Amazing Spider-man – A Primer for the Relaunch
Amazing Spider-man #1 hits comic book store shelves this week, rebooting the series… sort of (but not really). See, Marvel likes to relaunch comics and start over at #1 because casual fans will buy it (it’s more accessible than buying issue #732, thinking you have to buy 731 issues to know what’s going on), and it gives them an excuse to put out an issue with about half a dozen variant covers (only $5 each for the same comic with a different cover! $10+ if the guy at the comic store is a dick and is immediately charging extra for variants). The Amazing Spider-man comic re-launches just in time to capitalize on the theatrical release of The Amazing Spider-man 2, but it’s really not a true reboot or relaunch at all… it begins with the aftermath of Superior Spider-man, a title that launched to deal with the aftermath of Amazing Spider-man #700. Confused? Of course you are. How anyone manages to get into comics is beyond me. So, to try and help you out, allow me to give you my sarcasm-filled recap of the highs and lows of the last 50 years of Spider-man.
NOTE: This should go without saying, but there is going to be a lot of spoilers. A LOT. That’s the idea. I’m about to save you from having to read like 800 or so issues of comic books.
Amazing Fantasy #15 – Peter Parker gets bullied by Flash Thompson, bit by a radioactive spider, makes a costume and web-shooters, wins a pro wrestling match, becomes an entertainer on TV, lets a thief get away, finds out that thief killed his Uncle Ben, and decides to use his powers only for good, all in only 20 pages. These days, that would be a 20 issue story arc.
Amazing Spider-man #1-#10 – Peter gets sidetracked with the whole “using his powers for good” thing when he tries to beat up the Fantastic Four so that they’d let him join their group, tries to steal Johnny Storm’s girlfriend, and ignores a police gunfight so he can get some medicine for Aunt May. Oh, and he beats up the Lizard, Doctor Octopus, the Chameleon, The Vulture (twice), Sandman, and Electro. They didn’t waste much time getting all of his most important villains established.
Amazing Spider-man #31 – Peter meets Gwen Stacy. Sorry about your luck, Gwen.
Amazing Spider-man #50 – Peter quits being Spider-man for what would be the first of about a dozen or so times. In the same issue he also becomes Spider-man again. Seriously, they’d stretch that to 30 issues now.
Amazing Spider-man #90 – Captain Stacy (Gwen’s dad) dies, and in his dying moments, asks Peter to take care of Gwen. You bet on the wrong pony, cap’n!
Amazing Spider-man #100-#102 – Spider-man grows 6 arms and fights a vampire. Seriously, they’ve retconned or ignored like half the things that ever happened to Spider-man (you’ll see) and THIS wasn’t one of them?!
Amazing Spider-man #121-#122 – Gwen Stacy is killed by the Green Goblin. Spider-man really shit the bed on that one. Then the Green Goblin “dies” while trying to kill Spider-man. “Dies” is in quotes because Spider-man bad guys never stay dead.
Amazing Spider-man #129 – The first appearance of the Punisher. This has nothing to do with anything… the Punisher is just awesome.
Amazing Spider-man #136 – Harry Osborn, son of Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, becomes the second Green Goblin. And people bitched about the symbiotes.
Amazing Spider-man #137-#237 – 100 issues of a whole lot of nothing important (well that’s not entirely true, Peter and Mary Jane start dating at some point, and… I don’t know, probably a bunch of B-listers get introduced).
Amazing Spider-man #238 – The first appearance of Hobgoblin. Once again, “and people bitched about the symbiotes.”
Amazing Spider-man #252 – The first appearance of Spider-man’s new black suit, which he picked up during the Secret Wars series. You see, his costume got ripped, and so he found this alien machine that he thought was a costume maker, and this goop spread all over him and turned into a black Spider-man suit, because he was thinking about Spider-woman’s black suit. Yep, he wanted to dress more like a woman. Pretty progressive stuff for the 80’s…
Web of Spider-man #1 – Another Spider-man series launches (there was also “Spectacular Spider-man” already running at the same time) with Spider-man removing the symbiote by using a church bell. It works, but he misses the black suit so he gets a new one made and wears it for a while until Mary Jane tells him to stop (he can lift a car but he can’t stand up to a girl).
Amazing Spider-man Annual #21 – Peter and Mary Jane get married! Little did whoever wrote this know, they’d retcon it about 250 issues later. Oh well.
