Sensational Spider-Man #33 (November, 1998)
“The Gathering of Five, Part Five: Gifts”
Writer – Todd DeZago
Pencils – Joe Bennett
Inks – Al Milgrom
Colors – Tom Smith
Letters – Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Liz Agraphiotis
Edits – Ralph Macchio
Chief – Bob Harras
Cover Price: $1.99
Even though nobody’s following along anymore, we’re still working our way toward the Byrne/Mackie Reboot… and today, we wrap up the lead-in story arc, The Gathering of Five. Be ready for one heck of a satisfying conclusion. Would I lie to ya? Hrmm…
If you wanna/needta catch up, here are the first four chapters. Just click’a the cov’uh, and you will be delivered:
Now, onto the senses-shattering conclusion! Tomorrow, we begin The Final Chapter… which, uh, is the next story line.
We open with Override… yeah, him again… it’s several weeks ago and he’s sat at the bedside of his wife in the hospital. It’d been near a quarter-century since I last read any of this, so I assumed she was just “ill”… and not all tore up from their last outing together as supervillains. Anyhoo, she’s been comatose for awhile, and our man decides he’s just going to put her out of her misery… until, that is, she wakes up!
Back to the present, and Peter Parker is trying to repair his leaky roof. While in the attic, he comes across some old photos… and, like most of us do when in the same sort of situation, he starts to reminisce. He is soon joined by Mary Jane, who hems and haws about maybe getting back into the modeling game… even though she’s clearly already made up her mind. We get a panel with some of Emjay’s photos, which… if taken out of context, would be pretty gross. Splott, indeed.
MJ continues to hint that she’s doneski with school… and starts harping on how expensive her textbooks are. $300 for a psychology book! Hmm. I’ve been a student of Psychology for a decade now (at undergrad, masters, and post-masters levels), and haven’t had a book quite that expensive in any’a my syllabuses. She must be taking some advanced stuff! Peter tells her not to sweat it.
Back at the hospital, Greg (Override) tells Annie about the Gathering of Five ritual. Oh yeah, that li’l thing… almost forgot about it! It’s not like it’s front-and-center in the story named after it, is it? We learn a bit more about the extent of Annie’s injuries… it doesn’t sound great.
Greg heads out… almost ashamed of himself for not being completely upfront with Annie about what the Gathering of Five might actually result in. He realizes she’s pretty hopeless at the moment, and he didn’t want to pile on anything else for her to worry about.
We shift scenes, and… hey, it’s Spider-Man! After nearly killing himself by swingin’ in the rain… he pitches a tent around a homeless man, and follows the police to an armored car that had just been robbed. Ya see, he’s hopeful to snap a few Spidey-action-pics to sell to Jonah… and use those monies to buy MJ her books!
Little does he know, however, that at that very moment… Mary Jane is withdrawing from all of her classes!
Back at the hospital, Annie Override has another visitor… it’s Norman! He promises her that, should the Gathering of Five go sideways for Greg… that he himself will return to “bring her peace”. Welp, that got kinda dark.
Back with Spidey… he notices, say it with me, Override running away from the armored car holding a briefcase. The next four pages have Spider-Man chasing the baddie… into a building, and up to its roof. Along the way Spidey sings a bit of Fastball’s “The Way”, which really helps ta get ya into the gestalt of 1998, eh?
Spidey knocks Override off the roof, but catches him before he falls all that far. He delivers the baddie to a pair of police officers, who appear not to give half a damn. Whattayagonnado?
What’s important here is that Peter got his pictures… and the Bugle ran one of ’em! Look at the angle on this thing. Where exactly would “Peter Parker” be to snap this picture? Does Jonah ever stop to think about that? I mean, Pete would have to be hovering in a low-flying helicopter or something, no? Silly.
Back in the hospital, we learn that Greg managed to give the officers the slip… not that they cared all that much in the first place. He’s now got “all the money” they could ever need… and soon, after the Ritual, their lives will be perfect. You almost feel for the guy, right?
