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AICN COMICS! The @$$mazing Spider-Man Column!!

Stop the presses! J. Jonah Jameson here, humanitarian, award-winning editor of the Daily Bugle, and upholder of such ideals as courage, honor, and most importantly, the Truth!

Everywhere I look these days; on billboards, TV commercials, magazine ads, on the sides of busses, and even on the internet, I’m seeing advertisements for SPIDER-MAN 2. While some namby-pamby Hollywood types are sitting in their fancy offices, sipping Espresso and making movies, I’ve been telling the world the real story about that masked menace all along. But do they listen to me? Nooo. They go and make that freak look like some kind of hero. They should be making a movie about ME! Not that masked menace. I’m the real hero here.

A bunch of no talent internet hacks named "The @$$holes" have decided to class up their piddly little column and asked me to host something they call…THE @$$MAZING SPIDER-COLUMN. It’s where a bunch of guys and gals who have nothing better to do than gab all day on the internet write up some comic book recommendations to seek out just in case you liked the movie. If you’re looking for a movie review, I’ll give you one:

It stinks!

The only good parts are the ones with me in it. All the rest…pure garbage!

If you want something of real quality, depth and good taste, check out the latest edition of the Daily Bugle. But until tomorrow’s edition, you might as well take a look at what these @$$$holes have to say about that no-good Spider-Man.

Recommended by Buzz Maverik

Age in comic books is a funny thing. When I quit reading X-MEN comics, Emma Frost was a good looking middle aged super-villain, sort of a Sharon Stone type, out to take over the world through the exploitation of mutants. Now, she appears to be a good looking, barely legal member of the X-MEN, sort of a Scarlett Johansen type, out to take over Cyclops.

So back in the '70s, in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Doc Ock had a thing with Aunt May. Ock is apparently somewhat older than you'd think and Aunt May is somewhat younger. If Mark Millar and TROUBLE are to be believed, Aunt May would have been in her early 30s when Peter got his spider powers. Instead of the kindly 1010 year old mummy who has doted on Peter all these decades, she'd have been a MILF, or more precisely an AILF.

"Oh, hello, Flash. Hello, Harry. No, Peter isn't in right now. Yes, I suppose you can come in and wait."

Instead of Rosemary Harris and Alfred Molina, we'd have Demi Moore as May Parker and Ashton Kutcher as Otto Octavius. That'd be pretty cool.

Aunt May and Ock's history goes back to a KING SIZE Spider-Man in which Ock, leading the original Sinister 6, kidnapped Aunt May and Betty Brant. Of course, Spidey came to the rescue, much to the disgust of Mrs. Parker who hated that ruffian but admired the refined, sophisticated Dr. Octavius ("We mustn't be prejudiced against the poor man because of his arms, dear."). Ock later boarded at the Parker's place, bringing down a rain of super-villainry on Forest Hills. Eventually, Aunt May went to work as Doc Ock's housekeeper, tending to his country estate (or villain's lair to you and me). Mobster/freak Hammerhead was out to destroy Ock by then, and Spider-Man was trying to save his aunt, who decked him (to be fair, he'd been worked over pretty well by Hammerhead) and even tried to blow him away.

Later, Ock resurfaced and was going to marry Aunt May after she'd inherited a plutonium-rich island. Fortunately, Hammerhead and Spidey interrupted the ceremony. Ock and May fled to the island, which went up in a mushroom cloud by the end of the issue. Spidey succeeded in rescuing Aunt May and it appeared the menaces of Ock and Hammerhead were destroyed.

Not so! Remember, Ock's arms are indestructible and radiation proof. He wrapped himself in them, hid in one of those convenient comic book exhaust ports and came off with nothing worse than, maybe, a future case of cancer. Hammerhead's body was turned intangible, making him a living ghost -- which is how nuclear blasts effect you in comics, as opposed to real life where you're made into a dead shadow.

In the gorgeously paneled issue #157, Peter Parker shows up at Aunt May's place with a bucket of fried chicken, only to find Ock sipping tea on the sofa. Okay, when Aunt May is out of the room, Pete talks to Ock the way Spider-Man would - " ... six arms or otherwise, I'm gonna wring your chubby neck!" This is kind of like the scene in Tim Burton's BATMAN where Bruce Wayne confronts the Joker in Vicki Vale's apartment and we see Wayne being Batman without the costume. While Kim Basinger is considerably hotter than Aunt May, neither villain recognizes their arch-enemy.

