Amazing Spider-Man is hitting a big anniversary with its 800th issue this week, and big anniversary issues mean lots of different things, one of them being an almost endless array of variant covers. There are a total of 19 different covers from 14 different artists being offered this week. They cover an incredible array of talent, including artists who defined Spider-Man in the 1960s, artists who redefined Spider-Man for the modern era, and some of the most renowned comics artists to ever put pencil (or ink, or paint) to paper. Looking at all of these covers side-by-side serves as a very worthy celebration of one of the greatest superheroes ever created on an important milestone.
As readers, we are left with a big question though: Which cover(s) should we grab for our own collections? This 80-page finale to “Go Down Swinging” and Dan Slott's penultimate issue on the character already costs $9.99, making the choice a significant one as even buying a few copies will cover many readers entire weekly comics budget. That’s why we’ve taken all of the variant covers for Amazing Spider-Man and ranked them against one another. We examined a few key sets of criteria including the quality of the art, effectiveness as a cover, and a connection to the issue itself to determine which covers worked best. So click ahead before it’s time to see how this story ends and decide which cover you’d be most interested in potentially framing.
This cover has the potential to be the absolute best in existence for any individual consumer. Assuming you have the money and connections to commission a great piece of artwork on this blank canvas, you can have a truly unique edition of this anniversary issue. That assumes quite a lot though. As it stands, a white cover with the logo and credits on it can’t hold a flame to everything else that is being offered.
Steve Ditko is one of the most significant artists to ever work at Marvel Comics, but this remastered cover of his work does not do him much justice. It’s an image lacking dynamism and not improved by updated coloring. This is no slight against Ditko, but any cover actually designed by the artist himself would be an improvement over this.
Romita is another incredibly important Spider-Man artist, and this cover does a better job of illustrating why with Spider-Man’s emotional posturing. It still doesn’t hold up to Romita’s covers from his era on Amazing Spider-Man though with only two figures posed and generally unrelated to the issue inside.
Ron Frenz takes a crack at the Red Goblin here, but it’s a design that doesn’t hold up well in this retro style. The figures look overly posed and modern coloring does no favors for the linework being displayed. While we can’t deny Frenz’s impact as a creator in the 1980s, this is far from the best example of his work.
While we can understand the attraction to Cho’s work, this cover looks to be a piece that was conceived without any thought of Amazing Spider-Man #800 in mind. It’s an excuse for Cho to put Spider-Man’s most notable love interests on display alongside… Aunt May. This is an odd layout and design, and not one with much of a draw.
Land is an artist well-suited to covers, as his issues with movement are largely disregarded by the singular moment that is being captured. While all of the faces in this medley are well-drawn, together they function without much purpose. We all certainly remember these many characters from Amazing Spider-Man, but together they don’t have much to say.
Rivera draws a truly iconic Spider-Man which makes this simple take on the character still resonate. As a single panel, this would be an almost perfect example of web-swinging. But as a cover, the lack of connection to the story material or uniqueness definitely knock it down a notch though.
Dodson takes a similar approach to Rivera, delivering a great take on the web-slinger simply doing his thing. Two key elements elevate this work though. The reflection helps to shift the reader into Spider-Man’s shoes, then it draws out the skyline of New York City with ample detail and diversity. This is a great cover, but it also has plenty of competition for this issue.
Bagley defined Spider-Man for a new generation in Ultimate Spider-Man, and this cover reminds us why he was the man for the job. The action is simple, yet propulsive, distilling all of the key elements in this battle into a single image. It also serves as a nice connection to one of the most important Spider-Man runs ever.
Ramos really sells the moment just before impact with Peter Parker barreling toward the Red Goblin. It’s enough to make you cringe, even knowing that the actual fight is buried somewhere deep in the comic. Based on this cover (and others with a similar take), it certainly feels like this will be a showdown for the ages.
Superhero fans are generally suckers for an homage and Cassaday delivers a great one in this reference to Amazing Spider-Man #39. It’s a purposeful allusion too, stretching back to the first big showdown between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin as well as the moment in which Peter’s secret identity was first revealed.
Bradshaw does an excellent job of capturing what makes the symbiote a lasting and memorable villain in the Spider-Man mythos. The figures on the page capture the ferocity of battle well enough on their own, but all of the tendrils add a hundred new threats each detailed to enhance the motion on the cover.
This Moebius painting is as stunning as anything the artist ever designed for Marvel Comics, including his epic issues of Silver Surfer with Stan Lee. The choice to use this piece is just as important as it captures the looming danger and darkness that threatens to crush Spider-Man in the story ahead.
Dell’Otto’s painting captures a similar tone to Moebius’, with the additional usage of Spider-Man’s bright red to make the entire cover explode from the racks. This is a piece of art you can’t look away from and small details keep you engaged, drawing you back into the tangled web that has trapped Spider-Man within the image.
There’s a reason that Alex Ross is providing the A cover for this issue. His sense of design is unmatched in this lineup as he captures Silver Age sensibilities with a modern style with Spider-Man and his allies captured as both complete figures and busts looking up at what threatens them all. The Red Goblin looms like some operatic demon and the standard variations of red in Spider-Man comics have been recast in a hellish tone of fire and brimstone. This cover captures both the tone and content of the issue wonderfully, and ensures that everyone who picks up Amazing Spider-Man #800 will also get a great cover.