The Best of Spider-Man Countdown #30-26

Posted by SMReviews Team 25 June 2012

We're continuing the countdown of the top fifty Spider-Man stories.

30. One Small Break (Peter Parker Spider-Man #30-32)

Creative Team: Paul Jenkins (Writer), Mark Buckingham (Artist)

What Happened: Fusion has the powers of everyone in the Marvel Universe. And he really really hates Spider-Man. Poor Spidey is hopelessly outmatched as he learns of his indirect involvement in a horrific tragedy, while facing an enemy willing to kill hundreds of bystanders just to send him a message.

Why It's In The Top 50: Mister Mets still thinks that Fusion is the best new Spider-Man villain since Venom.
Fusion's reason for hating Spider-Man is a lot more sensible than Venom's, and something Jonah's warned against since Amazing Spider-Man Issue 1, which sadly does sometimes happen. Of course Fusion loses the reader's sympathy rather quickly by gaining a three-figure body count. He gives Spider-Man a truly vicious beating, giving new meaning to the words "One Small Break." The last issue features the story's best scene as a completely shattered Spider-Man realizes Fusion's secret. 
Other great moments include Jonah realizing he can't publicize Fusion's vendetta against Spider-Man since all the other media sources are doing that, and Peter Parker being comforted by Flash Thompson, in a scene that is perfectly in character.
What others say: Jeff English of spiderfan gave every issue a 5/5 grade.

Related Stories: Fusion reappeared in Peter Parker Spider-Man #39-41, also a solid Doctor Octopus story. During the story, Spider-Man has a flash to something he experienced in the Spider-Man/ Sentry one-shot.

Did You Know? The story started out as a battle between Spider-Man and Super Skrull, because Paul Jenkins wanted Mark Buckingham to have interesting things to draw.

29. Disaster (Amazing Spider-Man #53-59)

Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), John Romita Sr (Pencilller)

What Happened: This is more of an episodic assortment of Spider-Man adventures than one entirely self-contained story, beginning with clashes between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus, and culminating in a two parter in which J Jonah Jameson gets the aid of both a Marvel superhero and Spencer Smythe, Spider Slayer creator, in hunting down Spidey.

Why It's In The Top 50: Mister Mets really likes it.
For a little while, I was convinced that this was the best Spider-Man story I've ever read, and it's only fallen a little bit in my esteem. The story begins with a decent Spider-Man VS. Doctor Octopus battle which doesn't become truly great until Doctor Octopus finds a spider tracer, and sets a nice and suitably nasty trap for Spidey. The next issue ups the ante as Doctor Octopus meets an old friend- May Parker, and agrees to be a boarder at her house. Peter finds him, but I love the sincerity with which Otto comforts May, and threatens Peter. They fight of course, but May has a heart attack, and the wall gets destroyed, and in the next issue Peter worries whether or not insurance will pay for it. And that's something unique to the Spider-Man comics, and to the Marvel Universe. 
In later issues, Ock attacks Stark International with the Ultimate Nullifier, a device which can stop any machine, and I just love how he gloats, and hopes that Iron Man tries to stop him. It's no surprise that it's used on Spider-Man of course and robs him of his memory, which Doctor Octopus uses to convince Spider-Man that he's a villain. It's a nice ironic moment when an editorial by J. Jonah Jameson helps.
Doctor Octopus is beaten, but not by Spider-Man, and I just love how the hero does not regain his memory by the story's end. Meanwhile Peter's friends think Spider-Man kidnapped him, and J. Jonah Jameson convinces one of the Marvel Universe's greatest superheroes to attack Spider-Man (a decision he'll come to regret.) When that plan goes to hell, he teams up with a now psychotic Spencer Smythe, who has built a new Spider Slayer, a powerful robot that Spider-Man must outsmart. And even when Peter regains his memories, he has to explain to friends, and families just where he was. And I haven't even mentioned the exceptional art by John Romita Sr, though the covers should make that abundantly clear.
What others say: CBR readers declared the four part Doctor Octopus storyline as the 42nd best Spider-Man story ever. Mark Ginnochoi described the experiences of tracking down Amazing Spider-Man #56 and using his wife as leverage to get a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #59.

