The Best of Spider-Man Countdown #45-41

Posted by SMReviews Team 22 June 2012

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

45. Death in the Family (Peter Parker Spider-Man #44-47)

Creative Team: Paul Jenkins (Writer), Humberto Ramos (Artist), Mike Esposito (Inker)

What Happened: Haunted by a recurring nightmare, Peter Parker finds that the one person who can help him make sense of it lies just out of reach. At the same time, Norman Osborn once again assumes the identity of the Green Goblin and commences a new attack on Peter's life. After the Goblin puts one of Peter's close friends in the hospital, Peter prepares to have one final confrontation with the villain. The confrontation doesn't go as expected, as the Goblin may be the only person who can give Spider-Man peace of mind.

Why It's In The Top 50: Spiderfan001 explains why this is one of his favourite Green Goblin stories:

Death in the Family would make a perfect final Spider-Man vs. Green Goblin story.  I've always considered it the Spider-Man equivalent of The Killing Joke (complete with both hero and villain sharing a laugh at the end).  Without spoiling anything, Spider-Man scores one of his greatest victories against the Goblin at the end of the story, and not in the way you'd expect.  Death in the Family provides new insight into the Peter Parker/Norman Osborn relationship and what motivates both characters.
What the pros say: Paul Jenkins had a lot to say about this story in the book Comic Creators on Spider-Man. Here's a sample where he talks about the ending:
"In my own personal life, I've had all kinds of ups and downs.  After a couple of really big downs you get to a point where you're just that far away from wanting to go and blow someone away.  How long can you be bloody philisophical?  How many lessons are we supposed to go through before we realize that they're not just lessons and that the world truly sucks?
Of course, I don't think Peter will ever actually reach that point.  He can't be beaten down, and he says something like, 'I want to kill you so badly because of what you did to Gwen, but every day that I don't, every day that I don't know hatred, that's what keeps Gwen alive.'  That is how Peter finally beats the Goblin.  He's saying to him, 'You cannot beat me because I've got something stronger then you'll ever have.  I've memorialized Gwen.'" 
What others say: Jeff English of spiderfan gave each issue a 4/5 or higher, with the exception of part 3, which recieved a score of 3.5/5. Madgoblin of spideykicksbutt called it "one of the best Green Goblin stories ever told" and named it the best Spider-Man story of 2002. It was #44 on CBR's list of the best Spider-Man stories.

44. The Secret Wars & the Spider Wars (1994 Animated Series Episodes 61-65)

Gasp!  All the weird action figures from my childhood!
Creative Team: John Semper Jr. (Producer/ Story Editor), Bob Richardson (Supervising Producer), Ermnie Atbacker, Mark Hoffmeier, James Kreig, Karen Milovich, Virginia Roth (Writers), Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jennifer Hale, Edward Asner (Voice Actors)

What Happened: Spider-Man is selected by a powerful cosmic being called the Beyonder to lead a group of heroes into battle against the world's greatest villains on an unknown planet. This "secret war" ultimately proves to be just a test to see if Spider-Man is capable of saving existence from its greatest threat: himself.

Why It's In The Top 50: Spiderfan001 discusses the final episodes of the 1994 animated series.

What makes this story remarkable is that it shouldn't have worked. Purists balk, and rightly so, at the idea of Spider-Man leading a group of superheroes, and the goofiness of him then leading a team of several different versions of himself to save existence. Yet strangely enough, John Semper and his team pull it off wonderfully, because despite all the craziness these five episodes throw at you, the story never loses its focus on Spider-Man. The writers fully acknowledge within the story that Spider-Man isn't ideal leadership material, but his intelligence, sense of responsibility, and his humanity are what ultimately make him stand out from his peers and are what make him the greatest superhero ever created.    
What the pros say: Producer/ story editor John Semper explained the significance of Stan Lee's appearance at the end of the story in an interview with Marvel Animation Age:
Oh, as I’ve said elsewhere, when Peter Parker faces his creator, Stan, and finally says “I like myself” then his story is complete. He’s gone beyond his creator. He’s now his own creation. A lot of people think I threw Stan in there as a cheap gimmick, but the bigger, more cosmic issue is overlooked. Here’s a guy facing his creator (in essence his deity) and saying, “Guess what? I’m beyond what you created, with all my flaws and problems. I faced the challenge you set out for me and I’ve progressed beyond it. And I really like myself.”
When he can say that, then the hero’s journey has been told and the saga is complete. Who cares if he gets the girl or not?
What others say: "Amazing Spidey" of Marvel Animation Age gave each episode of this arc a positive review.

