Comics : Untold Tales of Spider-Man Annual 1996

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Maybe because Spidey and the Torch were the only super-powered teenagers during the early years they were constantly teamed together. In true Marvel fashion they were also played one off the other, both a protaganist to the other. Maybe because Spider-Man was usually portrayed as the anti-hero (before the word existed), the Torch also seemed to have the upperhand most of the time, but those early adventures still seem lighthearted in most respects no matter how frustrating they proved for our Web Head.

In Detail...

"A Night on The Town"
Untold Tales of Spider-Man Annual 1996
Year 1996 : SMURF 021.700 : SM Title
Summary: Fantastic Four, Namor
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Writer:  Kurt Busiek
Pencils:  Mike Allred
Inker:  Joe Sinnott
Add. Art:  Pat Olliffe
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 Reprinted In: Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #22
 Reprinted In: Fantastic Four/Spider-Man Classic
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Human Torch, Jameson, J. Jonah, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Raymond Warren

The Human Torch makes life miserable for Spider-Man. Spidey retaliates and a fight ensues.

That, in a nutshell, is the plot. Left at that, a pretty boring story by anyone's standards, but dear ol' Mr. Busiek conjurs up a tale so wonderful and lighthearted it seems to reek of thirty-year old must and ink. If Stan Lee were dead (heaven forbid) it would seem that his spirit had returned to Busiek for this one story.

As stated, the story begins with the Torch getting the best of our hero once again. Spider-Man simply wishes to foil a robbery when HT flames onto the scene with all the machismo of Joe Namath in his prime.

A miffed Wall Crawler decides to strike home this time with an invite to the still single Invisible Girl, Sue Storm. Of course this couldn't have come at a more oportune time for Spidey since Sue is mad at future hubby Reed Richards. His seeming indifference toward her while working on a science project sends her storming (no pun intended, really) from the room just as Spidey swings onto the scene.

Complete with flowers, Spider-Man quickly pops the question. Team mate and brother Johnny (Human Torch) Storm is only too quick to turn the proposal down, much to Sue's dismay. As much to spite Reed as sibling, she accepts. Our hero is speechless since he never believed he had a chance with Marveldom's most beautious heroione (don't tell the Wasp).

As Peter Parker the following day goes by quickly and in a blur. Over and over he assures himself that the date is a certainty. He really is going out with Sue Storm, the Invisble Girl. Hearthrob of many a young man.

When the fateful hour does arrive he is confounded by Sue's simple question of where they'll go. For that matter, how does he plan to escort his date?

These turn out to be meerly minor problems and soon the two off, via a module of the Fantasticar, to a local pizzaria.

A severly miffed Johnny Storm ponders the situation. His only recourse, in his mind at least, is to dredge up Sue's other suiter in this increasingly geometically tangled web of romance: the Sub-Mariner.

Namor, it seems, has had a crush on Sue since their first meeting way back in Fantastic Four number four. Johnny had discovered him on the bowery and brought a lost memory back. Since then a love-hate relationship has existed between the quartet and the Prince of Atlantis. Mostly the love has been for Sue and the hate for the remainder of the group. The same is true of the FF towards Namor.

Anyway, Johhny catches the attention of Subby and tells him that Spidey has kidnapped Sue. Namor, of course, sets off to rescue his love from the clutches of such a vile villian.

In the meantime, Spidey and Sue are sharing a pizza as she tells the Wall Crawler about her trouble with men. While our favorite Wall Crawler mulls over his luck, the Sub-Mariner attacks.

Confusion and a titantic battle follow that brings the Thing and Mr. Fantastic running. Along the way the truth is revealed as to how Johnny had fooled Subby into beleiving his tale and the matter is resovled.

Namor takes his leave, Reed agrees to accompany Sue to his old Alma Mater (where he will propose to Sue) and Spider-Man gets in one last lick at Johnny for ruining his date.

In General...

Good, wholesome fun for the whole family. Busiek has brought back the feel of the old Stan Lee/Steve Ditko issues full force this time. Much like Alan Moore with his 1963 series for Image, the reader almost expects to see ads for the Polaris Nuclear Sub and 200 army men complete with their own footlocker as they turn the pages.

The choice to have Mike Allred do the penciling honors was nothing short of brilliant. And Joe Sinnott's inking style compliments Allred's pencils to perfection. Instead of the normal, cluttered look, the book has a simple lined look and feel to it. A nice departure from the speed lines and over definition of today's super heroics.

I'll tell ya, if you don't have this one yet, rush out right this very minute and snap up a copy. While tame by modern standards, this might little bit of nostalgia might help ya understand why Marvel became the comic company of the past three decades. It's a shame the freshness couldn't carry it further.

Overall Rating...

Gotta give this a solid four and a half webs. Can't say enough good stuff about it and, for those of you who can recall those priceless older issues, neither will you.

Well, that's that. Think I'm gonna go back and re-read this issue for the umpteenth time now.