Today we will be taking a look at “The Longest Hundred Yards” in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN vol. 1 #153 by Len Wein (may he rest in peace) and Ross Andru from 1976.
Writer Len Wein’s run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN took place in issues 151-180 and lasted from 1975 to 1978. Despite being a very prolific comic writer, most of his work on the title during this time wasn’t very good, leading to it often being overlooked when discussing the various eras of the character. While certainly not an awful run overall, most of Wein’s scripts tended to be really forgettable (‘Twas the Season from issues 165-166), boring (the Spider-Man/Nova crossover from issue 171) or just plain asinine (The Ghost that Haunted Octopus from issues 157-159).
Now to Mr. Wein’s credit, he was often quite good at character driven B-plots. Throughout the course of his stint, he introduced J. Jonah Jameson’s future wife Marla Madison, placed Harry Osborn and Liz Allen into a serious romantic relationship with one another, finally married off Ned Leeds and Betty Brant (who were engaged for what felt like a decade) and gave us some good character moments in Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s relationship. Unfortunately, Wein’s A-plots with villains and action often tended to be the weak links in his writing, making his run on AMAZING one of the more forgettable periods in Spidey’s history.
All that being said, if there was one issue where Wein absolutely nailed the villains, action and character drama, it would be The Longest Hundred Yards from #153. Easily one of my favorite single issues of Spider-Man, this story is a prime example on how to do a one-off correctly.
Our tale beings with our friendly neighborhood web-slinger helping a hapless cab driver from a couple of hoodlums.
But in typical Parker luck (and not the forced kind from Brand New Day)…
Now that is funny.
We then transition to the E.S.U. campus where the old Parker luck continues in the form of a very angry Mary Jane Watson.
Peter recently ditched Mary Jane at a party due to a Spider-Man related situation (which MJ is not aware of yet) and as you might imagine, she isn’t very happy with him. Peter attempts to talk things out with the fuming redhead, which ends up going like this:
That is also pretty funny. Len Wein perfectly encapsulates the humorous scenarios our main character so often finds himself in as both Spider-Man and Peter Parker.
Shortly afterward, Ned Leeds approaches our now-happy couple to enlist Peter’s help in interviewing a Dr. Bradley Bolton whom they later meet on the football field.
Dr. Bolton proceeds to inform our two reporters (as well as the readers) that he used to be big-time football player on those very grounds.
Without spoiling anything, these events are going to play a very important role later.
After recounting his failed football feats, Bolton is suddenly called away by what appears to be a very important message.
The message in question:
Uh-oh. This can only lead to bad things. Very bad things.
Later that night, Peter returns to E.S.U. for the homecoming dance where things quickly go astray for him yet again.
With that discussion out of the way, Peter must mend fences with Mary Jane once more.
Fearing for Bolton’s safety, Peter decides to ditch Mary Jane yet again and follow the good doctor. But as you might expect, Peter does it in perhaps the clumsiest manner imaginable.
How exactly will this exchange go down? Will Bolton get his daughter back? Will bullets start flying? Will the wall-crawler arrive in the nick of time to defuse the situation? Well I’m certainly not about to spoil the big game.
Everything about this issue hits all the right notes. The characterizations are great, the humor is very effective, the story is interesting and the action is immensely satisfying (especially the final punch). The ending is very sad, yet surprisingly poetic for the characters. If Len Wein wrote more issues such as this, his Spider-Man run would probably be much more commonly lauded and remembered than it is.
You can track down the individual issue, or go for the black and white version in Essential Spider-Man vol. 7.
After all, what better way for a comic fan to begin the New Year than with an issue about football?