Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Spider-Man, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Spider-Man, culminating with the release of the Amazing Spider-Man film in July. We’ve done Spider-Man covers, Spider-Man characters, Spider-Man creators and now, finally, Spider-Man stories!
You all voted, now here are the results of what you chose as the 50 Greatest Spider-Man Stories! We continue with #40-36. Click here for a master list of all the stories revealed so far!
35. “Down Among the Dead Men”/”Venomous”/”The Last Stand,” Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1-12
We really need a name for Mark Millar’s run on Marvel Knights: Spider-Man! It’s 2012! The comic has been out for seven years and it still doesn’t have a name! Yes, the story was split into three four-part stories that each had names, but come on, it was specifically a 12-issue story! It should have a name!
In any event, the series tells the story of Aunt May being kidnapped and Spider-Man being forced to go to some extreme measures to get her back. The early issues of the series involve Spider-Man searching for her with the help of longtime Spider-Man villain, Mac Gargan, who Millar cleverly notes WAS a detective.
As the story goes by, Gargan becomes the new Venom and we learn that the whole story is a complicated plot by Norman Osborn to teach Peter Parker a lesson. It is almost like Norman is trying to go out of his way to torment Peter psychologically, including forcing Spidey to break Osborn out of prison to save Aunt May.
Spidey wrestles with the decision…
One of the themes of the story was power and what one should do with it. Osborn taunts Peter with the idea that Peter could do so much more with his gifts than being just a superhero. Osborn knows that HE wasted his own gifts, but he is a villain, so it is not so bad. Meanwhile, Gargan craves more power.
The Dodsons and Frank Cho do a great job on the artwork for the series (the Dodsons got the first and last story and Cho got the middle arc).
34. “Return of the Sin-Eater,” Spectacular Spider-Man #134-136
One of the themes in “The Death of Jean DeWolff,” Peter David’s classic Spider-Man tale, is the danger of Peter losing control. It was another way to view the responsibility that comes with great power. In the sequel to that story, Peter David masterfully plays with that idea further by showing that Peter’s momentary lapse of reason when he tried to kill Sin-Eater (who is being released from a mental hospital after it was determined that drugs SHIELD had tested on him had caused him to temporarily go insane and now that the drugs are out of his system, he is no longer a menace to society) had a rather permanent effect on the Sin-Eater…
The injuries he caused to Stan Carter (the Sin-Eater) cause Spider-Man to freeze up when he encounters his old foe, Electro, and Spider-Man finds himself dealing with a mental block that won’t let him use his full powers in combat with Electro.
Meanwhile, Stan Carter is still quite insane. He talks with the “Sin-Eater” (a personality he has created in his mind) and he strives to find a way to keep the “Sin-Eater” from killing again. David’s parallel conclusions to Spidey and Electro’s battle and Carter’s battle with “Sin-Eater” are very impressive.
Sal Buscema became the regular penciler on Spectacular Spider-Man with the first issue of this story. He would pencil every Spectacular issue until well past #200.
33. “Venom,” Ultimate Spider-Man #33-38
If you’re planning on seeing the new Spider-Man film series, this story arc by Brian Michael Bendis and artists Mark Bagley and Art Thibert likely had a major impact on the films you are going to see, as this story reveals that Peter Parker’s parents were working on a “Super-suit” that could possibly cure cancer. They were killed in a mysterious crash and now, years later, the son of the Parkers’ scientist partner, the Brocks, has tracked down Peter Parker and is trying to convince him of their “inheritance”…the suit…
The suit, of course, is essentially the Venom sybmiote. Peter tries it and things go bad. Luckily, Peter is a strong kid and he can control it. But when his jerky former childhood friend, Eddie Brock, who got him into this mess in the first place, tries the suit…well, as Peter’s friend Gwen says after Eddie tries to force himself on her at his dorm, “Eddie is a bad guy.”
This was a powerful arc and the changes to Peter’s origins are almost certainly the influence for similar changes upcoming in Spidey’s origin in the film series.
32. “New Ways to Die,” Amazing Spider-Man #568-573
If “New Ways to Die,” the six-issue storyline by Dan Slott, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson was ONLY about the first meeting between Spider-Man and Norman Osborn since Osborn was given a government position and the leadership reins of the Thunderbolts (putting Norman into the ironic position of being the nominal “good guy” bringing the fugitive Spider-Man to justice) then it would be a cool story…
The idea of Spidey’s greatest foe now working for the LAW?!? That’s a rough situation. However, this story also introduced Venom back into the Spider-Man titles. Venom was one of Osborn’s Thunderbolts. Well, his presence brings out bad things in Venom’s former host, Eddie Brock. Brock becomes a NEW character known as ANTI-VENOM, who has powers that work as the opposite of Venom. When Spidey figures, “Heck, this works out well for me. He can take care of Venom FOR me,” he learns that Anti-Venom is after Spider-Man, TOO, because of the trace elements of the Venom symbiote remaining in Spidey’s system. It is not a painless process. So Spider-Man has his hands very full with bad guys and crazed “Good guys” coming at him from every angle. When you throw in the mysterious Menace, then things REALLY spiral out of control.
This was the first long storyline of the Brand New Day era and Dan Slott knocked it out of the park.
31. “The Spider or the Man?” Amazing Spider-Man #100-102
One of the most interesting things about Stan Lee’s run on Amazing Spider-Man is that it does not end in any sort of traditional sense. #100 seemed to be the end, only he then returned five issues later for another five issues before abruptly leaving in the middle of a storyline about the freakin’ GIBBON.
However, if Amazing Spider-Man #100 HAD been his final issue, what a way to go out! The story (drawn by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia) was a somewhat traditional (but strong) tale of Peter Parker debating if he wanted to continue to be Spider-Man or not. Ultimately, he decides to try a potion to remove his powers. It ends with one of the great Spider-Man cliffhangers of all-time…
Writer Roy Thomas had to follow THAT up and yet he managed to acquit himself well, introducing the classic Marvel character, Morbius the Living Vampire. Morbius was a scientist who accidentally turned himself into a pseduo-vampire. In the storyline, Morbius comes into conflict with Spider-man who just accidentally turned himself into a dude with six arms. Morbius ALSO comes into conflict (as does Spidey) with the Lizard, who was a scientist who…you guessed it…accidentally turned himself into a lizard.
It is a crazy free-for-all drawn extremely well by two comic book legends, Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia.
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