The Best of Spider-Man Countdown #35-31

Posted by SMReviews Team 23 June 2012

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

35. "Five Minutes" (from The Ultimate Spider-Man Anthology)

Creative Team: Peter David (writer)

What Happened: During his wedding anniversary, Peter overhears police sirens and prepares to leave when Mary Jane convinces him to stay with her for five more minutes.  By the time Peter finally arrives on the scene as Spider-Man, he learns that he was too late to stop a man from committing suicide.  Naturally, Peter blames MJ as much as himself for not getting there to save him in time, and after a heated argument, storms out of their apartment.  Fearing that his marriage is now on the rocks, Peter turns to Daily Bugle Editor and friend, Robbie Robertson, for advice.           

Why It's In The Top 50: Mike praises Peter David's work here.
While this is the only prose story on our list, Peter David's short story serves as one of the best examples of how much dramatic potential Peter and MJ's (now-retconned) marriage had.  Anyone who has ever had to sacrifice spending time with their loved ones for the sake of work can easily relate, as we get a heart-wrenching reminder of how even the most happy relationships can be sorely tested.  And the last scene alone is one of the most beautiful moments between Peter and MJ ever written.
What others say: Keith R.A. Decandido praised it as one of best pieces of Spider-Man prose ever written in a review of Peter David's Spider-Man/ Gen 13. In a review of The Ultimate Spider-Man anthology, Mister Mio of the Crawl Space refers to it as his second favorite story in the collection. Greg Hatcher praised the story in a piece about marriages in superhero comics.
Likewise, there have been many brilliant stories done with a married Spider-Man — even stories ABOUT the relationship — that ring true, that make sense, that are exciting and dramatically interesting and don’t hinge on the idea of tragedy or broken romance. They almost never happen in the comics, but there have been manyƂ in the ancillary licensed books. Peter David, Diane Duane, and Adam-Troy Castro all gave us a terrific take on the married Spidey in their prose books put out by Byron Preiss and iBooks. Peter David’s story “Five Minutes” in The Ultimate Spider-Man is practically a diagram of how that relationship should work. It ought to be required reading for everyone who works on Spider-Man. That’s how married people act.
Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), John Romita Sr (Artist), 

What Happened: When Mysterio's latest escapade contributes to Aunt May's latest breakdown, Spider-Man is upset, and chases down his old foe. But Mysterio has a new trap, seemingly shrinking Spidey down to the size of an action figure.

Why It's In The Top 50:  Combustible Pumpkins articulates why this story was one of John Romita Sr's strongest:
Although he's not the original Spider-Man artist, Romita Sr. draws the quinessential Spidey, and issues like these two from the late 60's pretty much showcases his talent.  Stan Lee was on a roll at this point as well with Spidey's classic supporting characters weaving their way significately throughout Spidey's life. An example of this would be Captain Stacy and Rob Robertson coming together to discuss Spidey, and how he seems familiar, or Norman Osborn's cameo as he's realizing he's the Green Goblin foreshadowing things to come.  But what I really like is how Mysterio is considered the greatest mystic genius of all time.  Mysterio supposedly shrinks spidey down to 6 inches, toys with his sanity as poisoned mirrors close in on Spidey, or throwing him into a house of horrors.  Stuff like that.  Mysterio's helmet is considered psychedelic too, and I like that.
What others say: Sam Ruby gave the first issue a 7/10 grade, and the second issue an 8/10. Mark Ginnochio praised the story in a piece about Mysterio.

Related Stories: Aunt May needed medical attention due to her response to events in Amazing Spider-Man #63-65.

33. Spider-Man: Blue

Creative Team: Jeph Loeb (Writer), Tim Sale (Artist)

What Happened: Every Valentines Day, Spider-Man makes a trip to visit Gwen at her grave. 

Peter recalls various events from the Lee/ Romita days, beginning what he hoped would be last battle against the Green Goblin, his decision to buy a motorcycle, studying for a test with Gwen, and the random introduction of Ms Mary Jane Watson into his life.

The whole series basically goes through Peter's thoughts and feelings towards both MJ and Gwen, the girls who would become most important to his life. Peter recalls his past and how he eventually finds out that Gwen would be the one for him, until fate decides otherwise. Peter realizes how his relationship with Gwen changed him, and continues to affect him even when she's gone.

Why It's In The Top 50: Bulletproofsponge explains his love of the story.
Working on major heroes such as Daredevil, Hulk, Superman, and Batman, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale have the outstanding ability to harness the nostalgia of a character's early days and craft a unique story around past events. Their most outstanding effort in this practice is Spider-Man: Blue; a retelling of Amazing Spider-Man #40, #43-48 and #63. 
Blue recounts the highlights of the relationship between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker with some beautifully romantic artwork by Sale and sentimental scripting by Loeb. The main story beat is actually a flashback bookended by a distraught Peter recording a love letter to a now-deceased Gwen into a tape recorder on Valentine's Day.

