The Best of Spider-Man Countdown #50-46

Posted by SMReviews Team 21 June 2012



To celebrate 50 years of great Spider-Man comics, we at Spider-Man Reviews have decided to do the most obvious thing in the world: a countdown of the fifty best Spider-Man stories.


There's six of us, so it's going to be an eclectic list. We'll start with the five least likely to be on the list after another few years of Spider-Man comics. Though we're still happy to recommend them.

50. To Become An Avenger!  (ASM Annual #3)

Creative Team: Stan Lee (Writer), John Romita Sr (Artist), Mike Esposito (Inker)

What Happened: Looking to expand their roster, the Avengers invite Spider-Man to join their ranks.  All Spidey has to do to prove himself is to pass one test: he has to bring in the Hulk. This is easier said than done, until Spider-Man learns something that makes him question whether the task is even worth it.

Why It's In The Top 50: Spiderfan001 explains why this team-up is one of his favorite Spider-Man stories.
Spider-Man's relationship with the Avengers got off to a rocky start in this classic Lee/Romita tale. Like any good Spidey story, it says a lot about Peter Parker and the human condition.  Spider-Man's dealings with the Avengers are not unlike the difficulties we all face when first meeting our peers or a new group of people.  Neither Spider-Man nor the Avengers ever come to trust one another, and this lack of trust ensures that no one at the end of this story comes out a winner.  This story established Spider-Man as the premiere outsider superhero... for a while anyway.      

Related Stories: Spider-Man once again flirts with becoming an Avenger in both Avengers #236 and Avengers #314-318.  He is given reserve member status in Avengers #329 and finally becomes a full fledged member of the team in New Avengers Vol.1 #1.


Did you know?  Although this issue is the first time they formally meet, Spider-Man's first encounter with the Avengers actually occurs in Avengers #11.  The Avengers fight an evil Spider-Man robot for the majority of the issue, before the real Spider-Man shows up, takes care of the robot himself, and leaves before any of the Avengers can say a word to him! 


Creative Team: Roger Stern (Plotter/ Scripter- Amazing Spider-Man #249-250), John Romita Jr (Penciller), Ron Frenz (Penciller), Tom Defalco (Script- Amazing Spider-Man #251), Dan Green (Inker), Klaus Janson (Inker)

What Happened: The Hobgoblin's back. First, he used Osborn's journals to make himself stronger. Now, he's blackmailing some of the most powerful people in New York, including Harry Osborn and J Jonah Jameson with some old secrets. To deal with him and the loss of his spider-sense, Spider-Man gets some help from the Black Cat and the Kingpin?

Why It's In The Top 50: Mister Mets explains.
Roger Stern's run of Amazing Spider-Man was excellent, and you're going to see it again on the list. The Hobgoblin saga was a particular high point, and this was the strongest arc, elevated by the effect all these old secrets on the supporting cast, as well as Hogoblin's recent upgrades.

Well, at the time, I was trying to avoid using the same villains that Spider-Man had fought a dozen times before. The Vulture was really the only major established Spider-Man villain that I used a lot. And that was mainly because I thought of the Vulture as the perfect enemy for Spider-Man. You can have your Doctor Octopus and your Kraven the Hunter. Give me the Vulture anytime. It’s old age and sneakiness versus youth and determination. Where was I? Oh yeah… 
We’d seen Spider-Man fight Doctor Octopus over and over, and ’way too often it was the same story. I wanted to have Spider-Man fight guys that he couldn’t beat in his sleep. That’s why, early on, I had him facing down Marvel villains who weren’t traditional Spider-Man foes. What does Spider-Man do when faced with, say, the Juggernaut, who is basically unstoppable? How does Spider-Man survive fighting Nitro, a guy who can blow himself up again and again? 
And I really wanted to introduce some new Spider-Man villains. But a lot of the readers wanted to see the old villains return, even if it was for the umpti-umpth time. And at the time, the Green Goblin – the real Green Goblin – was dead. Harry Osborn was never really the Green Goblin to me. Harry’d had a drug-induced psychotic episode and just thought he was the Goblin. He didn’t have the Goblin’s great strength. (That, alas, came later. Poor Harry.) Harry’s shrink, Bart Hamilton, was just another pretender. And I never considered a resurrection. 
The Hobgoblin was my solution to the Goblin question. I’d introduce a new villain who had stolen some the Goblin’s gear and concocted a new identity. As with the Green Goblin, neither Spider-Man nor the readers would know who he really was. And unlike the Goblin, he wouldn’t be clinically insane. The Hobgoblin was going to be as coldly calculating as I could make him.


