Our latest longbox-diving feature on this site is “10 Must-Read Comics”. Unlike our comic book reading orders, or the latest indispensable reading order, this feature boils down the character down to ten comics, whether a it be a single issue or a collected edition graphic novel. It features a mix of early to current stories, origins and character-defining stories to critically acclaimed, the famous as well as occasionally the infamous. Contrarily to our “Top 25 Best Stories” list, this list might not contain all the top fan favorites, but a more condensed list that will get you a great feel of the character, where they came and where they are going, with fewer books.
Naturally, we’ll focus our first feature on Spider-Man, seeing as this character is the most analyzed here and therefore also the most popular.
Now, on to the Spider-Man comics!
Character Defining Stories
These stories are straight the perfect example of the character. They do not show the character at his lowest point or in alternate realities, which are often popular and/or critically acclaimed run. No, these stories are the best of the character that play on, or even helped build those archetypes that are found across most versions of the character.
1. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut!
This storyline is the first appearance of Madame Webb, but what makes it so great is that it showcases Spider-Man’s resolve and commitment during a truly “street-level” threat.
2. If this Be My Destiny!
Creators: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Amazing Spider-Man #229 BUY
Amazing Spider-Man #230 BUY
The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 4 (Marvel Masterworks)
You can’t make a list of must-read Spider-Man comics without including a story by the original creators. Lee and Ditko not only launched Spider-Man, but they also built up much of the mythos over the first few years. This is considered their best work, which includes a great first appearance of possibly Spider-Man’s best supporting cast with Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy, as well as Spider-Man’s greatest foe, Doctor Octopus as well as a (now) typical motivation in getting something to help heal Aunt May.
3. Learning Curve
Creators: Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley
Ultimate Spider-Man #8 BUY
Ultimate Spider-Man #9 BUY
Ultimate Spider-Man #10 BUY
Ultimate Spider-Man #11 BUY
Ultimate Spider-Man #12 BUY
Ultimate Spider-Man #13 BUY
Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 2: Learning Curve
We move on a few decades (and a complete universe) to the Ultimate line of Marvel comics, which feature a more modern take of classic characters. Even though the take is modern, the team here were able to condense exactly what made Spidey great throughout every decade all into one typical, yet original, story.
So you’ve seen what makes the character, now let’s see where he came from.
4. Amazing Fantasy #15
Creators: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Amazing Fantasy #15 (duh.)
Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)
While dated, it is at the very least a historically important issue; the first appearance of Spider-Man.
The Famous and the Infamous
These stories are the oft-referenced, whether around the comic shop or within the pages of subsequent issues for years to come.
5. Kraven’s Last Hunt
Creators: J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck
Web of Spider-Man #31 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #293 (BUY)
Spectacular Spider-Man #131 (BUY)
Web of Spider-Man #32 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #294 (BUY)
Spectacular Spider-Man #132 (BUY)
Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt
Perhaps one of the darkest Spider-Man stories (which was actually originally planned to be a Batman story), this is one of those stories that you need to read if you are to discuss Spider-Man with any fan, even though the mood isn’t a good indication of what is a Spider-Man comic.
6. The Night Gwen Stacy Died
It is our view that the Death of Gwen Stacy is as much as part of Spider-Man’s origin than the death of Uncle Ben. It is as much a motivator to get the job done right, and often mentioned alongside one another. IN two issues you’ll get why Norman Osborn is such an important villain, how Peter and MJ get close in addition to a death that greatly motivates the character to this day.
7. Spider-Man Blue
Creators: Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale
Spider-Man Blue #1 (BUY)
Spider-Man Blue #2 (BUY)
Spider-Man Blue #3 (BUY)
Spider-Man Blue #4 (BUY)
Spider-Man Blue #5 (BUY)
Spider-Man Blue #6 (BUY)
Man, what I would give for a modern Spider-Man that takes it cues from this book; retro art and a focus on the supporting cast.
8. Death of Jean DeWolff
Creators: Peter David, Rich Buckler
Spectacular Spider-Man #107 (BUY)
Spectacular Spider-Man #108 (BUY)
Spectacular Spider-Man #109 (BUY)
Spectacular Spider-Man #110 (BUY)
Spider-Man: The Death of Jean DeWolff
Another darker-themed story, this is another story considered one of the best, even more so among people less familiar with the character. This is not a bad thing, as these fans aren’t weighing the repercussions of this story into their preferences, which tend to favor “The Death of Gwen Stacy” and such over ones such as this.
The following story is one that isn’t as highly regarded among the masses, but that we think is much better than most of the popular Spider-Man graphic novels on the shelves today.
9. The Harry Osborn Saga
Creators: J.M. DeMatteis, Sal Buscema
Spectacular Spider-Man #200 (BUY)
While this Saga begins with Spectacular Spider-Man #172, the issue above is truly the pinnacle of the story and can be read alone. Honestly, this is the best storytelling we have ever seen, with the pacing being spot on, the expressions on faces telling, the excellent use of “silent” panels, the use of creative fonts that display emotion… the list goes on.
Where are they now?
This is the best entry point into the current goings-on of the character.
Creators: Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, Marcos Martin, Stefano Caselli
Amazing Spider-Man #648 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #649 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #650 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #651 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #652 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #653 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #654 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #655 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #656 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #657 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #658 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #659 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #660 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #661 (BUY)
Amazing Spider-Man #662 (BUY)
Spider-Man: Big Time Ultimate Collection
Dan Slott became the sole Amazing Spider-Man scribe after being part of the collective that brought forward the Brand New Day era. Now, the Big Time era is coming to a close, and this is the best place to start.