Blue is one of the most emotionally draining and heartbreaking superhero comics out there, but it's also exquisitely exciting and energetic. This isn’t about how many tons Spidey can lift over his head or how years of continuity fit together—it's a tragic romance.
There are a number of side stories in this series such as Spider-Man's battles with Rhino, Lizard and others. The main reason this issue is in the top 50 however, is solely because of Gwen Stacy. Gwen was the first girlfriend of a superhero to actually die and not come back to life. She made history in comics. Her death at the hands of the Green Goblin will forever be remembered. ( Unless it gets wiped out of Marvel history like some other things )
New and old readers love to read a story about Peter's first true love. It was also a popular book because it had been a while since Gwen had made a proper appearance in comics. This series goes through, step by step, the progression of his relationship with Gwen, making it a perfect catch up series for those new readers who didn't understand the weight their relationship carried. 
Finally, this series is a limited edition love story that honestly does not get published all that often, so what's there not to like?
What the pros say: In an interview, Tim Sale explained what the Spider-Man comics meant to him.
"Through Spider-man, Stan Lee rethought the super-hero as a put-upon adolescent, and that figure is the quintessential Marvel hero. Soap opera characters in costumes." 
Spider-man was the first comic I started reading, when we crossed the country when I was six. We went from Massachusetts to Seattle. My father used to buy me comic books to keep me amused in the back of the car. I learned how to read from comic books. The first word I could read was 'Boom!' 
"The early Romita run in Amazing Spider-Man was, and is, a touchstone in comics for me. I don't recall being aware of anything romantic or soapy before that, and was utterly sucked into it. The beauty in the way he draws, the elegance; his action sequences are very well done, but his real power is the romance. And I wanted to try that, so it was almost inevitable that it's what we would do in Spider-Man: Blue."
Editor Tom Brevoort suggested that Spider-Man: Blue was a model for Marvel's Season One line of Original Graphic Novels.
Probably the best example of the way these will work would be to point you at the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale “color” books: Daredevil Yellow Spider-Man Blue and Hulk Grey. As in those projects, the heroes may face a couple of different villains, but the central story will still be one with a beginning, middle and end.

What others say: It was #2 on IGN's list of the best Spider-Man stories. It was #7 on Complex's list of the top Spider-Man stories of all time. They rated it above Loeb and Sale's other collaborations.

Related Stories: Loeb and Sale worked together on several stories about the early days of prominent superheroes, with the Batman: Long Halloween saga (and its various tie-ins), Superman for All Seasons, Hulk: Grey and Daredevil: Yellow.

Creative Team: Peter David (Writer), Bob McLeod (Artist)

What Happened: Spidey is having another one of his "typical Parker luck" days.  He's still sore over his recent break-up with the Black Cat, has a cold coming on, and if that weren't enough, he gets outsmarted (twice) by a mere two-bit robber.  Fortunately, Spidey was able to plant a tracer on the thief before he escaped, and the following morning tracks him down to, of all places, the suburban community of Scarsdale.  As Spidey tells himself, it seems so "ridiculously simple."  That is until he soon finds out that there are no tall buildings from him to web-sling.  Or that he has no money to even pay for bus fare.  Not to mention he has to put up with the locals, including the neighborhood watch and his wife, a cabbie who only speaks Spanish, and worst of all, a nosy little kid on a big wheel!

Why It's In The Top 50: Mike suggests that this is one of the best Spider-Man storylines to give to people who don't usually read comics.
If someone were to ask you 'Why does Spider-Man have to live in New York City?' just refer them to this hilarious 'fish out of water' tale.  Sure, Peter has wound up in embarrassing situations before, but it's pretty hard to top the humiliation of being forced to travel on foot while still in full costume.  Or getting his tights caught in a tree branch. Or having to hitch a ride on a garbage truck.  Adding to the humor is the fact that the crook himself is so refreshingly ordinary (a fact driven home in an excellent series of juxtaposed panels showing how both he and Peter spend their evenings at home) that he can't even fathom why a superhero like Spidey is even trying to catch someone like him.
Spiderfan001 explains why this is one of his favourite done-in-one's:
The great thing about doing lists like this is that you discover some great Spider-Man stories that would have otherwise passed you by. For me, this story was one of them. It's hilarious, and can only work with a character like Spider-Man, showcasing his humanity in a very entertaining fashion. If you're a Spider-Man fan and haven't read this hidden gem yet, you owe it to yourself to do so!
What others say: It was #20 on Complex's list of the top Spider-Man stories. And it was #13 on IGN's Top 25 list. And #36 on CBR's list.

