We continue with our mega-awesome, super important, nothing-will-ever-be-the-same-again, 20 part Tangled-Cobwebs cross-over Crawlspace Event! We are getting down to the middle swath as we look at which episodes made our #30-21! So buckle up, dear reader, and get ready to say, “Yep, I would have put that there,” or “Walloping web snappers! What were they thinking?” when you see what made our list.
Alternate click-bait style opening: The Crawlspace made a top 50 list – and you won’t believe what they put for #30-21! (#22 will make you cry!)
Without further ado,
30. Amazing Spider-Man #655-656
Writer: Dan Slott Artist: Marcos Martin
“No One Dies”
The issue starts off with no words, just a series of images surrounding the funeral of Marla Jameson. Apparently, this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Peter, for when he goes home, he dreams very vividly of every person who ever died that had anything to do with him. Martin gives us some very surreal artwork and Slott really dives deep into continuity to give us EVERYONE who died who remotely had anything to do with Spider-Man. Even the Spider-Mobile made an appearance. This would have been a great primer to read before Clone Conspiracy. As a result, Peter decides that one his watch, no one would ever die again. At the same time, J. Jonah Jameson decides on zero tolerance for murderers. Then comes Massacre – a new villain to the Spider-Man mythos who has no concern for human life at all. The biggest problem Spidey must overcome is that he has no spider-sense to help him through this.
Historical significance – The “no one dies” theme continues to run through the comics long after this story arc and helps to define the character for the recent age. While the first story arc was emotional and interesting, the “no one dies” theme gets old fast. Despite that, these two stories are certainly worth the read. This is also, while not the first time, sets up the Spider-Man that creates new suits and webbing for different threats. This will be an occurrence that runs through Spider-Man up to current time. Slott brings back Massacre during Superior Spider-Man to help showcase the difference between Peter and Ock.
It was #19 on CBR’s Top 50, #12 on IGN’s Top 25, and part of the Spidertalk podcast’s Essentials series. If you are so inclined, you can read it on Marvel Unlimited.
29. Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows
Writer: Dan Slott Artist: Adam Kubert
When Marvel wanted to tease their newest mega event Secret Wars, few images got as much reaction and speculation (especially Spider-Man fans) as the Renew Your Vows one. When Marvel broke up the universe into Battle World, a married Spidey got his own section.
In this part of Battle World, a villain named Regent took to stealing powers from all super powered beings. Of course, Spidey manages to escape by using his brains to keep from being detected. The spin? In this universe, OMD never happened and Spidey is married to Mary Jane and has a little girl (Annie), who has inherited his powers. This mini-series focuses on where Peter’s responsibilities lie when he has a wife and child to factor in. That is the best part of this series. The worst part of the series is Regent, the villain stealing the powers. Eventually, with the help of MJ, who uses Regents power stealing armor, and Annie, unleashes her spider powers, Spider-Man is able to win the day and save this section of Battle World (or at least what is left of it). The question “at what cost?” is left as Regent was securing his powers to take on Doom, presumably for the good of all (an “ends justify the means” rationale). Luckily, Miles Morales has a several week old hamburger that will save everything later.
Historical significance? This series gave Spider-Man fans Peter Parker back, after months of Otto being Peter and Peter being what many considered a secondary character in his own book. This series launches the current Renew Your Vows series written by Gerry Conway, which takes the concept, but places it in a different world so that he can control the variables involved. But perhaps more significantly, this series shows that despite Marvel and Slott repeatedly saying that this will not happen, they know that this is a huge fan draw. Why else would they repeatedly tease MJ on covers and story lines? In one breath they say, “The marriage doesn’t work.” In the next breath they say, “Hey! Buy this book with MJ on the cover!” and “Hey! Spend your money on this book that shows a marriage working.”
Read it on Marvel Unlimited.
28. Ultimate Spider-Man #8-13
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Mark Bagley
Young Peter Parker (Ultimate version) meets up with the Kingpin. In Bendis’s usual snail’s pace, we begin to get the story of who the Kingpin is, what sort of hold he has on the city, and whatnot. The Enforcers are back as well. When we do get to see some action, it’s good stuff. The Kingpin is not to be trifled with and he doesn’t even work up a sweat taking care of Spidey. Plus, one of his goons is Electro, making matters worse. Spidey thought he was in a jam when he took on Hulk Goblin, but here he must use his brain to take on this foe. This comes in the form of security camera footage that paints Wilson Fisk as the bad guy he is. The arc ends with the identity reveal to Mary Jane, setting up a new dynamic not previously explored in the 616 young Peter Parker.
Historical significance? Well, this is an example of writing for the trade that became wildly popular around this time. We are seeing now that this may be having negative effects on individual issue sells, but the process changed the way we read comics. As for the story value, it is always fun to read a Kingpin story. Peter’s reveal to Mary Jane exemplifies the reason to have an Ultimate universe – to explore ideas that were not in the original run.
