Zechs continues his look into his top twenty-six picks of greatest Spider-Man stories of all time. This part will cover 18-7!
Welcome to my next entry as I Zechs take a look at my top 26 Spider-Man stories of all time! I've shocked and beguiled you with stories not usually seen on top lists before. Will I continue my trend? Or will I be predictable to the bitter end?
To that all I can say is quote some classic words from a classic villain:
18.) Venom Undone (Spider-Man: Family vol. 1 #2) --
Writer: Sean McKeever, Pencils: Kano and David Laefeunte
I have to confess, I'm not much of a fan of the Eddie Brock Venom outside of the costume, mostly because that was the only appealing thing to me about the character. The design was just stunning. I never really saw the appeal of Eddie in a world when the Green Goblins (Norman and Harry) did a better job messing up Spider-Man's personal and heroic life. I also never got that the whole nature of him being an anti-hero or uneasy ally of Spider-Man. Sandman, yes but not Venom. I only saw the character as a one dimensional thug, nothing more. It wasn't until this story did I fully understand Venom. Again, it took one of my most accursed foes, the dastardly Sean McKeever, to make me realize the potential for Venom as both anti-hero and what separated him from the Osborns.
This story leaves Spidey scratching his head because he knows Venom is back in town, but he hasn't started screwing up his personal life. Instead he's making life hell for a bunch of corporate suits. Why? The answers will lead Pete down a path of what Eddie Brock was before he became Venom.
What I truly enjoy of this mega-sized story, besides the writing, is the art from Kano and David Laefeunte. Venom just looks utterly terrifying throughout this story. Mix the creepy moments he has throughout the issue with the suits he's targeting with the ending with him hanging next to a slumbering Pete and MJ and it helps me finally understand the ticks with the Eddie Brock Venom. You get why he's such force to be reckoned with in Spider-Man's life, not just a super-powered thug. Unlike the Goblin who'll have some grand plan. This is a dude who could come in at any second to make Peter's life a living hell.
17.) Web of Romance (I Heart Marvel: Web of Romance #1) --
Writer: Tom Beland, Pencils: Cory Walker
A Valentine's Days one-shot and Pete's searching for a gift for the love of his life: Mary Jane. He goes through super-villains (an amusing conversation with Mandrill), older folk (Aunt May and Jarvis), and super-heroes. What I truly enjoy about this issue besides the focus of MJ/Pete is the focus of them in the world of Marvel in general. We see both of them rubbing elbows and how well they fit with upper tier of heroes like Captain America, Iron Man, and Luke Cage.
There's no fighting or drama to be found in this book. We see a day in the life of Peter Parker on the most romantic evening of all. The true joys of the issue are the people around Peter. Plus we get to see just about every important super hero in his life from his budding yet doomed friendship with Iron Man to the always amusing "bromance" he has with Johnny Storm. It's the later why this story sticks with me (oh the irony). The art is a bit off, but the writing makes up for it. That and mentally abusing Johnny Storm is always fun.
16.) Ultimatum Spider-Man: 131-133, Requiem #1-2 –
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Mark Bagley, Stuart Immonen
Though Ultimatum was an infamously bad story, it did have one lone bright spot: the Ultimate Spider-Man three part tie-in and the Spider-Man Requiem two-part mini that covered the aftermath. These issues show the populace of the Ultimate-verse coping with the unnatural disasters. We see numerous cast members of the book shaken hard by the events; none more so than Peter, who's presumed dead after teaming up with the Hulk to stop a mystical event.
However, the heart of this story is of J. Jonah Jameson. The man has lost everything: his house, his wife, and finally, his beliefs. At this point, he was the bane of Spider-Man's existence and his greatest critic. Yet, as Jonah witnesses the end of the world through a stained glass window, his beliefs crumble away. He watches Spider-Man's heroics as he tries to rescue any person he can right to the very end, trying to be a beacon of hope to the helpless. In the aftermath of the event, Jonah types a confession to the world that he was wrong. It spirals into the greatest turning point the character of J. Jonah Jameson ever has. The Ultimate version of the character wasn't the same, becoming one of Pete's greatest supporters. Once again Bendis churns out another grand moment.
15.) Revenge of the Sinister Six (Spider-Man #18-23) --
Writer: Erik Larsen, Pencils: Erik Larsen
I have to confess to being disappointed with Spider-Man: To the Ends of the Earth, primarily because this story was in my mind while reading it. To me this is the ultimate Sinister Six tale. A plethora of guest stars (including the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Deathlok, Ghost Rider, Nova and more) team up with Spider-Man as he has his hands full with the most lethal version of the Sinister Six yet (Doctor Octopus, Electro, Mysterio, Vulture, Hobgoblin II, and Gog).
