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.
In Silver Surfer -1, JM DeMatteis and Ron Garney tell a flashback tale in which Stan Lee and a woman are abducted by aliens. Galactus notices a space anomaly near Earth and sends the Surfer to investigate. He finds the aliens and saves the woman, and Stan, erasing their memories of the event as well. It's pretty much what I see the Flashback event as being. It's an interesting story from the past that's not overly important but not unimportant either. Some might not like Stan's extended role in this ish but I think it worked well. Not as awesome as when the Impossible Man visited the Marvel offices but fun without making you groan.
Ghost Rider -1 was confusing and, for the most part, I'm familiar with Ghost Rider's history. Dan Ketch's mother is shown to have had a past as the Ghost Rider. Estranged from her family due to drinking and such, she fights the change as she looks in on her family, Johnny Blaze at a carnival and Dan Ketch at a birthday party. It's not a bad story but convolutes the longtime narrative a bit. I guess it fits in with the Flashback theme, though. I love the old-style corner box.
Spider-Man -1 unconventionally looks at young Capt. Stacy and his brother Arthur getting involved with Norman Osborn. A pre-teen Peter Parker has a small role, meeting Norman for the first time, as the Stacy's investigate a monster at Osborn's factory. Howard Mackie delivers a pretty good tale of these supporting characters, which is acceptable given that Spidey had so many -1 issues.
Generation X -1 also confused me, as I thought that the Dark Beast arrived on 616 Earth at the end of Age Of Apocalypse. Apparently, he had been on "our" Earth for a while and ran into Banshee and Emma Frost when he was a NY cop and she was a teen. The characterization of Emma Frost was very good, as she's the focus of the story as she adjusts to her powers and makes plans for her future. The framing was excellent as it cut right between a scene from the ongoing story.
Another good batch of comics for the most part.