31. Venom (Amazing Spider-Man #300)

Creative Team: David Michelinie (Writer), Todd McFarlane (Artist)

What Happened:  A new Spider-Man villain is introduced. He has all of Spider-Man's abilities, except he's bigger and stronger. And he knows who Spider-Man is. And has no problems attacking Mary Jane. It's such a shame that this obscure figure never appeared again in the Spider-Man comics.

Why It's In The Top 50: Jesse explains why he found Eddie Brock to be such an effective villain.
The story marks the debut of a villain that would become a cult phenomenon, and for over a decade be considered Spidey's polar opposite. Venom would go on to become 1 of Spider-Man's greatest rivals , but also one of his best allies. Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie really establish their tone for the 90s early on in this story, with darker themes. The man behind the Venom suit would also serve as a fan favorite and reappear countless times, even after his seperation from the symbiote. Eddie Brock was a bold, daring and highly capable man with all the motivation to bring Peter down. In this story Spidey is very much out matched, and the threat of this man with a vengeance against him and knowledge of his secret identity really increases the drama. I think it says a lot that Venom frightens MJ so bad, that she never wants to see Peter wearing the black suit again, and the symbolism when they toss his black costume in the fire represents Peter's new lease on life, and a metaphorical cleansing of the spirit to me.

What the pros say: Writer David Michelinie discusses what appeals to him about Venom in Comic Creators on Spider-Man:
Venom became very popular. He appealed to me particularly because he was created for only one purpose: to kill Spider-Man. At the time there weren't any other villains who actually wanted to kill Spidey. Most of Spider-Man's rogues' gallery just wanted to avoid him. I liked the purity of Venom's motivation.
Artist Todd McFarlane discusses Venom's popularity in the same book:
A lot of things I did were mostly just to entertain myself. I learned early on that I'm very average in my tastes and most of the product is bought by similarly average people. They seem to like the things I like, and so it wasn't a stretch to think they'd really like the idea of a big creepy monster trying to kick the shit out of scrawny little Spider-Man. Venom was a worthy adversary, a real challenge for the character.
What others say: Back in 1997, Andrew Kardon of Wizard rated this as the 6th best Spider-Man story of all time. The early Venom appearances made Topnetz's list of the greatest Spider-Man stories. Madgoblin explained that he was never a big Venom fan. Mark Ginnochoi wrote several pieces about it praising the "Stand Up and Cheer" moment at the end, as well as Venom's brutality.

Related Stories: Peter and MJ were evicted from the Bedford Towers in ASM #314. The Venom and Spider-Man rivalry would seemingly reach its conclusion in Amazing Spider-Man # 375. Afterwards Spidey would team up with Venom most notably in their battles against Carnage. Spidey temporarily went back to wearing the synthetic black costume in the 2007 "Back in Black" saga, significantly at the same time as the Spider-Man 3 movie featuring the origin of Venom. The Alien Costume was introduced in the Secret Wars mini-series, and worn by Spidey in Amazing Spider-Man #252-259, before returning for a battle in Web of Spider-Man #1. Eddie Brock was upset at Peter Parker due to something that happened in the Sin-Eater saga. A costume from Spider-Man VS Wolverine is referenced in this issue.

Did You Know? David Michelinie originally intended for Venom to be a woman, as he explained in Comics Creators on Spider-Man:
I originally wanted the character to be a woman. She was pregnant and about to give birth. Her husband is rushing to get her to a hospital. He runs into the road to flag down a cab, but the cabbie is looking up at Spider-Man fighting someone - I think it might have been the Living Monolith from my graphic novel. The cabbie doesn't see the husband and accidentally hits and kills the guy. The woman sees her husband splattered in front of her and goes into labour. She loses the child and her mind at the same time, and is institutionalised. Though she eventually gets her mind back, she blames Spider-Man for the death of her husband and child. The alien costume, which has also been hurt by Peter Parker, is drawn to the woman because of her intense hatred of Spider-Man. The costume then bonds with her to try to kill Peter. When I was switched to Amazing, Jim Salicrup told me that he wanted to do something special in issue #300, and he suggested I introduce a new character. I hit him with my idea of using the alien costume. Though he liked it, he wasn't sure the readers would see a woman as a physical threat to Spider-Man, even a woman enhanced by the alien costume. At that point I came up with the Eddie Brock angle and tied it in with the Peter David Sin-Eater/'Death of Jean DeWolff' story that had appeared in Spectacular Spider-Man #107-110.



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