2. "The Master Planner Saga," Amazing Spider-Man #30-33
What is fascinating to me about this Stan Lee/Steve Ditko classic three-parter is that the finale (the "Final Chapter," as it were) is so legendary that the first part is somewhat overlooked, which is only, you know, THE INTRODUCTION OF GWEN STACY AND HARRY OSBORN!
Think about that - the intro of two major characters and it is not even a blip when you think of this story, THAT is how powerful the sequence in #33 is, where Spider-Man is trapped under a bunch of rubble in an underwater base that is taking on water, trapped just feet away from an isotope that can save Peter's Aunt May's life (a life that is in danger because of a blood transfusion she received from Peter). Talk about drama!
And then, Ditko just goes all nuts on us and gives us a defining series of pages that tons of artists have homaged ever since...
Chris Nowlin had this to say about it:
Given the lesson about responsibility learned in his first appearance, the natural question which follows-- which to me is the core of the Spider-Man series-- is one of how to balance conflicting responsibilities. Peter has decided to feel responsible for not only his own problems, but everybody else's as well. What do you do when the weight of responsibility threatens to crush you? Nothing brings this point home more than this story, a perfect ending for the story begun in Amazing Fantasy. Peter is starting college, has a chance to make new friends (such as Harry and Gwen). But his aunt is sick. His responsibilities as a student, his social responsibilities to his nearly-friends, his financial responsibilities, his responsibilities to his aunt... this is enough to overwhelm him even before you consider Dr. Octopus. And then the metaphorical ceiling which seems to be crushing down becomes a literalceiling, as a subway station comes crashing down on his head.
1. "Kraven's Last Hunt," Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132 and Web of Spider-Man #31-32
For a story that was originally going to star Batman and the Joker (see this Comic Book Legends Revealed installment for more information), this sure did turn out to be a great Spider-Man story, huh?
First off, the very NOTION of one writer (John Marc DeMatteis) and one art team (Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod) taking over all three Spider-Man titles for two months to tell a six-part epic was, in and of itself, pretty revolutionary.
But DeMatteis' idea of taking a fairly typical (by that point in time) Spider-Man villain, such as Kraven the Hunter, and then having him take his fight with Spider-Man to a whole new level (a level Spidey is clearly not prepared for) was a shocking idea...
Kraven then dresses as Spider-Man and "bests" him at that, too (well, in Kraven's mind, as well). Meanwhile, Spider-Man is buried alive. His love for Mary Jane, though, pulls him through, in a brilliant sequence...
That's already a ton of awesomeness, and we haven't even gotten to the confrontation between Kraven and Spider-Man that follows!
A breathtaking piece of work that inspired countless imitations by other writers over the years. And, according to you folks, the greatest Spider-Man story ever told.