Amazing Spider-Man #386-388
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #386, Amazing Spider-Man #387, Amazing Spider-Man #388
The main stories in these issues resolve - or, maybe, dispose of - the ongoing and unwanted mystery of Peter Parker's parents.
The Vulture once again breaks out of prison thanks to the fact that he was given access to electronics devices (in this case, audio equipment, and, er, bedsheets).
He was being kept at Ryker's; you'd think at this point he would be put in the Vault for the same reason as the Wizard (non-powered, but able to use his genius to escape a regular prison).
Meanwhile, Peter finds out that Aunt May has hired the detective Bernard Scudder to find out the truth about his parents. Scudders resigns, having found no evidence that Richard and Mary aren't who they say they are. So thanks for wasting all my time with those subplot scenes.
The next day we see Peter and Mary Jane in their new home. They've rigged up a secret closet where Peter can store his Spidey suit. He just needs to adjust the intensity of the alarm system.
Peter is worried that Aunt May has Alzheimer's after the detective incident, so he goes to visit ESU professor Dr. Benita Sanchez, who has built a "juvenator" device.
If you've ever read a comic before, you can see where this is going. Actually, if you've read a comic before, you're probably jaded enough that you'll have to take a second to realize how insane it is that Dr. Sanchez has created this device. The Marvel universe, where even the regular scientists design eight impossible devices before breakfast. But back to the main point: the Vulture also wants this device to cure his cancer (and just to stop being old). And guess whose lifeforce he'll use?
Vulture goes home and replaces his awesome old look with a generic new costume.
Spidey is left old and wrinkled.
And it looks like Dr. Sanchez needs to be nicer to the janitor.
The other thing about the Marvel universe is you never know who's a super-villain in disguise, so you should really just be nice to everyone.
Meanwhile, Mary Jane finds a new reason to get weepy.
I feel like not enough opinions on the Spider-Man marriage take into account just how poorly it was written. Was it impossible to write parts for MJ that didn't involve some horrible melodramatic bullshit? Let's just hope this doesn't start her smoking again.
She gets home and wants to tell Peter about it, but Peter doesn't want her to see him while he's old, so he runs away. He decides to go to Aunt May for some perspective. He's harassed by some darn kids on his way there.
Aunt May's neighborhood is a lot rougher than i realized.
Peter realizes he can't actually talk to May, so he leaves. And then his youth starts returning to him. And the reverse starts to happen to the Vulture. But the mysterious janitor is there.
Vulture seeks out Spider-Man again, but during the fight Spidey hears screams from Dr. Sanchez's lab, and when he goes to investigate he finds two Dr. Sanchezes.
Spidey saves the Dr. Sanchez that was thrown off the building, but the other one escapes, and the Juvenator is stolen.
Peter decides to take a break from all of this and reveal his secret identity to his parents.
And, well... whoops!
The janitor & second Dr. Sanchez was of course the Chameleon, and he tells the Vulture that Sanchez's Juvenator will work more permanently on artificial life.
But this doesn't mean that the Vulture is going to go after the Vision or something. It turns out we've got some artificial lifeforms right in these issues.
Spidey tracks down the bad guys and finds his parents there.
Speaking of Marvel scientists and their implausible abilities, the Chameleon has come a long way from being a guy with some masks.
The Chameleon's scheme seems incredibly roundabout. He wants to know Spider-Man's secret identity. So he decides to fake the return of Peter Parker's parents? If he's figured out that they have such a connection...
...then maybe he should have already figured out that Peter is Spider-Man. On top of that, this is a guy whose super-power is that he can disguise himself as anyone. If he wanted to infiltrate Peter's life to find out what he knew about Spider-Man, he could have done it himself. No need for him to invest in some technology that allowed him to create perfectly lifelike robots. And that's obviously what any writer would do if they were coming at this story from the beginning. This nonsense is the result of backfitting the mystery of Peter's parents into some solution; any solution to wrap things up.
Peter's "mom" hesitates when Chameleon asks for her report, and then Spidey leaps in, so Chameleon never learns anything from this elaborate scheme.
Chameleon activates Peter's dad's attack mode.
But Peter's mom resists her programming and helps out during the fight.
Imagine someone thinking there was drama in this.
Mom zaps dad with an electric cable, and then Vulture steals mom's lifeforce, rejuvenating him but putting him in a catatonic state ("almost as though his own life had become artificial"). Robot mom dies.
Robot mom! Nooooooooo!
Chameleon escapes, and Spider-Man vows to engage in a four-part crossover across all Spidey titles to find him.
In a back-up, Cardiac and Chance are both pursuing Enos Warwick (anagrams: swankier cow, casework wins, a wow snicker).
Warwick is a developer of a dangerous techno-steroid device. Cardiac of course hates medical companies that operate outside the law. Chance has been hired by a supplements company that sees Warwick as competition.
The two super-characters run into each other at Warwick Enterprises.
They have the same goal, but Cardiac is (moderately) opposed to killing, so they fight. But in the chaos, Warwick is exposed to his own device, which causes memory loss.
Both characters consider that to be a reasonable resolution.
