Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Pencils: Val Semeiks | Inks: Mike Getty
Colors: Andres Mossa | Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Tom Brennan | Editor: Steve Wacker
Executive Editor: Tom Brevoort | Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine
Webheads: Gale, Slott, Guggenheim, Waid & Kelly

The Plot: Peter Parker stops by Aunt May's house to spend the anniversary of her wedding to Uncle Ben with her. As they sit and reminisce, May tells Peter for the first time the story of how she met Ben in Atlantic City when she was eighteen years old. Ben was on leave from the army and they spent time together, but eventually Ben returned to service and May met another man, a gangster named Johnny Jerome. When Ben returned from the service he found May with Johnny and trailed the hood, learning that he was a criminal. Johnny was eventually arrested and May and Ben wound up together.

Early in their marriage, the couple faced a challenge when May miscarried and the doctor discovered she suffered from a cardiac defect which, at the time, was irreparable. But May and Ben persevered and looked after young Peter when his parents, Ben's brother Richard and his wife Mary, left the country. The couple took Peter in as their own when Richard and Mary were killed.

In the modern day, Peter and Aunt May share a toast as Peter realizes he still knows so little about his late uncle. May discusses her relationship with her new fiance, Jay Jameson, then Peter departs to head home.

The Sub-Plots: As he walks away from Aunt May's house, Peter mulls over the fact that Aunt May is marrying Jonah Jameson's father, which would somehow make them cousins by marriage. Peter also reflects on the harm Jameson could do to Spider-Man in his new role as mayor of New York City.

Continuity Notes: This story is crawling with them. The kernel of the story is born from a cryptic thought by Aunt May in the classic AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #238, when she reflects on losing a child. The issue also gives us what I assume to be the first canonical depiction of Aunt May and Uncle Ben's first meeting. Let's all just try to forget that Mark Millar's TROUBLE ever happened, shall we?
When he gets to May's home, Peter is greeted by a trunk full of Uncle Ben's old comics, which he had believed lost in a recent house fire.
Johnny Jerome, Aunt May's underworld beau, was created by Bill Mantlo for SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #3, and much of the history between May, Johnny, and Ben seen here comes from that issue, which was nearly contemporaneous with the end of Stern's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run.

As May reflects on falling for an outlaw, Peter thinks about the Black Cat. Later, when May says that she helped Johnny find someplace to live after he was released from prison, she observes that you can't save everyone, prompting Peter to recall the night Gwen Stacy died.

May also discusses the fact that Peter's parents were framed as traitors by an imposter Red Skull, as seen in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #5, and notes that Ben died never knowing their names were cleared.

And of course, when May recalls Ben's murder, Peter immediately thinks of the part he played in allowing his uncle's killer to run free and strike later.
Lastly, May apologizes to Peter for the events of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #592, wherein Peter walked in on May and Jay in bed together.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "As I scripted these issues, ideas for future stories would often occur to me, and I would write a line to foreshadow something I planned to develop later. Much later, in some cases." -- "For Your Consideration: Marvel's SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS", Westfield Comics Blog, 2013

My Thoughts: I can appreciate when writers feel a need to flesh out Aunt May. She was a very one-note character for decades under Stan Lee and subsequent writers. Thing is, I don't particularly like these stories. The Aunt May I enjoy, the one I want to read about, is a doddering old simpleton. She's frail and elderly and constantly refers to Peter as "frail". She's nothing more than comic relief.

Either that, or she's dead. I get misty eyed every time I read AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 400, featuring May's death scene. Killing her off was one of the few permanent changes I have no problem with. I wept when she passed away, but I didn't miss her a bit when she was gone for a year or two afterward. I'll never understand why Marvel brought her back when the Spider-books were running just fine without her. She's a useful character when Peter is a teenager or a college student; but not so much when he's an adult (which, yes, is its own issue).

Nonetheless, taking for granted that I don't care for these kinds of stories, I have to admit that Stern does a good job here of pulling together various disparate elements of May's past and presenting them as a seamless whole. He even tosses in a quick mention of Nathan Lubensky, who at this point in Spider-Man's continuity is long dead.

I also like that Stern admits that, via the magic of "Marvel Time", Aunt May was probably a teenager somewhere around the fifties, so the few pictures we've seen of her in her youth that showed her dressed as a flapper are presented here as a silly costume her sister made her wear. That's a good way of keeping a topical reference in continuity, but making it work in a different context.
Overall, this is a nice "quiet" story, but the subject matter is of little interest to me. Nonetheless, since it (barely) ties back to Stern's time on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, I felt it worth covering here.

Next Issue: A year later, Stern returns to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for the beginning of a three-part story featuring a rematch with the unstoppable Juggernaut.

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