Peter Parker: Spider-Man #20 Retro Review

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: The Best Medicine

Written by: Paul Jenkins
Pencilled by: Mark Buckingham
Inked by: Dan Green
Colored by: Joe Rosas
Lettered by: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Troy Peteri
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Every comic book fan on Earth (I say, devoid of any sense of hyperbole) knows of the Clone Saga. They know that, while based on an intriguing premise, dragged on and on and proved that at some point, even the most devote fans will stop buying the book. It was ugly, it was obnoxious, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when it was done.

What most do not remember is that things did not get better right off the bat. In fact it was well over a year and a half before, by most accounts, the Spider titles were declared no longer dangerously poisonous and worth reading again. For me, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #20 was the issue that signified it was all right to come back in from the cold.

Paul Jenkins was relatively unknown to me. I cannot recall if this was pre-Inhumans, but I was late to that party anyway. I do know that it was prior to his second effort with Jae Lee, Sentry, which was the first of his books that I picked up purely on the basis of his name. Peter Parker 20 I ended up buying because of Randy Lander’s review of it and wanting so desperately to believe that Spider-Man could be worth reading again. Lo and behold, this Spidey story, featuring nearly no Spidey action, proved to me that it was.

The reason was that this issue reminded the readers what all the best Spider-Man writers knew, Peter Parker first and foremost is Peter Parker. Super powers or not, he is always the nerd high schooler, the tragic and guilt ridden nephew, the hard luck everyman. Even in costume, he never thought of himself as anything but Peter. By nailing that fact, Jenkins crafted an excellent debut issue.

Jenkins also succeeded in giving us a clearer picture of what made Uncle Ben so special. We all know that it was his death and a quote about personal responsibility that made him integral to the Spider-Man mythos, but there is little insight into what made him so special to Peter within the context of the Spider-Man universe, within Peter’s life and world. This story reveals and revels in the answer to that question and shows that his tragic death was not the only lasting impact Ben left on his nephew’s life.

Ably aiding Jenkins in creating this issue was Mark Buckingham. Although every artist has their own unique take on a character and none is more viable than the other, etc, etc. his Parker looked like Peter, both as a child and as an adult. He nailed Parker in every page, in every panel. It was the humanism displayed here that made the story so effective (just imagine Todd McFarlane art with the same script…not quite the same effect, eh?) but would also garner criticism in later more action oriented stories. Without straying too far from that issue, let me just say that that criticism was largely bollocks. His down to earth style fit this series whether Peter was in or out of costume.