Comics : Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #34

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This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

If you are looking for truly amazing adventures of a teenaged Spider-Man that are set in the modern-day world, (rather when many of us first met him back in '62), then you've come to the right place. While it is certainly true that this series is actually targeted towards a pre-and teen audience, it is certainly enjoyable for us old fogies as well. The reason? Well, first of all it has been developed to evoke the look and feel of a Stan Lee-style action tale, that is wrapped up and delivered in a contemporary art package, which makes it attractive to both younger readers, as well as older readers who might have fallen away from the main Spider-Titles. Second, while Mary Jane Watson has yet to appear in the series, there is also no sign of Mephisto.

Therefore, Spider-Fans who may have fallen away from following the adventures of our webbed hero over the years (due to the messy fallout of Marvel's Civil War Event or even the recent Mephisto Incident), will most assuredly enjoy this series. This series is fast becoming a refuge of sorts form the ugliness of those corporate storylines. So, if you are interested in returning to the Spider-fold (and read Spider-Man stories without having to deal with the weight of 45 years of continuity or current editorial malfeasance) this is the series for you.

In Detail...

"Un-Natural"
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #34 (Story 1)
Feb 2008 : SM Title
Summary: New Adventures of Spider-Man as a teen
Editor:  Mark Paniccia
Writer:  Fred Van Lente
Artist:  Corry Hamscher
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Adventures Two-In-One #8

Spider-Man, with the help of Flash Thompson, defeats the nefarious Green Goblin. Yes, boys and girls, you read that right, Spider-Man, with the help of Flash Thompson. Or rather, that is the way this story seems to start out, as Spidey, in front of a crowd of bystanders, is congratulating Flash for his assist in besting the Goblin, only, once we turn the page, we realize that this event happened solely in the befuddled mind of Forest Hill's number one jock. The fact that Flash is playing center field at the time only makes him look like a space cadet to his team's Baseball coach, Mr. Randolph.

Stunned that Flash could miss such an easy pop-up, he benches Flash in favor of another student. Will sitting on the bench, Flash notices that Peter Parker is sitting on a bench just outside the ball field, so Flash being the bully that he is, feels it necessary to toss a hardball at Peter's head. Needless to say, Pete's Spider-sense kicks in and instead of the ball hitting Pete in the head, he easily bare hands the ball, a sight that doesn't go unnoticed by Coach Randolph, who immediately figures he has a new center fielder.

Coach Randolph tosses Pete a glove, which he hesitantly accepts figuring that he'll go out onto the field and pretend to be all thumbs so that the coach will figure that the catch was pure dumb luck, and let him off easy. Only Peter learns that it isn't that easy to be a screw-up. After years (Weeks? Months?) of fighting supervillians as Spider-Man, Peter finds that he is reacting purely on reflex out on the diamond; fielding, throwing, and hitting at top form. Turns out that he is so good that Coach makes him starting shortstop as well as the cleanup hitter (ironically, Flash's old position).

On the night of his first game between the Forest Hill Elks (Peter's team) and Midtown Academy (where future Goblin-spawn Harry Osborn plays) with bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth, Harry hits a screaming line drive directly at Peter which he catches, then tags out the runner returning to second, and throws out the runner returning to first for a triple play, ending the championship game in favor of Forest Hills. Needless to say, this irritates Harry's dad, Norman, who informs his son that he will no longer bankroll the team if he can't get the ball past a skinny shortstop.

Norman informs his son that since his release from prison he is going to be taking more of an interest in his son, only, perhaps Harry doesn't really want his megalomaniac father in his life so much. Further, Norman recalls that he is the Goblin, and determines that; on some level or another; he will get involved. Meanwhile Peter's prowess on the field grows as he easily falls into his new role of baseball star, only this leads to a back-room, pre-draft offer from the backer of the Midtown Academy's team, as well as a bully-threat from Flash for Peter to fork over whatever performance-enhancing drug he's been taking to get so good.

