Monday, August 24, 2009

Things I love: Peter Parker: Spider-Man

As any long time Spider-Man Fan knows his books in the 90s were pretty terrible. Not that any of us really realized it, I know I didn't, but on a whole the books were pretty bad. It was all angst, anger, and apathy as Spider-Man became simply The Spider and regressed to just a mask without another identity. It was pretty gnarly there for a while.

All this happened, mind you, right when I started reading comics so I never really got to experience this quippy, fun-loving but put upon Spider-Man that everyone seems to dig. It made it very easy to swear off Spidey as a no fly zone when I got back into collecting after a few years of hiatus. I didn't want to read about massive conspiracies or the super-angst or clones. I especially didn't want to read about clones.

Then a funny thing happened, Marvel launched their Ultimate line. Curious, and able to read issue for free on at the time, I started reading some of Bendis' issues and they were pretty great. I thought to myself, "Self, these are good because it's not the real Spider-Man, the real Marvel U stuff can't be this good." But oh how wrong I was.

Around the same time Straczynski was getting all the accolades on his Amazing run, but the really good stuff was under the radar on Peter Parker: Spider-Man by Paul Jenkins. And here was where I discovered how great a character Peter Parker was.

There's no better example of this than Peter Parker # 33, where Pete heads to a Mets game to remember his Uncle Ben and it's one of my favorite issues ever.

A brief aside: I recently read this post on Everyday is Like Wednesday about the Paul Jenkins run on Peter Parker, in which Caleb derided the run calling it overly depressing and not the right way to do a Spider-Man book. One of the books he called out as majorly depressing was Peter Parker # 33, this is meant as a rebuttal.

The issue is basically a big monologue from Peter talking about the annual tradition he and Ben had to go see the Mets play. Except every year they went, The Mets found a way to lose which gave Ben fodder for a life lesson, much to Peter's dismay.

With each passing year, they mets always find a new way to lose which kinda puts a damper on Peter's enthusiasm. Dragged out for what would be Ben's last game, Peter finally tastes the sweetness of victory and finally understands what Ben's big speech was getting at all those years.

It's a really sweet story that gets to the heart of who Peter is. For all the years I read about him as a kid, I never got that Peter was a lovable loser. The guy who would keep trying even though the worst things always happened to him. You know, the things that make him a hero. Paul Jenkins really humanitized and personalized Peter's story for me. it wasn't sad and depressing that it was the anniversary of Uncle Ben's death, it was a celebration of Ben's life and really honored the memory.

A lot of Jenkins' run revolves around the bond between Peter and Ben. For the first time, I really understood their connection and why he meant to much to Peter. and along the way Ben became less of this proverb spouting icon and more of fun, loving Uncle that Peter would never want to stop honoring.

The run isn't without it's problems, the multi-issue arcs are a little shaky at times, and a few of the done-in-one stories are a bit heavy handed, but when the issues are good, they're near classics. If you ever need to show someone the greatness of Peter Parker, you should find an issue from this run and you won't be disappointed.

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