Comic books in the 90s get a bad rap. Was there a lot of nonsensical storylines? Sure. Were there a lot of superfluous gimmicks pushed by publishers to artificially increase sales? Absolutely. There’s a reason the industry crashed. But if you look deeper, there is some crazy good art and surprisingly quality stories.
I recently looked at the best Venom comics and the best Carnage comics, so it seems obvious for me to tackle the best Spider-Man comics as well. Keeping with the theme of Venom/Carnage, I thought I would look specifically at Spider-Man in the 90s.
It was a crazy time to be a fan of Spider-Man with no shortage of craziness. Fans derided much of what came out during the time, but looking back on the era things aren’t so bad. Yes, many stories were drawn out too long or repeated to death, but that’s because the foundation was so popular. And while you will find the obvious picks in the list below for best Spider-Man comics, you’ll find some hidden gems as well.
The 6 Best Spider-Man Comics of the 90s
Spider-Man: Birth of Venom – Amazon
Venom is, undeniably, the most important Spider-Man character to come out of the 90s. Personally, I love the guy. Birth of Venom chronicles the events leading up to the creation of Venom and his first battles with Spider-Man. This is everything from the introduction of Spider-Man’s black costume to the origin of Eddie Brock/Venom himself.
While this work collects some earlier comic books, it is essential reading to understand Spider-Man in the 90s. Not only is the story important, the art is Todd Mcfarlane in his prime. There is a reason that Todd Mcfarlane was able to become an icon in the business and his run starts here. Beautiful work being done. Definitely some of the best Spider-Man comics of the 90s.
Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage – Amazon
It seems I can’t stop talking about Maximum Carnage. It is one of the premiere Spider-Man epics of the 90s, a massive 12-part crossover that encompasses the extended Spider-Man family in a battle against their greatest threat. It is an action-packed saga told through beautiful 90s artwork.
Look, I get that Maximum Carnage can be divisive. And while the story is fun, you’ll never see it alongside Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns. It’s cheesy 90s fun, to be sure. But that is all the more reason to love it. It is comic book wackiness at its finest. Laugh at the absurdity of the plot and marvel at the gorgeous art. It’s a product of its time and should be enjoyed as such.
The Clone Saga – Amazon
Oh boy, you want to talk about divisive? How about the entire clone saga!? This infamous story undoubtedly defined Spider-Man for a generation. Spider-Man’s world is turned upside down with the introduction of Ben Reilly, clone of Peter Parker. We follow both heroes through their many ups and downs as they try to unravel the mystery of just what the hell is happening. And lots more clones.
There is a reason Marvel milked the Clone Saga to death: it actually started out pretty good! Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider is a fascinating character and the unfolding mysteries pull you in. The saga has also grown much more accepted over time as an integral piece of Spider-Man’s past. As with any controversial story, you take the good with the bad. But if you want to read 90s Spider-Man, this is the place to be.
Spider-Man: Torment – Amazon
The Lizard is back and causing all kinds of havoc. Spider-Man must find a way to stop the monster before it’s too late. But as you might expect, there is more to the story…
Spider-Man: Torment collects the first arc of Todd Mcfarlane’s self-titled Spider-Man series. At the time of its release, Spider-Man #1 was the best selling comic of all time. The series is basically a Todd Mcfarlane vehicle for him to showcase his skills and for that alone it is awesome. I’ve already gushed about Mcfarlane, so I won’t go into it again, but if you are a fan than this one is a must. One of the best Spider-Man comics of the 90s.
Sensational Spider-Man – Amazon
This might seem like a random entry on the list of best Spider-Man comics of the 90s, but fear not. Dezago and Wieringo’s run on Sensational is highly regarded by fans and critics alike.
Starring the Ben Reilly version of Spider-Man, Sensational is able to step back a bit from the non-stop clone saga and get back to some of the fun antics Spider-Man is known for. Classic villains return and heroes like the Hulk and Dr. Strange make appearances. It’s a fun read delivered in a beautiful package, that of Mike Wieringo. This is a hidden gem of the 90s and worth checking out for any Spider-Man fan.
Spider-Man 2099 – Amazon
Want to just forget about everything clones and symbiotes? Well, Spider-Man 2099 is for you. Launched as part of the Marvel 2099 line, Peter David and Rick Leonardi create a brand new Spider-Man of the future. There, he fights against not just the villains of the time, but the evil corporations behind it all.
Spider-Man 2099, both the comic and the character, continues to be a fan favorite. That is more apparent than ever with various relaunches and appearances in other media. But this is the run that started it all and definitely worth a look for any Spider-Man fan looking for something different. An easy choice for one of the best Spider-Man comics of the 90s.