Amazing Spider-Man #365-367
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #365, Amazing Spider-Man #366, Amazing Spider-Man #367
Issue #365 isn't related to the story in #366-367, but it's connected by subplots showing the return of Peter Parker's parents, a plot that was set up in issue #363.
The Lizard is the villain in issue #365. It's Billy Connors' birthday, and Peter and MJ have been invited to the party. But the Lizard shows up.
It turns out that when Calypso was controlling the Lizard in his last appearance, it also woke up his human side. He's just barely managing to maintain control, and often loses it, but he gets a sample of his son Billy's blood to make a cure for himself before Spider-Man chases him off.
Spider-Man follows the Lizard thanks to his spider-tracer (it still looks weird to me to see him shoot them that way)...
...and Billy also follows. Billy intends to kill his father, because he's tired of him ruining his and his mother's lives.
In the subsequent fight with the Lizard, Spider-Man gets trapped under a pile of rubble, and has to lift it off of him. This is an homage to the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #33.
Hey, it's an anniversary issue; this is better than fighting illusions of all his past villains.
The Lizard is eventually subjected to his cure, and it seems to work. So Billy doesn't try to kill his dad after all.
Continuing the parents subplot, they show up and give Aunt May a heart attack.
Don't worry, she's secretly the hardest woman in the Marvel universe to kill, and she recovers fine.
There are also back-ups in issue #365 that i'm not really going to cover. There's one from JJ, describing what he imagines to be the origin of Spider-Man, but getting all the details wrong. There's one of MJ reminiscing about Gwen Stacy. And the third one features the Prowler encountering a construction worker that wanted to kill himself, and it causes him to realize that he should make more of an effort to make his marriage work.
Both the Lizard story and last arc's Shocker story are touching on the theme of parents, with Aunt May's talk of basically being Peter's parent and the situation with Billy. That ties things together for the story in issues #366-367, when Peter and MJ arrive at Aunt May's house to find that his parents are alive.
Their story is that while they were undercover working for the Red Skull, Soviet agents were sent to kidnap them. And it was the Soviet agents that were killed in the plane crash that everyone thought killed Peter's parents. Peter's parents have instead been held in various Soviet prisons until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Peter is naturally suspicious about all of this. He makes sure to reaffirm to Aunt May that he loves her.
I don't think much of this storyline at all, but that's a nice moment.
Spider-Man then goes to the Avengers to look up information on the Red Skull. It's here that we learn in an actual comic (as opposed to a Handbook) that the Skull that Spider-Man faced before was not the original. It's also when Spider-Man first learns that.
I also wonder if David Michelinie also first learned that here, since the rest of this plot features the real Red Skull, which is kind of odd considering he had nothing to do with Peter's parents (i.e. maybe he had to alter the plot or script when an editor pointed that out to him). Alternatively, Michelinie may have gotten asked by fans why he didn't bring any of this up in Spider-Man's last interaction with the real Skull during the Assassin Nation storyline, and that may have spurred this plot.
I'm leaning towards the former, because for some reason Spider-Man's next stop is Washington DC, where the real Red Skull faked his death in Captain America #393-394. But that doesn't really make a ton of sense, either, since Captain America has known since the arc following that one that the Skull is really still alive. I guess Spider-Man is just following whatever leads he can.
He's spotted by an agent of the Skull, who contacts the Skull, who sends members of the "Sweat Shop" (goons augmented by the Power Broker) after Spidey.
Spidey beats the goons and gets information from them that turns out to be bait intended to send Spider-Man into a trap prepared by the Taskmaster.
But Spider-Man runs into Solo on the way to the trap. Spider-Man goes through the usual mental gymnastics that he uses to work with the Punisher in order to team-up with Solo.
Taskmaster's trap includes three of his students that have been trained to replicate Avengers. Or rather, two Avengers and Spider-Man, who i guess is technically a reserve Avenger.
Thanks to Solo, who Taskmaster wasn't expecting, the trainees are quickly defeated.