It was #30 and #25 on CBR’s list (they counted the epilogue with MJ as a seperate story) and part of the Spidertalk podcast’s Essentials series.
Bendis stories are best read in bulk, so head on over to your local public library (like Batman) where they most certainly have this in trade paperback form or to Marvel Unlimited and get started on this arc..
27. Spider-Man/ Human Torch
Writer: Dan Slott Artist: Ty Templeton
“I’m with Stupid”
This is a five issue mini-series exploring the relationship between Spidey and the Torch – two jokesters who have fun beating up the bad guys. This explores five various time periods of the two each giving us a seventies style one shot approach. The third one is by far the best, featuring the Spider-Mobile. Not only does it explain how it works, but Spider-Man also defeats the Red Ghost with Hostess fruit pies.
Historical significance? It is stories like these that made Slott the preferred writer to take over ASM back in the day. The jokes are funny and the story is well paced. There is not much here in relation to being a game changer for the Spider-Universe aside from filling in a few plot holes here and there, but that is part of this series’s charm. It is just good, funny stories to enjoy. A reminder of what comics used to be.
You can read this on Marvel Unlimited.
CBR ranks this as only #40 on their top 50 list and was #17 on IGN’s list. It also made Complex.xom’s list of 25 greatest Spider-Man stories.
Yet another Slott book to make our top 50. Hmmm, I wonder if this will make the CBR forums…
26. Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 #49-50
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Artist: John Romita, Jr
This two-part story starts off with Ezekiel explaining the mystic nature of Spider-Man’s powers, rather than the science based nature. We quickly leave that to have Peter return to try and patch things up with his wife. We have clear Parker luck going on with Peter going on direction to meet up with MJ and her going in another, only to miss each other and assume the worst as a result of it. However, when we finally get the two together, we get some real connection between Peter and MJ, a connection that readers at the time were sorely wanting after the failed attempt to write MJ out of the story by killing her and then rebooting the series. And the Jill Stacy story that followed – ugh! Issues like #50 is why Spider-Man fans were willing to forgive the mystic spider stories. JMS just GETS the Peter/MJ relationship. Of course we cannot have two characters just talking the whole time, so the conversation is frequently interrupted by an encounter with Dr. Doom. MJ and Peter’s dialogue reflect two people who, while struggling with a doomed marriage, love each other on a deep level. Peter has problems accepting MJ’s success as an actress. MJ has problems with Peter’s secret life. The problems, however, come from their own insecurities that the other no longer finds them interesting enough. I love MJ’s line, “You never introduce me to your friends,” when Captain America was around. On top of it, this isn’t silly angst like the Green Arrow show is built around. MJ understands why he keeps her at an arm’s distance. She is just expressing how it makes her feel. Since Peter is able to understand this, he makes this re-connection they need.
Historical significance? After Byrne “killed” MJ and the story line flopped majestically, JMS comes in and resets the marriage. He does not do so in a quick manner. There are several issues that build this up. It is these two issues that are the pay off for the arc. These two stories show how to write a superhero in a committed relationship (not just Spidey). It is, in my opinion, JMS at his best. Last set of ten seemed to have all the clone stories. This set seems to have all the Mary Jane stories. I think I won that straw pick!
It was part of the Spider-Talk podcast’s Essentials series.
Of course you can – and should – read this in Marvel Unlimited.
And speaking of stories that focus on the Peter/MJ connection…
25. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21
Writer: Jim Shooter and David Michelinie Artist: Paul Ryan
After a tussle with Electro (thank goodness it went down well, if not this story could have had disastrous consequences!), Peter head back to the apartment to help MJ move her stuff in. He worries that once they are married, he will not be able to treat MJ to the lifestyle she is getting accustomed to as a model. The night before the wedding MJ is surrounded by people trying to talk her out of marrying while Peter is surrounded by people trying to talk him into marrying. Both have a few doubts and a little cold feet, but despite Mary Jane being wooed by millionaire Bruce (Wayne?) and Peter getting trapped in flashback sequences, they get past their doubts and get their happy ending!
Historical Significance – What a spectacle this was! He got married in the comic book AND in the newspaper strip. There was a wedding dress actually designed by famous designer Willi Smith for Mary Jane. There was a real life ceremony at Shea Stadium for the event (officiated by Stan Lee, ‘natch). This got the public eye in a time when superheroes didn’t. Personal Significance – my father was not very keen on me spending money on comic books and wasting my time reading comics (ripples from Wertham’s impact on America), so I just liked Spidey from afar. Eventually I got into reading back issues and right about this time I started reading them as they came off the shelf. This is probably why I enjoy the married Spidey so much.