Things are looking better for Harry's team, however, as they have clinched a spot in the playoffs. Still, Harry believes that they are still going to get beat by Forest Hills. He expresses this thought to his father then heads off to bed while his father suffers through another Goblin-induced headache. Ever the delusional madman, Norman allows a phantom Goblin convince him to revert to the Goblin so as to "stop" Parker from playing so that Harry's team can win the championship.

So saying, the Goblin re-emerges from the dank corridors of what passes for Norman's brain, and attacks Peter as he gets off the El just prior to the playoff with Forest Hills. Peter manages to doge Goblin's pumpkin bombs, duck out of sight, change into his Spidey outfit, and clock Goblin a good one. The fight between these two protagonists drifts over the nearby ball field. At the game, without his father there to harangue him, Harry is actually able to concentrate on pitching strikes, and has retired 11 batters in a row. With Peter AWOL Coach calls Flash to bat cleanup.

As Flash comes to the plate he is having an internal debate over whether or not he should use performance enhancers as he suspects a cheater like Peter is using, when he spots Spidey battling the Goblin high over center field. This firms his resolve that he should just cowboy up and do the deed, as would his hero Spider-Man. So saying, he squares off in the batter's box and swings away just as Goblin seems to get the upper hand over our hero with an electrical shock that stuns Spidey. Just as the Goblin is about to toss Spidey to the ground, Flash's out of the park Homer beans the madman, giving Spidey the chance to recover and web up the villain.

The next day, Peter shows up with his arm in a sling, claiming that he broke it while falling off the subway platform. He tells the Coach that this will probably end his baseball career. The Coach then has Flash read an essay that Flash wrote for a Heroes Essay Contest. In the essay, Flash says that cheating and using steroids is wrong, and that players should be honest and inspiring like his personal Hero Spider-Man.

In General...

Yet another example of how a real-world, teenaged Peter Parker can win the day through his dedication to honesty and fair play. The story mixes the subtle nuances of who we know Peter is/was and current-day society. Interestingly enough, this works because the character is an archetype and so long as he is put through his paces he will continue to be able to speak to a new generation of fans (without having to resort to editorially-manipulated Faustian deals with the devil).

Overall Rating...

Here we have yet another light-hearted fun episode in the life of this version of Peter Parker and the friends and foes that make up his life. My advice to all Spider-fans that are upset over what is going on in Amazing Spider-Man is that they should get their monthly fix by reading this title and The Amazing Spider-Girl (another fine Spider-title that features the one, true Spider-Man within its pages).

I did have one single question about this story, Peter and Flash are apparently playing on a school team (the Forest Hills Elks) while Harry is playing on the Midtown Academy team. Now we all know that Pete and Flash went to Midtown High together and then Empire State University (unless that too has been changed by editorial mandate or yet another deal with the Devil), so what's the deal with the Forest Hill Elks? At first I thought that it and Midtown Acadamuy might both be middle schools, but that would make all these boys 13 or 14, which we know can't be right either because Peter has been Spidey since he was 15 (see Civil War #2; again, unless that has also been retconed).

My second thought was that these were simply Babe Ruth teams (as Norman talks about bankrolling his son's team. However, a caption on the final page indicating that the Peter was talking to the Coach during third period gym seems to show that these are perhaps both school teams after all. Still, I suppose that the team's members could still attend (and the Coach could teach at) Midtown High and yet they could all play on a non-school team.

Or, since this isn't cannon,(and anal attention to hardcore continuity doesn't actually matter all that much) perhaps it simply doesn't matter. Of course, there is always the Mephisto Factor...

Footnote...

There is also a single page of an extended Mini-Marvel tale in this issue. This episode involves Iron Man developing power-specific armor for all of the heroes of not only the Avengers, but for all of the other superheroes in the Mini Marvel Universe. In this chapter, Iron Man has repaired Hawkeye's armor and Hawkeye is using it to his advantage while playing a Pop Warner game, to bowl over the opposing team. Iron Spidey appears in this chapter. This storyline has been running throughout a number of Marvel titles during this month.