Of course, the instant the exposition is over, Hammerhead attacks. Ock skedaddles with Aunt May, hijacking a helicopter and snapping Spidey's web line, leaving him to splatter on the Long Island Expressway.

Spidey doesn't splatter.

There's a great scene where Spidey survives yet another fall by landing in a dumpster. Hammerhead tricks Ock and Spidey into restoring him to solid form. Another great scene where Spidey, Ock and Hammerhead simultaneously deck each other. Surprise, Hammerhead abducts Aunt May! It's Spidey and Doc Ock side by side to the rescue! Another great bit where Ock throws a knife from each arm at Hammerhead's goons. Hammerhead blows up, Ock is on the run, Aunt May is in an ambulance and Spidey is being stalked by several subplot super villains at the end of the issue.

I dunno why 7-11 had better comics than comic shops, but they did!

Scenes from the SPIDER-MAN 2 Cutting Room Floor

SPIDEY and DOC OCK duke it out above the streets of New York.

SPIDEY: Hey, how come you have mechanical arms?

OCK: What are you talking about, fool?

SPIDEY: I have organic webshooters, you should have organic arms!

OCK: Now, that would just be plain silly!

SPIDEY: Not to mention seriously creepy!


Recommended by Vroom Socko

When it comes to a person’s all-time favorite Spider-Man comic, nine times out of ten it’s going to be the first one they owned. The first comic they read to pieces under the sheets. For me that comic was Spectacular Spider-Man #108, which also happened to be my first Peter David comic. Oh, I was familiar enough with Spider-Man, but this book was different. This was some raw, intense shit. This was The Death of Jean DeWolff.

All I know about Jean DeWolff is her death. She was a minor character in the world of Spider-Man, but her death had almost as much impact on me as Uncle Ben or Gwen Stacy’s. Her death had impact because of how meaningless it was. Gwen’s death occurred at the climax of the most pivotal confrontation between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. Jean was dead by page three at the hands of a nut with a shotgun. And what a nut! The Sin-Eater is one of those villains that defy the standard Spidey stereotype. This isn’t some loon dressed as a scorpion; this is a guy who, at the end of each issue, blasts someone with a shotgun at point blank range. But it’s more than the grittiness of the bad guy that makes this a memorable story.

What makes this story such a classic is that it illustrates just why Spider-Man is such a stand out character. Spidey is a hero driven by grief, more so than even Batman. That grief is at its highest point of focus here, because of how elusive his enemy is. Both Uncle Ben and Gwen’s killers were known and faced justice in some form relatively quickly. Here, Spider-Man’s grief isn’t given any sort of immediate release, causing it to be transformed into rage. And once that rage is released… well, the first time I read it, it scared the shit outta me. Here’s Spider-Man, (in his black costume, mind you,) dishing out a beating like I’d never seen before in a comic. Oh, sure, since then I’ve read me all kinds of Sin City, but to a ten year old, this stuff was seven kinds of vicious.

But the third factor that makes the saga of Jean DeWolff’s death so memorable is the dynamic between the three costumed characters featured:

Daredevil, AKA Matt Murdock, acts as both a crime fighter and a lawyer. He believes in the law with every fiber of his being, acting as a superhero only when necessary.

Sin-Eater, AKA CENSORED, seeks out those who don’t fit in with his view of right and justice, and gives them both barrels of his shotgun. He wants to rid the world of sin, but his concept of what constitutes sin is skewed. In his eyes, death is the only solution for sinners.

Spider-Man, AKA Peter Parker, falls in between these two extremes. He acts to protect innocent people, without regard for his own safety. He also acts without regard for the safety of criminals. The law doesn’t concern him, what does is that no one suffers the same sort of loss that he has. If some crook gets hurt in the process of stopping a crime, it’s no big deal.

Now, there’s been better Spider-Man stories told before this one, and there’s been better ones told since. But this is the Spidey book I always come back to when I think of my favorite. It was the first comic that showed me just what sort of potential this medium has to offer, as well as being the first to make me trip my shit.

