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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Off The Rack

One Man's Views — Spidey Super Summaries Issues 41 - 50 (Marvel Comics). All right everyone, gather round. Make yourselves comfortable as we dip into the "Well of Stories Past" and remember the legends of yore when heroes were heroes, villains were villains, and teen angst could easily fill up a whole issue of a comic without feeling as though it were dragging :)

This month, we relive The Amazing Spider-Man 41 to 50 thanks to Marvel Masterworks Volume 22.

We start 41 with The Rhino smashing through the cover to get to us! Well, that's to grab our attention, of course. The story actually begins with Peter buying a motorcycle! I still think a guy in a suit riding any kind of motorcycle looks a little weird, but what the hey. We also learn that May's friend Anna (Watson, of course) wants her to move in with her, but May's a little worried about Peter. We cut to Jonah pulling another spider-fit in his office as he listens to his son recount how Spidey saved his bacon. The colonel also reveals that something strange happened to him while off in space. What could it be!?!?! No time to talk, The Rhino is rampaging! (How the hell does he go to the bathroom if he can't take the suit off? Man, it's no wonder the guy is so danged grouchy!) His mission, to capture Jonah's son! Well, Spidey saves the day, natch, but in this first battle with him, he couldn't beat him, so he simply wore him down.

Still wondering about the secret? Well, wonder no more, as 42 brings us "The Birth of a Super-Hero!" Yup, Jonah's little boy, due to being exposed to some kind of spores from jupiter turned into something of a minor Hulk. (BTW, in case you were wondering what happened to Rhino, well, some docs actually tried to remove his suit and then gassed him so he wouldn't escape). Back to our hero. Due to a misunderstanding not worth going into, John Jameson decides to take on Spidey and bring him to justice. Well, 8 fight pages later, he's down and out and back to normal size! However, the most important event in this issue, is Peter coming face-to-face with that someday to be most important person, Mary-Jane Watson! "Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot!" How the boy restrained himself from jumping her bones then and there remains a mystery to me.

Hey, is the Rhino gonna sleep forever? Nope! In issue 43, he rampages! :) I know, I know, you want to hear about personal lives. Ok. Betty and Ned got engaged, Peter and MJ danced and hung out. Ok? Spidey did take a licking from Rhino, though. That's why he headed off to see Curt Connors. Next stop, the hospital where they're keeping John Jameson! Right on cue, in comes Rhino. He and Spidey tango and Spidey covers him with the special webbing he and Curt whipped up and lo and behold, Rhino's costume melts away! Spidey go PUNCH, Rhino fall down. Spidey happy. Spidey saved day. But, Peter goes home and finds Aunt May looking pale and listless. Rush to the medicine cabinet to find her prescriptions haven't been refilled! Oh no! Time to angst. "...why do I have such trouble.. Just managing my own life...?"

Ok, it's traditional, right? You introduce or bring back a character, and you've got to use him. And so it goes that 44 brings back The Lizard! Peter sends Aunt May off to relax somewhere by the seashore and at the train station meets up with Connors' wife and son. Quick spidey-change later and... we're off to chase the Lizard, the wonderful Lizard from... the bronx? Say, where does Curt live anyway? Brief interlude as the "Gang" meets MJ for the first time and all the boys drool over themselves and Gwen Stacy gets... could it be jealousy?... hmmm... Oh, forget that. Spidey and the Liz go toe-to-... do lizards have toes? Ooo boy, I think this 60's jive talking is beginning to get the most of me, daddy-o! (snicker) Lizard trounces Spidey, who comes crashing down hard on one of his web cushions. Ouch, that's gotta hurt. And sure enough, it does! And wow, talk about co-incidences! There's a doctor in the house (or on the street in this case) to bandage up his arm. Spidey goes home and does the hermit thing since everyone (everyone, can you believe the ego on this guy?) knows that Spidey's got a busted wing and thus he can't go out in his secret identity as mild-mannered photographer otherwise someone's bound to make a connection!!!!

45 promises us "One of the Wildest of all Spidey Battles!" Of course, before we can get there, we've got to go through some personal scenes. I'm skipping the usual Daily Planet scenes with Foswell doing his James bond routine and Jonah doing his nutcase routine. I like the school scenes since I'm such a sentimental softie. Peter wants to try to fake not having a bad wing but can't because it's too painful. So, "The HECK with it! A fella has to take SOME chances! I'll just BLUFF my way through! Why should anyone try to connect ME with Spidey? I could have hurt MY arm on my CYCLE!" Ah-yup, ah-yup, you gots that right Jethro! After some friendly ribbing, Harry and Pete have a little talk and Pete seems to wonder why he's always thinking of Gwen even though he never dated her. Still, he explains to Harry about being completely broke and how he used the last of his cash to send his Aunt on vacation. Harry tells him he could probably get him a job with his dad's company, but Peter wants to think on it. Hm. Fast forward a couple of pages and Spidey's knee deep in snakes and alligators under Lizzie's command. Ah, but Spidey's no fool. He tricks Lizzie into a freeze compartment on a train and Lizzie promptly falls asleep. Back at the lab, mix and match some chemicals and Curt is cured! However, we can't leave our hero on a happy note, some angst has to be thrown in. And sure enough, a whole page is devoted to him feeling miserable about his life. Makes you wonder if the "Generation X" mentality is really as new as people take it to be...

