Monday, June 30, 2014

SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #-1 - July 1997

 

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.

5 comments:

wwk5d said...

Heartless ogre here, and not ashamed to admit it!

I wish was as fond of this event as you are. There are some good issues scattered here and there, but for the most part, this was a waste of time for me. At least this particular issue does have some great Weirngo art going for it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this issue, but found the DeMatteis Spectacular Spider Man issue even better. I don't believe Peter showed up in that one, as it was about Flash's childhood, and played an importtant part in continuity.

If I remember correctly, Spider Man got skipped for flashback month, for whatever reason. The Amazing one was less than necessary, and not good. The Untold Tales issue took place before Peter was born, and starred his parents.

Matt said...

As I recall, a handful of the then-new titles got to skip Flashback Month too, sort of. At least THUNDERBOLTS and I think DEADPOOL both had regular issues and Flashback specials.

My favorite Flashback Month issue was UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN #-1 by Roger Stern and John Romita, starring Richard and Mary Parker, secret agents under orders from Nick Fury to rescue Wolverine, I think from Hydra... Yes, the retcon about Peter's parents was silly, and their return in the nineties was dreadful, but this story makes up for all of that.

Harry Sewalski said...

Hey everyone, remember the days before Groot was a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy?!

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

It was Thunderbolts and Ka-Zar which got to have both a regular issue and a #-1 special that was technically a one shot - and thus even more of a pain to locate now. There was also a Venom #-1 - I think this was between limited series - and even an Alpha Flight #-1 prior to the revival the following month.

The only series to skip the event were, IIRC, Heroes for Hire, which launched that month, the four Heroes Reborn titles and various licenced titles no-one ever talks about.