Marvel often likes to say, “This story changes everything!” and this one did. A married Spider-Man completely changed the landscape for Peter. Of course, all change comes with controversy and it soon became apparent that many writers just didn’t know what to do with a married hero. So, despite the fact that Mary Jane says that this is “forever” and J. Jonah Jameson tells Peter “Once you say ‘I do’ there’s no turning back,” eventually it gets turned back. However, even with the marriage undone, this story continues to resonate in the Spideyphile community. Just recently we got Renew Your Vows to reinstate this story, even if it is an alternate universe. This story also sparked the first ever two-part What If? story.
This clip shows an interview with Stan Lee, Spider-Man, and Mary Jane along with actual footage of the wedding at Shea Stadium. It’s worth it just to see the two seconds of the Hulk near the end. Plus you get that awful VHS quality that you’ve been missing with your fancy HDTV.
It was only #41 on CBR’s list, but #21 on IGN’s list. It made Complex.com’s list of the 25 greatest Spider-Man comics and Marvel readers’ list of the 75 greatest Marvel comics.
24. Amazing Spider-Man #400
Writer: J. M. DeMatteis and Stan Lee Artist: Mark Bagley
After scaring readers with a tombstone on the cover (Aunt May had been in a comma for 8 issues following the reveal that the Parkers were actually robots), readers are treated to a frantic Peter running through the hospital demanding to know how Aunt May is, only to find out… she’s fine! Whew! Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and cursed themselves for listening to the rumors they heard on the Compuserve message boards (it was THE Internet for us back then). So Peter and Aunt May get to spend some time together. Meanwhile, Ben Reilly is skulking outside the hospital crying that he will never get to spend time with her because he is only a clone. After a few pages of furry Jackal ranting and raving (he does that well), we get back to Peter and Aunt May. Aunt May, fresh out of her coma, says that Mary Jane is pregnant and so excited for her. We know now that Aunt May was full of it and that Mary Jane only had gas, but they play along, not wanting to disturb her which might put her back in the coma. Special bonus points to anyone who can find those old Crawlspace revisions to explain away the pregnancy with the new status quo. After some clone angst, flashbacks, and a little Judas Traveller, we get to the part that everyone remembers about this issue – the bombshell. Peter took May to the top of the Empire State Building (tourist top, not Spidey-top), she reveals that she’s known he was Spider-Man for a long time. Then she dies expectantly. Oh and Peter gets arrested for murder. Don’t worry, it was just clone story stuff.
This story is followed up with a Stan Lee story that takes place the morning after Uncle Ben’s death. It helps to lay down some groundwork for why Peter was so reluctant to tell May his secret.
Historical significance? Well much of the impact has been dulled with the reveal that this is an actress (that may not be the worst retcon ever, but certainly in the top ten), but the impact at the time was tremendous. It felt like a genuine reaction to the death of a close one (unlike the I’ll go to hell and make a bargain with the devil from stopping this from happening method we get later). Plus we got this weird white embossed headstone cover, one of many ‘90s cover gimmicks we gladly forked over extra cash for back in the day.
At the beginning of the issue, Stan Lee writes a blurb about how Spider-Man was a hard sell and then he flippantly tells the readers to hang around until #1000 comes – funny enough, it’s not that far from our current state once they adjust the numbering back (and you know they will sooner or later).
It was #12 on CBR’s list. It made Complex.com’s list of the 25 greatest Spider-Man comic and the Official Playstation Magazine/ Spiderfan.org’s list of the top Spider-Man stories.
You can read it on Marvel Unlimited, but you won’t get to see the white embossed headstone cover for some ‘90s nostalgia.
23. Spider-Man #75
Writer: Howard Mackie Artist: John Romita Jr.
“Revelations Part 4”
Peter rushes into the hospital, after being absent during the death/kidnapping of his baby. As soon as he gets in to see the doctor, the doctor injects him in the back of the neck with some drug. When he comes to he is standing in front of … NORMAN OSBORN! Back from the dead and all!
He even shows the glider scar to prove it (luckily for him (and us) the glider hit him higher than it appeared in the original!). He then drops the bomb (not pumpkin) that Ben is the clone and Peter is the original (you really needed to have been on the ‘90s to fully appreciate that revelation)! He then goes off to blow up the Daily Bugle because they are fake news.
While Peter and Norman beat the crap out of each other, Ben goes to collect all the pumpkin bombs that are going to bring the building down. He gets to the top of the building just in time to see that Norman has not one not two, but a whole plethora of spikes on his goblin glider – since the whole spike thing worked so well last time – and just before Peter is impaled, Ben jumps in front, taking one for the team.
