Someone who wants to buy one collection of early Spider-Man could do no better than this. This book is probably the single best Spider-Man trade available. It includes original artist Steve Ditko's last eight issues of the title, and fan-favorite John Romita's first two.
From a nerd's perspective, it's packed with 'key' events. The volume begins with Peter Parker's entry into college and his first encounters with Harry Osborne and Gwen Stacey; it ends with the incredible two-parter wherein Green Goblin and Spider-Man learn each other's secret identities, establishing the Goblin as Spidey's arch-nemesis. In between, there are classic battles with Doctor Octopus and Kraven the Hunter, the first mention of Mary Jane Watson, the first appearance of Norman Osborne, the famous "Just a Guy Named Joe" story and the much more famous sequence of Spidey struggling under rubble for five pages- truly a tour de force of comic art.
Which brings me to my critical perspective: scriptwriter Stan Lee was reveling in the popularity of the title at this point, maintaining his cheery cheesy breezy style while always ensuring (relative) depth to his characters and situations. Some of the writing is typically over the top (CAP: "But, once alone in his room, the complex, sensitive, anguished youth who is Peter Parker finds that he cannot study... he cannot concentrate on anything... EXCEPT..." PETER: "Am I really being a COWARD?") but it can be charming and even genuinely (deliberately) funny sometimes. The real force behind the work collected here was Steve Ditko, who was obsessively pouring all he had into the title at this time: plotting, penciling, and inking the work all himself (Lee doesn't even take credit for "co-plotting" here; it's all Ditko!). I think Ditko's art improved throughout his stint at Marvel, and then began to decline, making this his very best work. Although less 'clean' or consistent than in the early issues, he is much more bold in his panel arrangements, featuring more effective and varied 'camera' angles, and his figures have a growing dynamism which is actually aided by his own slightly sloppier inking style. Like the very best Golden Age comics, a white-hot frenetic energy radiates from the pages. Perhaps most impressively, the issues here form a complete story. Each issue tells its own story, but a well-crafted arc of subplot progresses almost invisibly throughout them until, by the last chapter, it has become the main story.
In the 1960s, mainstream superhero comics hadn't yet succumbed to the commercial model of the cigarette companies, which in our present stage of capitalism has been adopted by nearly every industry. What I mean is a comic book back then was made to SATISFY the reader; today, they are made specifically to leave one UNsatisfied, so the reader will want to buy more, forever. I guarantee that this 200-page book, or any other collection of stories from this era, will take about three times as long to read as the same amount of new comics. Part of this is a higher word-per-image ratio, but the stories are also structured and paced so that after reading one or two issues, one feels like they've had enough for awhile- a feeling of fullness that takes ten or twelve issues (if not more!) of modern comics. To the kids waiting a whole month between issues, a little went a long way- so do as they did, and savor these.