Amazing Spider-Man #290-292
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #290, Amazing Spider-Man #291, Amazing Spider-Man #292
This leads to some soul searching symbolized by Peter rescuing the microscope that Uncle Ben gave him from a charity auction (and of course fighting some criminals that try to rob the charity).
Uncle Ben must have given Peter a couple of microscopes, since Peter previously left a microscope on Uncle Ben's grave in Amazing Spider-Man #181 which was subsequently picked up by the cemetery's caretaker to give to his son.
It's also pretty amazing that with all the boarders in Aunt May's house, Peter's childhood bedroom has remained untouched.
Peter goes to Mary Jane for guidance during his soul-searching, and she in turns suggests he talks to Aunt May. It's presented that her ability to send Peter to someone else is a sign that she is growing up.
Aunt May has a cough, and i'm always suspicious when comic characters cough, because it clearly means that they are dying of some malingering disease. In this case, though, i think the cough is harmless.
The big news is that after all of these events, Peter asks Mary Jane an important question.
Ok, that's not the question. A little more on the Mephisto retcon on the wedding issue, but for now we're going to go forward with the stories as published. Here's the real panel.
And here's MJ's initial response.
MJ's reasoning is that, "like they say in the movies", it's too sudden, and she thought they were just friends. She's also got something going on with her family, and she's leaving for Pittsburgh to see her sister Gayle, who she hasn't seen in years.
But some of us are reading comics for super-hero stuff, no soap opera drama, so here's a robot.
The robot was sent by Alistair Smythe, who is hunting for Spider-Man.
The robot makes a mess of Mary Jane's apartment, but both she and Peter are gone by then, so it returns to Smythe. However, it finds him later.
Spidey is helped by a construction worker...
...and the robot retreats, but Spidey is unknowingly sprayed with a tracer chemical that allows Smythe to hone in on him. But Smythe is delayed when his robotically controlled van gets into an accident...
...and by then Peter has gotten a call from MJ requesting that he go to Pittsburgh.
And we meet MJ's dysfunctional family.
Her sister's in jail, and here's her dad.
It turns out her dad is now in the very specialized criminal business of stealing rare manuscripts and selling them, and his schemes have gotten Gayle in jail. And now he wants MJ to help find the manuscript that Gayle has hidden somewhere, and if he gets it he'll go away and there won't be any physical evidence to convict Gayle. MJ agrees to help.
MJ and Peter convince Gayle to tell them where the manuscript is hidden. But Smythe has followed Peter to Pittsburgh, and attacks again with his Spider-Slayer.
MJ tries to help out...
...but that gets her in trouble...
...resulting in Spider-Man getting enraged.
In the aftermath, some further cementing of Peter and MJ's relationship.
And then it turns out that MJ was actually helping the police with a sting operation on her father.
Things are also patched up with her sister, who had blamed MJ for running out on her when she was having her second child. The idea is that MJ had only been looking out for herself all her life, but she's growing up now.
At the airport on the way home, MJ accepts Peter's proposal.
Smythe is just involved for action in what would otherwise be a pure soap opera story, but it's worth noting that this is now the second time he's seen Mary Jane with Spider-Man. The bigger story is of course the marriage proposal, leading into this year's Amazing Spider-Man annual, which will feature a wedding that was intended to be timed with Peter and MJ's marriage in Stan Lee's newspaper strip (more on all of that in the annual entry).
Knowing that the wedding was decided at a much higher level than the creative team, it's easy to look at these issues as shoe-horning in the Peter/MJ romance. Issue #290 is also a lot more about Peter; the fact that now that he's accepted himself as Spider-Man he's realized he's also been denying the existence of his Peter Parker side. Since these are Michelinie's first issues, he hasn't done anything to really establish the fact that Peter and MJ are really in love. And Peter's relationship with MJ has always been an interesting one. They've had a romantic relationship in the past (Peter previously proposed in Amazing Spider-Man #182-183, and MJ rejected him). Since then, we've seen that there's still something between them, but MJ hasn't been willing to commit, in part because she's uncomfortable with his Spider-Man side and in part because she's always been an independent free spirit, which i like about her. And of course Peter has had other girlfriends, especially the Black Cat who until recently he was re-developing a relationship with (until it turned out she was at least partially leading him on as part of a revenge scheme). Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1 and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #129 have also helped the Peter/MJ relationship along. But again, #290, the issue with Peter deciding to propose to Mary Jane, literally has nothing in it that tells us that Peter has decided he's in love with MJ. It's entirely that he's decided that he's ready to move on with the Peter Parker side of his life, and it seems that MJ just happens to be the woman in his life at the moment. You could easily make the case that if Peter was dating the Black Cat or someone else at the time, he would have proposed to her instead.
