Comics : Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #38

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This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

It is present-day, modern times, Peter Parker is in High School, He is a part-time freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle, there is no sign of Mary Jane Watson, or Gwen Stacy. No, the Mephisto event hasn't rippled all the way through the Marvel Universe, we are living in the Marvel Adventures Zone. Here the events of the day reflect classic Spider-man stories but occur in a modern time frame. Sure, sure these stories are ostensibly targeted for younger fans, but given the current-day mishandling of Classic Spider-Man in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man in the post-BND world, this title is a welcome respite

In Detail...

"There's No Bee in Team"
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #38 (Story 1)
Jun 2008 : SM Title
Summary: New Adventures of Spider-Man as a teen
Editor:  Mark Paniccia
Writer:  Fred Van Lente
Artist:  Corry Hamscher, Terry Pallot
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Adventures Two-In-One #12
 Partially Reprinted In: Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #233

Opening up, we are treated to a full-page splash of Spidey being swarmed by, well, er, ah Swarm; a being so named because he (it) is not so much a man, but the collective mind of a colony of bees that have taken the anthropomorphic shape of a man, and they are not very happy with Spidey.

Flash back to the previous day, a scalding hot day in the middle of Summer, in Queens, NY. A very sweaty Peter enters a minimart and purchases a soda, unfortunately for Pete, it is apparently the last Rock-Pop Cola in the store, and Flash Thompson (who is hanging with his pals from the football squad) wanted it. Thinking quickly, Pete tells the Midtown High bully that he already drank some, so perhaps Flash doesn't want to drink it himself.

Not wanting nerd cooties (and not wanting to be one-upped by geek-boy Parker), Flash pitched the soda bottle into a nearby abandoned factory. As fate (and the writer of the comic) would have it, that factory was currently occupied by none other than Swarm. At first Swarm thinks that he might have been discovered, but realizes that it is just some kids. However what he does spot is a nearby construction site, and determines that he could utilize some of the scattered building materials on the site to construct his hive.

So, being self-empowered, Swarm heads over to the site and begins to buzz-bomb the construction workers as he makes off with their supplies. Needless to say, he is none too careful about scattering the workers, and one falls off the top of the high-rise framework. Good thing that Peter is still in the area, as he quickly changes into his red-and-blues, swings into action, scoops the guy out of the air, and deposits him safely on the ground.

Turning around, Spidey comes face to faces with Swarm. Spidey sees that the construction workers are trying to beat him down, only not doing so well. When Spidey joins the fray, and takes a swing at the buzzing mass of bees, they scatter and then reform to land a haymaker of their own on Spidey. The Webbed-Wonderkin attempts to beat a hasty retreat, only to wind up in a dumpster and Swarm in the wind.

Back in the Ice Cream Factory, Swarm is manipulating the hoard of bees that is himself to construct an over-sized hive, so that he can grow an over-sized queen (which in turn will grow over-sized bees). Back at home, Peter is packing up all of his Spidey costumes in a duffel bag so that he can bring them to the Laundromat for cleaning (the one he was just wearing was his last clean costume). Only as he leaves the house Aunt May sees him and tries to get him to do the laundry at home. Begging off, Pete hustles out the door, only to run into Flash and his goons again.

Flash absconds with Pete's laundry and he and his boys play monkey-in-the-middle (with Pete as the monkey, 'natch) with the laundry bag. Fearful that they might open it up and spot his costume, Pete desperately attempts to retrieve the bag. Only Flash and his cronies all duck into, you guessed it, the abandoned Ice Cream Factory currently inhabited by none other than Swarm. Pete catches up with the bullies only to find them in the clutches of Swarm, and about to be fed to the collective in the Hive.

Thinking quickly Pete uses his web-shooter (which is still on his wrist), to snag the bag (which Flash dropped on the floor in clear sight of our hero). Quickly donning one of his costumes (which unfortunately is the dirtiest of the bunch), Pete prepares for action. Still, putting his own delicate sensibilities aside for the moment, Pete prepares to do his best to take down the killer bee collective that is Swarm.

Moving swiftly, he manages to evade Swarm, snag all of the footballers, and whisk them all to safety outside the building. Once outside, Spidey asks for their help to take care of Swarm, only the jocks all run off, terrified. It is then that Spidey notices that there are still several bees milling around him. Suddenly he realizes that it isn't that he is just dirty and smelly he is covered in a sticky substance that is attracting the bees to him as does the nectar of flowers. This sparks the scientist portion of his brain and sets him on a course of action.

Spidey coats himself with even more of the sweet, sticky substance that pervades the Ice Cream factory, and then he takes a flying dive right through Swarm's bee body, completely disrupting the cohesiveness of the collective's uni-mind. This is further enhanced by the fact that Spidey then lands in a pool of liquid, which disrupts the bees even more. Now, with them so scattered, he grabs out the queen's pupa out of the hive and tosses it into a nearby garbage truck even as it is loading trash into its hopper, thus ending the menace of Swarm for the moment.

The following day, Peter is sitting in the Laundromat, washing out his soiled uniforms when Flash and his football, jock, bully friends who were picking on Peter the day before, all pass in front of the Laundromat. As they pass by, Dan, one of the bully thugs, spots Peter inside, slips away from Flash and approaches Pete. Once inside, he apologizes to Pete for picking on him the previous day. Thinking he's won a friend over, Pete starts to invite Dan to a film, only to realize that Dan has returned to the comfort zone of his buds, leaving Pete alone with his books once more.

In General...

Another fine example of how to tell a well thought-out, nicely-paced story; everything is set up early (the bees, Swarm, Flash and his buddies), and played out nicely right to the end. Even the football bully, Dan who apologizes at the end to Peter was a nice aspect to the story. It is really great when the writer can pull off a stripped-down, bare bones 22-page story without skimping on characterization, plot, motivations or action, and then get everyone in the story in perfect pitch character as well.

Overall Rating...

Every time I read this book I enjoy it more. It truly doesn't get any better than this.

Footnote...

There is one-page of four Chris Giarrusso mini-marvel strips at the end of this story. These strips are older ones, that are presumably reprinted from back when Marvel used to run a Bullpen Bulletins page (hey, why are there no Bullpen Bulletins and/or letters pages in the comics anymore)?