I read this stuff because i (sort of) have to. I don't know why anyone else does/did. The main story is a complete waste of Mark Bagley. And, i mean, this is Amazing Spider-Man, arguably Marvel's flagship book. And this is the crap they were doing with it?
For what it's worth, these are David Michelinie's last issues. David Michelinie was at one time a good writer, but it seems like working with Todd McFarlane on this title broke him and he never recovered.
The lettercol in issue #387 announces a number of additional titles that are coming ("The Spiderverse is expanding!"). The list includes a number of books that required some real optimism to think they'd find an audience (Nightwatch! Annex!) but they do get published. The last on the list is a Puma series, and that one never materialized.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 592,442. Single issue closest to filing date = 588,800.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: There's a gap in Amazing Spider-Man #387 (between pages 19-20) where the MCP has a number of other Spider-Man appearances. As usual, i'm placing this based on where it ends. Spider-Man learns the truth about his parents in this story. The Spider-book crossover, Pursuit, takes place next, beginning in Spider-Man #45.
The Venom back-up from Amazing Spider-Man #388 is covered in a separate entry.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAunt May, Ben Urich, Bernard Scudder, Chameleon, Mary Jane Watson, Mary Parker Duplicate, Richard Parker Duplicate, Spider-Man, Vulture
This story stinks of editorial mandates, just like the introduction of the "parents" was Danny Fingeroth's idea. It seems clear that the editors were dictating plots with input from marketing, so we get a new, toyetic Vulture design and toss out the longstanding, stagnant subplot about the return of Peter's parents.
And all to set up a crossover that pushes the books towards grimdark Spider-Man, which will in turn become the excuse for additional crossovers intended to set up the Clone Saga, which was already planned, seeing as it would begin in October of 1994. And the marketing will start overriding the editors, who were already overriding the writers....
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 22, 2017 4:27 PM
There was supposed to be a Puma solo series???
Anyway - some nice art by Bagley in these issues. The plot is bad, though. The Chameleon's appearance would be a surprise, if they didn't telegraph it with all those shots of a shadowed bald guy - and the revamped Vulture is crap. I suspect that, when I read these issues as a teenager, I liked this revamp - and now I'm ashamed of myself... *shakes head*. Seriously, they took Vulture's distinct (if very old-school, admittedly) look and turned him into a generic guy with metal wings - and a gun! How original! To make things even worse, after Toomes assimilated the lifeforce of Robot Mom, he gains Gambit's eyes for some reason...
And of course, Vulture's new status as being robotic gets completely forgotten in his next appearance...
One thing I liked about this story: the cliffhanger from ASM 387, with Robot Parents suddenly matter-of-factly revealing that they want to kill Peter. This kind of scene is something that later made "Lost" famous - and I like such stuff :))
Question: one thing I never understood is the fact that, after all of this is over, Peter swears to find the Chameleon - as well as the person behind him. Meanwhile, in the story itself, there seemed to be no suggestion that the Chameleon had an accomplice... Huh? Admittedly, I read the story in Polish - maybe something got lost in translation?
Posted by: Piotr W | November 22, 2017 4:36 PM
I remember the Vulture had this look during the 1994 Spider-Man series.
Posted by: D09 | November 22, 2017 4:49 PM
“Swankier cow?” Fnord, you win the internet for that one!
Posted by: Andrew | November 22, 2017 5:19 PM
Piotr-no, Michelinie's writing doesn't make sense in English, either. :)
Posted by: Michael | November 22, 2017 7:01 PM
I feel mildly embarrassed to say I liked the Vulture's new look, but perhaps that's just because of growing up on the Spidey cartoon.
I'm trying to think of a way to resolve the Peter's parents plot better without massively altering the storyline. I wonder if perhaps it was specifically directed against Peter, not Spider-Man, it would be better. Peter is a top-notch investigative photographer who knows a lot of key reporters and gets access to dirt. That's the sort of intel pretty useful for an aspiring New York crime lord.
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | November 22, 2017 9:37 PM
Do we have information on the behind the scenes regarding Peter’s parents? We’re they imagined as robots from the beginning or this ridiculous idea came later? Lastly, how will you survive the ordeal that is reviewing the Clone Saga?
Posted by: Lecen | November 22, 2017 11:26 PM
Yes, David Michelinie explained that Fingeroth had no clue what the parents were:
Posted by: Michael | November 22, 2017 11:54 PM
I bought issues 386 and 387 at a little drugstore in Michigan when I was a wee lad and issue 388 was the first issue that came to my house when my grandmother bought me a subscription to the title (still, to date, the only comic book subscription I've ever had). I loved these issues initially, but then I started thinking about the plot holes...
Posted by: Jonathon | November 23, 2017 2:23 AM
So... the parents were a lot like that "skeleton in the smokestack" bit from the Clone Saga? A plot element introduced on a whim and without any proper planning...
Posted by: Piotr W | November 23, 2017 11:16 AM
"The Chameleon's scheme seems incredibly roundabout. He wants to know Spider-Man's secret identity. So he decides to fake the return of Peter Parker's parents? If he's figured out that they have such a connection...then maybe he should have already figured out that Peter is Spider-Man."
These were my exact thoughts after learning of this story as a kid. J.M. DeMatteis will later try and rectify this post-Clone Saga by having Chameleon figure it out, but even that is done in a roundabout way. Chameleon comes off as a complete idiot here, a far-cry from the savvy crime lord that Gerry Conway painted him as just a few years earlier, and if memory serves his next few storylines won't be doing him any favors, either.
I missed these issues in real time, so I remember being really confused when the Vulture toy from the Spider-Man Animated Series featured the new costume.
Posted by: TCP | November 23, 2017 12:04 PM
It gets completely ridiculous in issue 389 when the Chameleon notes that Spider-Man is uncharacteristically violent because of the fake parents scheme and concludes... that Peter and Spider-Man are very close friends.
Posted by: Michael | November 23, 2017 12:21 PM
I... kinda like the Vulture's new outfit? Maybe it's just that I'm a nineties kid myself, but I do think it is fitting that Toomes upgrades his suit to a more modern version, more streamlined without the humpback. He's a tech-based villain after all. If Iron Man and the Beetle get to upgrade their suits, so should the Vulture. (Although the thing on his head looks a little weird when he goes back to being bald)
Turning him young is a bad idea though. Sure, now that Spider-Man is no longer the quintessential young super hero you lose the old villain/young hero dichotomy, so I get the urge of giving the Vulture a new gimmick, but turning him young... either you keep him like that and he just becomes an incredibly generic baddy, as his power of flight is no longer that special either, or you have him constantly seeking out people to drain of their youth, turning him into a tech-vampire. A weird, knock-off Morbius. Neither of which looks like a good option.
Perhaps they should've moved him out of Spidey's rogue gallery to make him a main baddy of the New Warriors, the current "young" batch of heroes. Make him the leader of a team, or give him the backing, and air of legitimacy, of Roxxon or something, to make him a credible threat to the full team, and you can keep the old/young thing going for a while longer!
Posted by: Berend | November 23, 2017 2:24 PM
Regarding how fnord will survive the Clone Saga, see here: https://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?p=6726#p6726 Short answer is that, at most, he'd only cover Amazing and possibly a few scattered issues of other books, and honestly I'd rather not have what will mostly amount to every fourth issue of a continuing story (awful as it is) that comes off as just getting bits and pieces of it (not that that wouldn't be the case anyway with the books he has physical copies of). (Of course that doesn't apply to stories like Pursuit where, evidently, he does have physical copies of all four issues, or at least is satisfied enough with what he does have to cover it all, as inconsequential as all but one issue turned out to be.)
Posted by: Morgan Wick | November 23, 2017 5:11 PM
I already had one foot out the door due to "Maximum Carnage," but it was this mess of a three issue story and the "Pursuit" follow-up that finally caused me to completely drop *all* of the Spider-Man titles. A few months later the Clone Saga debacle began, and I realized that I had definitely dodged a bullet.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 24, 2017 1:04 PM
At this point is this the real Aunt May or the one that fakes her death? We are awfully close to that point, not sure when they were switched out.
Posted by: Jeff | November 24, 2017 4:16 PM
This is the real May- they were switched while May was in her coma.
Posted by: Michael | November 24, 2017 4:52 PM
I've never read these issues (just about them), but looking at the scans, it struck me as mildly clever (clever is maybe not the right word. Interesting? Worthy of noting?) that when Peter's Evil Robot Dad attacks him, he's depicted as half-robot face, half-human face, not unlike the classic image of the half-Spider-Man/half-Peter Parker.
Again, "clever" is too strong a word, but any port in a storm, etc.
Posted by: Austin Gorton | November 29, 2017 10:46 AM
One thing that strikes out at me as as baffling is that Peter quickly reveals his costumed identity to his "parents" but NOT to his loving aunt who'd pretty much raise him forever.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | December 30, 2017 11:54 AM
Spidey's original reason for not telling his aunt May was because the "shock might kill her," or cause her to have a heart attack.
Aunt May has defied all realism over the years by becoming progressively healthier and younger-looking, but a lot of writers don't take such long-view continuity details into consideration, such as: how might making May younger affect the earlier "shock-might-kill-her" justification? Nowadays most writers seem to care less and less about consistency with old continuity. Even if they do care it might not matter much when the editors and salespeople overrule them.
I'm happy with this retcon of a retcon only in the very limited sense that, at least for awhile, it put a damper on the storyline about Peter's resurrected parents.
Posted by: Holt | December 30, 2017 1:57 PM
I also wouldn't have minded if Chameleon HAD figured out Peter was Spider-Man, was using the androids more for psychological warfare, but just didn't want to tell the Vulture that. You could explain that away by having Chameleon go insane after this story and forget (which he basically does anyway).
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | February 23, 2018 1:42 PM
Personally I like the young Vulture better.
Old man Vulture is kind of bad from a timeline point of view. As Peter gets older so does the Vulture, and I don't see how a 90 year old Vulture can be a real threat.
Posted by: Michael Pratt | May 3, 2018 5:43 PM
Comments are now closed.
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