JJJ: Bah! A good Spider-Man story is like a bad cigar. There’s no such thing! It wouldn’t surprise me if the Sin Eater, Daredevil, and Spider-Man were all in cahoots together. Let’s see what this next punk has to say.

Recommended by Jon Quixote

Those of you who know of Spider-Man through the movie or the cartoon series or even his own title miss one of his most attractive and endearing attributes:

His strength as a supporting character.

Peter Parker is one of the most sympathetic, likeable and easy to relate to characters in fiction, and in combination with his heroism and nobility, this makes him an excellent leading man.

Take the audience out of omniscience and put them in front of the mask, and Spidey’s almost an entirely different character. His ‘costumed’ traits become dominant. Spider-Man becomes spookier. Sparkier. Funnier.

This is one of the allures of a shared Marvel Universe. Captain America is more imposing when he shows up in an issue of Daredevil than in his own title, because we don’t see him go home and take his boots off. The Hulk is scarier when he’s rampaging through the pages of X-Men, because he’s not bound to the role of protagonist.

Spider-Man, even subtly removed from Peter Parker, is an amazing creation, and a radical but not incongruous departure from what we see when we get to see everything.

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES SECRET WARS is a dream book for any 10 year old boy. All the big name SuperHeroes get together to battle all the big-name SuperVillains. Spider-Man shines in the book because we can see him as his peers see him, and he’s…frankly, a little weird. He’s goofy in the face of drama, exuberant when everybody else is gloomy, and hints of his insecurities and unease in a team setting sneak through every once in a while. But in a series where just about every hero gets a stand-out moment, Spidey gets the best ones. He takes on and humiliates the X-men in battle; he completely destroys an arrogant juggernaut of a super villain, and he goes bat-shit goofy over a new costume!

And for a character who, at that point, had largely been defined by his relatability and introspection, for the whole 12 issue series we never really get to see him behind the mask. It’s a very interesting, if subtle, departure from what we’re used to with Spider-Man.

The most recent issue of SHE-HULK, a.k.a. the best book you’re not reading (unless of course, you’re reading it), has Shulkie’s law firm deciding to sue the Daily Bugle for libel on behalf of Spider-Man. While writer Dan Slott does let us peer behind the curtain and see Peter Parker, in the eyes of the main characters, he treats them as separate entities. We get to see how the world views Spider-Man, and how they view Bugle photographer Peter Parker. Watch the reaction of Spider-Man once he finds out that Peter Parker is to be named as a co-defendant in the suit. See how different a Spider-Man/Scorpion battle is when viewed through the eyes of She-Hulk instead of Peter Parker. And, of course, a resolution that is so beautifully and brilliantly in-character that it aches.

MARY JANE is more than just Marvel’s making a foray into the teen girl demographic. It’s a wonderful character piece in its own right and a work that can explore their most popular and enduring character from an entirely different perspective. Existing in a unique continuity and focusing on Mary Jane and her friends, the disdain and/or indifference Peter Parker’s classmates had for him is starker, harsher.

In Stan Lee’s or Brian Bendis’s Spider-Man comics, teen Peter Parker is still the center of our attention, and the other characters show up, act their role, and then leave until Peter encounters him again. But by moving him to the periphery, we can see just how alienating high school was for Peter Parker as it’s he who shows up, is insulted or ignored, and then is forgotten about as the characters we’re following move on. He doesn’t even register on Mary Jane’s radar in the issue – but Spider-Man, that’s another story. When we see Spider-Man through Mary Jane’s eyes, he’s so powerful and confident and intimidating, it’s an entirely different character. The hints of Peter Parker’s true personality, when they show up, are immediately and easily ignored.

Peter Parker: Spider-Man is a powerful and attractive character from any angle. One of the most beautiful things about the comics medium, is that they give us the opportunity to see him from many of them. Those looking for a slightly different perspective on Spider-Man, and maybe a greater insight as to why his fanbase is so enthusiastic and devoted to the character, are strongly urged to check out the above recommendations, all of which can easily be found, right now, in your local comic book shop.

More Scenes from the SPIDER-MAN 2 Cutting Room Floor


John and Mary Jane make out heavily. It's getting serious.