Speakin’ of guys we feel for… we jump to the next day, where Peter is putting the finishing touches on his roof repair. Mary Jane joins him… and he gleefully presents her with a gift. It’s her Psych books! She looks at them the same way a kid might look at a gift of socks on Christmas morning. Or, perhaps how one might look at a mess the dog left on the new carpet.
Now, she finally comes clean… school, a degree… she don’t want none’a that. What she wants is “adventure”… and “excitement”… and for her, that comes with modeling.
Peter says, if that’s what is most important to her… than she should do it. Emjay corrects him, and while holding up a picture from their wedding day, says this is what’s most important to her… but, she’s still gonna get back to modeling anyway. And with that… The Gathering of Five story arc… and this volume of Sensational Spider-Man come to an end.
Boy, I hope y’all didn’t get too burned out on the hot-n-heavy Gathering of Five stuff in this issue! Hoo-boy, and how about that conclusion! Wow, I never expected the Gathering of Five to end… without the Gathering of the friggin’ Five! Yeesh… I know a running gag in the bullpen and letters pages is to give “Ralf” a hard time about how bad a job he does, but… c’mon man… who paced this event? Five-parts… only two-and-a-half of which had anything to do with the actual thing it’s named after!
Alright, let’s put that aside for now… and talk about what we actually did get. This was Override’s story… who, for getting such a focus here, feels like a character we should still be talking about today, no? Heck, it’s been a long while since I read any “current year” Spidey… so, for all I know, he’s looming larger than ever.
His story is pretty tragic… made even more so by the fact that his wife’s current bodily state is his own fault. You almost feel for the guy… and perhaps, under other circumstances, I would. I gotta say though, every time he was on panel here… all I wanted to do was flip forward. I’m expecting some Norman stuff here… and all I’m getting is Dr. Greg Whatshisface. Not a fault of the story, the issue, nor Todd DeZago… but, more an “it is what it is” sort of thing.
Speaking of DeZago… I really like the way he writes Peter/Spidey. The banter is not forced like it is under Byrne, and it doesn’t feel like he just found a book of Henny Youngman one-liners to recite from like so many other Spidey writers. While on the creative team, I really gotta hand it to Joe Bennett. His art has been one of the bright-spots of revisiting this story/era. His Dr. Greg might look a bit too much like Peter at times, but, for the most part… his work is really great!
Let’s talk Mary Jane. As much as she got on my nerves for making excuses and hemming and hawing, I’d be lying if I said I myself have never had those thoughts and conversations. School as an adult… sucks. While everyone you know is focused on their careers and gets to plan to spend their free time however they see fit, the adult student has… schoolwork, research, and classes after their day job. It’s not easy. I mean, it’s not impossible… but, it’s not preferable, ya know?
I’ve had those hemming and hawing conversations with the wife… where I make excuses about anything from “expenses” (like MJ did), and having a more accommodating schedule… questioning the “value” of an advanced degree, asking if it would make that much of a difference in the long-run. It’s definitely something that can burrow into your brain pan. Especially when it’s a Psych degree. I tell ya, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology… is worthless (I’ve had one for years!) Well, worthless if you actually want a career in Psychology, or Research, or Behavioral Health that pays more than minimum wage.
So yeah, didn’t love Emjay’s take… but, can’t suggest that it didn’t feel right or real. I still can’t shake the feeling that we’re supposed to feel somewhat betrayed by her quitting school. Even with her holding up the photo from their wedding… it still doesn’t feel like they’re “on the same page”. We’ll be exploring this further as we move through the Byrne/Mackie reboot.
Overall. This was a fine issue… but a lousy chapter (much less the concluding chapter) of The Gathering of Five. We get very little (if any) closure. It feels like something out of nu-skool “Marvel Events 101″… where final chapters don’t actually conclude anything… all they do is lead into the next in a string of endless events. Imagine buying a The Gathering of Five trade paperback collection… and it only included these five issues? You’d feel like you were robbed… and you wouldn’t be wrong!