Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Moving Day
Written by John S. Drew

The Plot: Aunt May reflects on the past as both she and Peter prepare to move out of their home. While riding in a moving truck into the city, May and the mover Joe are witness to a battle between Spider-Man and Mysterio. Joe risks his life to help Spider-Man defeat the villain. When she questions why he helped, Joe helps May understand the importance of moving on and trusting Peter to become his own person.

Web of Continuity: According to the Continuity Guide, this story “expands on the events of the last page of Amazing Spider-Man #46.”

Review: Following the previous story, this one is an awkward fit. Aunt May must face the fact that Peter’s growing up, and accept his job as a crime photographer. Just a few pages earlier, Aunt May faced the fact that Peter’s growing up, and accepted his job as a crime photographer, and she did it all on her own without the help of a professional mover. Since May is apparently moving next door to stay with Anna Watson, there’s no compelling reason for her to be going into the city anyway; that’s where Peter is moving. Are we supposed to believe that Aunt May is going to be any help moving furniture? Judged on its own merits, this is an unobjectionable story about letting go of the past and accepting change, but someone should’ve realized that it doesn’t co-exist with “The Doctor’s Dilemma” very well.

The Liar
Written by Ann Nocenti

The Plot: Peter Parker finds himself telling a series of lies to Aunt May, MJ, Gwen, and his professors. He tries to justify his lying as a necessary part of his role as Spider-Man, but finds himself lying to cover unrelated activities. While grocery shopping with Aunt May, Peter is forced to lie again in order to don his disguise and stop an armed robber. Later, while on a date, he spots Vulture and his gang robbing a bank. When the Vulture drops him from a great height, he flashes back to the first lie he caught his parents telling him. A passing sailboat rescues Spider-Man, who loses track of Vulture.

The Subplots: Peter double-books dates with MJ and Gwen. He covers his absences during the dates by telling more lies.

Web of Continuity:
· The story is set shortly after Amazing Spider-Man annual #5, the issue that revealed Richard and Mary Parker’s double-life as spies.
· Peter’s age is specifically given as six-years-old when his parents die, which coincides with most of the comic stories, although I believe some writers have claimed that Peter was as young as two when he came to live with Ben and May.
· The Vulture has a gang that consists of three other men who are wearing versions of his costume. Presumably, there’s no connection with this group and the Vultrions from the ‘80s.

Review: “The little fibs are like annoying black moths, fluttering at the edges of his consciousness; shadows that flit about and dog his heels, they haunt him when he least expects it. The big ones are like rocks tied to his feet, that he has to drag with him wherever he goes.”

It’s hard for me to read a story by Nocenti and not just geek out when she hits the mark so perfectly. Everyone knows that Peter has a guilt complex. Everyone knows that he has to lie in order to maintain his identity as Spider-Man. But how many people connected these concepts and actually made you feel for Peter’s predicament? What is it like for someone with such a highly developed moral code to live half of his life as a lie? Nocenti touched on this idea briefly in a Web of Spider-Man back-up, but now she takes advantage of the prose format to fully explore the concept.

Aside from creating a pretty heartbreaking characterization of Peter, she also writes a fantastic rendition of Mary Jane -- the boy-crazy girl who’s a little too accepting of Peter’s lies and occasionally knows just the right thing to say to assuage his guilt. Tying his pattern of lying to his parents’ career as double-agents is another brilliant move (as is setting the story right after he discovers their past, instead of generically during his college days). Was Peter destined to be a liar? How can he avoid this question after learning the truth about his parents? Intriguing questions, and Nocenti’s frank exploration of the answers becomes a fascinating character study. If I have any quibbles at all, it would be the scheduling of this story right after “Moving Day,” since that story also had Aunt May face-to-face with Spider-Man through a forced set of coincidences.


Robert said...

I'm an Ann Nocenti nut - would love to read that story. Just typical of Ann to scrap away at the moral fabric of her characters to reveal their faults. Sounds terrific.

Matt said...

Regarding "Moving Day" -- If my memory of reading all the 60's era Essential Spider-Man volumes a few years ago isn't failing me, I believe Aunt May and Anna shared an apartment together at some point. I don't think it was ever specifically stated that they were moving in together, but one issue Peter suddenly started going to see May at an apartment instead of the hosue in Forest Hills.

I could be misremembering, but I don't think I am.

G. Kendall said...

Robert - The other Nocenti contributions to the prose novels I've read are also great, which I guess isn't surprising.

Matt - I remember May and Anna living together in the city (did anyone do a story that shows them moving back to Forest Hills?). I could be misremembering, but I think this story implies that she's moving next door, or else the writer just assumes we know they're sharing an apartment together.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently reading the early Amazing issues and Aunt May does indeed move in to the house next door with Anna Watson around issue 45-50. Which kind of makes it awkward when current stories have Peter saying he's glad Aunt May kept his room exactly the way he left it when he was a teen. (To say nothing of the house getting destroyed at least once.)

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