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Friday January 11, 2013

A list of the worst-ever storyline in Spider-Man's comic world

Being a Spider-Man fan can be detrimental to your sanity, as this list of worst-ever Spidey moments proves.

WITH great power comes great responsibility. While this saying has shaped the life and deeds of one of comics’ most popular icons, it certainly does not seem to apply to his writers.Although the world did not end in 2012, it certainly felt like it to most Spider-Man fans after the perennial underdog hero, Peter Parker, “died” in a final battle with himself (!) in The Amazing Spider-Man #700.

The final instalment of the 50-year-old Amazing Spider-Man title had Peter and arch-nemesis Doctor Octopus caught in a Face/Off scenario, with the two swapping minds. Obviously Doc Ock got the better deal – youth, exciting memories and a posse of gals (Aunt May included!) – while Peter got trapped in his arch-nemesis’ degenerating body with mere hours to live.

Caught in the ultimate death trap and facing a fate that is worse than death, these moments usually end with the hero emerging triumphant, but for once, that was not the case for Peter. While Peter succeeds in staging a final showdown with Doc Ock, he fails to get his body back, and in the end, all he can do is let his memories overwhelm his foe to such an extent that his body’s new occupant vows to become a better, “Superior” Spider-Man.

“Superior” usually denotes something of better quality, but in this case, a villain with a bowl haircut who spent his career being Spidey’s punching bag is surely an inferior substitute.

I am not buying Peter’s “death”, though. As Superman, Batman, Captain America, Bucky (twice!), Johnny Storm, Jean Grey, Jason Todd, Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen, Barry Allen and Wonder Woman have shown, death is never a permanent state in comics. Well, unless you are Uncle Ben or Bruce Wayne’s parents.

Reinforcing my belief that Peter is merely on sabbatical are potential escape clauses in terms of the brief telepathic exchange moment with the Lizard (ASM #699), or another potential intervention by Mephisto looking to enforce the conditions of his “One More Day” spell.

All the same, Peter Parker’s knack of winning while still losing is a persistent outcome in most key Spidey milestones, and what numbs fans to this latest fiasco is the fact that there have been Spidey cop-outs in the past that were just as bad or even worse than this idiotic farce.

Here are 10 of the lowest, a list that makes us wonder why we continue supporting Marvel’s “creative” direction for the Spidey-verse:

1) The Parker Parent Trap

(Amazing Spider-Man #386-#388)

To commemorate Spidey’s 30th anniversary (Amazing Spider-Man #365 in 1992), the creative team thought it would be cool to reunite Peter with his long-presumed-dead superspy parents, Richard and Mary Parker. The plot later took a drastic turn by revealing that his “parents” were actually killer cyborgs used by the Chameleon (with strings pulled by the Green Goblin) to infiltrate Peter’s life. Until today, I still can’t understand why after all that trouble, the Chameleon still did not find out Peter’s secret identity!

2) The Osborne-Stacy Quickie

(Amazing Spider-Man #509-#514)

The death of Gwen Stacy is a defining moment in the Spider-Man mythos and comic literature, as it offered a turning point in terms of issues like relationships and vengeance. However, trust Marvel (or in this case, J. Michael Straczynski) to complicate things by adding a new, unnecessary dimension to that story, in which Gwen and Norman Osborn – yes, the same Green Goblin who dropped her to her death – supposedly had a tryst before her death.

Adding insult to injury was the revelation that she then gave birth to genetically enhanced twins, who matured at an accelerated rate and were duped by Osborn into believing that Peter was really responsible for their mother’s death.

3) The Spider Clone Groan

(Various Spider-Man titles from 1994-96)

Initially, the appearance of a Peter Parker lookalike offered twice the excitement, but the novelty quickly wore off with the appearance of more Peter-permutations, and the rewriting of Spidey mythos via the cloning/resurrections of the Jackal, Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn! But the worst was yet to come …

4) Reilly Is Spidey? Really?

