the over-protective but guilty-feeling single father and the eager-to-be-independant son with a secret which overpower the somewhat ridiculous scuffle at the local bar. Colan's artwork is fluid and classic but not his best work.
Ka-Zar -1 tells a disjointed story of young brothers Kevin and Parnival Plunder. Kevin's story is early Ka-Zar learning a lesson and Parnival shows his evil side before he became The Plunderer. The artwork has a Golden Age feel but the problem is both stories are kind of cliche and, as far as I know, the Plunderer has been forgotten over the years. But I'm more of a fan of Ka-Zar as a guest star in other books rather than in his infrequent series.
Untold Tales Of Spider-Man -1 goes even further back than an early Peter Parker story, telling a tale of Richard and Mary Parker, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. With Roger Stern and John Romita Sr. at the helm, you know you're getting a good tale. I don't know if Stern or Lee wrote Stan's self-depreciating humor but it's classic Stan. I'm a bit iffy on Peter Parker's parents being spies but it is an established storyline and, of course, well done given the talent involved. Wolverine makes a surprise guest appearance as Baron Strucker's captive. I don't really like the idea that Wolverine interacted with every Marvel character in the pre-FF #1 days but I don't think anyone draws a better Wolverine than JR Sr.
In ASM -1, Peter Parker becomes even more relatable to us comic book fans as he discovers Uncle Ben's Golden Age comic book collection. Tom Defalco and Joe Bennett deliver a mostly on-the-nose comic, drawing on Golden and Silver Age nostalgia in a 90s style, but it feels more like a What If...? story with a rushed plot and an unnecessary explanation of how Peter came up with the idea for his webshooters. The story features a gangster story with Kingpin, Fortunato and one-timer Rigoletto. Stan appears in a Spider-Man costume.
Incredible Hulk -1 gives an important look into the history of Bruce Banner. Peter David tells the story of Banner's abusive and murderous father with art by Adam Kubert. The issue is significant but the mishmash of styles doesn't work for me. The story is dark and serious but Stan Lee breaking the third wall as some sort of...I don't know what...(he's like the cool teen characters from the X-Men books of the time) narrator presenting a play of what's going on simultaneously in the main story is just weird and not engaging. It's not a good mix of dark and humorous themes.
Wolverine -1, by Larry Hama, doesn't really add anything new to Wolverine's mythos. He doesn't remember his past and he has retroactive history with several characters from the Silver Age: Nick Fury, Carol Danvers, Black Widow and Ben Grimm. Sabretooth is in the story too. It's not terrible, but it's a bit too much for me.
Deadpool -1 talks a lot about Wade Wilson but it's all about Zoe Culloden and Deadpool's girlfriend Vanessa. The story by Joe Kelly is ok though a bit predictable. Aaron Lopresti's artwork pays homage to Sterenko's Nick Fury Agent Of SHIELD work. Stan Lee's intro and outro are more emotional rather than lighthearted, which is kind of funny since Stan has no creative connection to Deadpool at all.
Scott Lodbell and Bryan Hitch present Uncanny X-Men -1 in which Rachel Summers and Sanctity go back in time to when Bolivar Trask was creating the Master Mold. I was hoping for an original X-Men story but it did touch on an important aspect of X-Men history and did so nicely connecting it to modern X-Men history. Stan appears as the Watcher, possibly for the first time ever?
These issues weren't as much fun as the previous 4. Other than the Wolverine issue, the plots were inspired, but I question how much the creators were into the project. Peter David obviously had the Hulk story already in mind but it seems like the Flashback theme flustered him and he tried to do too much. The Sternko-style in Deadpool seems like a copy, adding nothing to the book. The X-Men issue features characters that hadn't been seen in years (were they in X-Calibur?). If I had been a new fan at the time, I would've been very confused and disappointed. Definitely a mixed-bag.