Characters Appearing: Aunt May, Doctor Octopus, Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man: Parallel Lives
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man: Parallel Lives
This graphic novel is largely a retrospective on Spider-Man, paralleled with mostly new material about Mary Jane. Because of the retrospective nature, there's an acknowledgement of the stories of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr., Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, Jim Shooter, David Michelinie, and Paul Ryan. The book is also dedicated to Frank Giacoia, a long time Marvel inker who passed away the year this issue was being produced.
The creative team on this issue, Gerry Conway and Alex Saviuk, were the regular creative team for Web of Spider-Man when this book came out, making this really the equivalent of an annual or something. In the days before Marvels and the like, i could see this being interesting as a retrospective that ties together various events in Spider-Man's life with new insights about Mary Jane. It's not particularly great but it's an interesting attempt. No offense to Alex Saviuk but if Conway had been paired up with a more special artist for this issue it might have been one of the few Marvel Graphic Novels to not feel like a waste of the format.
My favorite scene in this issue is right in the beginning. It's straight out of Monty Python. Poor Mary Jane was raised by a working class playwright.
There is some new material on the Peter Parker side too.
One thing that is a little odd is the fact that MJ lived next door at Anna Watson's house for a while, and knew at least of Peter Parker, but as we know, Peter never knew MJ or what she looked like until Amazing Spider-Man #42.
But this is leading up to the revelation about how long Mary Jane has known that Peter is Spider-Man. She initially admires Spidey for wearing a "mask"...
...similar to her own "mask".
But it's soon after that that she saw Spider-Man climbing out of Peter's bedroom window.
If you've been going through this site in order, you've already seen this scene in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #16, and i think Kurt Busiek took some heat for that at first since a lot of people hadn't seen this graphic novel and only knew from Tom DeFalco's run that Mary Jane had known Peter's secret ID "for years" but not all the way back to the beginning.
Mary Jane found out about Peter as Spidey the day that Uncle Ben was killed. Here is Ben a little earlier, uttering the famous phrase that Peter will remember for all time.
Oh wait. That's a different phrase. If only poor Peter could remember that one every so often, he'd have a much happier life.
MJ's father being a working class playwright is actually what keeps MJ away from Peter at first. She doesn't want a "sensitive" boyfriend.
Meanwhile, we find out that Doctor Octopus actually harbors a resentment of Peter Parker for breaking up his dreams of settling in to a normal life.
The book shows scenes from Doc Ock's meetings with Aunt May in Amazing Spider-Man annual #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #54. The issue with Aunt May and Doc Ock's near-wedding from Amazing Spider-Man #131 is not mentioned.
But from there we do jump all the way to Peter and MJ's wedding. And from there it quickly jumps forward again until some months after the wedding and when they've moved back in with Aunt May.
It's at this point that we're in the "present day" for the purposes of my entry. Doctor Octopus sends in a robot to attack Peter, and poor Aunt May gets slammed up against the stove.
With May conveniently knocked out (but totally fine!) Peter is able to take care of the robot without worrying about his secret ID (because the shock of that would kill her!). The robot comes with a note saying, "Parker - Give me Spider-Man -- or watch your family die". So Peter gets into his Spider-Man costume on the front lawn and swings away.
He finds Doc Ock in his old Master Planner base under the East River, and finds Ock in a new suit and with enough radioactive material to blow up Manhattan.
As we saw earlier, Doc Ock blames Peter, along with Spider-Man, for his own lonely life.
Spidey beats Doc Ock and the nuclear reactor only has a minor explosion, mostly "damped" by the river "and any radioactivity it unleashed... was washed out to sea". I am sure the Sub-Mariner will be happy to hear about that. Doc Ock "was the only casualty" of the explosion, and as of the end of this story no one knows what happened to him but his body was not found.
Peter goes home having taken Doc Ock's blame to heart...
...but MJ flips things around and asks him what if Uncle Ben would have died even if Peter did try to stop the burglar.
So that's it. After this graphic novel, Peter is free of all the guilt and obsession with responsibility.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: As usual with these sort of things, i'm treating the majority of the book as flashback and placing it based on the end scene. This takes place after Peter and MJ are kicked out of their condo in Amazing Spider-Man #314, and as TCP and Michael note in the comments, MJ offers to have Aunt May come to their place next, so this should take place after Amazing Spider-Man #321 (when the Osborns offer them the space above their new apartment) and at least Web of Spider-Man #57 (when we see MJ unpacking boxes).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
FNORD - In regards to Mary Jane living next door to Peter - the series of movies starring Tobey Maguire did have him living next door to Mary Jane. Perhaps that had an influence on this book.
Posted by: clyde | November 11, 2014 6:05 PM
@Clyde: those films happened considerably later, though.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 11, 2014 6:47 PM
Sorry to be A Complainer - but in case there's anything you can do about it, these scans are really blurry.
Posted by: cullen | November 11, 2014 7:32 PM
Regarding the placement of this one -- at one point during the non-flashback story MJ invites May over to "their place" for dinner, so I'm not so sure that this takes place pre-loft.
Posted by: TCP | November 11, 2014 7:43 PM
Most of MJ's background comes from Amazing Spider-Man 259, not Amazing Spider-Man 290-292.
Posted by: Michael | November 11, 2014 7:58 PM
Thanks TCP and Michael. I missed MJ's invitation and focused on Peter talking about getting "home". I've moved this after WOSM #58 to be more in line with the MCP.
@Michael, i don't really have a strong opinion about that. The point of the original (Tom DeFalco) retcon was to show that MJ wasn't as dumb as she would have to be to never know that Peter was Spider-Man. This retcon just puts some timing to that. And i wouldn't say that MJ had "fallen in love" with anyone until well after she met Peter in person, and when she did fall in love, she fell in love with Peter who is Spider-Man. So i don't see the problem.
@Cullen, i'm legally obligated to include a certain percentage of low quality scans to qualify for Fair User protection. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | November 11, 2014 8:53 PM
This strikes me as another potential "jumping off" point for anyone who wants a happy ending for Peter and MJ, and that works a little better for me if the MCP's placement is accurate.
Posted by: TCP | November 11, 2014 9:11 PM
ON MJ’s living situation, MJ is supposed to have lived with Anna Watson throughout the Lee/Ditko/Romita run up to a point. The oddity of Peter not knowing or having seen MJ was there long before PL, and PL actually fixed that problem by establishing that MJ was coming to Anna’s sporadically and at the same time that she was living there only shortly before she met Peter in ASM #42. By doing this it resolves the silly idea that for years Peter happened to have not seen MJ.
I don’t really know when Mary Jane began being associated with the ‘girl next door phrase’ specifically cos even though in the Lee run she was ostensibly literally the girl from next door eventually that became a descriptor of her personality which is odd because she has never really fit that archetype.
As for Slott’s contentions...ugh...To put it succiently as has been mentioned MJ fell in love with who Peter Parker is and he is Spider-Man. Slott’s phrasing suggests he believes that who Peter is in his civilian life is the real him. it isn’t. It’s just part of who he is. To really know Peter Parker you need to know he is both people. MJ did and accepted both.
Posted by: Al | July 10, 2015 10:43 AM
I love how they conveniently skip the time MJ and Peter dated. I always figured that she found out he was Spider-Man after they were already dating, and thus she finally ended it when Peter proposed, mainly because she was afraid of the dangers he put himself thru. But with this novel we know she's always known he was Spidey, and that makes it hard to imagine she ever getting into a relationship with him even if it was just dating.
Posted by: will | December 19, 2017 8:30 PM
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