Amazing Spider-man #293-294 and crossovers – Kraven’s Last Hunt. The best Spider-man story ever, and anyone who says differently is so very wrong. Kraven “kills” Spider-man (but not really, because, then what would they sell? More Iron Fist and Moon Knight comics? I think not), then wears his costume to prove he’d be better as Spider-man, then kills himself. I don’t think that sells it, but it’s better than it sounds.
Amazing Spider-man #300 – The first appearance of Venom. We find out that the symbiote bonded with Eddie Brock, who was at the church when Spider-man removed it from himself. Venom knows that Peter is Spider-man (they were pretty close, what with the symbiote being inside him and all) and Eddie Brock hates Peter Parker because a picture he took proved a story he wrote wrong. This, by the way, had very little setup, Eddie Brock was introduced in like 2 issues, and we’re just supposed to pretend that this happened in the earlier issues and they knew they were going to do this all along.
Amazing Spider-man #301-#393 – Spider-man fights Venom like 3 or 4 more times. Carnage is introduced, because if everyone loves Venom, why wouldn’t they love a red version too? And not much else happens. Which you’d think would be bad, except it’s about to get a whole lot worse…
Amazing Spider-man #394-#418 and crossovers – The Clone Saga! It turns out there’s a clone of Peter! OR, is Peter the clone? Who knows, because the story is an incoherent mess of plot holes and dragged-on storylines to sell more issues (there were 5 different Spider-man books at this point, and you had to buy each one to keep up with the story, which lasted like 2 years… I’m glad Marvel doesn’t do that anymore. I SAID I’M GLAD YOU DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE, MARVEL! DON’T DO IT AGAIN!)
Amazing Spider-man #419-#441 – Norman Osborn reappears, back from the dead. Or he wasn’t ever really dead. Whatever.
Amazing Spider-man #1-58 – Wait what? Yeah, that’s right, they relaunched Spider-man once before. It didn’t really take though because fans were pissed off, so they started putting two numbers on each comic: the new number, and what would be the old number (so for example, #58 also had #499 on it in smaller print) which led to…
Amazing Spider-man #500 – The fans get what they want, and the original numbering returns.
Amazing Spider-man #525-#528 and crossovers – “The Other”. Spider-man dies, and then is reborn in a cocoon or something, and develops night vision and spikes that come out of his arms. This is never brought up again. Seriously. He died and was reborn as some sort of Spider-Wolverine combo, and no one ever mentioned it again.
Amazing Spider-man #529-#538 – Civil War! Spider-man unmasks because of the Super Hero Registration Act (like gun control for people), then becomes a traitor and fights for Captain America’s side (Cap opposes the registration act, even though everyone knows who he is already. He’s just that selfless). Everyone always wondered: what would happen if Spider-man was unmasked and all of his enemies knew who he was? What would happen to his personal life? What would happen to his family? How long would we have to wait to find out? About 1 issue.
Amazing Spider-man #539-#543 – Back in Black. Aunt May gets shot by a sniper at the end of the Civil War arc (hired by The Kingpin) who was trying to shoot Peter Parker. Spider-man puts the black costume on again because now he’s mad (and mad Spider-man wears black). He kicks the ever-lovin’ shit out of the Kingpin, but it doesn’t matter because everyone knows who Spider-man is. EVERYONE.
Amazing Spider-man #544-545 and crossovers – One More Day. Aunt May is dying (sniper bullet, remember?) and so he makes a deal with the devil (well, Mephisto, who isn’t the devil, he lives in hell and controls it… but not the devil), and trades his and Mary Jane’s love (yep, you can trade “love” with the devil, oops, not the devil, Mephisto) for Aunt May’s life and the return of his secret identity (no one on Earth will know Peter is Spider-man). Later on we find out that second part was Doctor Strange’s doing. Somehow. Whatever. The point is that Mary Jane and Peter aren’t married anymore. In fact they were NEVER married (just forget that ever happened). This gets addressed in Amazing Spider-man #638-#641. So if you are going to purchase the new Spider-man comics thinking that Peter and Mary Jane are a thing… they’re not.
Amazing Spider-man #574 – Flash Thompson’s legs make their final appearance.
Amazing Spider-man #600 – Aunt May gets married to J. Jonah Jameson Sr. Yeah, JJJ’s dad. Oh and J. Jonah Jameson is mayor by now I think. I forget. He becomes mayor of New York though around this time.