Related Stories: This story was part of Roger Stern's Hobgoblin saga. The Hobgoblin was introduced in Amazing Spider-Man #238-239 and had a rematch with Spidey in Amazing Spider-Man #244-245. He gained new abilities in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #85. The Hobgoblin's battle van resurfaced in Amazing Spider-Man #254, but the mystery of the Hobgoblin was not solved until the Hobgoblin Lives mini-series over a decade later.


Creative Team: Dan Slott (Writer), Ty Templeton (Artist), Nelson Palmer, Tom Palmer, Greg Adams, Drew Geraci (Inkers), 

What Happened: It's a series of five team-ups between Spider-Man and the Human Torch. In the Lee/ Ditko days, they spar with Doctor Doom, and Spider-Man has to save Johnny' s life in a way that's going to make J Jonah Jameson very happy. In the Lee/ Romita days, they swap places for a day as Spider-Man joins most of the Fantastic Four on an interdimensional mission, while Johnny Storm teams up with Captain Stacy to stop a drug-dealing Kraven the Hunter. That is followed by the untold tale of Peter Parker's internship with Reed Richards, while he's still mourning Gwen Stacy. Then an alien costume clad Spider-Man has to prevent the the Black Cat and a lovesick Human Torch from stealing a Wakandan heirloom. And it all leads to a hostage crisis which changes their status quo forever.

Why It's In The Top 50: Mister Mets praises the humor and the pure fun of the mini-series.
Dan Slott is a very funny man. These may just be the funniest Spider-Man comics ever, and it's amongst the most enjoyable. In this mini series, Slott and Templeton also manage the difficult task of telling untold tales that are better than most stories from the era.
There's so many great moments that make this story worth picking up, including a spot-on parody of the Hostess Cupcakes ads of the seventies, Paste Pot Pete's decision to change his name, the Human Torch helping police get a confession from a drug dealer (makes me laugh just thinking about how he did it), and a final dinner party which changes the status quo forever in a really good way. But my favorite scenes involve Spider-Man meeting Franklin Richards. And in case you argue that this is really a collection of five stories rather than one, I'll argue that these are five insanely fun stories, and the stories all serve to establish Peter Parker's relationship with the Human Torch, and the Fantastic Four, crucial for the final sequence. 


Spiderfan001 explains why this is one of the definitive Spider-Man/Human Torch team ups:


This story put current Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott on every Spider-Man fan's radar.  His love and enthusiasm for the characters shines through on every page as he expertly shows how the friendship/rivalry between Spidey and the Torch has progressed over the years.  Combine that with gorgeous artwork by Ty Templeton, who manages to capture the flavour of every era this story tackles, and you have one of the best Spidey/Torch team ups of all time.


Dan Slott’s 2005 miniseries Spider-Man & The Human Torch is a love letter to the collective history of the two characters and the somewhat quirky friendship they have shared over the decades. Over the course of five issues, Slott recounts the major stories that both Peter Parker and Johnny Storm have been a part of, in the visual style of each era.  


The writing, tone, and art changes in every issue is based on when the specific flashback takes place. It’s extremely faithful to the stories that it retells, while adding some humor and pulling everything together over a larger narrative. 
Related Stories: Dan Slott wrote a few Spider-Man/ Fantastic Four team-ups in Amazing Spider-Man. In Amazing Spider-Man #590-591, they returned to an alternate reality briefly alluded to in this mini-series. Amazing Spider-Man #657 dealt with memories of the recently departed Human Torch, while #681-682 featured a new team-up following his resurrection.

Did you know?  Despite what we heard, artist Ty Templeton did not draw a gag cover for issue #3 which featured the Batmobile getting humped by the Spidermobile while Batman looked on in shame.



Creative Team: David Michelinie (Writer), Todd Mcfarlane (Artist)

What Happened: Returning home from promoting his new book, Peter discovers that Mary Jane has been kidnapped.  Convinced one of his enemies has discovered his secret identity, Peter scours the city for his missing wife. However, MJ is really being held captive by the wealthy Jonathan Caesar, who is obsessed with making the supermodel his bride.  As MJ tries to find a way to free herself, Caesar orders two assassins to eliminate Spider-Man: the shoulder-cannon wielding Stone, and Styx--a man whose touch can literally kill on contact.

