Comics : Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #98

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Final Chapter"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

So... After learning that Aunt May is alive, and contains the trigger to Norman's 'DNA bomb', Spider-Man must stop Reed Richards from extracting metal device in her skull, that could kill billions! Oh yeah, and he's got to save the Bugle from collapsing as well.

In Detail...

"The Final Chapter"
Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #98
Nov 1998 : SM Title
Arc: Part 4 of "The Final Chapter"
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
Writer:  Howard Mackie
Pencils:  John Romita, Jr.
Inker:  Scott Hanna
Cover Art:  John Byrne
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Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Menken, Donald (BTS), Glory Grant, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker

At the end of Part Three, we see Norman triumphant, over the un-masked body of Spider-Man. What we see at the start of this issue, however, is radically different. The goblin is defeated, revealed to have gained madness as his gift from the Gathering, and not ultimate power (so how did he do all that omnipotent stuff in PPSM 97, like make trees move and summon other-worldly beasts?). As the police come to take him in, J. Jonah Jameson vows to do Spider-Man in (yawn). Spider-Man jumps to save the Bugle, as it collapses from a leftover pumpkin bomb explosion. Camera crews have enough time to get the 'man-on-the-street' opnion of Spider-Man, while he busts his buns to save the building (typical press). Mary Jane watches from the crowd, secretly cheering her husband on. Peter must've heard it, because he gets a sudden surge of power, and is able to stabilize the Bugle.

Spider-Man swings through the city, still reeling from his encounter with Norman and saving the Bugle, just barely makes it to Four Freedom Plaza in time to stop Richards from enabling the DNA bomb.

Peter and Mary Jane, talking in the hospital lobby, consider their future. Peter tells MJ he's done with Spider-Man for good, and that he's going to concentrate on caring for the people he loves, including MJ and Aunt May. Just then, Mr. Fantastic comes in and tells them he was able to de-activate the device, and extract it from Aunt May's skull (big surprise). The Parker's go to check on Aunt May, who opens her eyes, and instantly recognizes her nephew. All's well that end's well (or so it would seem). Later, in the alleyway, MJ watches as Peter throws his costume into a burning barrel of trash (gee, hasn't that been done before?)

On the last page, we see Norman, still in his goblin-garb and wrapped in a strait jacket, is babbling on about Killing Spider-Man. The guards remove his mask, and then are overwhelmed by a bunch of black, hooded figures. They take Norman away, claiming 'Norman Osborn belongs to the Scriers!'

In General...

To say this issue was disappointing is an understatement. Here I was, believing that Spidey had indeed been unmasked, and totally defeated (and a sick part of me was really getting into it), and then I open up this opus and see that none of it happened. Not only that, but we missed the real battle! I mean, I like to Spidey win, but I want to see him win, not just show up after the fact. And as long as I'm on the subject, even if Norman didn't really unmask Peter, didn't he at least say that Peter was Spider-Man? Did anyone hear that? Of course we'll never know, because they didn't show it!

What a waste for Norman, too. The guy is the no-holds-barred evildoer in the Spidey titles for two years, turning life in the Spider-verse, and being damned good at being evil the whole way. For him to go out like this, like a whimpering child, is rotten. Any credit given to the Spider-crew for bringing Norman back was ruined by this story line. Now I can't stand the guy (and for a goblin-phile like me, that's saying something!)

And don't get me started on J. Jonah Jameson. I don't care how much I hate someone, if they repeatedly save my life, and the life of my life's passion, I don't think I'd be so hot to ruin him. I can't tell you how old it is to see Jameson go on and on about Spider-Man, even after the guys travels heaven and earth to save the stupid paper! JJJ needs some depth, because right now, he's looking like a cardboard cut-out (and a bad one, at that).

The DNA bomb, the predictable surgery scene, with Spidey breaking through the doors, and the totally re-hashed 'costume burning' scene, are all done poorly. This isn't a new story, it's a cut-and-paste of old ones!

Overall Rating...

You don't think I can give it a rock-bottom half a web... the lowest the site rating system offers? Watch me! There was absolutely nothing redeeming or read-worthy about this book. Now granted, it's better than trudging through Chapter One, and Byrne's constant posturing, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't trade this issue in for an old Hulk back issue (that is, if my comic store already didn't have thirty unsold issues clogging their back-issue boxes).

Spidey's still a great character, and hopefully his legacy will overcome all this unecessary bull. For me, I am making the only revolt I can to this crap - the original continuity stands for me, and it always will. It wasn't broken, and it didn't need to be fixed. The Lee/Ditko stories are still the bona-fide origin, with some Busiek thrown in for good measure. That's a hell of a lot better than buying Marvel's re-tool, and it brings me some inner peace in the midst of all this - crap (for lack of a better, less vulgar substitute).

Footnote...

If it ain't broke, Marvel, don't fix it. Your track record shows that you just tend to screw things up more. Case in point -- Final Chapter.

What on Earth could have possessed the writers to resurrect Aunt May? Or destroy the Daily Bugle building? Or make Peter give up his life as Spider-Man? Was it done for shock value? For shame! This storyline provided only one aspect that I thought necessary - the defeat of the Green Goblin. And that wasn't even shown in the story!

This storyline raises more questions than it answers, and this is even more infuriating than usual, because the Spider-Man staff seems to consider this a fitting end to more than 35 years of Spider-Man stories. There is absolutely nothing in this story to suggest any degree of finality. (Spidey's giving up crimefighting? I wonder how long it'll last this time.) The tragic Spider-Man legacy - great potential that turns out to be a disappointing story - lives on.