Amazing Spider-man #612-637 – The Gauntlet, Shed, and Grim Hunt. SO, here’s the short version of this: The Kraven family are pissed at what happened way back in Amazing Spider-man #294. Seriously, get over it, that was over 300 issues ago. Anyway, they put Spider-man through a battery of tests, setting up fights with pretty much every A-lister he’s ever fought (and then some), including a fight with Lizard where the Lizard eats his own son. He ate his SON. Who’s the most bad ass Spidey villain of all time? THAT guy. SO, all of this is designed to wear down Spidey so that he can be hunted by the other Kraven family members, so that they can use his blood to resurrect their patriarch, the original Kraven the Hunter (because that’s just how it works). They get the wrong Spider-man (Scarlet Spider, clone of Peter from the Clone Saga mess a couple hundred issues ago), the resurrected Kraven isn’t happy, Spider-man somehow wins, I forget how this ended.
Amazing Spider-man #654 – Eugene “Flash” Thompson (now a pretty cruel nickname for a guy with no legs) becomes “Agent” Venom, a government controlled super-solider using the Venom symbiote. Previously Scorpion was Venom (he can be both! Why not!?). What happened to Eddie Brock being Venom? Well, he lost Venom and got cancer and then became Anti-Venom (a white Venom), and then something happened to that and now he’s a different symbiote (Toxin). Seriously, they’re going to release Spider-man #1 again and you’re supposed to already know all of this shit!
Amazing Spider-man #682-#687 – Ends of the Earth. Doctor Octopus is dying from getting beat up too much. Yeah, that’s what they said. SO, as his final legacy, he says he’s going to save the Earth. Oh, except he’s actually going to speed up global warming, and kill a lot of people. Like, all of them. That’ll make everyone remember him! Anyway, he gets stopped, and now he has no legacy. OR does he…
Amazing Spider-man #700 – It’s revealed that Doc Ock was able to switch his consciousness with Peter Parker’s. Peter is now in Otto Octavius’ dying body, and Octavius has a brand new body (that’s died a few times already so it’s pretty broken in). Peter manages to take control of his own mind for one final moment, to show Doctor Octopus why he does what he does. Otto is moved (or something) and decides he will now use his second chance for good, becoming an even better version of Spider-man, a…
Superior Spider-man #1-#31 – SUPERIOR Spider-man! Doctor Octopus, now occupying Peter’s body and mind, acts like Spider-man if Spider-man were more morally ambiguous. He kills a super-villain (Massacre), beats the shit out of two D-listers because they were bothering him, gives himself some metal octopus, er… spider arms, and even gets some minions for a while to do his bidding! He uses spider-bots to patrol the city, pisses off the Avengers, gets the Black Cat arrested (because he didn’t know that Peter and her had a thing… and I guess neither did you possibly. Spidey was nailin’ the Black Cat for a while. There), gets his doctorate (he was pissed that Peter didn’t have it before, knowing he was often outsmarted by nothing more than a grad student) and basically is a vain prick whose only motivation is to be a better Spider-man than the original. Plus he starts dating a midget! Oh, and during all of this, Peter’s consciousness is still alive in his body, wrestling for control. After Green Goblin proves to Octavius that he’s NOT the Superior Spider-man by outsmarting him and nearly tearing NYC apart, he removes his own consciousness from his body and gives it back to Peter so that he can save New York from the Green Goblin and about 10 other Goblins including Hobgoblin, a guy that used to be a Hobgoblin knockoff, Menace (Harry Osborn’s ex-girlfriend Lily, because Harry can’t have nice things when his dad’s a dick), and a bunch of other people that Norman Osborn turned into Goblins. OH, and Spider-man 2099 comes from the future to eventually help. No one liked the 2099 series. No one. Anyway, now Peter is back in his own body, and is going to have to clean up the mess left by Octavius. Which brings us to…
Amazing Spider-man #1 (for the third time) – I haven’t read it as of writing this, but it’s assumed that he’ll be sorting some shit out. Some things he’s aware of (like the fact that a “little person” is now in love with him, but he has no feelings for her, that was all Otto) and some things he’s not (like he doesn’t know he quit the Avengers, AND he doesn’t know he got Black Cat arrested, which is going to piss her off more than it would if she knew she was basically a complete ripoff of Catwoman). Should make for a fun few early story arcs, but if you had no idea what happened in about the last year and a half, you’ll likely be pretty lost for the next year (give or take). I kind of feel sorry for everyone who buys Spider-man #1 having never picked up a comic in their life. Unless they read this first. Then I just feel sorry that they spent like 30 minutes reading my cherry-picked interpretation of the history of a fictional character just so they could understand a comic book they bought.