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 #25-21. Click here for a master list of all the stories revealed so far!
25. “Confessions,” Ultimate Spider-Man #13
In this delightful issue by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Mark Bagley and Art Thibert, Peter Parker reveals his secret identity to his best friend, Mary Jane Watson….
It is a great payoff for the first year’s worth of stories in Ultimate Spider-Man, as the entire issue is a dialogue between the two friends (and soon to be more than just friends). Aunt May’s role in the issue as the mother worried about two teens alone in a room together “studying” is really well handled by Bendis.
24. “Maximum Carnage,” Spider-Man Unlimited #1-2, Web of Spider-Man #101-103, Amazing Spider-Man #378-380, Spider-Man #35-37 and Spectacular Spider-Man #201-203
On the one hand, this was “just” a massive action-driven epic based on the straightforward concept of the evil Carnage forming a sort of Masters of Evil to terrorize New York, forcing Spider-Man to put together his own motley crew of New York-based heroes (the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were both busy), including his old enemy, Venom.
However, I like to look at it instead as a meditation on the role of “grim and gritty” in the early 1990s comic books, especially in Part 9 (by J.M. DeMatteis) where he examines Spider-Man’s ultimate willingness to let Firestar kill Carnage to end the whole “war.” However…there has to be a line between Spider-Man and Venom, right? Right?
The ending of that story is a real favorite of mine. DeMatteis returns to a character he notably wrote earlier in his career and it is just quite moving. To see such a moment in a massive FOURTEEN-PART crossover is quite remarkable, I think.
23. “The Second Hobgoblin Saga,” Amazing Spider-Man #249-251 (partially), 259-261, 275-277, 279
Tom DeFalco took over Amazing in the middle of the end of the First Hobgoblin Saga by Roger Stern, but soon DeFalco put his own spin on the mysterious Hobgoblin (along with penciler Ron Frenz and inker Joe Rubinstein). One of the ways he did so was by inventing his OWN new mysterious villain, The Rose, and played him off of the Hobgoblin while also setting up a confrontation between the two (which eventually took place in Gang War after DeFalco was off of the book).
Also, a key factor in DeFalco’s take on the Hobgoblin was making a clean separation from the Osborn mythos. DeFalco did that in a three-part arc from #259-261 where the Hobgoblin kidnaps Harry Osborn’s wife, Liz as well as Mary Jane Watson to force Harry to give him more access to Norman Osborn’s secrets.
Spider-Man eventually tracks him down and beats him to a pulp, but Hobgoblin takes advantage of Spidey’s heroism…
Ultimately, the journal Hobgoblin fought so hard for turned out to be useless. He had no more information from Osborn to go on – he had to become his own man. This was evident in his return in #275-277, as the Hobgoblin trained to become better capable of fighting Spider-Man after Spidey beat him so badly in #261.
This arc also brought Flash Thompson into the Hobgoblin fracas, as Flash became everyone’s number one guess as the secret identity of the Hogboblin. Before DeFalco left, he also began to play ANOTHER mysterious super-villain, the Jack O’Lantern off of Hobgoblin. It was a wonderful juggling act by DeFalco that we sadly never saw him finish.
22. “Power and Responsibility,” Ultimate Spider-Man #1-7
One of the best aspects of the re-imagining of Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley and Art Thibert (based on ideas from Bill Jemas) was that by spreading the origin of Spider-Man out over a number of issues, Bendis could really develop Uncle Ben so that by the time that Uncle Ben dies, his death really reverberates…
Remember, Ditko and Lee did not even get a chance to have Uncle Ben actually SAY the “Great Power” line! Bagley’s re-designs of the characters were great. Very fresh. An auspicious beginning to one of the greatest Spider-Man runs of all-time (a run that is still going strong…well…with a different Spider-Man, but still!).
21. “Venom,” Amazing Spider-Man #299-300
In Venom, writer David Michelinie and artist Todd McFarlane were able to introduce one of the strongest additions to the Spider-Man Rogues Gallery in quite some time. Twenty-plus years later, Venom has continued to hold a major place in the Spider-Man mythos, only now as a hero.
The establishment of Eddie Brock, disgraced journalist (from the classic Death of Jean DeWolff storyline) as being merged with the alien symbiote, with both of them hungering for vengeance on Spider-Man? That is a great hook. And McFarlane’s visuals for Venom were spectacular. Heck, just look at the introduction…
You knew things were never going to be the same again when you saw THAT cliffhanger!