Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #39

Background

Peter Parker’s life has been pretty eventful since he started at Horizon: He’s finally got a job with some cash, he’s constantly inventing new technology, one of his lab partners is a vampire, and he accidentally blew up New York before fixing it again. But one thing is for sure- New York and the world is a better place because Peter, and by extension Spider-Man, is there. Right?

Story 'Spider Who?'

Seems like Pete’s new co-worker pal Grady is having another bad day at the office, because we open to a scene of him running off before he destroys time and space, while Peter himself is caught in the blast from the machine. Fortunately enough, he seems to survive, as he wakes up in Central Park, along with several lead blocks from Horizon labs. When two officers approach him, his license is blank. Not a good sign! Seems Grady made a machine to remove objects from the timeline, thus keeping food fresh, organs ready for transplant, and occasionally, removing super heroes from reality so you can make one-shot issue.

Peter heads to Horizon in an attempt to access his lab, but seeing as how he never existed…well, you get the idea. He tells the guard how Grady was using his device to place the lead blocks in storage, but he couldn’t get them back nobody even remembered they existed (shouldn’t he forget them too…unless waking up next to them made him remember?). The guard responds, quite understandably, by tossing him out. Peter storms off, unable to get back in because Modell Spider-Proofed the air ducts- wait if he never existed, why would Max protect his facility from Spider-Man? And why doesn’t Peter, a super genius, realize this? I don’t know.

As Peter contemplates his situation he realizes that the world is actually better without him! MJ has a film career, Flash is an Olympian, Osborn cures cancer, and JJ is President, with a budget surplus! The next day (wait, where did he sleep?), Pete grabs an ice cream cone at the strip mall where his school used to be (wait, when did that happen?). Suddenly he’s back IN high school! Meanwhile, Iron Man detects the earthquake/chrono disturbance and flies off to Queens.

Back in time, Peter tells off Flash, in a confusing way (he wishes he told him back in high school that he’ll be nice in the future?). Mid-rant, he jumps back to the present. The Avengers pick up his trail via his dropped ice cream. Pete, meanwhile, heads off to his old home in Queens. And who does he run into but Uncle Ben! Apparently by not existing the cop chasing the thief thought HE could stop him…and did! This causes Pete to fall back in time again, this time to when he saved Anna Watson by accidentally hitting her with his bike. When he returns to the present, Uncle Ben starts to remember who he is.

Unfortunately the Avengers arrive, breaking up the touching reunion. Peter tries to trigger their memories by revealing he’s Spider-Man, but to no avail (and a humorous remark about his lack of originality from Spider-Woman). The chrono-earthquakes continue and Pete demands to be taken to the source, but when Iron Man flies him past the Daily Bugle, he goes through time again. He sees Betty Brant and him talking about her pursuing a career in journalism rather than being a secretary. When he returns to the present, he realizes are the quakes are related to his past. And as he gets to them, they stop and the world starts returning to normal. He goes from quake to quake slowly returning things to normal.

Uncle Ben, however, still remains. And while he knows he dies, he doesn’t know how. When they arrive at the last quake, Peter hesitates, until Uncle Ben gives him a pep talk. Much like the same lesson he learned in Amazing Spider-Man #679, he’s a valuable as Peter Parker, not just as Spider-Man. Pete runs into Horizon labs, bringing us to the beginning of the issue, except this time, all the different aged Peters appear and re-create his existence (I think). Grady can’t remember what happened, but instantly takes Peter’s word that his machine is dangerous and begins to disassemble it. Peter runs back out to “check up on something”.

That of course, is Uncle Ben who still hasn’t disappeared, giving another of those touching moments where Uncle Ben tells Peter how proud he is of him. Ben disappears and Pete goes back to work, always happy to lend a hand for a friend.

General Comments

Hm. So. Not sure how to approach this one. I know Annuals are only meant for one-shot sort of stories, so you can’t really expect too much story wise. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be a waste either. Unfortunately, for the past few years, I feel like the Annuals have been sort of a waste of potential. Going since the “re-boot” we’ve had the 2008 Annual about Jackpot (ugh), the 2009 Annual about Raptor and the wedding part for May and Jay (eh), the 2010 Annual about the past Captain America team-up (ugggh) and the 2011 Annual that crossed over with Hulk and Deadpool (bleh). So taking this into account we have two alternate universe stories, one untold tale, and then two in regular continuity. That’s 3 that don’t further the current plot or give any lead-in to future stories. Annuals can totally serve a point. Look at Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5, or even Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 2) Annual 2001…heck even 2008 and 2009 answered some questions. My point is, Annuals can be a one-shot issue and still advance the plot. And if they can be well-written, even better.

Now then, I don’t think this issue was TOTALLY awful. It took a somewhat tired concept and put a fun little spin on it. Making the world a better place without Peter/Spider-Man is amusing, because it’s always driven home how great a difference he makes in the world. However, I feel like more could have been done here. Maybe about the personal differences he actually made or something…the little scenes author Brian Reed gave us were a bit slim. As for gripes…

How many times can we go back to Grady’s experiments causing trouble? I mean in less than a year we have two stories where he accidentally removes Peter from the time line. For a genius, he sure seems to make a good deal of earth shattering (literally) mistakes. And to go back to “I Killed Tomorrow”…didn’t Peter already learn his worth there? And shouldn’t New York be a smoking crater because he wasn’t there to fix Grady’s mistake? Or shouldn’t it be a smoking crater from the number of times he wasn’t there to save it?

Also, when did Peter’s high school get torn down? I know this is a throw-away comment in a story that won’t really matter, but I mean, c’mon! He was a teacher there! During the JMS era, he was all about that school and its students…so why now is he very blasé about it being torn down? And acting like that it’s been that way for a long time! What the heck, man?!

Personally, I am also a bit tired of the “Uncle Ben comes back” idea. It seems to happen a lot now (this is also the second Annual in a row where he’s run into an alternate universe Uncle Ben…though this one wasn’t crazy). I know that he’s the main driving factor behind who Peter is, but isn’t this device a bit over-used? Doesn’t it diminish the impact if you bring him back for every anniversary issue, time travel story, whatever purpose you can think of? Also, I SUPPOSE it makes sense that the cop would be able to catch the thief-turned-burglar because he didn’t stop to ask Spidey for help…but wouldn’t it make just as much, if not more, sense that he wouldn’t because he COULDN’T do it originally…which is why he needed Spider-Man to do it for him in the first place? Because, you know, it was like he wasn’t there at all anyways? I suppose that takes away the whole emotional impact, so, maybe this actually was a better choice…

Either way, not a terrible issue, but not one that’s going to change the Spidey-verse or change the way we think about story telling in comics. I’ve seen a lot better, but I’ve seen much, much worse.

Overall Rating

An issue only for the total completionist. I would say that if you’re on the fence, pass. There’s no Spider-Man action and the story, while an interesting idea, could have perhaps done a bit more to really show how essential Peter Parker is.

Footnote

Seriously, I think Horizon needs to do a serious performance evaluation on Grady and his tendency to remove his co-workers from time and space. That kind of stuff just doesn’t fly in most work environments!