Hey… Hey, Spoilerite! Ya wanna hear about a comic book that’s just plain ol’ TERRIBLE? I got your back. Your Major Spoilers Retro Review of Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75 awaits!
PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #75
Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colorist: Kevin Tinsley
Letterer: Richard Starkings/Liz Agarphiotis/Comicraft
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00
Release Date: October 16, 1996
Previously in Spider-Man: The decision to marry Peter Parker to Mary Jane Watson in 1987 was among the last big decisions involving Jim Shooter as Marvel Comics Editor-In-Chief, and almost immediately, there was regret among Marvel’s editorial staff. A plan was hatched involving a decade-old story wherein Spider-Man had been cloned by his college professor, with twists and turns and nonsensical back-and-forth battles between various writers ending up with married Peter being revealed to have been the clone all along. As for the REAL Peter, he had spent “five years” wandering the Earth calling himself Ben Reilly, finally returning to New York and taking up his mask once again to allow Peter and MJ to retire and take care of the baby they had been expecting. Peter returned to the city around the time of the Onslaught crisis, while a mysterious manipulator in the shadows began bedeviling Spider-Ben.
Who could this strange being be?
Little Normie, son of Harry and Liz Osborn, knows at first sight, even though his Grampa was dead LONG before he was ever born: It’s Norman freaking Osborn! Back from the dead after an astonishing 23 years in the grave, Norman is ready to torture his son’s best friend anew, starting by capturing and drugging Peter when he arrives at the hospital to help his wife give birth. He awakens in his Spider-Man costume once more, confronted by the man he believes long dead, allowed to perish so that Peter could avenge his lady love Gwen. Peter can’t believe it’s the real Green Goblin, but Norman reveals his terrible impalement scars, swearing to destroy his old foe.
I have to admit, I do like the pencils of John Romita Jr., but in pairing him with Scott Hanna, this issue emphasizes their blockiness in unpleasant ways. What’s worse, the coloring is a garish mess of lighting effects and gradients, with full-bleed background colors going all the way to the edge of each page. It’s a muddy cacophony that is only exacerbated by having the action take place mostly in the dark. While he tortures Peter (and reveals himself to have already tortured Ben) Norman has also gathered Peter’s nearest and dearest, locking them in the offices of the Daily Bugle, intending to take everything from the man whom he reveals to be the TRUE Spider-Man after all.
The explanation is a series of retcons, revealing that he was manipulating The Jackal when he created the clones, manipulating the expert who identified Peter as the clone in the first place, and basically being the man behind everything bad in Peter’s life since 1973. Much of it is done with a handwave, ignoring the stories as they were presented in favor of a soft reboot of Spider-Man history. Ben awakens to warn Peter that Osborn has rigged the Bugle building with bombs, and both web slingers leap into action once more, with Ben defusing the bombs and Peter engaging the enraged Green Goblin.
Ben Reilly arrives on the battlefield just in time for Norman to get in one last bit of poetic revenge, impaling the man who thought he was Spider-Man on a Goblin Glider, just as he himself had been impaled years before. Peter barely manages to throw the bag of Pumpkin Bombs at Osborn/Green Goblin, causing an explosion that seemingly immolates the villain. Peter tends to his injured “cousin,” with Ben declaring that Peter is once again the one, true Spidey.
And then, the strangest thing happens.
To hammer home the point that he was the clone all along, Ben Reilly’s fatally injured body breaks down into dust and blows away through “clone degeneration,” despite the fact that this sort of cellular breakdown had never been seen before when Jackal clones had died. Still, this editorially mandated “There can be only one!” moment isn’t the worst plot problem with Spider-Man #75, an issue that has some inspired art failed by nearly every other aspect of the production, including the ambiguous death of Peter and Mary Jane’s baby, earning 1.5 out of 5 stars overall. It is, admittedly, better than much of what had come immediately before, but a better definition of the word “damning with faint praise” may not exist.
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PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #75
Welding a plot full of inconsistencies and shortcuts to an ill-paired penciler/inker team and featuring some of the most garish coloring and production I've seen in any comic book, this one is just a mess across the board.
Crazy story! But I “love” how much work went into reversing an eventually unpopular character story decision. Makes me wonder if the same happens to Superman/Lois Lane at some point.
Its hard to decide which one or the digital coloring trends was worse: This garish gradient onevery si gle background thing or early 2000’s “realistic” muddy, you can’t see anything, because your greys and browns on newsprint paper makes it unreadable.