Characters Appearing: Spider-Man
Issue(s): Spider-Man #17
The story begins with Nocenti's typical stream of consciousness scripting. Spider-Man is thinking to himself about a number of worries, including the possibility that his last rent check doesn't bounce. Which is odd. Peter's landlord at the moment is his friend Harry Obsorn, who is renting him the loft above his own apartment at a reduced rate. And Mary Jane has a steady job as an actress on a popular soap opera. Are they still having money issues under those circumstances?
Nocenti's scripting continues when Spider-Man sees a pair of window washers falling from their platform, and thinks to himself "I could do this gig in my sleep". I guess that's meant to show his hubris before the fall, but it comes across as very out of character for Spidey. He does manage to save the workers, but some of their equipment falls into a large air conditioner unit, causing an explosion. A mother and daughter are on a nearby roof, doing laundry, and Spidey jumps to use his body to shield them from the explosion. The mother is tossed clear, but Spider-Man is caught in the explosion and is (seemingly?) killed, and the young girl is on death's door as well.
And then Peter Parker's spirit floats up into the sky. Peter thinks to himself about how he "thought" he loved Mary Jane, but all he can think of now is seeing "my first... my only... my beautiful Gwen Stacy".
Instead, he's confronted by Thanos and Death.
Thanos tells Spider-Man that everyone that tried to be a "hero" is greeted this way.
Spider-Man tries to get Thanos to let the girl live, but Thanos says that that is "never done".
Spider-Man then attacks Thanos and they fight for a bit. Thanos tells Spider-Man that "we" let heroes live for so long because heroes inspire so many villains, in what is called the Hero's Domino.
Spider-Man rejects this idea and says that he knows that he's done good in the world. And eventually it seems like Death agrees with him, and sends him back.
Spider-Man then rushes the girl to a hospital.
Something very creepy and weird looking about Rick Leonardi's Spider-Man in that final panel.
I don't really buy into the so-called Hero's Domino theory. If you look at the origins of the majority of villains, they have nothing to do with their super-hero counterparts. It's actually a good thing that many villains develop obsessive grudges for heroes, because otherwise they would just overrun the world furthering their own agendas, and a world without super-heroes at all would be even worse, since the villains would still exist. This is an argument that comes up a occasionally in meta criticism of the super-hero genre (although i've never seen it called the Hero's Domino before), but it's never made sense to me. In any event, it's not really explored here, with Spider-Man just responding with stream-of-consciousness Nocentisms and then Death making a silent reversal on everything that's happened. Not really a good story, and definitely not a good use of Thanos if it really was intended to be him (which i don't think was the case, given the dreamlike nature of the story and when it was published).
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: If this is the real Thanos and Death, then this would have to take place after Thanos got the Infinity Gauntlet during Thanos Quest but prior to the end of the Infinity Gauntlet mini-series, since Thanos and Death part ways in that story. But there's no reason to think that this is the real Thanos and Death. This is a story where the main character gets knocked out (or "dies"), has an out of body experience, and wakes up remembering none of it. This is all a dream sequence, and there's no reason to think that Thanos and Death would really be interested in talking to Spider-Man once he died or that they really greet every dead "hero". Death's reversal of Thanos would have represented a major shift in their relationship at this point, especially since he has the Gauntlet at this time. Thanos and Death are probably just on Spider-Man's mind after the events of Infinity Gauntlet (maybe only subconsciously, depending on how much he remembers after Nebula's reset). The fact that Spider-Man thinks that Thanos is dead isn't necessarily a clue. At the end of Infinity Gauntlet, as far as everyone but Warlock, Gamora, and Pip knew, Thanos was last seen getting pushed into deep space by Thor's hammer with a nuclear device strapped to his chest. In terms of authorial intent, this is Ann Nocenti we are talking about. She works primarily in symbolism. If you asked her at the time whether or not she meant for it to really be Thanos, i imagine she'd shrug her shoulders and ask, "Why does it matter?". The MCP treats Thanos and Death as real characters, and places this prior to Infinity Gauntlet #1, out of sequence from the rest of this Spider-Man series. But unless i find out that there's a later story that confirms that this was a real meeting between Spider-Man and Thanos, i'm placing this at publication date (or just a little earlier, to fit in other Spider-Man appearances) and assuming that Thanos and Death are not real.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Nocenti weirdness aside, when I was a kid this was a cool issue because it had Spider-man vs. Thanos. Never even occured to me at the time that it could be a dream sequence.