Why It's In The Top 50: Jesse explains why this storyline mattered.
This is the first time after the marriage,that MJ disappears and Peter Parker goes ballistic. On top of the catch line for this story (Who kidnapped MJ?) being a poignant mystery, it goes on to show just how desperate and violent Spider-Man can become. Also it demonstrates just how incredibly important MJ has become to Peter. This is real life drama that could easily be imagined as opposed to many of the outlandish super villains Spidey often fights, this time the conflict is much more heartbreaking and personal. 
What the pros say: David Michelinie discussed the arc in Comics Creators on Spider-Man.
That story ticked a lot of people off. When I had Mary Jane get kidnapped, we got a ton of mail berating us for turning her into a victim and portraying her as a poor helpless woman. They didn't know that Mary Jane was eventually going to free herself and help Spider-Man. The whole point of the story was to show the readers that Mary Jane was a strong woman without hitting them over the head with it. We twisted the cliche. The story didn't turn out the wat people thought it would, but they never apologized for berating us.

Related Stories: Styx and Stone became recurring villains in David Michelinie's Amazing Spider-Man. In fact Styx would become the downfall of the Venom Symbiote for a temporary term. Jonathan Caesar would get his revenge in Amazing Spider-Man, # 314, and the subplot would reach its conclusion in Amazing Spider-Man #334-339, the "Return of the Sinister Six" saga.

 46. Peter Parker Must Die (Amazing Spider-Man Annual 36)

Creative Team: Marc Guggenheim (Writer), Pat Oliffe (Artist), Andy Lanning (Inker)

What Happened: 
This issue retells the story of Ben Reily, the much loved super hero known as the Scarlet Spider. Stories that no one ever knew about Ben Reilly are told here.


This issue takes place before Aunt May gets married to Jameson Sr. In this issue, Jameson Sr. prepares a surprise by gathering all Aunt May's relatives. Peter is obviously present at the party.


A new character called the Raptor appears in the issue, wanting to kill Peter, believing he is Ben Reilly. As it turns out, the Raptor only wants revenge on Ben Reilly for something he did in the past.

Why It's In The Top 50: Bulletproofsponge justifies the inclusion of this fairly recent annual on the list of the best Spider-Man stories ever.
I know that a number of people would stop to wonder why this issue is even in the top 50. However, I believe this issue should be here because it was a classic build up for stories that came after such as:
  1. The clone saga ( retold)
  1. Grim Hunt
  1. anything else involving Clone Saga characters like Kaine, the Jackal, doppelganger etc.
It was also special because it was the first ever appearance of Ben Reilly in comics since his death ( sort of ). It also marked a spectacular teaser for what many believed to be the return of the Scarlet Spider/ Ben Reilly. As we all know, Ben did not return to comics to the disappointment of some fans, but the Scarlet Spider did.
"I'm a fan of Annuals that kick-start new storylines," says writer Marc Guggenheim. "Those are always fun. This Annual falls squarely in that category, even though it can stand on its own, too. We're introducing several very important characters who will play a significant role in the big wedding that happens in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600." Well, then, what's the one big bombshell that provides the story with its powerful punch? "Who says it's just one thing?" queries Guggenheim in return. "How about reintroducing a character whose last name is 'Reilly'? How about the introduction of a new villain who will play a pivotal role in the upcoming series arc, 'Who Is Ben Reilly?'"  
But with all this "new" in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #36, should fans be concerned that their put-upon protagonist may not be able to carry the tonnage after the events of "American Son"? "Yeah, there's a lot of new here," Guggenheim admits. "But there's also a lot of old. Both are going to rock Peter's world for the entirety of the Annual and their repercussions are going to be felt in the regular series." As Spider-Man followers well know, Peter Parker's past too often finds a way of kicking him from behind. This Annual's new villain reputedly connects into former adventures of Pete's and in brutal ways that can hit him where it counts the most. "The original idea behind this Annual—and the arc that will spin-off from it—was that I wanted to come up with a villain who wanted to kill Peter Parker," explains Guggenheim. "In the past, Spidey villains only wanted to kill Spidey. Or back when, say, Norman Osborn knew Spidey's secret identity, they wanted to kill Peter because he was Spider-Man. The challenge I set for myself at the beginning was to see if I could come up with a villain who wanted to kill Peter Parker because he's Peter Parker. This villain doesn't even know that Peter is really Spider-Man. Which, of course, sucks for the villain. I mean, talk about bad luck...

Related Stories: Aunt May and J Jonah Jameson Sr got married in Amazing Spider-Man #600. Raptor followed Spider-Man to New York in Amazing Spider-Man #608-610.

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