Related Stories: The last issue is the beginning of a new Kingpin arc, which lasts until Amazing Spider-Man #61.
Creative Team: Dan Slott (Writer), Marcos Martin (Artist), VC's Joe Caramagna (Lettering), Muntsa Vicente (Colors)

What Happened: After the death of Marla Madison, Peter Parker is forced to consider all the people he knows who have died, including friends, enemies and innocent bystanders. He makes an impossible promise, which is immediately tested with the introduction of Massacre, a new villain whose superpower is amorality. J Jonah Jameson responds to the tragedy in a different way, using his authority his mayor to come up with an extreme solution to the problem of New York City's newest serial killer.

Why It's In The Top 50: Mister Mets notes how unusual the story is.
This isn't a story you expect to play to Slott's strength, starting with a gorgeously illustrated ten page silent sequence. The bulk of the acclaim comes due to the first issue, especially the virtuoso dream sequence as Peter encounters almost everyone who has ever died in a Spdier-Man comic. It's continuity porn, but it's also an amazing indication of the toll being Spider-Man has to take.
Massacre is an effective new villain, and the battles are more interesting than usual as Spider-Man has to deal with the loss of his spider sense. But the biggest conflict is between Spider-Man and J Jonah Jameson. 
Spiderfan001 praises the artwork:
We've seen Spider-Man launch into guilt trips over failing to save someone before, but rarely has it looked this good.  Marcos Martin delivered stunning and innovative artwork on each page, which combined with Dan Slott's knowledge of continuity, made for a haunting walk down memory lane as Peter confronted all the people he's failed to save over the years.  And the new spider armour?  Awesome.
What others say: CBR gave the first part a perfect score, and the second issue four out of five stars. Weekly Comic Book Review gave an A to the first part, and a B to the second. Rich Johnston trashed the story in a piece about death and superhero comics. It was #12 on IGN's Top 25 list.

Related Stories: This story deals with the consequences of a death, and a change to Spider-Man's powers in Amazing Spider-Man #652-654.The "No One Dies" promise becomes more significant in Amazing Spider-Man #682-687, "The End of the Earth" storyline.
Creative Team: Bill Mantlo (Writer), Rick Leonardi (Artist)

What Happened: Spider-Man tackles gun smugglers, as Peter Parker witnesses the consequences of gun violence.

Why It's In The Top 50:  Combustible Pumpkins explains why this is worth reading:
Granted, on the surface this issue seems like promo for a liberal stance on handgun control. Rob Robertson certainly makes a strong case for it, but this isn't the reason why this humble, little issue is so appealing. It's all about Spidey making a real difference in the world. As Spidey swings off to find where a shipment of illegal guns are arriving in Brooklyn, monochrome yellowed panels reveal at that very moment who is getting killed from handguns.

Rick Leonardi's usage of these panels gradually transitions to real-time deaths involved in the story; and eventually in similar fashion we get to see the lives Spidey inadvertently saves by preventing this gun-running racket. Yet, there is no happy ending here, as the thought of the reality of city violence overwhelms the main characters at The Daily Bugle. It's almost as if this comic had a real important message somewhere in there. They just don't make comics like this anymore, perhaps they can't afford to.
What others say: Adam Winchell of spiderfan gave the story a score of 3.5/5.

Creative Team: Sam Raimi (Director), Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Defoe, James Franco, JK Simmons (Cast), David Koepp (Screenwriter)

What Happened: Sam Raimi, a Director best known for the Evil Dead series of low-budget horror films, was given a budget of $139 million dollars, and told to make a movie about Spider-Man.