MJ: Face it, tiger, you hit the jackpot! When it comes to hip, happening scenes, old MJ is your gal! Leave those serene scenes to the teen queens and--

JOHN pushes Mary Jane away.

John: For Chrissakes, will you quit talking like Stan Lee! Maybe you should go back to dating Peter Parker!

MJ: Oh, pretty, puny Petey may be fine for the tamer true believers, but this frantic female is---

John: How about Harry Osbourne? Good looking guy, rich, you'd make a great couple! No? How about Eddie Brock? Ted Raimi? Irving Forbush?


Reviewed by Cormorant

“Tell ‘im he can shove it, Jameson! Evidence don’t mean nothing unless ya can use it! And Sambo ain’t never gonna use it!”

- Scumbag politician Sam Bullit threatens Robbie Robertson in SPIDER-MAN: THE DEATH OF GWEN STACY

There are any number of remarkable moments in this trade, but that burst of racist dialog is among the most striking of them. Penned by Stan Lee in 1971, it’s a perfect example of his ability to bring an edgy touch to his superhero comics, an ability perhaps forgotten by modern comic readers, eclipsed by Stan’s larger-than-life personality or creaky projects like his JUST IMAGINE series for DC. But let me tell ya, folks, rediscovering Stan at his peak is one of the many reasons to own this trade. The untouchably great art of John Romita Sr. and Gil Kane is another. The fantastic battle sequences with Doctor Octopus, still another. And right up there with these enticements I’d put the response of J. Jonah Jameson to having his African-American city editor threatened by a racist, fascist politician. It may be Ol’ Skinflint’s most redemptive moment ever.

But this is an action story, dammit - let’s talk about the action! The first chapter opens with an imprisoned Doctor Octopus learning to mentally summon his tentacles from a great distance, a historic moment in Spider-Man comics that’s been repeated a zillion times since, but you see it here first. As a longtime fan of Doc Ock, I was pleased to see Ock played as Spider-Man’s deadliest foe in this arc. Spidey struggles just to handle the runaway arms, acknowledging that were they manipulated directly by Ock, he’d be totally overwhelmed. If you’re one of those who think of Octopus as just the tubby villain sporting Elton John’s haircut, this trade will set you straight (no pun intended). Ock’s an acknowledged killer in this story and clearly beyond Spider-Man in sheer power, bad haircut or no. Plus, he coolly refers to himself in the third person, as when he hijacks a plane and warns the police not to rush him when it lands: “Doc Ock isn’t in the mood for crowds!”

Stan’s dialogue is on in this story. His Ock is at his exasperated best (no villain is better at getting pissed beyond all reckoning), his Gwen Stacy is a seductive vixen, and his little nods to life in the early ‘70s are sure to bring a grin (check out the air pollution protestors excited over a possible visit from Ralph Nader). By modern standards, the stories have their fair share of corny dialogue too, from guest-star Iceman shouting “Zowie!” to Spider-Man constantly expressing aloud thoughts that should be part of an internal monologue. Of course, it’s Stan’s dialogue, and that means that even the corny stuff is somehow endearing. At one point Peter’s getting pretty morbid in his fear of Doc Ock, and when he finally screws up the courage to face him: “After all, being a swingin’ superhero is almost like being in show biz! And like they always say – the show must go on! Altho’ I never figured out why!”

Classic Stan, classic Peter Parker.

The showdowns themselves are grueling, memorable action sequences. Some readers are perfectly willing to dismiss all old-school comics as “mindless slugfests,” and I’ll accept the “slugfest” descriptor, but “mindless”? Not a chance. Stan and his artists choreographed these battles with as much innovation and panache as in the best Hollywood actioneers. One sequence has Spider-Man hiding behind a chimney, and when Ock’s arms coil around to snare him, he webs the ends together, vaults off the building dragging the webbed bundle, and pulls the Ock headfirst into the chimney! Daaaaamn! Then Ock retracts his tentacles with blinding speed and pulls Spider-Man straight back into the other side of the chimney – this needs to be in the movie!