I confess that there's a lot of 90s cheese in this story, such as Spider-Man fracturing his arm and wearing a cybernetic brace throughout most of the tale, the 90s excess of the Six's upgraded weapons, and the Crimson Commando becoming Cyborg X (because nothing screams 90s like being a cyborg and having an X to signify how EXTREME you are). Yet, I cannot help but love this story. Why? Well, it works. This was Doctor Octopus at his finest (or should I say villainous?). By re-attaining his long lost adamantium-coated arms, Ock just goes on a rampage, owning just about everyone in this book one way or another before being taken down by the most unlikely of heroes.
The twist on the final member of the Six was also a nice touch with the long lost Gog making an appearance. At most, every villain from the Six and Sandman get a very good showing here. They get their one little moment to shine against the top tier of the Marvel Universe and showcase the personality that makes him so memorable.
14.) The Return of the Burglar (Amazing Spider-Man #198-200) --
Writer: Marv Wolfman, Stan Lee Pencils: Sal Buscema, Keith Pollard
It was tempting to list the original Amazing Fantasy #15, but considering I already listed it during my entry for twenty-six (yes I cheated. HA!), I'm going to go with the long time coming sequel. Aunt May has been murdered and the finger is pointed at the lord of illusion, a returning Mysterio. But just when Spidey thinks he has things figured out he learns the other competition Mysterio has, namely the murderer of his Uncle Ben, the Burglar. However, this rematch is going to be on even ground as after his fight with Mysterio, Peter has lost his spider powers. With only his wits, Pete must face his inner demons and confront the killer of his uncle again.
Not only do we get the return of the Burglar, but also Mysterio, who hadn't appeared in a few years since during that time Daniel Berkhart had been running around in the identity before Quentin Beck resumed it this story. Add to the fact that even without his powers, Pete can't help but be Spider-Man no matter what and help the helpless. Also I dig the utter ironies of the Burglar's final fate and that the thing he wanted most from Parker household was a complete waste. This also marked a turning point for Aunt May and her relationship with Spider-Man as well.
13.) Read Em and Weep (Spectacular Spider-Man vol. 2 #21) --
Writer: Paul Jenkins, Pencils: Talent Caldwell
It's the ever-loving Thing's annual poker party! Though this one has a party crasher in the Kingpin! The challenge is simple. Beat him at poker and the heroes get $50,000. If Fisk beats them all he gets to name a boat in their honor, "The Heroes Folly". It isn't long before it's down to Fisk and Spidey.
The amusing thing I enjoy about this story is that it's the heroes' night out that gets crashed by the Kingpin looking to spice up his own life. How can you not like a story where heroes just hang out only to have an enemy suddenly show up and begin owning them at a game they're so good at?
You know who the final two will be in poker. This isn't Dan Slott's The Thing, or any other of the guest stars' ongoing books. So they're out. Kingpin can't lose that quickly. Still it's the anticipation and how Pete beats Fisk that makes the story amusing. Likewise what Pete does with the money is also amusing. All and all, it's a nice fun story that doesn't result in just a traditional fight. Though it's the little quirks of what the heroes do during the poker game that gets me everytime.
12.) Maybe Next Year (Peter Parker, Spider-Man vol. 2 #33) -
Writer: Paul Jenkins, Pencils: Mark Buckingham
Baseball and Spider-Man... It's like one of those mad mixtures of ice cream that works. This is layered with some details one of the past times that a young Peter and Ben shared together: their love of baseball. Flash forward to the present with it being the anniversary of Uncle Ben's death. Peter uses this way to honor him by attending a game.
I relate a lot to this issue given my father is a baseball fan as well and seeing the exact same events happen with the Chicago Cubs (always getting slaughtered or lose those close ones) and the words at the end being "maybe next year." became a reccuring theme (it still is). However, I looked beyond the teams presented in the story and more at the comparison of relationships between fathers and their sons. That was the heart of the issue for me and it hit right on the mark.
11.) To Have and To Hold (Sensational Spider-Man vol. 2 Annual #1) -
Writer: Matt Fraction, Pencils: Salvador Larroca
During Civil War, Pete and MJ are fugitives of the law. An agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. familiar with MJ has her cornered and feels he's got her where he wants the couple. So she begins to talk about her relationship with Peter. I consider this the true end of 616 Spider-Man and anything that comes after just whimsical adventures of a new universe that shares the same things. Better that than to even comprehend what truly happened.
This issue gets to the heart of why Pete and MJ are meant for one another. How one brings out the most in the other. There are little moments that I enjoy like MJ explaining to the agent of the mixtape Pete gave her. Of course then the whole reveal at the end as well.