(Spectacular Spider-Man #226)

The Clone Saga reached its lowest point here, as Marvel revealed that Ben Reilly was the “real” Peter Parker – and in the process, insults the intelligence of fans who have followed Spidey’s adventures for two decades! Despite the reinstatement of Peter as the real deal a few months later (Spider-Man #75), present efforts to elevate Ben Reilly’s character just add to the distrust that we Spidey fans will always harbour towards him.

5) One Day Too Far

(Amazing Spider-Man #544-#545, Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man #24, and Sensational Spider-Man #41)

During Civil War, Peter revealed his real identity to the world, which led to his enemies going after his loved ones, and Aunt May getting shot. In the One More Day (OMD) storyline, a desperate Peter and Mary Jane struck a deal with the demon Mephisto, who cast a spell that saved Aunt May’s life and erased Peter’s secret identity from everyone’s memory, but at the cost of the Parkers’ marriage.

As a result, the subsequent five years of Spider-Man stories have been thrown into doubt because we can’t be sure whether Spidey is still caught up in some Mephisto-conjured environment! Also, abruptly dissolving the Parkers’ matrimonial bonds was a move that made a mockery of MJ’s past contributions to Peter’s adventures; and at the same time, overstated the importance of Aunt May’s role in his life.

6) One Feeble Moment

(Amazing Spider-Man #638-#641)

Three years after OMD, Joe Quesada (Marvel’s then editor-in-chief) came up with the One Moment In Time (OMIT) storyline, which was a feeble attempt to explain why the Parkers were not married, why Aunt May was still alive, how OMD fit into Marvel continuity, and in the process, showed exactly how Mephisto managed to “assist” the Parkers (downplaying the demon’s role significantly). While the art here was great, it turned out to be just a smokescreen, one story arc that is definitely worth OMIT-ting from your must-read list!

8) A Messy Gathering

(Sensational Spider-Man #32-#33, Amazing Spider-Man #440-#441, Spider-Man #97-#98, and Spectacular Spider-Man #262-#263)

The term “anti-climactic” does not even begin to sum up the disappointing interconnecting Gathering Of Five and Final Chapter story arcs, as Howard Mackie and John Byrne delivered a sloppy clean-up job to facilitate the renumbering of the Spidey titles.

The two directionless story arcs evoked the wrath of Spidey fans by “resurrecting” Aunt May with the excuse that the one who died (in Amazing Spider-Man #400) was actually a genetically-altered actress hired by Norman Osborn. Additionally, the much-hyped return of the Parkers’ baby daughter did even not materialise.

8) The “Death” of Mary Jane

(Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 2 #13-#29)

For months, the subplot of MJ being stalked provided interesting reading… until she was supposedly killed in an airplane explosion and Spidey travelled to Latveria to investigate! The “crime of passion” angle took a ridiculous twist when the stalker was later revealed to be an unnamed mutant telepath who abducted MJ as part of a plan to take over Spidey!

9) Spidey does wheelies!

(Amazing Spider-Man #130)

What were they thinking? Spider-Man took a break from web-slinging to endorse a Spidermobile (complete with built in web-shooters!) for Corona Motors (his rationale was the usual overdue rent scenario), despite the fact that he couldn’t drive! While the buggy did help against Hammerhead and his goons, it proved to be a liability against Mysterio and the Terrible Tinkerer. And that’s not all. While Spidey was busy mucking around with his new wheels ...

10) May and Ock forever?

(Amazing Spider-Man #131)

… Aunt May was getting married to Doctor Octopus! After learning that she inherited a revolutionary atomic processing plant, Doc Ock used his charms to woo Aunt May. With Spidey and Hammerhead playing the wedding crashers’ role to perfection. May’s loss turned out to be everyone else’s gain. Ironically, with the ongoing Doc Ock-is-Peter situation, one wonders how that will impact May’s marriage and MJ’s status.

Does Dan Slott, the writer behind Peter’s “death”, even understand the implications of what he has wrought? Or is there another saga in the offing to capitalise on this tangled situation? Only time will tell.

> Reference sources courtesy of Earth 638 (2nd Floor, Kelana Mall, Jalan SS6/12, Petaling Jaya. Tel: 03-7804 8380. Email: earth638@yahoo.com)

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