Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
37. “To Have and to Hold,” Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1
Written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Salvador Larocca (with digital colors by Paco Roca), this story is a bit of a love letter to the marriage between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Set during the time when Peter was a fugitive from the law after revealing his identity to the world, Mary Jane is cornered by a former bodyguard she knew in Los Angeles where they almost had a moment (during a period she and Peter were sort of separated). He is now working for SHIELD and he wants her to turn herself and Peter in. She relates her history with Peter to explain why that won’t be happening (Peter, meanwhile, is talking to a police detective he is friendly with trying to work out a deal where he gives himself up to protect Mary Jane and Aunt May, Gift of the Magi-style)…
One of the best bits in the issue is when Fraction shows us Mary Jane’s thoughts in a particular moment and then returns to that moment later to show us Peter’s thoughts, and almost always they are both thinking that they are screwing things up and wondering what the other one sees in them. It is really great.
Larocca does a nice job on evoking each of the eras the flashbacks are set in. This is a really adorable comic book. Beautiful work all around.
36. “The Commuter Cometh!” Amazing Spider-Man #267
Written by Peter David and drawn by Bob McLeod, this is a hilariously offbeat tale where Spider-Man tracks a crook to Scarsdale, a suburb of New York City.
David milks a lot of great humor from Spider-Man’s “fish out of water” deal in the suburbs…
Just a hilarious approach to a novel idea. McLeod’s art is great, as always.
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.
30. “Learning Curve,” Ultimate Spider-Man #8-12
The second Ultimate Spider-Man story arc, where writer Brian Michael Bendis really took control and began to put very different twists on characters like J. Jonah Jameson, Ben Urich and the Kingpin.
Very nice artwork from Mark Bagley and Art Thibert.
29. “Unscheduled Stop,” Amazing Spider-Man #578-579
Mark Waid and Marcos Martin deliver a tour de force performance in this two-part storyline about Spider-Man trapped underground on a wrecked subway car with a jury who was targeted for death so that some bad guys could delay the trial. Forced to try to find an exit in the subway tunnels, Spidey and the jury find themselves especially pressed for time when the river begins to leak in from above them. One of the jury members, by the way, happens to be J. Jonah Jameson’s DAD!
28. “Spider-Island,” Amazing Spider-Man #667-672 (plus various tie-ins and a prologue in #666 and an epilogue in #673)
The Jackal and the Queen (from the storyline where Spider-Man gained organic webshooters) team-up to give everyone in Manhattan spider-powers through bed bugs. All the heroes in New York come together to stop the bad guys’ plan, but Spider-Man plays a key role as he had been trained for this crisis by Shang-Chi (on the forecasting advice of the new Madame Web) by learning martial arts so that he could beat up people with the same powers of him. However, Peter is having a hard time keeping his identity from his girlfriend, Carlie Cooper, now that she has spider-powers, as well.
Here’s Peter rallying the people of New York…
All this, plus the return of the first Spider-Clone, Kaine! Dan Slott wrote it and Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba drew it (with some assists from Karl Kesel. The epilogue and prologue were drawn by Stefano Caselli.)
27. “Death of Spider-Man,” Ultimate Spider-Man #156-160
Mark Bagley returned to Ultimate Spider-Man to close the series out with writer Brian Michael Bendis and inker Andy Lanning as Spider-Man faces one of his greatest threats yet as the maniacal Green Goblin brings the fight right to Spider-Man’s front doorstep.
Will Spider-Man have to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect those closest to him? Well, the name of the story IS the “Death of Spider-Man,” after all…
26. “The Original Clone Saga,” Amazing Spider-Man #143-149 (plus an epilogue in #150)
The Jackal had been working behind the scenes against Spider-Man for some time now, but with #142 we finally see the Jackal’s end game – he is obsessed with Gwen Stacy and has actually CLONED her! While the story is filled with crazy twists and turns by writer Gerry Conway and artists Ross Andru and Frank Giacoia, especially Peter Parker dealing with the seeming return of his dead girlfriend, the real heart of the story (which was noted by more than a few of the voters) was the way that Conway used the arc to develop the Peter/Mary Jane relationship.
They share their first kiss in #143 (in an amazing sequence by Ross Andru) and in #149, it sure seems like they seal the deal on their relationship status as Conway ends his Amazing Spider-Man run by bookending the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #122 with the end of Amazing Spider-Man #149 (both scenes involve Peter and Mary Jane and they both involve momentous decisions involving doors being closed). Finally, Archie Goodwin, Gil Kane and John Romita give an epilogue to the story in #150.
Here were reader Lorin Heller’s thoughts on the story:
Gerry Conway built up the Jackal as the mystery character for almost two years, and the storyline culminated in the original clone saga. Forget what that ultimately wrought. This original story is just wonderful. Peter and Mary Jane have just appeared to start a romantic relationship, when Gwen Stacy suddenly reappears in his life, unleashing emotional havoc. My favorite issues in this tale are #147 and #148. The fights with the Tarantula, first in New York traffic (including hilarious scene on a bus) and later in a darkened factory are excellent. The nasty planned vengeance of chaining Spider-Man up before tossing him off the bridge was a classic moment. The best moment though goes to the reveal of who the Jackal is, and just how much of a freaking psycho he truly is. “Dear Boy, haven’t I always been your friend?” Brrrrr…..
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.
Go to the next page for #24-13!
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