It's the same on the MJ side; the storyline with her family is about showing that she's putting her troubled past behind her and is ready to commit to a relationship. The idea that the two are in love with each other is just taken for granted (beyond an idea that Peter decides to go to Pittsburgh even though a Spider-Slayer is on the loose, effectively choosing MJ over his Spider-Man responsibilities, which doesn't work that well considering that Spider-Slayers are all about a grudge match with Spidey; it's not like Peter left behind a super-villain trying to rob banks or hurt people or something).
All that said, when you look back at these three issues plus the Wolverine oneshot and the Spectacular issue, and of course Peter and MJ's years of history prior to all of this, there's enough there that the upcoming wedding doesn't feel entirely sales driven.
Michelinie's a good scripter and he's doing ok considering what he has to do here, and the first two issues feature nice JRJR art, so it's a decent arc.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: No long engagement period here; the wedding in Amazing Spider-Man #21 is next.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAlistair Smythe, Aunt May, Gayle Watson Byrnes, J. Jonah Jameson, Kate Cushing, Kevin Byrnes, Mary Jane Watson, Philip Watson, Spider-Man, Tommy Byrnes
Numerous readers felt the marriage was too soon. (Incidentally, Priest has said the scene in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine was meant to indicate that Peter and MJ DON'T belong together.)
Posted by: Michael | April 6, 2014 4:32 PM
I added that pantyhose scan. Those little boys must have been studying that commercial very carefully to be able to recognize MJ so quickly.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 6, 2014 5:22 PM
Oh Mephisto, you are just such a sneaky one changing pages even on this website...
Posted by: Ataru320 | April 6, 2014 6:25 PM
That JRJR splash of MJ isn't great. Her eyes are too close together. You're right about the Spider-Slayer being there just to add some action. Issues 290-292 are more about PP's and MJ's growth and step towards marriage. It's a new chapter in their lives.
I've read that a lot of people thought that the 2 getting married would be wrong but I don't felt that way not then and not now. I can't see how it would mess with the status quo. PP would still be the same person he'd still have that angst and "woe is me" mentality and it would be even more heightened now that he has to balance his relationship with crime fighting. Just my opinion, of course.
Posted by: jsfan | April 7, 2014 3:40 AM
Spider-Man sure has a funny relationship with construction workers...
We have that bipolar guy who tries to help/murder him during the Firelord fight, this guy who doesn't consider robots New Yorkers, he'd later do a demolition for them around the JMS era...
Those who have seen the Amazing Spider Man film will have been made aware of "crane dad" also.
Posted by: Max_Spider | April 8, 2014 10:37 AM
Surprised that the "whank" sound effect got past the Comics Code.
Posted by: haydn | May 6, 2014 7:46 PM
Joke listing for #291 in Amazing Heroes #115:"Special guest writer! Learn all about the Girls of the Daily Bugle! Plus a pin-up fold-out of Aunt May by Dave Stevens!"--Hugh Hefner/Someone Off The Street/An Old Pro
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 13, 2014 4:59 PM
"It's presented that her ability to send Peter to someone else is a sign that she is growing up."
Her thinking that this might mean that she is growing up is so clichéd, IMO. You don't usually think it as much as other people would notice it about you.
Posted by: clyde | June 8, 2015 3:57 PM
You really cracked me up with the Mephisto panel!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | July 18, 2015 3:05 PM
If I were from Pittsburgh, I would have been pissed at the splash page. Could the artists not do basic research? It's called Three Rivers Stadium because it is at the conflux of three friggin rivers. No rivers anywhere in sight.
The Mephisto panel is hilarious. Although, One More Day is stupid, not because of ret-conning out the marriage, but because it's to save Aunt May, who had been killed off how many times? So sick of Aunt May.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 19, 2015 11:10 AM
The splash page does say, "What's wrong with this picture?"
That Mephisto is Byrne's and Palmer's, from the one-shot Silver Surfer with Stan Lee (1982, p. 31).
Posted by: Instantiation | July 19, 2015 12:48 PM
Another complication in the saga of the Parker microscope: Peter pawned it all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #32, while saying he was selling EVERYTHING of value he owned. So... it mysteriously returns to his possession for him to leave on Uncle Ben's grave in #181, then returns again for Aunt May to give to charity this issue (callous old woman, accidentally giving away something he got rid of twice).
It's creepy. Did Uncle Ben make a deal with Mephisto for that microscope or something? His marriage wasn't erased, though.
Posted by: Mortificator | September 29, 2015 11:03 AM
“Knowing that the wedding was decided at a much higher level than the creative team, it's easy to look at these issues as shoe-horning in the Peter/MJ romance. Issue #290 is also a lot more about Peter; the fact that now that he's accepted himself as Spider-Man he's realized he's also been denying the existence of his Peter Parker side. Since these are Michelinie's first issues, he hasn't done anything to really establish the fact that Peter and MJ are really in love.... #290, the issue with Peter deciding to propose to Mary Jane, literally has nothing in it that tells us that Peter has decided he's in love with MJ. It's entirely that he's decided that he's ready to move on with the Peter Parker side of his life, and it seems that MJ just happens to be the woman in his life at the moment. You could easily make the case that if Peter was dating the Black Cat or someone else at the time, he would have proposed to her instead.”