Most of these stories are drawn by Gil Kane with inks by Romita Sr, and I have to admit, my knowledge of Kane has always been minimal. I thought, based on anecdotal glimpses, that maybe he was a bit overrated – an otherwise unremarkable anatomy-specialist. That was until I saw his Spider-Man work in this and the DEATH OF GWEN STACY trade. I know now that I’ve been an idiot. I was practically getting vertigo watching his rooftop action sequences, as dynamic and wild as anything McFarlane ever did, but with anatomy and general realism that’s a hundred times more convincing. In fact, the McFarlane cover and a few bonus pin-ups (covers he did for Spider-Man reprint comics) are the only artistic downside of the trade. McFarlane’s work has aged with all the grace of Keith Richards.

The emotional crux of the story is, of course, the death of Gwen Stacy’s police captain father. Again, I only knew the moment from a modern context, the retelling of the scene in a page of Kurt Busiek’s MARVELS (among the cool bonus materials in the back is this very page), but it’s a powerhouse. I never knew that Captain Stacy was supposed to have figured out that Peter Parker and Spider-Man were one and the same, so I suppose I was as surprised as audiences in ’71 at the poignant moment when Peter Parker realizes this as the old man dies.

What follows is a classic tragedy in the Marvel tradition. Gwen, along with everyone else in the city, mistakenly blames Spider-Man for the death of Captain Stacy. And from a guy’s perspective, it’s just that much more heartbreaking because Kane and Romita Sr. make her such a damn hot little number in those short skirts, go-go boots, and black tops. Mercy! Along the way, Stan’s tale dabbles in politics, plays up the anything-can-happen appeal of the Marvel Universe with a guest-spot from Iceman, and generally reminds us why Spider-Man is the all-time great hard luck hero. I want to try to be more critical of it, but how can I be?

Simply put, this is the goods.

JJJ: Criminy, do these @$$holes think they get paid by the word? What a bunch of jabber mouths. They talk more than that webbed wierdo. Let’s see who we have next. Hopefully, this one will be brief. Who’s up? Another one from Cormorant? Never mind.


Remembered with great fondness by Cormorant

I’m going to get around to Spider-Man in a bit, but first a lament:

Poor Mr. Hyde.

No, not the child-stomping villain of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel. Not even Alan Moore’s violent buggerer from the pages of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. I’m talking about the Marvel Universe incarnation of the character, a scientist named Calvin Zabo who obsessed over Stevenson’s book, created a formula based on Jeckyl’s, and embarked on a life of crime! My friends...they don’t make villains with cajones like that anymore!

But he’s fallen on hard times of late. Here’s a bad, bad dude who, according to my old OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, can lift/press fiddy damn tons...who fought Thor on his first outing...and who, with the Masters of Evil, beat Hercules into a coma and tortured loveable manservant Jarvis nearly to death.

And yet modern writers are playing this guy as a punk.

Bendis made a joke of him in DAREDEVIL with Spidey and DD dropping Hyde between a bout of male bonding. When Geoff Johns used Hyde in his first issue of AVENGERS – granted, a more serious treatment, but Hyde was still just the warm-up act villain; the equivalent of whoever Bond dispatches in a pre-credits sequence. And the latest anti-Hydite is another fine writer, one Robert Kirkman, who similarly wussifies Hyde in his pending first issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA (full preview here). Jeez, guys! Did you not read Roger Stern’s terrifying Mr. Hyde story in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 231 and 232 like I did as a nine-year-old urchin?

Ah, well maybe that’s the problem! Maybe I can help.

Roger Stern, who’s sadly slipped from the industry spotlight, was described by Brian K. Vaughan recently as, “...the biggest influence on everyone writing Spidey today.” Damn straight. Stern had a special gift for making any villain intriguing, from Hyde to Will ‘O The Wisp to The Foolkiller. He never treated them as jokes or B and C-listers, even when they were; under his pen they were strictly A-listers.