You'd think that this far in, Spidey wouldn't have to worry about new villains. Well, 46 introduces us to yet another: The Shocker! Spidey still has a bum arm, so Shocky pretty much wiped the floor with him. (Hey, is it me, or is there some kind of formula to all this??? Is this where Hulk Hogan got his inspiration?) After treating us to the Shocker's origin, we jump back into the personal life as Peter and MJ head on over to the local hangout to listen to some tunes. Harry's planning a party for Flash who was the first in the gang to be drafted (why are they so happy about that? Sheesh) Oh yeah, great news, Peter's gonna move in with Harry! Cool! He's almost grown up now! :) However, as he rushes out of the hangout, Foswell, dressed up as Patch, follows him into an alley and SEES Spidey come out!!! He realizes the truth! But Spidey sees him and comes up with an ingenious plan! Duck back in the alley and talk to himself (mask on, mask off, mask on, mask off... hey, this works better than glasses! (snicker)) Forget Shocker. Spidey clobbers him. Back at the ranch, Peter moves out as Aunt May moves in with Anna Watson. Some tearful goodbyes and Pete sets up shop with Harry. Wow, on his own, free, and yet, there's one panel left, time to angst! "Perhaps, in some strange, mysterious way... when I gained another identity... I lost the capacity... for Happiness!" Man, don't you think that Frasier Crane would have a field day with this guy?

47 brings back Kraven the Hunter who's mighty pissed off at Spidey because he robbed him of his revenge on Green Goblin! That's right. Kraven didn't like being used, and decided to kill Goblin, but since he (supposedly) died in a fire while battling Spidey, Kraven was cheated. So, Spidey has to die. Naturally, he doesn't. In fact, he even saves Norman Osborne's life when Kraven tries to kill him (since there was some connection between him and Greenie). The personal touches this time around are during the sendoff party for Flash (where we get to see MJ and Gwen wiggle it wildly just before Kraven punches through the wall to kidnap Harry. But, since we know how this is gonna end, let's move on to...

48 and The Vulture! Well, sort of. Toomes seems to be on his death bed and decides to spill about his wings to his cellmate Blackie, not knowing that Blackie's the guy that put him in that condition int he first place! Well, old Blackie breaks out and steals Adrian's wings. He even puts a shortwave receiver on a cap and the Vulture outfit originally seen on the Spidey animated show appears. Peter, unfortunately, is mighty sick and can't go after him. Not that he doesn't try. He does. But that only lands him unconscious on a rooftop. Is he dead? Nope. He gets up in 49 and struggles to get home and into bed. Kraven, upon hearing that Vulture is now considered the city's biggest threat, decides to fight him for that crown. But, as they begin to bash each other, Spidey shows up and they gang up on him. Maybe a problem for a sick Spidey, but not a healthy one (all he needed was some rest. Go figure)! Within a matter of pages, they're both licked and wrapped.

This brings us to the end, #50. Literally titled "Spider-Man no more!" Aunt May has another attack, and Peter once again blames himself for not being there. He's really down in the dumps this time. So much so that when he sees another tv ad by Jameson, willing to dish out $1000 for his capture, he begins to doubt himself and wonder if what he's been doing as Spider-Man really *wasn't* anything more than an ego trip. After a lot of soul-searching and angst, he decides to chuck the costume and walk away. Jameson gets mighty ecstatic when a kid brings in the costume Pete chucked in a garbage can. The underworld also gets jumpy as Kingpin makes it clear he's now ready to take over. Foswell reveals himself to be Patch, and Peter quits the Bugle. The underworld gets cocky and robberies begin to happen all over the place. We do go through some interesting scenes of Peter's life/day and everything seems fine and relaxed. But then, he hears something and decides to jump into action, saving a cop's life. The cop looks like and reminds him of his uncle. So, we go through the death of uncle ben and Peter realizes that he really didn't become Spider-Man as an ego-trip, but rather to save lives! So, he sneaks into JJJ's office (where he's got Spidey's costume pinned to a wall in a glass case) and puts it on. Then, he waits for JJ to come back to his desk to give him the good news about coming out of retirement :) And off he goes, jumping out of the building, to stop all the criminal acts which sprung up when he quit.

And this brings us to the end of the Spidey Summaries! Now I'm gonna have to collect up all the issues from 51 and up from my collection before I can continue talking about them here. However, this is not the end of the Masterworks series. So, tune in next issue when we take a trip down memory lane with the next heroes to be Masterworked, The Fantastic Four!!

Until next time, Face Front True Believers! 'Nuff Said! Excelsior! Where are my pants!

(Off The Rack (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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