He didn’t have to do that. Stuff dating back to the DeFalco run in ASm #259 had been building up the fact that Peter and MJ were in obviously in love. E.g. the kiss in the Wolverine one shot. Peter ironically saying he’s glad he and MJ weren’t in love because they’d just argue right before he gets jealous in a PAD story. Him feeling guilty when MJ sees him with Felicia. Him going to MJ at the end of Spec #129 and saying he’s been an idiot. How could a subplot brewing across three titles for approx 2 years be called shoe horned? And does it really need to be made much clearer? He obviously was in love with her.
As for him moving on and getting married in general again the statement misses the context. Sure Peter wants to get married but he wouldn’t have just done it with Felicia. It had to be MJ because as the start of the issue makes clear she was the one he could go to because she knew him. And she knew him because of all the stuff we’d been reading since ASM #259, which like I said made it very clear he was in love with her specifically.
So really it is true the issue feels like a shoe horn but only in complete isolation, which...why would we mark the book like that?
The issue makes sense as a Peter focussed story as it depicts him grappling with his childhood before moving onto an adult decision.
“Since then, we've seen that there's still something between them, but MJ hasn't been willing to commit, in part because she's uncomfortable with his Spider-Man side and in part because she's always been an independent free spirit, which i like about her.”
That is not accurate. MJ’s lack of commitment had nothing to do with her being a free spirit and everything to do with her outright fearing commitment would hurt her like it did her mother, sister and brother in law. This was stated more than once. In Web #6 it is made outright clear that Peter being Spider-Man isn’t actually the biggest hurdle to MJ but her commitment fears are.
Furthermore they two practically WERE dating as the Wolverine issue made clear. “Mary Jane isn’t my girlfriend and if I tell myself that enough I might actually believe that”. Translation: Mary Jane was his girlfriend. At the same time MJ hung around Peter and dealt with his being Spider-Man a lot despite her reservations which basically meant it clearly was something she was willing to put up with and accept.
“t's the same on the MJ side; the storyline with her family is about showing that she's putting her troubled past behind her and is ready to commit to a relationship. The idea that the two are in love with each other is just taken for granted (beyond an idea that Peter decides to go to Pittsburgh even though a Spider-Slayer is on the loose, effectively choosing MJ over his Spider-Man responsibilities, which doesn't work that well considering that Spider-Slayers are all about a grudge match with Spidey; it's not like Peter left behind a super-villain trying to rob banks or hurt people or something).”
Again, it’s taken for granted because it was presumed you’d been reading the last 2 years worth of Spider-Man, or at least some stuff from it. Stuff which made MJ’s feelings abundantly clear. As for him abandoning the Spider Slayer I both agree and disagree. On the one hand you are right they exist to fight Spider-Man so it isn’t much of a bad choice, but then again doesn’t that then make Peter’s decision morally more acceptable? On the other hand the Spider Slayer WAS on the rampage at the time regardless.
“All that said, when you look back at these three issues plus the Wolverine oneshot and the Spectacular issue, and of course Peter and MJ's years of history prior to all of this, there's enough there that the upcoming wedding doesn't feel entirely sales driven.”
Sigh. It was sales driven but DeFalco and Frenz intended them to get engaged anyway, just not married. The wedding issue itself was a problem riddled book but the build up to it was a 2 year long organic narrative, or as organic as co-ordinating 3 titles could be.
I think Peter sort of grades his angst and attitude towards things like that on the curve. For sin Eater he simply lost control and didn’t hold back when he should have. It was a different kind of mistake, the mistake of restraint. With Smythe he didn’t lose control it was just a genuine ‘whoops’. More than this for Sin Eater the man was not in his right mind whereas Smythe was simply a vindictive idiot who threatened Aunt May, Aunt Anna and Mary Jane, people for whom Peter holds more affection for compared to Jean. Not that he didn’t care for Jean but his beating of Sin Eater was not merely motivated by that, but motivated by that plus the threat to his old friend Betty Brant.
Because of this Peter is not going to feel so bad about what he did to Smythe compared to Stan Carter, who also seemed to have genuinely reformed since their last encounter.
I think MJ’s fame had been mentioned before then too though, but this is where it really starts. I’ve always felt it to be a moot criticism given that it was just set up for her to LOSE that job.
@clyde: It was the 1980s. Countless comic characters had dialogue like that though and it continued into the 1990s. The realism of dialogue in comics didn’t become an entrenched thing until Bendis in the 2000s.
One fan theory though is that the Beyonder gave it to Peter during Secret Wars II.
Posted by: Al | January 12, 2016 1:13 PM
Blahhhh. Let's just go back 20 issues for a do-over.
Posted by: MindlessOne | May 15, 2017 10:47 PM
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