Truthfully, this issue being so near One More Day makes the event sting so much more. It was as if Marvel wanted you to whole-heartedly hate OMD with this and another story coming out (another issue in the main series of Sensational with Peter meeting God and talking to Aunt May). If only this was the true end.
10.) The Death of Jean DeWolff (Spectacular Spider-Man vol. 1 #107-110) -
Writer: Peter David, Pencils: Rick Buckler
Loss is one of many recurring themes in Spider-Man books. Normally it's due to one tiny mistake on Peter's end that forever makes him feel guilty. Here not much the case, but the grief is of course. DeWolff was a respectable and highly resourceful ally/friend of Spider-Man's, and just how much Pete viewed the loss of her is covered with great detail. As is the first sign that something is slightly mentally off with Pete (he's wearing the alien costume at this time period) with his harsher view. In contrast, we have Daredevil who also loses someone and is more fully with abiding by the law.
What truly makes this crossover is the friendship forged between the two heroes and the lengths of justice. Should Spider-Man a known vigilante, let a lynch mob have their way with the killer of his friend? Or save him knowing he'll be freed due to the fact the Sin-Eater is mentally imbalanced? It's a very adult theme that became the hallmark for Peter David's legendary run on Spectacular Spider-Man.
9.) Ultimate Clone Saga (Ultimate Spider-Man #97-105) -
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencils: Mark Bagley
Like I said before there's a cache of great Ultimate Spider-Man stories. To pick one over the other is hard. Three of them spring to my mind and now there's this one. This story got it all. Epic fights. Plot twists within twists. Special guest stars. Memorable defining moments for certain characters.
Until his demise, of all the events that happened throughout Ultimate Spider-Man, this was the one that really put Ultimate Peter through the ringer. He finds out early on that someone has used his DNA to create a clone and just let it run loose in New York. And then there are the rest of the mental hits that keep coming. Long thought dead people suddenly show up alive again, secret Identities are discovered, Aunt May has a stroke, and the evil behind it all? I mean come on that's the real reason why it's another favorite of mine. Yes, I know said villain suddenly becomes Magneto-lite. Does that matter to me? NO! It's still an awesome and well thought out reveal and the way said villain keeps twisting the knife into Peter makes the beatdown all the more greater.
There's a lot of good in this. I think the one moment or two that stand out for me is #1 at the end when Ultimate Nick Fury gives Peter his due, telling him that he's more than he ever could have expected from. That Peter is something special. The other comes also near the end of the story with "Richard" Parker talking to Susan Storm about Peter and to be there for him. It's a really touching and tragic moment. The even sweeter bit in this story is the Norman Osborn joke at the end.
8.) Nothing Stops the Juggernaut (Amazing Spider-Man #229-230) -
Writer: Roger Stern, Pencils: John Romita, Jr.
The underdog vs. the titan theme has been prevalent in a lot of Spidey books since the original (him vs. Firelord, the Tri-Sentinel, Morlun, Hulk, and the sequel rounds against Juggernaut instantly spring to mind), but the first is still the best. The Juggernaut is an unstoppable force and that's proven to task in this story. Spidey throws everything at him and Jugs simply won't stay down.
What's so good is again Peter's will to continue on. To never stop even though the being he's facing is literally the impossible task. The issues show what truly it is to be a hero and that against all odds there's always hope and always a way to win.
7.) The Master Planner Saga (Amazing Spider-Man #31-33) -
Writer: Stan Lee, Pencils: Steve Ditko
Often imitated a lot much like other recurring themes, the original theme of Pete's unbreakable will of never giving up was first showcased in this tale as he goes up against the Master Planner (Doctor Octopus) while struggling to save his Aunt May's life. In the end he's trapped in the wreckage of Ock's as water seeps in to drown him. We all know the count from there, as Spidey refuses to surrender and breaks free to save his sickly Aunt.
It's a crowning moment that always gets you every-time you read it aided greatly by the one and only Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Out of all their run together or all of Stan's, this moment is pretty much my favorite amongst them. It gets you every-time you read it and no matter how many times it's still so powerful. This is probably one, if not THE greatest defining moment of Pete's wall-crawling career.
So that's entries 18-7 for you. Only six spots left. WHO SHALL REIGN AS MY #1?! Will Kraven have one final hunt for the #1? Will a certain annual featuring Spidey get married be involved? Will Zechs be utterly predictable and pathetic in having the Hobgoblin rule?! How many stories will one Spider-Man writer hog in the final six spots? Or will Zechs totally surprise you with a story you will never see coming from him?! Only one way to find out... Tune in next time as Zechs concludes his Top 26 Spider-Man Stories of All Time!!
Written or Contributed by: Zechs