Here There Be Monsters!
Credits: Todd Dezago (writer), Mike Wieringo (penciler), Richard Case (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft (letters)
The Plot: Peter Parker goes to bed the night before his fishing trip with Uncle Ben. As he sleeps, he dreams their fishing trip is interrupted by creatures from his favorite comic books. Using his knowledge of science, Peter is able to defeat the monsters in his dreams. The next morning, Aunt May is adamant that Peter throw away his comics. Uncle Ben hides them in the attic instead. Elsewhere, Nightmare decides to target young Peter Parker in the realm of dreams, but he’s scared away by Stan Lee.
The Subplots: None.
Web of Continuity: The old Marvel monsters seen this issue include Gigantus, Groot, the Vandoom Creature, and the Blip. And this is actually the second time we see Peter’s old monster comics in the attic. He discovered them in the present day during the “Revelations” storyline in Spectacular Spider-Man #240.
Forever Young: Somehow, twenty-something Peter Parker had a full collection of early Silver Age Marvel monster comics in his youth. (Uncle Ben’s dialogue doesn’t suggest he passed them down to Peter.) The Parkers also had a television set sitting on the floor with wood paneling and VHF/UHF knobs.
Review: Hey, I get to talk about Flashback Month yet again. For anyone who isn’t aware, this is the month Marvel labeled every comic it published a “negative one” and set the story vaguely ten years in the past, before the official beginning of the Marvel Universe in Fantastic Four #1. Stan Lee served as the narrator and reportedly wrote his own dialogue. At the time, I largely viewed Flashback Month as a nuisance, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the concept. I still believe that applying the gimmick to the entire line of books was a mistake, however. The Spider-Man line is the perfect example of how Marvel cast the net too wide -- there are four monthly Spider-Man titles, five counting Untold Tales. How do you get five full stories out of the nerdy, pre-Spider-Man Peter Parker?
Despite the restriction, Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo get one of their best issues out of the concept. Going for “it’s all a dream” is a somewhat obvious choice, yet it’s probably the best one available to creators who have to tell a young Peter Parker story that still incorporates some action and/or fantasy elements. It’s largely an excuse for ‘Ringo to draw some long-forgotten Marvel monsters, and he does so spectacularly. If he can’t draw Spider-Man for an issue, this is still a worthy use of his time. Honestly, who would expect to see a Groot vs. Vandoom fight in a flashback story about Peter and Uncle Ben’s fishing trip? It’s a clever way to subvert the editorial mandate without breaking any of the actual rules.
Not only is the issue visually amazing, but the story is also one of the finest Peter/Uncle Ben stories I’ve ever read. The scene where Ben tries to get Peter to open up about his friends and Peter’s only response is to clam up (because he has none)…if that doesn’t get to you, check your pulse, you heartless ogre. So, Sensational has set the bar high as the first Spidey Flashback. To be honest, I’m skeptical if the rest are going to be this good.