Which brings us to the Spider-Man story in question. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 230 and 231 came hot on the heels of Spider-Man’s legendarily grueling battle with the Juggernaut, and Stern appropriately opened with a misleading calm before the storm. In 231, we see Peter Parker in a rare happy mood as he finishes sewing up a new Spider-Man costume with the patented “armpit webs” back after an extended absence from the design. Quintessential Peter Parker moment: posing and flexing in front of a mirror in the new costume, obviously quite pleased with himself. During the course of the issue, Spider-Man finds himself on the trail of snake-themed supervillain, Cobra, former partner of Mr. Hyde, even as Hyde himself pursues Cobra on a mission of vengeance. Seems their last partnership didn’t work out so well and Hyde aims to collect some bloody payback. Spidey gets the drop on Cobra at the end of the issue only to narrowly dodge an entire hurled building corner aimed at the both of them. The pitcher is our Mr. Hyde, drawn with true ferocity by a young John Romita Jr. Hyde’s pissed, and there’s a shitstorm a’comin’...

Now it’s issue 232 and Hyde’s chasing Spider-Man across rooftops, hurling wrenched-up chimneys and ripping up massive 220-volt cables to whip Spider-Man with them. See, Spider-Man’s still holding onto the terrified Cobra, bouncing him around like a rag doll, and he’s barely a step ahead of death in any given panel. What really sold my nine-year-old mind on Hyde as a threat was when a chunk of thrown building crashes to the ground on the back of a cab, coming within inches of killing the cabbie. It’s one of those “New York” moments you get in SPIDER-MAN, with a touch of comedy coming from the in-shock cabby’s terrified muttering, but Romita’s rendition of the damage sure as hell sells the threat.

I think my favorite moment, though, is when Spider-Man finally gets tired of Cobra’s squirming, decides he’s not worth the effort, and just pitches him at Hyde! His trick is that he’s coated Cobra’s mask with web fluid – now Hyde’s the encumbered one – but Hyde still shrugs off all his attacks and eventually loses Spider-Man by knocking a water tower over on him. This is what supervillains do. And then we get to see Hyde’s guile. He terrifies Cobra into telling him where his hideout is, then clubs him unconscious with a fist as big as Cobra’s head. Afterwards he transforms into human form, drapes his cloak over Cobra’s costume, peels back the mask, and walks right past the doorman of Cobra’s swanky penthouse explaining that he’s helping a soused pal back to his room. In the apartment he re-forms into Hyde and pours acid on the webbing to dissolve it. Smoke rises from off-screen as Hyde growls, “Blast! It has more effect on my hand than his cursed webbing!” Nice grisly touch from Stern, who always managed to suggest serious stakes without getting too excessive, and Hyde does indeed get loose.

Hyde’s about a second away from unleashing a vengeance on Cobra he describes as “meticulous” when Spidey makes the scene (remember the Spider-tracers of old?). There’s no way I can do adequate justice to the knockdown, drag-out fight that follows, but Hyde comes across nearly as menacing as the previous issue’s foe – the Juggernaut – and his rage is palpable. Think “angry drunk” or “seven-foot-tall Joe Pesci from GOODFELLAS.” As a kid I was also amused by Hyde nearly bellowing out that Spider-Man was a “dirty son of a bitch” after a vicious sucker-punch, only to be gagged by webbing on the last syllable. Shades of Eli Wallach’s similarly truncated epithet at the end of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, and another example of the value of implication over literalization.

In Stan Lee’s day, there was maybe an overemphasis on every new villain being the “most deadly foe” the hero had fought to date, which is kind of wearying after a while. But Stern was part of a generation of creators who realized you didn’t have to go quite that far...nor go the opposite direction and play the more outrageous villains as jokes or as filler plot devices. He played ‘em real - never more powerful than they were - but always operating at some credible threat level. And he used their backstories to bolster their desperation, built up circumstances around them that amped their menace. A generically rampaging Hyde is a bore, but the revenge-bent sadist Stern wrote was as memorable a villain as the best of ‘em.

Next-gen writers, please take note. Next-gen readers, join me in hoping that Marvel one day collects Stern’s phenomenal run.

Even More Scenes from the SPIDER-MAN 2 Cutting Room Floor


Jonah paces, trailing cigar smoke.

Jonah: I hate that wall crawling freak! He's making a mockery of this city--

Robbie: I think you hate him because you just don't understand him. You're not smart enough! You don't get him!

Jonah: What? You're fi--

Betty: I think you're jealous! You'd like to be a superhero yourself but you just can't make it.

