Peter Parker: Spider-Man #98 (Late November, 1998)
“The Final Chapter, Part 4: The Final Chapter”
Writer – Howard Mackie
Pencils – John Romita, Jr.
Inks – Scott Hanna
Letters – Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Liz Agraphiotis
Edits – Ralph Macchio
Chief – Bob Harras
Cover Price: $1.99
R.I.P. Denny O’Neil.
We wrapped up yesterday with Spidey in rather a sticky widget. Well, actually… he was unmasked and dead, with a triumphant Green Goblin holding his body aloft in celebration. How we ever gonna walk that back? Heck, maybe we won’t be! Maybe this is how Peter Parker’s story ends! It is called “The Final Chapter” after all. Arright, arright… let’s turn the page and let that other shoe drop already…
Ya see, folks… Norman actually won the “gift” of MADNESS during The Gathering of Five, so… much of this was all in ol’ Normie’s head. It’s not clear quite how much, because Spider-Man does seem to know all about the Aunt May/actress debacle. Maybe I’m not supposed to be thinking about that? Anyhoo, the Green Goblin is babbling about DNA Bombs and what-not… really making a good of himself, which… gotta say, actually makes sense considering the ugly costume he’s wearing. Jonah, and the rest of the Daily Bugle staff are all here to witness this, by the way.
Just then… one of the Goblin’s pumpkin bombs explodes… right at the foundation of the Bugle building! Spidey gets in there to hold the thing up… so, it looks like we’re getting yet another callback to that other “The Final Chapter”. Haven’t seen that sort of thing in a few issues, have we?
Over the course of the next eight-pages, Spider-Man precariously holds the Daily Bugle building on his shoulders. The police show up to haul Norman away… Jonah demands they arrest Spider-Man as well. The news shows up… even Mary Jane somehow winds up in the crowd! Finally, Spidey is able to hoist the building over his head.
Spider-Man then steadies the building, before unloading like a dozen web cartridges on it to keep it standing. I will concede, I like this bit a lot. Once the place is steadied, Jonah still demands Spider-Man be arrest… to which, Spidey basically tells him to go eff himself.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that crass. Still, a very strong little scene here. As Spidey exits stage-left en route to Reed Richards’ surgery theater, he walks past Emjay and tells her he loves her.
Spider-Man swings toward the Fantastics… fearful that Reed will remove the DNA Bomb trigger thingie from Aunt May’s noggin… which, according to Norman, will render all of humanity into component DNA goop. Then again, Norman was a raving loon when he said all’a that… so was it even true in the first place?
Spidey arrives at the final moment to fill Reed in on the sitch… and begs him to find another way to save her life, ya know, without removing the dongle.
We shift to a little while later, with Peter and Mary Jane seated in a waiting room… ya know, waiting to hear whether or not May’s surgery was a success. While they’re… uh, waiting, Mary Jane fills Peter in on some of the deets of her modeling contract… and Peter replies by saying he’s going to quit the web-game. Reed interrupts the conversation to reveal that Aunt May… (duh) will survive.
And so, Peter and MJ head into May’s room… where they have a touching reunion.
Later, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before… Peter burns his Spider-Man costume in a barrel.
We wrap up (the issue, the volume of Peter Parker: Spider-Man, and this whole dang near-forty-year-long era of Spidey) with the Green Goblin in a padded room. Some cloaked figures enter the place, overpower security and swipe ol’ Norman… claiming that he is the property of (yawn) the Scriers.
Alrighty… so, that’s how we’re wrapping up Peter Parker’s story, izzit? Kind of a mixed bag, I s’pose… I think it best we “Facts of Life” this one… ya know, take the good, take the bad… take ’em both.
Let’s start with some “good”. First of all, Romita’s art here is wonderful… ugly Goblin design notwithstanding, of course. I mean, I don’t even think George Perez could make that disaster look good. I’m not sure if it’s more my “comfort level” with John, Jr., but his work here just feels “right”. I really enjoyed it… if I’m being honest, it was the main highlight of this entire story arc.