Taskmaster escapes. Solo knows that the Red Skull is planning to do something to disrupt a celebration called America Day that is happening in New York. Spider-Man thinks to himself that at this point he ought to call in the real Avengers, but he's afraid that if he does that, "Solo will bolt". So he continues the team-up with Solo. The Skull's attack turns out to be on a Japanese diplomat who was going to announce trade concessions during the America Day celebration. Spider-Man and Solo prevent the assassination.
After the diplomat is rescued, Spider-Man briefly gets access to the Red Skull's computer files, and the files confirm his parents' story.
I guess the real Red Skull got access to the communist version's holdings after he killed him, but it still seems like a pretty odd plot. Aunt May already got confirmation of their story from the State Department; Spider-Man doesn't learn anything more here, and learning it from a different Red Skull seems random.
The very end of issue #367 shows Spider-Man being tracked by a robotic spider in a set-up for the next arc.
The plotline with Peter's parents goes on for a long while. It seems incredible to me that anyone thought that this was a good idea. I could see like an issue where they come back and get revealed as fakes immediately. But even that i wouldn't like. There is really no reason to ever go back to Peter's parents. But especially to leave lingering the idea that his parents have really come back. That can only make readers angry (if they believe it) or annoyed (if they know it's not the case). I can't imagine anyone actually wanting to see Peter's parents return, or getting excited about it. Peter's parents have never been what his story is about. These stories are done well - nice fight with the Lizard drawn by Bagley, and a decent if not great story featuring the Taskmaster and Solo - but they're poisoned by the overall dumbness of the larger plot.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The return of Peter's parents is referenced in Web of Spider-Man #93-94, so this should take place prior to that. I've placed this after Infinity War based on how Peter starts making reference to his parents after this issue (see AF's comments regarding that).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
The three "students" of Taskmaster (Death-Shield, Jagged Bow and Blood Spider) reappeared many years later in an Agent Venon's story.
Posted by: Midnighter | April 11, 2016 5:02 PM
I think Peter / Aunt May scenes have almost always been insipid to me. She was never someone he could talk to. Even before Spider-Man, I get the impression he couldn't talk to her about his bullying, or loneliness, or anything more significant than wheatcakes.
Some random costume similarities sprang to mind as I looked at the scans: the Wild Pack and the Watchdogs, and Solo and Powderkeg.
The robo-parent sub-plot was a terrible idea, but at least we've got some cool Spider-Slayer designs coming up.
Posted by: Mortificator | April 11, 2016 5:05 PM
I think I've read this somewhere, but was the intention ALWAYS for the parents to be fakes?
Posted by: MikeCheyne | April 11, 2016 5:30 PM
I've added the Taskmaster's students. Thanks Midnighter.
MikeCheyne, even David Michelinie didn't know. Apparently editor Danny Fingeroth told him to add them without saying what the end goal was. I can't believe anyone intended for them to really be his parents, but it seems like they also hadn't decided exactly what they were.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 11, 2016 5:42 PM
According to Michelinie, "My last year or two on Amazing were not my happiest years. Jim Salicrup was an editor who gave me a lot of freedom, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Then he left the Spider-Man titles and Danny Fingeroth came back to them. He’s the one who came up with the idea of bringing back Peter’s parents. I felt a little like I was writing his stories instead of mine. The whole parent thing was difficult because he couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me where it was going: he wouldn’t even tell me if they were really his parents or not. I didn’t know if they were aliens, robots or clones! Neither did Danny. He just hadn’t figured it out. So I had to tread water issue after issue, not knowing if these characters were really his parents or not. It was just very difficult. I was writing the actual stories, but I had to fit them around this ongoing storyline that I didn’t have any control over.
Posted by: TCP | April 11, 2016 5:44 PM
For whatever reason, the two latest Amazing Spider-Man movies have Peter's parents as a large sub-plot. It gets to the point that in the second movie, he's focused on his father instead of tracking down Uncle Ben's killer, who is still at large (I don't think Uncle Ben is mentioned at all, even though Peter's parents and Captain Stacy are).