Related Stories: The original Secret Wars miniseries doesn't feature Spidey as prominently, but still has plenty of memorable moments such as Spider-Man beating up the entire X-Men roster and his first acquisition of the black suit. Spider-Carnage makes his only comic book appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #410.

Did you know? Christopher Daniel Barnes voiced six different versions of Spider-Man in Spider Wars parts 1 and 2, and also voiced Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Man 2099 in the videogames Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time respectively.

Why It's In The Top 50: Spiderfan001 explains this story's significance:

The death of Captain Stacy is one of the most poignant moments in Spider-Man's life.  That it was one of Spidey's own inventions that led to Stacy's demise reminds us that Spider-Man, like the rest of us, does not always think things through and is prone to mistakes.  Unlike most of us however, when Spider-Man screws up, there are dire consequences.  Stan Lee makes Peter Parker's final moments with the man who became like a father to him touching and heartfelt, as Stacy reveals a secret he's kept from Peter and asks him to take care of his daughter Gwen.  Given what happens only 31 issues later, this story takes on an even greater level of tragedy.
What others say: Amazing Spider-Man #90 was #15 on IGN's list of the 25 Greatest Spider-Man Stories. Mark Ginnochio wrote a piece about the issue.

David Walton, formerly Theophilus of CBR, thinks it's the best "Death of a Stacy" story.
I'll just use this thread to vent a pet peeve of mine.

I find the death of Gwen Stacy arc is constantly referred to in Top 10 lists, but the death of Captain Stacy arc consistently fails to get the love.

I honestly believe Captain Stacy's death is the better storyline.

For one thing, it's a more complex ethical situation. Where Gwen Stacy dies as a result of what Peter Parker does, Captain Stacy dies because of a specific action Peter takes.

After Captain Stacy dies, it leaves Peter in a lot of ethical and emotional binds. What is his responsibility to Gwen now? Should he tell her what happened? And what's his obligation to her? Could he be tempted to date another girl, knowing that he inadvertently killed her father? Does he have a deeper obligation to leave her because his vocation is dangerous or stay with her because he owes her protection? These are the kinds of things Peter thinks about.

I also think the loss of a father figure who actually approved of Peter's activities is as devastating as the death of his lover. It's beautifully ironic. Here is an authority figure who can almost offer Peter the one thing he craves above all else, which is Uncle Ben's approval. It's not quite the same thing as Uncle Ben but close. And the moment where he does offer Peter his blessing is tainted by Peter's culpability in his death! It's tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.

Also, it's a better technical accomplishment. The pacing is better.
Related Stories: Lee Weeks's mini-series Death & Destiny dealt with the immediate aftermath of the casualty in this storyline. Spider-Man became a wanted man as a result of something in this story, and had to fight law enforcement and his fellow superheroes in Amazing Spider-Man #91-93.  Captain Stacy will play a prominent role in this summer's Amazing Spider-Man movie.

Creative Team: Jason Aaron (Writer), Adam Kubert (Artist), Marks Morales and Dexter Vine (Inkers), Justin Posnor (Colorist)

What Happened: This mini event was a side story that involved two of Marvel's most popular characters - Spider-Man and Wolverine. The first few issues of this 6 issue event seem pretty confusing as you don't fully understand what is taking place. The story really starts to pick up in issue 4.

In the story, Spider-Man and Wolverine somehow get time warped into the past. In the first issue alone, they appear to be stuck in the past for a number of years. Spider-Man, is constantly plagued by thoughts of a girl ( new character ) whom he has never met, while Wolverine.. is just being Wolverine. The two get zapped back and forth through different parts of history, each time trying out new ways to get back to their own time. Eventually, we find out that someone is playing tricks with the two, confusing them, not to mention throwing them through time. The two, having no one else left, learn to work together and get themselves back into their timeline.

Why It's In The Top 50: Bulletproofsponge discusses the team-up.

