Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #396

 Posted: 2006
 Staff: Adam Chapman (E-Mail)


Peter Parker is at a low ebb following the reveal of his parents, Harry Osborn's posthumous involvement, Aunt May's heart attack, marital problems with Mary Jane, and the return and supposed death of his clone.

Story 'Deadmen'

  Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #396
Summary: Daredevil, Owl, Vulture
Arc: Part 3 of 'Back from the Edge' (1-3)
Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils: Mark Bagley
Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Cover Art: Mark Bagley

The armoured version of Daredevil tears into some street punks, looking for information on where to find Owlsley, otherwise known as the Owl. He takes out the punks, and looks up, asking an unseen figure to come down from the shadows and stop mirroring him in the darkness. Spider-Man jumps down and tells Daredevil that what he needs right now is a friend, and calls Daredevil Matt. Daredevil tells him he's got the wrong man, that Matt Murdock is dead. Peter pleads for his help, telling him that so is he.

The Owl sits atop the city, contemplating his fate, realizing that he's discovered his conscience, and that he is having an identity crisis. The Vulture flies up to him, and is angry that the Owl is late for their meeting. The two fly off together.

Mary Jane tries to feel comfortable in her sister's house, while wrestling with the ghosts of her past, and her abusive father. Gayle comforts her, as the two sit and remember the past.

Daredevil swings through New York, irritated that Spider-Man keeps trailing him and following him. Peter tells Daredevil that he needs to share something with his friend, who he's shared so much with, even his secret identity. Daredevil chides him for giving it away so freely, to a stranger. Peter is frustrated and wants Daredevil to just stop for a second and listen to him, and help him. He confesses that he feels trapped between the Spider and the Man, and can't find his way out. They almost come to blows, before Daredevil says they should go pay their respects to the dead.

Spider-Man and Daredevil visit Matt Murdock's grave. Daredevil tells Spider-Man that if he WAS Matt Murdock, and he had staged his own death to be born again, then he'd tell Spider-Man to kill Peter Parker, bury him and forget he ever existed. Once again he reiterates he's not Murdock. He walks away, and Spider-Man follows him and asks him if he'd like to go hunting for The Owl together. Daredevil smiles.

The Vulture and the Owl bicker over their identities and their pasts, with Vulture showing The Owl that if they kill their enemies, there won't be anyone left to remember their heinous deeds. The Owl is disgusted, and flies away from the scene, with Vulture telling him that he's got many birds who will carry the virus out into the city. The Owl perches alone, only to be disturbed by Spider-Man and Daredevil. Before they fight, a Vulture swoops down and pricks Spider-Man. He falls over, as the virus begins to ravage his system. The Owl flies away, and realizes that in so doing, he's killing Owlsley, and also killing Spider-Man in the process...

General Comments

What makes these issues fairly strong is the strong character work. The use of The Owl and The Vulture is very stretched, and fairly convoluted and silly, but the rest of the issue holds together quite well. Peter Parker is having massive trauma, he's feeling himself sink further and further, and before he gets out of this funk, he has to fall further. Many will say that this era of Spider-Man comics is too dark and not representative of the character, but I think its issues like this which truly speak to the core of the character in the first place. His life has always been a struggle to balance the different aspects of his life, between Spider-Man and Peter Parker. With all the horrible events which occurred to Peter Parker, its understandable that he'd retreat within the one persona which could be cut off from his Peter Parker ties, to protect his own mind from being hurt yet again.

His confrontation with Daredevil is revealing and tense, some great writing by DeMatteis, exploring the depths of the character's psychological trauma, while also plumbing into Daredevil's own such problems. Both men are very similar in many ways, and the use of current events involving Daredevil, namely his killing off his civilian identity, strikes a lot of fascinating parallels between the two characters. Just how much can one take before reaching the edge and falling off. Daredevil's situation is just what Spider-Man always feared for himself, and here, he thinks it may just be the only solution. The continuing examination of Spider-Man's psyche is extremely well done, and the virus storyline, although a little ham-fisted, is obviously being worked in to help the character confront his own mortality, so that he may start to come back from the edge that he's worked himself onto.

The artwork by Bagley is extremely great stuff, especially his depiction of The Owl. If only the Owl got to look like this more often, the character would be much more respected, feared, and used as a villain. Spider-Man and Daredevil look great, and the emotion of the characters' exchange is very well illustrated by Bagley.

Overall Rating

Its Spider-Man's dark period, but more than that, its a great period of psychological examination of how low a character can go before he gets snapped back up from the depths. Great script, with a few faulty elements, and some amazing artwork.

 Posted: 2006
 Staff: Adam Chapman (E-Mail)