I wonder if this fill-in started out as an Infinity Gauntlet tie-in and then got shelved?
Posted by: Red Comet | November 9, 2015 1:23 PM
The Thanos & Death greeting party idea must come from The Death of Captain Marvel, but Thanos' appearance in that story seems due to his relationship with Mar-vell, not because Mar-vell's a hero.
Posted by: Mortificator | November 9, 2015 3:32 PM
For some reason Spiderman swinging among the rooftops appeared in Thanos's thoughts when he was using the Heart of The Universe in Marvel Universe: The End. Maybe a coincidence ...
Posted by: Grom | November 9, 2015 6:30 PM
Re: the Hero's Domino theory- for Peter it has SOME truth since Venom and Carnage would have never gotten their powers if Peter hadn't brought the symbiote to Earth.
Posted by: Michael | November 9, 2015 7:56 PM
I can follow the reasoning that continuity issues making dis hard to fit in. But I don't buy dat as any sort of evidence that is a dream. If dat was the case half the stories in the MU would be "dreams". It's just the nature of the bizness.
As for why would Thanos be interested in Spidey, it's for the same reason why Mephisto would give a shit about Spidey's marriage. Becuz it's the story the writer wrote, even if it sucks, even if there are logic holes.
So I do think Thanos and Death are real, the same way I accept most stories as "real" unless given specific reason to believe authorial intent means otherwise.
Posted by: JC | November 9, 2015 9:08 PM
As to the Hero Domino theory it would have further extreme relevance, since we find out in Millar's Spidey run that a great deal of his villains were specifically created to keep him busy.
Posted by: JC | November 9, 2015 9:10 PM
For what it's worth, this issue was included in the Infinity Gauntlet omnibus, so it seems Marvel considers it to be an official IG tie-in. Of course, that still doesn't necessary disprove the theory that Thanos and Death are just a dream here.
Posted by: Tuomas | November 10, 2015 1:38 AM
I lean towards the story being presented as a dream. Spidey's lying unconscious on the roof the whole time.
Thanos as greeter for all heroes while in possession of the infinity gems, how would that even work? When Spider-Man gets killed during Infinity Gauntlet #4, shouldn't Thanos pop back down to greet him again? Shouldn't he be constantly calling time-out during the fight as each hero is killed? Death may be able to be in multiple places simultaneously, but one of the things the gems can't do is make more gems, so there can't be multiple gem-wielding Thanoses at once.
Posted by: Mortificator | November 10, 2015 11:41 AM
I don't think you're supposed to agree with the Hero's Domino theory. This issue reminds me of the final debate between the heroes and Kefka in FINAL FANTASY VI:
Kefka: "Why do people rebuild things they know are going to be destroyed? Why do people cling to life when they know they can't live forever? Think how meaningless each of your lives is!"
(Theoretically any hero, but usually Terra): "It's not the net result of one's life that's important! It's the day-to-day concerns, the personal victories, and the celebration of life... and love! It's enough if people are able to experience the joy that each day can bring!"
Posted by: Thanos6 | March 31, 2016 7:25 PM
@Thanos6 So close to my user name being relevant...
Posted by: FF3 | April 1, 2016 5:33 AM
@FF3: Hey, we remember what number the US originally got the game as. I say it counts. :)
Posted by: Thanos6 | April 1, 2016 6:11 AM
"Hero's Domino" is the fundamental argument of the Vision in the 'Civil War' film, no?
Posted by: cullen | March 29, 2018 11:47 AM
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