It is the dynamics of the relationship between Spider-Man and Wolverine that make this mini special. Wolverine's attitude changes through the issues and we see him becoming a little more caring and responsible. Spider-Man too becomes a little more understanding towards Logan. Two of Marvel's most popular characters, who mostly hate one another, learn to get along to get back to their time. Some of the things that made this event special include.
  • The team up itself
  • Numerous fight scenes between the two
  • Wolverine getting thrown into the past, wrestling a young Peter Parker in the ring, who just got his Spider-powers and is busy making money in the ring. He notices this Parker hasn't learn responsibility yet and is pretty care free. ( Uncle Ben is still alive) In a moment, Logan realizes what Spidey has been through with his Uncle and wishes the kid good luck for when the time comes.
  • Spider-Man being blasted into Wolverine's past, when his older brother is trying to kill him for gutting their father. Here Spidey kinda gets some first hand glance at Wolverine's past.
It's kinda hard to explain what makes this story so special without spoiling it. The story isn't all that fantastic, especially when you find out who the bad guy is. However, the friendship developed between Spider-Man and Wolverine throughout the story definitely makes it worth a read. A reader would never know what these two have been through in this story from reading about their usual adventures in the Avengers or the like.

IGN gave each issue of this series a rating no less than 8.5. I think that pretty much shows how good this series was. Dan Iverson from IGN praised the conclusion.
All the pieces came together in an incredible way in Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine, and helped to make this entertaining story a memorable one.
Related Stories: Jason Aaron had written Orb before in Ghost Rider. He has also had lengthy runs on Wolverine in several different titles: Wolverine, Wolverine: Weapon X and now Wolverine and the X-Men.

41. The Best Medicine (Peter Parker Spider-Man #20)

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

What Happened: After a tragedy, Peter Parker has lost his sense of humour, so he visits the one person who can help him get it back.

Why It's In The Top 50: Spiderfan001 discusses why he likes this story so much.
This story by Paul Jenkins highlights one of the most important and enduring aspects of the Spider-Man character; his sense of humour.  It reminds us that no matter how much he gets pulled through the mud, Spider-Man remains at heart a character who can see passed the grim aspects of life and find humour in any situation.  This issue also fleshes out Peter's relationship with his late Uncle Ben, showing us the man he was before his murder and really making us feel for Peter's loss.  No one yet has written Ben quite like Jenkins has.
Mister Mets remembers the first time he read the story.
It was the last day of school before summer vacation, and I went to my LCS with a friend. He was a bit surprised that I was so eager to pick up this issue of a Spider-Man comic, and asked whether there were even new stories to tell with a character who had been around for nearly 40 years. I wasn't quite sure how to respond, especially considering the most recent books. Spider-Man: Chapter One was literally just a retelling of the Lee/ Ditko classics. And it had been an year and a half since the four monthly titles were turned into two books written by Howard Mackie.
Jenkins did have an excellent three-part story in Webspinners, but I was surprised by just how great his run with Buckingham was. It was the first great Spider-Man run that I got to enjoy while it was coming out. This was before JMS and John Romita Jr's Amazing Spider-Man, which I always felt suffered a little in comparison, and Bendis/ Bagley's Ultimate Spider-Man
What the pros say: Paul Jenkins explains his reasons for writing this story in Comic Creators on Spider-Man:
When I took over Peter Parker, a lot of people told me that Spider-Man was finished.  Mary Jane was supposed to be dead, and I didn't really like that very much.  It was a very tragic period.  I heard so many times that there was no way to repair Spider-Man, but my answer was always that I could fix him in one issue.  I was determined to get back to the essence of the character, so I wrote the story where he regains his sense of humour.  He goes to the cemetary and he tells Uncle Ben that he doesn't think he can continue to be Spider-Man.  He just can't laugh anymore and he can only be Spider-Man because he's got a sense of humour.  In a way,  I was saying that all the fans are a bit sad, because they think Spider-Man's too convoluted and Mary Jane's dead.  On the last page, a car drives by and covers him with water, and he starts laughing his ass off.  In the course of that one issue, we get to the core of the character and discover that he's still the same old guy he used to be.
In Comics Creators on Spider-Man, Mark Buckingham tells us why he enjoyed drawing this story:
Our first issue remains one of my favourite stories.  It was a good way to start the run, and I really enjoyed drawing the material that showed Peter as a child and his early relationship with Uncle Ben.  I also liked the opportunity to do these little cameo flashbacks.  The whole thing just kind of flowed really well for me, and it felt like Paul and I had hit the ground running.
What others say: Jeff English of spiderfan gave the issue an almost perfect score of 4.5/5.

Related stories: Paul Jenkins wasn't done with Uncle Ben after this issue; he later penned Peter Parker Spider-Man #33, in which he tells the story about how Ben and Peter used to bond over the New York Mets.  Jenkins revisited the relationship one last time in his Spider-Man swan song Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 #27.




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