Ned: Yeah. Jonah's a frustrated superhero. He's not good enough to make it fighting crime so he has to put down those who are!

Jonah: No! That's're all fired! All of you!

Peter: What's everybody talking about?

Brock: Jonah being gay for Spider-Man.


Recommended by Village Idiot

While my collegues have taken it upon themselves to talk about more classic selections from the Spider-Man oeuvre, or at least selections from the classic universe, I've chosen to go a little more contemporary, and talk about ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. Brace yourself.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is a great comic book. Sure, it's often a flat-out blast: the action sequences really work, and for my money, Spidey's patter has never been more funny or charming. But perhaps most importantly, at its core, the emotions of the book are actually felt. Week in, week out, I find myself sharing the angst or fear or joy of a drawing of a teenager in a spider suit. I don't get this kind of connection in the other Spider-Man titles; in fact, I don't get this from most of the comic books I read, at least not as consistently as I do with USM.

These qualities alone would make USM a really good comic book, but I think what kicks it up even higher is the fact that writer Brian Bendis isn't afraid to play with the narrative and presentation. All in all, it's smart, sophisticated stuff; never more so than with issues I'm about to talk about, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #23, 24 and 25, which are collected as part of the trade paperback LEGACY (TPB #4).

In ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, the Green Goblin's mission has been less to defeat Spider-Man than it was to corrupt and control him. In fact, in USM #23, in one of the most chilling villain speeches in recent memory, Osborne quietly lays out his agenda, and then, smiling, warns Peter of the consequences of any refusal to cooperate:

Well, first I will torture and possibly murder your little auntie...I'll probably do it right in front of you. Or maybe I'll just destroy your little girlfriend. Mary Jane, right? Then I might delight myself in beating of you to the edge of death. Not to death -- just to the edge of death. I will let you try and heal. I will watch you struggle through broken bones and the severed nerves and tissues. And most probably, you will heal. And then just as you begin to feel yourself becoming human again...I will beat you to death.

But in USM #24, Spidey confronts Green Goblin on the rooftops of New York to tell him that he won't be his lackey, ever. It's an odd sequence as Spidey tries to rationally but forcefully explain to this scary-crazy Green Goblin that he won't play ball, while Goblin seems to spout out only cryptic but menacing nonsense. Never far from the conversation is the memory Osborne's earlier ultimatum. It's dangerous, scary stuff.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #25, actually begins twenty minutes before the end of the previous issue. We see Norman Osborne inject himself with the Goblin juice and Goblin-out. Soon after the injection, Osborne begins to hear voices, voices that begin to manifest as little imps. These imps continue to talk to the Goblin as he meets up with Spider-Man, and they fall into the same conversation from USM #24.

And this is almost genius. In the first version, we felt Peter's 100 ton dread as he tries to communicate with the barely rational Goblin. In #25, we see the interaction from a new perspective: Osborne's, or really, Osbourne's madness. Osborne/Goblin is crazy, almost torturedly crazy. The imps that surround him bombard him with a flood of information. Some of it is paranoid ranting, some of it is seemingly random information that is completely divorced from the situation, and some of it is pure gibberish. Yet since we are privy to these demons, we learn why he says what he says to Peter, and in some cases, who he is actually talking to. It's a grotesquely intimate perspective, but it gives us a unique sense of what's actually going on in Osbourne's mind. This was an unexpected level of depth and dimension to the story, and it's what makes these issues so memorable.

S'good stuff. If you tuned out on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN early, maybe you should go back and give some of the TPB's another shot. It may not be considered "classic" Spider storytelling, at least not yet; but it is great Spidey storytelling. And really, that's classic enough.

JJJ: Classic storytelling? In a comic book about Spider-Man? I’ve read Classifieds that had more punch to it. You want classic works of literature, check out my editorials: SPIDER-MAN – HERO OR MENACE? Or WEBSLINGER TERRORIZES CITY or THE SECRET SPIDER-MAN 2/LYME DISEASE CONNECTION. Now that’s what I call quality journalism. I’ll bet that Spider-Man put them up to this. That’s it! Robbie, get in here! I have tomorrow’s headline…SPIDER-MAN TAKES OVER AICN @$$HOLES COLUMN! Run it, print it, get Parker in here with those photos!

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