Why It's In The Top 50:

Spiderfan001 remembers first seeing the movie:

I was 12 when this movie came out, and obviously very excited.  There would be no school for me that Friday, May 3rd.  I watched it with my parents and my brother and was blown away.  These days the film isn't held in very high regard; it seems that the humble Tobey Maguire can't compete with the more cool, confident Christian Bales and Robert Downey Jr.'s of the world.  A lot of fans like to focus on what the film got wrong, but for me, the flaws are overshadowed by the many things the film got right.  Director Sam Raimi was able to get to the heart of the Spider-Man character, telling Spider-Man's origin to a modern audience perfectly.  The scenes where Peter Parker is discovering his powers remain one of the highlights of the film (particularly when he tries to figure out how his organic webbing works).  Tobey Maguire was a great Peter Parker, perfectly capturing the character's humanity and heroism.  The wrestling scene was another favourite of mine (Bruce Campbell and all), the upside down kiss with Mary Jane remains an iconic Spider-Man moment, and Spidey's final battle with the Green Goblin is still one of the more brutal showdowns a superhero and villain have had on the big screen.  And the ending was perfect.  Kudos to the filmakers for foregoing a lame Hollywood "happy ending" and instead giving us one that better suits the character.  If nothing else, this film proved that superhero movies that stay loyal to the comics can be highly successful, making many of the beloved superhero movies we have today possible.
Mister Mets wishes to add one thing.
JK Simmons should have got an Oscar for playing J Jonah Jameson. It was a terrific comedy relief role, although there was also the fantastic moment in which he had to lie to the Green Goblin. The rest of the movie was okay.
What the pros say: In an interview, Raimi explained the influence of the Donner/ Reeve Superman film.
“That was my plan,” Raimi says. “I thought to myself early in pre-production ‘I’m going to watch every superhero picture ever made, and I’ll try to understand why they work and why they don’t work.’ But suddenly I was overwhelmed with this outrageously gigantic job of making Spider-Man and pre-production with all its departments and responsibilities, and as far as I got was the first half of Superman I. And I never got to see the rest. I saw X-Men then. So I can’t say it’s based on those pictures or that I had time to learn from them. I remembered how much I loved the first half of Superman I and X-Men was a blast, but I never got around to [any other films].” 
The first Superman film sold itself with the tagline: “You Will Believe A Man Can Fly.” Raimi faced a similar challenge with his web-slinger: not only using special effects to create shots of incredible action, but also using the actors and dialogue to create a sense of believability that allowed audiences to hook into the picture on an emotional level. “They did a great job with Superman,” says Raimi, citing director Richard Donner in particular. “I love that picture. It’s really emotional and uplifting and bright and wonderful, and you did believe that a man could fly in that film. They were successful. They were great effects…. We’re faced with the great challenge of making Spider-Man believable. The kids really want to soar with Spider-Man 60 stories up. They want to dance with him in this aerial acrobatics that he performs. And those illusions are…accomplished a lot of different ways. I don’t want to reveal too much because I don’t want to spoil for the kids and have them start picking them apart as tricks. I want them to be swept up into the thing. But suffice to say that Tobey [Maguire]’s performing a lot of the [action] himself with backgrounds put in and John Dykstra helping him with some CGI.”
What others say: Johanna of Comics Worth Reading thinks it's now dated.
Most surprising to me was how, although this movie isn’t very old (ten years), it feels ancient. That’s not a crack on the film, but a note on how so much has advanced so recently in comic book movies. I’m not just thinking of the effects, but also the acting, the writing, the expectations. They’re all so much improved that, in comparison, this one looks like it was made two or three decades ago. (Some of that may be due to director Sam Raimi’s appreciation for genre classics, too, as an influence.) The effect sequences, as when Spider-Man swings through the city or the Green Goblin rides in on his glider, inspire the imagination, but they look more obviously computer-generated these days. It’s all a bit too cartoony. Other sequences are in Matrix mode, with the slow-mo back dips and such.
The film holds a 89% critical approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, making it "certified fresh." Empire gave the movie a four star review.

Related Stories: The film adapted elements of Amazing Fantasy #15, the Death of Gwen Stacy (Amazing Spider-Man #121-122) and "Spidey Saves the Day" (Amazing Spider-Man #39-40).




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