Yeah, I can see why having Peter's parents not be ordinary people would go against the everyman persona Spidey should have, but at least Stan Lee kept the parents to that Annual and never brought them up again.
Posted by: mikrolik | April 11, 2016 6:02 PM
I was, and I guess still am, confused by the "next" blurb at the end of 366. Who or what is "Ultimatum!" supposed to refer to?
Posted by: Andrew F | April 11, 2016 7:04 PM
Nothing says 90s Marvel like an editor coming up with a plot or character without any kind of resolution or story arc in mind.
At least Michelinie lucked out and left right before the Clone Saga (literally right before: I think it started the issue after he left).
Posted by: Red Comet | April 11, 2016 7:23 PM
"It's here that we learn in an actual comic (as opposed to a Handbook) that the Skull that Spider-Man faced before was not the original"
Posted by: Michael | April 11, 2016 7:52 PM
Oh yeah that was so great how Amazing Spider-Man 2 was some kind of weird spy movie for the first ten minutes that lead to NOTHING!
On the bright side: another piece towards Maximum Carnage.
Posted by: david banes | April 11, 2016 8:00 PM
@Andrew F - "Ultimatum" refers to the terrorist organization founded by the anarchist Flag-Smasher which was secretly being funded by the Red Skull. They've shown up several times in Captain America, were in the "Assassin Nation Plot" storyline in ASM, and appeared a few other places. Although it seemed that Flag-Smasher purged Ultimatum of all the Skull's agents, as we see in this storyline there are still some left in the organization as they are part of the Skull's plot to assassinate the Japanese diplomat.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 11, 2016 9:29 PM
As wonderful as Aunt May's seeming death in issue 400 is, we did eventually get a great bright side to her coming back. I think one of my favorite Spider-Man moments is Aunt May finding out Peter is Spider-Man and at first she's angry, they bond and she tells him she's proud of him. With JMS Aunt May started to feel like a character again rather than an aging plot point.
Posted by: david banes | April 12, 2016 1:47 PM
Between #364 and #365 there's a bit of a clean break. The Parkerbots are planning to reveal themselves to Peter after "one more day" - but they could put it off longer when the time comes.
Because, in my opinion, it seems that there's still a few stories (Web of #91-92, Spidey #24 and all the Infinity War) that should probably take place before Peter's parents reveal themselves. It's a serious major shake-up to Spidey's life and, among others, there's a particularly long bit in Web #91 where Peter is doing a lot of internal monologues about how screwed up his life is and there's no mention of his parents having returned. (also in that issue and Spider-Man #24 he refers to the Carnage thing as having being recent, and imo the parent return would dethrone that as a monumental event to dwell on).
It means pushing #365-367 back a bit, after Infinity War and those Web issues, but before Captain America #402+ to accommodate the Red Skull appearance. There's a reference to Peter's parents return in Web #93-94. So I'm thinking just before Moon Knight #44 on the 1992 listings.
This is just what I'm feeling as I read Spidey chronologically following your order. The lack of references to his parents in some of these issues you've placed after sticks out enormously.
Posted by: AF | April 22, 2016 11:18 AM
Makes sense, AF. I will say that sometimes it will be unavoidable to have Spidey thinking about the right things given the number of books he appears in. But the way you suggest laying it out makes sense and i've split #364 from this entry.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 22, 2016 2:38 PM
"Don't worry, she's secretly the hardest woman in the Marvel universe to kill"
Never have truer words been spoken.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 24, 2016 8:40 AM
Wikipedia's entry on Spider-Man 2099 lists 365 as Miguel O'Hara's first appearance. While Blood Spider and he look the same, there's no actual connection, I assume?
Posted by: FF3 | June 27, 2017 3:30 PM
Issue #365 had a three-page preview of Spider-Man 2099 #1 in the back as a teaser.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | June 27, 2017 3:49 PM
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