Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #292

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This story is part of an Arc: "Spider-Slayers"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Peter recently proposed to Mary Jane Watson. Mary Jane turned him down, primarily because she has serious reservations about marriage. And as fate would have it, she has to leave due to a family emergency in Pittsburgh; it seems her sister Gayle Byrnes is in jail.

Later that day, Spider-Man confronts Alistair Smythe in his new and improved Spider Slayer, which resembles a gooseneck lamp. Despite its outward appearance, it proves to be very formidable. During their battle, Smythe douses our hero with ethyl chloride gas to weaken him. If not for some outside help, Smythe would have completed his vendetta against Spider-Man. Spider-Man returns home and receives a call from Mary Jane begging him to come to Pittsburgh. He hops the next flight to Pittsburgh.

Unknown to Peter, the ethyl chloride gas contains a tracer element, enabling Smythe to follow him anywhere.

In Detail...

"Growing Pains!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #292
Sep 1987 : SMURF 292.500 : SM Title
Summary: MJ accepts, leads into ASM Annual #21
Arc: Part 3 of "Spider-Slayers"
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Alex Saviuk
Inker:  Vince Colletta
Cover Art:  Al Milgrom
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 Reprinted In: Spider-Man/Mary Jane...You Just Hit the Jackpot
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: The Wedding (TPB)
Articles: Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Smythe, Alistaire, Watson, Philip

After arriving in Pittsburgh, Peter arrives at Gayle's house where MJ is waiting for him, along with her father, Phillip Watson. He is very displeased with her decision to bring "an outsider" into "family business". MJ loses her temper and leaves with Peter closely behind. They go for a ride while MJ explains the reason for the sudden appearance of her father.

Phillip's abusive tendencies toward his family and failures as a writer ultimately made him a very bitter man. This resulted in losing his tenure as a college professor. This in turn led him to steal rare manuscripts and sell them to the highest bidder in lieu of a legitimate job. His latest scheme involved Benjamin Franklin's "The Tavistock Paper", currently on loan to Duquesne University, where Gayle works as a career counselor.

Phillip manipulated her into stealing the manuscript for him. She hid it in a new location, planning to get it later. She did not plan on being caught on tape and arrested before she could turn it over to Phillip. Now "Daddy" is trying to convince his youngest daughter to get the location of the manuscript from Gayle. He promises to leave them alone and assures them that without the evidence, Gayle will be released.

Peter reminds her of the high risks involved in this plan and how little Phillip obviously thinks of them. Having said that, he promises to back her decision. He almost regrets it when she agrees to help Phillip.

In another part of Pittsburgh, Alistair Smythe waits until his movers have unloaded his "medial components" into a warehouse where he is able to reassemble his spider-slayer and resume his hunt.

Peter and MJ go to the Allegheny County women's prison to discuss the situation with Gayle. Gayle refuses to cooperate, preferring instead to be imprisoned rather than talk to her sister. Peter and Gayle exchange some words at this point. Peter is finally able to convince her to put aside her personal issues with MJ and work together for her kids' sake; if she's sent to prison, they will be the ones that really suffer.

Later that afternoon at Duquesne, Peter and MJ retrieve the manuscript from the sensory deprivation chamber where Gayle hid it. It is at this point Symthe makes his appearance in his spider-slayer.

Peter tries to get MJ to safety but Smythe spots her before she can leave. As he begins to turn his attention to her, Peter changes into his costume and provides a much better target for Smythe. He lures him outside toward the Liberty Bridge with the hopes of getting Smythe away from any civilian bystanders. Mary Jane follows in her car.

While trying to cross the bridge, Smythe manages to grab Spider-Man and force him underwater. Unable to get any leverage, Spider-Man nearly drowns until Mary Jane crashes her car into the spider-slayer. While doing little damage, it provides enough of a distraction to allow Spider-Man to escape. Seconds before Smythe destroys the car in retaliation, MJ abandons it and continues to follow Peter.

Continuing across the river, Spider-Man is horrified to find a residential area on the other side. While trying to decide what to do next, Smythe catches up to him and douses him with more ethyl chloride gas and begins to beat him mercilessly.

MJ reaches the other shore and sees Peter being beaten by Smythe. Thinking quickly she borrows a wooden baseball bat from a small boy and attacks the spider-slayer. Fed up with her interference, he grabs her with the intent to kill her in order to prevent further interruptions.

Peter sees MJ in mortal danger and quickly shakes off the effects of the chloride gas. He brings the slayer to the ground, quickly taking it apart, and pulling Smythe out of the chest cavity. He warns him not to come after MJ or anyone else again. He leaves him for the police.

After MJ has given her statement to the police, she meets up with Peter back at Gayle's house. She tricks Phillip into admitting his role in the theft, which is sufficient evidence for the police to arrest him. It seems that while MJ was waiting on Peter, she contacted the police and arranged this.

After they post the bail money for Gayle, Peter and MJ leave for the Pittsburgh International airport. While waiting for their plane, MJ tells Peter that she feels like she's "grown up" in the last few days. Since she has come to terms with her family issues, she gladly accepts his marriage proposal.

In General...

This is one for the records, people. In terms of character development, this ranks up there with the final pages of Amazing Spider-Man #122 (MJ decides to stay and comfort Peter following Gwen's death) and Amazing Spider-Man #259 (the first time she divulges her dysfunctional life to Peter).

The character development integrates perfectly with the action sequences. MJ has to deal with her family issues as well as Peter's enemies. It's never mentioned, but I would assume that has to be a small contributing factor in her initial refusal.

Overall Rating...

4 webs. Good solid story that holds up over the years. Despite using a potentially goofy villain, this turned out very well.

Footnote...

Alistar's grudge with Spider-Man is two-fold: (1) He's a paraplegic that cannot digest solid food (detailed in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #19). He blames Spider-Man for this. (2) He also blames Spider-Man for his the death of his father, Spencer Smythe, who died from radiation poisoning (that powers earlier model spider-slayers) in Amazing Spider-Man #192.

Mary Jane's issues with marriage stem from her father's verbal abuse while growing up. He blamed her MJ and Gayle for is writing deficiencies. Gayle's husband left her to fend for herself with kids. This was detailed in Amazing Spider-Man #259. Peter actually proposed to her before this arc, detailed in Amazing Spider-Man #182.

Peter and MJ's wedding occurs in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. Bring a tux and a wedding gift, but don't expect an open bar.