We’ve all seen them – those adverts on TV that encourage you to build the Titanic or Concorde or Apollo 9 in just a thousand parts collected from a fortnightly magazine. There are variations available for people into knitting, baking, woodwork and pretty much every other hobby under the sun.

Except taxidermy. No-one wants a fortnightly collection about taxidermy.

The latest collection to hit newsagents is the Marvel Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection which comes courtesy of Hachette Partworks. It claims to collect some of the most important stories in the Marvel Universe into exclusive hardback editions with some exclusive bonus content tacked on for good measure.

The books retail at £9.99 from issue 3 onwards, but part one is available now for just £2.99, and part 2 will be available for £6.99 when it is released in a week or two. But in these dark times of austerity, should you be chucking your cash at this? Short answer: “Yes, probably”. Long answer continues after the ads…

Hachette has been very clever in its choice of the first book to release in the series. It’s the classic Amazing Spider-Man tale, Coming Home, written by J Michael Straczynski with pencils by John Romita Jr. For those of you unfamiliar with the tale, it was first published in comic form back in 2002 and ushered in a new era in the life of Peter Parker.

Sick of playing second fiddle to the rest of New York, and equally fed up of having people kidnap and/or attempt to murder her, Mary Jane has given Peter the elbow, leaving him heartbroken and confused. As if that isn’t enough, a mysterious figure named Ezekiel, with powers not unlike his own turns up and starts messing with his head. Ezekiel also warns Peter that a great danger is coming that is unlike anything he has ever faced before. A few pages later, when said danger – new villain, Morlun – does turn up, the action kicks into overdrive and Peter is caught up in the fight of his life.

The reason I say Hachette has been clever in their choice of story is not just because it’s one of the best Spider-Man stories of the past 10 years, but because it’s essentially a tale about beginnings. Peter is beginning a new life without Mary Jane, he starts a new job, meets a new ally and a new enemy on the same day, and begins a journey of self-discovery that helped keep the character fresh and exciting for the next decade.

Straczynski is on top form here. He takes Spider-Man back to basics and reminds us why we love the character in the first place. This is a Spidey who is willing to risk everything – his life and his secret identity – in order to protect innocents. This is a Spidey who refuses to back down or run away if it means putting anyone else in danger. This is a Spidey who knows all too well that with great power comes great responsibility.

There is a lot of action in these pages – and I mean a lot – and the fighting and swinging stuff is drawn perfectly by Romita. The only part of the artwork I have issue with is the way Romita draws faces. More often than not they look oddly ape-like, and in the scenes where Ezekiel first makes his appearance he looks more like X-Men’s Beast than someone with spider-powers as he leaps and swings through the city.

Despite all the action, it is Peter’s intelligence that ultimately saves the day, which is a nice touch, and something we sometimes don’t get to see enough of.  Straczynksi gives us a character that is Peter Parker first and Spider-Man second, and the story is all the stronger for it.

So, do I recommend you pick this first issue up for £2.99? Yes. God yes. The paperback is available on Amazon for £9.00, and for less than a third of that price you’re getting a nice hardback edition with a few pages of extra artwork and character biographies. The next issue in the series is the X-Men’s Dark Phoenix Saga which collects Uncanny X-Men #129-137. This is another steal at £6.99, and I’ll definitely be grabbing my copy as soon as it appears in the shops.

For more information on the Marvel Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection, check out the official website.

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