FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN 24
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciler: Joe Quesada
Inker: Danny Miki
Dealing with the passing of a loved one is never an easy experience. My paternal grandmother, the family matriarch, passed away recently, and the aftereffects could be visibly seen on my relatives for weeks. Now, imagine that A) you feel personally responsible for this relative’s death, and B) you’re a superhero with decades of experience in the Marvel universe, where “death” is always a relative concept. And even worse, you’re Peter Parker, and the very first lesson you learned as a hero was the direct consequence of a relative’s death, for which you also feel responsible. I think it could be understood if you started to go over the edge somewhat, mental-wise.
And that’s where the web slinger finds himself: Aunt May is dying from a gunshot wound, a bullet that was meant for him. The doctors are telling him there’s really nothing that can be done at this point, but Peter isn’t settling for that. Besides, what’s the point of being a superhero, and knowing some of the most powerful people on the planet, if you can’t use any of that to save one sweet, dying old lady. Peter’s first choice for help is also a very logical one: Dr. Stephen Strange.
J. Michael Stracyznski does an excellent job here of telling a story that feels very personal and very familiar, without tripping over too many cliches or trying to do over-do the emotion. You can feel the anger and desperation and sadness in Peter’s dialogue: the words just sound like him. And with a situation like this one, it’s difficult to avoid the writing equivalent of “over-acting”, especially with such a well-known character. Plus, there’s a nice time travel plotline that deftly avoids the usual “space/time continuom” headaches, which is always appreciated.
In case you’re wondering about why Mary Jane is on the cover, though I haven’t mentioned her yet: there’s an extensive profile/background of her character, written by Jonathan Couper-Smartt, Mike Fichera and Peter Sanderson, and a reprint of “The Amazing Spider-Man” #259, which lets MJ tell her entire backstory, including childhood experiences, to Peter. The profile is especialy informative, since it covers practically everything that has happened to her, up to the actions of the previous issue.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10