The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.
Alright guys, I’m going to apologize for this one. The crucial component to The Spider-Man Challenge has been my cd-dvd rom copy of 40 Years of Amazing Spider-Man. To my knowledge, it had every issue of Amazing Spider-Man. SOMEHOW, FOR SOME REASON, this collection doesn’t have ANY OF THE ANNUALS. So until I figure out what to do about this, for right now I’m going to break out my copy of The Essential Spider-Man Volume 1 and give you an abbreviated, picture-less write-up. It won’t be pretty, but, hell, it’s friday.
Synopsis: The story opens on Doc Ock, whose robotic arms have been removed from him. He mentally commands them to come back to him and escapes from prison. Once he escapes, he gathers together five of Spider-Man’s deadliest foes: Kraven, Mysterio, Electro, Sandman, and The Vulture. Spider-Man swings home and sees that Aunt May is in the attic, crying and looking at Uncle Ben’s effects. He still feels guilty for his Uncle’s death and wishes that he was still a normal teenager. Almost immediately, Spider-Man falls off the building he’s perched on. Without warning, his powers have vanished!
Back at Evil HQ, The Sinister Six draw numbers to determine the order in which they take on Spider-Man. The next day, Aunt May worries about Peter, who doesn’t eat his breakfast and never makes it to school. She wonders if it has something to do with Betty Brant and she goes to The Bugle offices to talk to her. Unfortunately, she shows up at the same time Sandman and Electro decide to kidnap Betty Brant. J. Jonah Jameson watches the kidnapping and can’t believe his eyes.
Later, Betty and May are taken to the hideout and, I swear to god, Aunt May and Doc Ock flirt with each other (Who’d of thought their almost-marriage in the 70’s had some actual basis?!). Jonah tells Peter what happened and, soon enough, The Vulture arrives with a message for Spider-Man: The Sinister Six have captured Betty Brant and to meet at the Stark Electric Plant, building #4. Peter realizes that six of his old enemies have teamed up and wonders what to do without his powers. Jonah asks The Fantastic Four if they know where Spider-Man is. They contact The Avengers but Captain America answers and says he doesn’t even know Spider-Man. Johnny Storm sends a message to The X-Men, but Professor X dickishly ignores it.
Peter decides to go anyways and confronts Electro. Electro attacks him and Spider-Man realizes that he dodged his bolt…his powers are back! Spider-Man KOs him (In a beeyuutiful one page splash) and finds a card with his next location on it. Iron Man shows up and bitches at Spider-Man for fucking around on his property asks what’s going on. Spider-Man runs off to the next location, just outside of the old world’s fair grounds. Kraven attacks him with two leopards and Peter manages to snatch Kraven’s card and run off. The Human Torch tracks down Spider-Man and tells him that everyone’s looking for him. He offers to help him, but Spidey declines saying it’s personal. He shows up at the next location, only to find the X-Men. They attack him, but Spider-Man defeats them and discovers that they’re robots. Since it’s robots, it has to be Mysterio and Spider-Man takes him down. Unfortunately, Mysterio’s card falls into a fire, but Spider-Man is able to decipher what it says.
Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson talks to a spider, figuring it’ll pass his message along ala Ant Man and his ants. Stupid Jonah.
Spider-Man arrives at a trap set by the Sandman and he’s able to defeat him by asphyxiating him. He heads to his penultimate foe, The Vulture, and they fight until Vulture leads him to Doc Ock’s hideout, an old castle. Octavius mentally controls his arms to attack him until Spider-Man falls into a trap door leading to a water pit. Doc Ock dons some scuba gear and his robot arms and they battle underwater. Spidey traps him the water and rescues Aunt May and Betty. Peter shows up and they head home, where Aunt May is horrified to learn she missed this week’s episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. Aunt May is legitimately senile. The Human Torch swings by Jameson’s office to congratulate Spider-Man and he yells at him for the ulcers he had now. The issue ends with the sinister six sharing a jail cell, licking their wounds and angry with each other.
- This issue was pretty obviously intended to highlight Marvel’s other books at the time. The FF, Doc Strange, The Avengers and The X-Men all make cameos, complete with little boxes telling the reader where these characters can be found. It’s a pretty smart move and gives this issue a really big scope, even if the cameos are usually only a panel or two.
- The best part of this issue is that Ditko uses all the extra space to give each one of Spider-Man’s fights one big full page, usually showing Spider-Man defeating the villain. These are gorgeous.
- The concept of this issue is great and I LOVE villain teams.
- Aunt May’s wackiness in this issue is astounding, but amusing.
Final Thoughts: If you like Spider-Man at all, you need to read this issue. It may seriously be the best annual Marvel’s ever put out and it’s just a really fun, action-packed story. Monday marks the return of The Green Goblin, a guest appearance by The Human Torch, and, you know, ACTUAL IMAGES to go with the reviews.