More “good”… Peter telling off Jonah. We really get the impression that Spidey’s at his wit’s end. He has no more effs to give… and doesn’t care whose feathers that may ruffle. I mean, Jonah was being a complete jackass… so, any sorta snippiness in his direction was well-earned.
Spidey’s trip to Reed’s was well done. I liked him trying to run everything through his head to make sense of it… while he was still recovering from, ya know, hoisting a great big building over his head. I mean, he used his webs to tape up his ribs. Really cool visual… really desperate sort of tone. Just another very strong scene. I think Mr. Mackie, despite how poorly this entire era has aged, could deliver some super-strong-Spidey.
Finally, and this is a weird one… but, I thought it was interesting that this issue shipped with two covers… but, they were both attached to the same book! Weird “gimmick”, but I appreciated the, uh “added value” at no additional cost. It’s really the only little “extra” we’re getting here to denote that this is, in fact, a milestone issue. It’s not like Spidey’s actually “going away”… the new #1’s will be on the shelf in about a month!
Now, let’s get into some “not so good”. If you’ve been reading my stuff for awhile, you’ve probably seen me complain about anytime a new creator gets a shot at Batman, they have to tell their version of the “Zorro scene”. Ya know, gunshot… blood splat… pearls everywhere. With Spider-Man, I feel like we go back to the (original) “The Final Chapter” hoisting heavy crap trope a bit too often. I swear, for awhile, we’d see callbacks to it several times a year. Though, in fairness, “hoisting heavy crap” is sort of what superheroes do from time to time… but, I dunno. It just kinda irks me… and falls prey to that law of diminishing returns. On the same subject, I really don’t think we needed to take up nearly half the issue with the hoisting scene.
Then, we’ve got Spider-Man quitting… again. I think this is something that had been done too often before to make this time actually feel “special”, ya know? I mean, Peter gave up being Spider-Man like just a couple years ago when Ben Reilly showed up. More of that law of diminishing returns, I guess. I feel like if we really wanted to “draw a line” under this… we needed a scene with a) more “oomph”, and b) one we haven’t already seen… a few times before.
The MADNESS cop-out reveal was… I mean, they really wrote themselves into a corner here, didn’t they? There really wasn’t any other option here, right? Something had to give… and unfortunately, goin’ by the Law of Mackie’s Razor… the most uninspired answer is usually going to wind up being the right one. I also didn’t like how nebulous Norman’s MADNESS actually was. I mean, how much of what he pontificated last issue actually wound up being said? Only the most relevant parts to the story? Was he actually lucid (and super-powered) for the first 19 pages of the prior chapter… only going full-blown loony when he “unmasked” Peter? Weird stuff.
Then, there was the stuff with the Scriers. I can’t remember if this is the first time we find out there’s “more than one” Scrier… as, if I’m being honest, my eyes usually glaze over and I revert to “skimming” any time I see a Scrier on the page. Whatever the case, I find them incredibly boring… and the fact that it looks like they’re going to be sticking around into the Byrne/Mackie Reboot does not inspire a heckuva lot of faith.
Now, if you look at the Letters Pages I include in my pieces (which assumes that folks actually look at the pieces to begin with), this time out, we learn that the next issue we’re going to want to read is… sigh… the first couple of issues of Spider-Man: Chapter One. Are we bad enough dudes and dudettes to even dare try? I will admit now that, even though I was a full-blown Marvel Zombie back ’round the turn of the century, even I dropped Chapter One halfway through! Actually, I’m not even sure I made it halfway! I’m game for another go-round. I guess we’ll just have to see if I somehow happen across that particular longbox today. If not, we’ll move right into the brand-new Spider-Man “volume 2’s”.
Thanks for reading, if you still are. I didn’t think this topic would be quite the blog-killer that it has been! Hmm… maybe it’s just me people don’t like?
(Don’t Call it a) Fold-Out: