Comics : Spider-Man 2: Caught In The Web

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This review was first published on: 2005.


This is the sequel to Spider-Man: Behind The Mask Of Spider-Man, both written by the same guy, Mark Cotta Vaz. This one follows basically the same format as the predecessor. There're 160-odd pages at 8.5" x 11". I've only seen a soft-back edition of this book, though "Behind the Mask" came out as a special edition hardback also - Spider-Man: Behind The Mask Of Spider-Man (Special Edition).

In Detail...

Spider-Man 2: Caught In The Web
Jun 2004 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0345470508
Summary: Dreaming Up The World of Spider-Man 2
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Writer:  Mark Cotta Vaz
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This book is compiled as a collection of artwork from the development of the film. There're a few movie stills, but most of the art is CGI, concept art, photos of miniatures, etc. There're also a few pages and captions from classic comic books featuring Doc Ock. Throughout the book are inset panels featuring quotations from people involved in making the film.

In my opinion, the book for the first movie was majorly flawed... it suffered from a very poor layout, it was completely lacking in any sense of structure or flow, and the descriptive text verged on jibberish, and added very little value to the book. The good news to me is that this sequel fixes most of those problems.

Firstly, the layout has been vastly improved. The text and the pictures are much better correlated, and the inset quotations are placed on pages near to the relevant section to which they are tied. Secondly, the structure of the book is much clearer - the breakdown into topics is actually relevant to the material in each section! In the first book, the chapter titles seemed to be completely unrelated to the mish-mash of material that was randomly inserted in each section.

Finally, the text written by Vaz is not entirely rubbish this time around. But I don't want to go much further than that in the complements. I actually believe that if the book had been filled entirely of quotations from the people involved in the film, it would have been far more valuable. I personally gained almost no insight from the descriptions added by the author.

Here's a good example of Vaz "adding value": the annotation for some concept art on the fusion machine.

Lab art with 'revised cresents,' by James Carson. Through the magic of computer software programs, digital designers can seamlessly manipulate a single image many times over.

It's hard to know where to start criticizing a caption like that. It veers from the redundant to the inane, past the irrelevant. The caption "Lab art by James Carson" would say everything we gained from the extended version. At several times throughout the book, it really seemed to me that Vaz was just writing to fill up space. In fact, he failed in that also... there are seven glossy blank pages at the end of the book - something which I think is unforgivable in a coffee table art book. What, they really didn't have any more art they could have put in there?

The text meanders around within each section, but with a great deal of overlap, which sadly gives the overall effect of blandness. What's more, within the text the flow is rather poor. Vaz will drop names in the description, but then not reveal who these people were or what their role was until the following page. You almost need to take notes as you go. That's annoying--you should be able to pick up this book, read any chapter at random, and gain some insight from the pictures and the text.

In General...

In the end, it is the fabulous art and photographs that save this book. Regardless of the wretched writing, the sheer impact of the concept art, CGI models, the huge "maxiatures" cast a wonderful light on just how fabulous (and demanding) it would have been to have been involved with a huge project like this. Reading this book will, despite its flaws, have you keen to watch the movie once more with new eyes.

Overall Rating...

Great art, lousy writing. Even so, I'm forced to recommend this book to anybody who loved the film and is even a little bit curious about what went into it. An above- average three and a half webs.