Peter is thoroughly pissed off, having wanted to be the martyr himself, so he throws all the pumpkin bombs at the Goblin. As Norman goes down to his supposed death (spoiler alert- he’s not dead), he yells out “You have no idea what I’ve taken from you!” The joke is on Norman, however, since he thinks he’s taken their baby, but with the benefit of hindsight, we know that he only took away Mary Jane’s long bout with indigestion.
He takes Ben’s body to the rooftop. And this, folks, is where we get the clone flour.
When Peter goes back to Mary Jane, he tells her, “We’ll get through this and we’ll face it together as husband and wife.” MJ, realizing that her friend is a bit rattled, and maybe suffering from a concussion, doesn’t correct him that they are only in a committed relationship.
If you want to read this, you will NOT be able to catch it on Marvel Unlimited…yet. They add new stuff every week. Instead, you’ll have to shell out anywhere from a whopping $.18 to $3.00 to get it from your local comic book store back issue bin.
22. Amazing Spider-Man #267
Writer: Peter David Artist: Bob McLeod
“The Commuter Cometh!”
By far one of the funniest Spider-Man stories ever told, this one had Spider-Man track a thief out of the city and into the suburbs. There are no buildings to swing from, so a little girl offers Spidey a ride on her big wheel. Embarrassed, Spidey tries to use a tree like a building, but breaks a branch in a tree and gets stopped by a crime watch couple. The man tries to frisk Spidey while his wife tries to frisk Spidey – so he webs them both up. Parker luck is on full display until eventually Spidey has to chase the thief out of the suburbs in a taxi chase.
Historical significance? This is a very early Peter David story and showcases his humor, which is refreshing since his early run is dominated by the dark and brooding Spider-Man that dominates his PPTSSM run. It also demonstrates what David does best – point out the absurdities of the traditional storylines. It is often cited in people’s lists of funniest Spider-Man stories. This is during a time when Spider-Man was switching between his black suit and his red and blue suit (something he would do until Venom scares the living daylights out of Mary Jane). He takes a moment to explain to the Torch (and be effect, us the reader) what has happened with the suit.
The little girl on the big wheel is supposed to be Peter David’s own daughter Shana and the cab driver makes at least two additional appearances is Spectacular.
CBR ranked this at only #36, but IGN rated it #13. It made Complex.com’s top 25 Spider-Man stories and Superior Spider-Talk ranks it as one of their essentials.
21. Ultimate Spider-Man #156-160
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Mark Bagley
The Death of Spider-Man
After being mildly reprimanded by Captain America for not taking things seriously enough, Ultimate Spider-Man (Peter Parker version) goes on to fight the Hulk Goblin in order to save his family. Osborn feels like he has nothing to lose and goes all out to finish the job. However, the Goblin is gone by the time he gets there and instead he spies the Punisher who is about to take out Captain America. Peter, unable to stop his from shooting the gun. Swings in front of the bullet instead.
When he comes to, he is all alone, so he heads toward the hospital, but realizes that he can’t get patched up because everyone will know who he is. So he decides to go after all of his rogues gallery instead. He puts up a good fight, but not being at his best, he gets unmasked and is about to die when Aunt May shows up and shoots Electro, a move that takes out the other bad guys as well. Peter apologizes to May for being Spider-Man. She calls for an ambulance, but before it gets there, the Hulk Gobin shows up. Peter gets Aunt May to safety and in the ensuing fight, knocks the Goblin out with a big truck, but also dies in the process. It is a moment of full redemption of the character – he couldn’t save his Uncle Ben, but he did save his Aunt May.
Historical significance? Well, for starters, they killed Spider-Man! Of course it was the second universe Spider-Man, but it was still a very popular version of Peter Parker. This made mainstream news headlines. This is also what the Ultimate Universe was supposed to do – explore stories of beloved characters that cannot be explored in the 616 universe. Not only this, the death of Peter led to the creation of Miles Morales, a character of such significance that he made the leap from the Ultimate Universe to the 616 Universe.
It was #27 on CBR’s list, and part of the Spider-Talk podcast’s Essentials series. It made Marvel readers’ list of the 75 greatest Marvel comics. It was an honorable mention on Watchmojo’s list of the top ten Spider-Man comics you should read. And you can read it too – on Marvel Unlimited.
OK, leave your comments below in order to show if you approve or not of our choices. This list was put together when Mister Mets got all of the review staff and podcasters to send in their suggestions. He’s putting together another list – the reader’s picks. So if you want your voice to be heard, send him your top comics (you don’t have to name a whole 50 of them) to email@example.com.
On top of that homework, you also must read (or reread) these issues here. I’ll expect a four to five page report in two weeks – double space, Arial, 11 pt. font.
For bonus points, you can also list the comics you think will be in the top 20 of our picks. You won’t have to wait long to find out – just check out Tangled Webs where our story continues!
Coming late to the party? Check out: