Amazing Spider-Man annual #24
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man annual #24
Dan Cuddy - Assistant Editor
This story should have been a winner. I mean, just look at the joy on Ant-Man's face on the cover of this issue. Spidey's Totally Tiny Adventure? I am there! A Honey I Shrunk the Kids style story featuring Spider-Man and eventually leading to a jaunt into the Microverse? Sounds like a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, the story meanders and doesn't even try to be coherent. Part of the problem may be the fact that Stan Lee scripts parts 2&3. An interesting side note: According to Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Stan Lee was apparently relentless in pushing Ant-Man as a character that Marvel's current owners, New World, should turn into a movie. And when New World got intel that Disney was working on Honey I Shrunk the Kids (its pre-production name was Teenie Weenies), New World greenlighted the Ant-Man film. It never went anywhere, obviously, but the timing is such that it may explain Stan Lee's return to comics writing for this event. On the other hand, Ant-Man himself is inexplicably jettisoned for parts 2&3, but more on that in the next entry.
Another problem with the annuals is the deluge of back-ups. The previous line-wide annuals had some back-ups, but because there was an overarching story, at least one back-up in each issue was a Marvel Saga-style info piece providing background on what was going on in the main story. These annuals don't have a need for that, but they retain the page count. So we're treated to back-up stories featuring a random assortment of characters only tangentially related to Spider-Man: Solo, Sandman, Prowler, Rocket Racer, Captain Universe... With the possible exception of Sandman, the stories are bland character free filler pieces. My first thought is that Marvel commissioned tons of garbage pieces figuring that they'd eventually wind up in Marvel Comics Presents, Marvel Fanfare, annual back-ups, whatever.
Many of the stories in these annuals are by creators that we haven't seen in years at Marvel. So in addition to Stan Lee, we have Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Rudy D. Nebres (an inker who last appears in my project in 1981!), Ross Andru (1976!), and Tony Isabella. If the idea was a backdoor pension program, then fair enough. But the format of these stories wasn't exactly doing any of these creators any favors and it's an equally poor way to showcase these secondary characters. The stories are too short to do anything more than a very basic and boring story. You can say that it's nice to see these older creators again, but think of it from the perspective of the kid that's been following the regular Amazing Spider-Man series at this time and then picks this up. It's got to be disappointing.
Even when the story is by a hot new creator (Todd McFarlane on Prowler), there's no substance to it so i can't see fans rushing out to demand more (and yes, "no substance" is probably the #1 criticism anyone makes of McFarlane, but in this case the same is true of most of the other stories). The overall experience from the annuals is that you've just read a bunch of random junk.
I'm actually going to start with one of the back-ups in this annual, because it features Ant-Man and takes place prior to his appearance in the main story. And if nothing else, it's a rare case of Steve Ditko drawing the Punisher and Wolverine, and i'm going to go ahead and say it's the only time they've appeared on panel with the Scarlet Beetle (although i guess i wouldn't be surprised if there were a Deadpool or She-Hulk comic somewhere proving me wrong).
The story is that former Ant-Man Henry Pym contacts current Ant-Man Scott Lang and tells him that he's detecting some alarming signals from the ants that he's too busy to investigate.
Lang is about as interested in this as anyone would be (Oh no! Did someone sprinkle Borax across their favorite food trail?).
Lang is going to New York for a conference the next day (which we'll see in the main story), so instead of rushing out to deal with the Ant Emergency, he goes to sleep. And in his dream, the Scarlet Beetle tries to steal his helmet.
They have a brief battle of wills...
...and then Lang wakes up.
And that's the whole freaking story! So no, i have no idea what Punisher, Wolverine, and Iron Man were doing in the opening splash.
Now let's flip back to the front of the book for the main story. Peter Parker goes to a science expo.
One of the inventions is a bug killing flying roomba.
Peter enjoys the expo and gets some photos for the Bugle. But Scott Lang, maybe because of his weird dream the night before, is running late and he doesn't arrive until the event is closed. So he does what any former burglar trying to reform would do, and breaks into the building for a private look around (wait, what?). And as he's shrinking into Ant-Man, some of his shrinking gas goes through a vent and hits Peter as he's changing into Spider-Man for the web-swing home.
While Spider-Man is trying to figure out what the "bloody blue blazes" is going on...
...some criminals in speedsuits break into the building to steal the quark machine that Peter was helping demonstrate earlier.
"Techno-Thieves" would be a pretty good name for a sample heavy EDM group.
Spidey is busy fighting off an actual spider and then the roomba (and then a bunch of other random stuff)...
...so Ant-Man takes the lead in fighting the criminals. With his bioelectric lightning.
But Spidey eventually helps out too.
When it's all over, Ant-Man takes Spidey for a ride...
...and then tries to make him big again. But it doesn't work.
Ant-Man's next line must be "Oksorrybye!" because we won't see him again.
Next up is a Solo ("The Punisher for terrorists") story, also with art by Steve Ditko. Jim Shooter has said that during his era, Steve Ditko for the most part refused to work on any characters that weren't 100% heroic, which is why he wound up on books like Captain Universe, Machine-Man, and ROM instead of the more traditional Marvel characters, with their personality flaws. You can actually find several exceptions to that supposed rule, but the general trend does seem to support it. I mention this because i wonder what Ditko thought of characters like the Punisher and Solo. They aren't flawed heroes, they're just vigilante killers. So maybe that's ok. Ditko did draw Dracula, after all.
Anyway, Solo kills some terrorists. Cascan separatists, if you care.
The moral of the story is about the children that work for terrorist organizations, and how terrorism ruins their lives.
The final story features the Sandman. Word hasn't spread to the police that Sandman has gone straight.
Sandman is actually on his way to meet the Thing. Some nicely scripted panels from J.M. DeMatteis here. It's a little weird for Sandman to go from being pursued by the police to chilling with the Thing at a hockey game (Tom DeFalco plot), but the Thing/Sandman relationship is great, and handled well here.
Meanwhile, the Wizard is being put in a cell at Ryker's, right next to Paste Pot Pete.
The last we saw of the Wizard, in Avengers Spotlight #29, he was being put in the Vault. Now, in Avengers Spotlight #26 it was said that he was only being put in the Vault as a favor to Ryker's since, despite the fact that without his suit, he has no super powers. Of course that was right before he caused the Vault breakout that kicked off Acts of Vengeance.
Since the Wizard quickly breaks out of prison here, i wondered if this was meant to be the final straw Ryker's breakout that caused him to get put in the Vault next time. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Somehow the Wizard has managed to get himself back to Ryker's, and next to his former partner in crime, so that he can break out again.
We go back to Sandman, who observes strife in the home life of the family that he's renting a room from.
And the situation gets him down, potentially ripening him for recruiting back into the Wizard's Frightful "Four", although the Sandman does seem to find his resolve.
The Sandman story is definitely the best of the bunch here. I really would have liked to see him and the Thing in a buddy book working through some of these issues. This story will continue next issue.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP has this annual event taking place during the gap in Spectacular Spider-Man #162 (along with a lot of other Spider-Man appearances). The Spider-Man and Sandman stories continue directly in Spectacular Spider-Man annual #10. The MCP does have the Wizard here after Avengers Spotlight #29 even though that issue showed him being imprisoned at the Vault, not Ryker's. The Thing and Henry Pym's appearances are context free. The Thing obviously can't appear here while he's time traveling with the Fantastic Four; the MCP have him here after Fantastic Four #346. The Scarlet Beetle's appearance can possibly be interpreted as a dream, but we do have the slash in the costume and you're not going to deny me a Scarlet Beetle appearance, are you?
Crossover: Spidey's Totally Tiny Adventure
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAnt-Man (Scott Lang), Carlos Cassada, Henry Pym, Mary Jane Watson, Michael Cassada, Paste Pot Pete, Psycho-Man, Roberto Cassada, Rosa Cassada, Sandman, Scarlet Beetle, Solo, Spider-Man, Thing, Wizard
Punisher and Wolverine are megapopular, so they appear everywhere.
Posted by: Steven | May 1, 2015 12:10 PM
Marvel will continue these self-contained annual events across three or four annuals for the next two years, with similarly-designed banners across the top of the covers of all of each year's annuals (to the point of '91's annuals having the exact same typeface for the name of the crossover).
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 1, 2015 1:50 PM
I get the feeling the artist has never actually seen a hockey game.
Posted by: kveto | May 1, 2015 2:32 PM
Fnord, I always wondered if the Sandman story was supposed to take place before FF 307. It makes no sense for Ben to appear as the Thing if he's supposed to be human at the time- why would he wear his Thing exoskeleton to the game if Sandman didn't want to be recognized? Plus, nobody mentions Sandman working for Silver Sable. Maybe this was written before Shooter left Marvel. Alternately, maybe they thought that Ben would be back to being the Thing by the time this saw print or this was written about the same time as She-Hulk: Ceremony and the Atlantis Attacks Avengers Annual.
Posted by: Michael | May 1, 2015 7:57 PM
I've always enjoyed this Annual. I always enjoyed the Scott Lang Ant-Man, and I agree its a shame he didn't stick around for the rest of the storyline. And I really liked the Sandman story with his old partners trying to drag him back to crime.
Posted by: Dermie | May 1, 2015 11:38 PM
At one point in the 1980s (before Solo Avengers) there was a plan to do a split book with Sandman. The length of the story and general quality makes me believe it was originally intended for that.
Posted by: Tenzil | May 1, 2015 11:53 PM
@Michael, agree with what you're saying about the Thing, but with back-ups the burden of proof is in showing that it can't fit with the main story since i prefer not to split stuff up. We have the exo-skeleton so i might as well use it. Maybe he knows the Sandman is a trouble magnet so he wore the suit, and didn't even consider the idea that he'd want to be incognito.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 2, 2015 1:10 AM
The Sandman story is indeed the old split-book leftover.
That's Fred Hembeck in the matchbook "Draw Me" ad.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 2, 2015 1:47 AM
I was thinking of asking "what's Fred Hembeck doing on the matchbook thing?" without feeling the need to outright point out the obvious...
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 2, 2015 3:14 AM
My last new Spider-Man comic book, I think, for about five years.
Posted by: Cecil | May 2, 2015 4:36 AM
Judging by what happened over the next five years, you made a very, very good choice... but considering what was STILL happening five years later, I'm surprised you didn't jump right back out again and say "that's it, I'm done with Spidey forever".
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 2, 2015 6:30 AM
Lol@ Morgan. Yeah. I was back on board because my new wife was reading with me. But she loves babies, and we fans recall how Spidey's baby just vanished from modern stories. When they also ditched MJ, she was outtie.
Posted by: Cecil | May 11, 2015 6:48 PM
Glad you linked to the cover. Gil Kane might not have drawn Ant-Man before, but it's a nice reminder that he's the co-creator of the Silver Age Atom and had a lot of experience drawing smaller characters.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 20, 2015 11:59 AM
The Ant Man story blew me away with its bizarre art, ridiculous premise and cheesy "it was a dream.. or was it?" ending. Very entertaining.. Loved the Sandman story, very interesting character during his reform, and the creative team is tremendous obviously.. The Spidey story was fun enough, gets much worse from here.. the Solo stuff was bland bordering on bad in my opinion.
Posted by: RikFenix | May 28, 2016 5:25 PM
I'm surprised you haven't focused more on the artists here, apart from the 'pensioners' comment. I think it is the weakest link - in the 'Quark' story the heavy black lines make it hard to see details, and much of it just looks so two-dimensional. Then stylistically, I mean, look at the late-70s-looking outfit on Peter Parker at the expo, and the ant's head on the spider!
Drawn and inked by old men when you had the likes of McFarlane reinventing styles at the time. The contrast is awkward.
Posted by: whsaxon | January 7, 2017 5:33 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|