Mar 31, 2014

Fifteen Panels I Love from Spider-Man vs. Wolverine

Fifteen Panels I Love from Spider-Man vs. Wolverine
Ben Smith

I have the tendency to repeat myself. This is not because I feel like the things I have to say are so important that they require constant repeating, it has mostly to do with my terrible memory. So when I say to you that Spider-Man vs. Wolverine was one of my favorite comics as a younger lad, your response might be “Yes, you’ve told us that a million times before!” or “How did I end up on this page after searching for Wolverine porn?!” but your response should instead be “Okay, I realize his cognitive recall functions are limited to the things he loved as a fourth grader.” Regardless of your specific reaction, I’ve decided to take a look at this comic I read so very many times as a youth. Not quite an in-depth look, but more than a cursory glance. I’m going to sexually harass this comic, instead of my usual full-on sexual assault on the four-color adventures of our spandex-clad friends.

Instead, I will present to you fifteen panels that I loved from this particular oversized gem of a back issue. The first thing I was prepared to love about this comic was the Mike Zeck art. But then I realized that wouldn’t make much sense, because Zeck did not do the art for this issue, so I really have no idea why I wanted to remember it that way. That honor went to the slightly underrated, or even properly rated, Mark Bright. Either way, Mike Zeck rules. Maybe it’s the prominently displayed tombstone on the cover, which makes two great Spider-Man covers that have one on them.

Speaking of covers, the first panel I love from this comic isn’t a panel at all, but the aforementioned lovely cover, which I tried to draw and failed one time. So, thanks for dashing my dreams at such a young age, Mr. Bright. Jim Owsley, later known as Christopher Priest, wrote this issue. I neither love or hate that, it’s just a fact.

In this next panel, Wolverine has just finished killing a bunch of people during one of his patented beserker rages. I miss the days when Wolverine had beserker rages he couldn’t always control, but the primary reason I like that first panel is the way his boot was torn. How does that happen?

The final fate of Sophie and Burt highlight this next string of panels, as I’m sure this excited the portion of young Back Issue Ben’s brain that was (and still is) obsessed with violent death. It’s also worth noting how Peter Parker takes immediate financial advantage of this horrible incident. (One of my greater fears in life is stumbling upon a type of situation like this, because I feel like I would immediately be included as a suspect in the crime, and that would be a tremendous bummer. And, also, the horror of dead human beings, I guess.)

This panel has no great significance on the story, it just looks cool. Or maybe I’m just legitimately addicted to Coca-Cola. I crave it like some people crave cigarettes, or like Duy craves amputees.

Here’s Peter kissing Mary Jane goodbye before he travels off to Germany, on a story with Ned Leeds. They technically weren’t dating at the time, but they would get married not too long after this, because that kind of thing happens. (There’s no way you can convince me that Mary Jane isn’t a “cape chaser” at this point. Peter is legitimately the most depressing guy to be around, this side of Matt Murdock, and he’s hugely self-absorbed. Sure, why not marry that guy?)

Poor Ned Leeds. Most of us that have been deep into the Spider-Man mythos know that Ned was revealed to be the Hobgoblin shortly after this. The most interesting part of the Hobgoblin saga was the behind-the-scenes drama involving the identity of the Hobgoblin. According to Tom DeFalco, when he stepped down as editor during Roger Stern’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man and became the writer of the book, Stern laid out his plans for the true identity of the Hobgoblin. DeFalco didn’t think Stern’s planned reveals had enough impact, so he proceeded to lay seeds for his own plan. At some point during his run, Owsley (according to DeFalco and other sources) tried to do everything he could to sabotage DeFalco on the book (I believe he had taken over as editor of the series, but don’t quote me on that part). He would repeatedly ask who the Hobgoblin was going to be, and DeFalco eventually relented and lied and told him Ned Leeds, just to get him off his back. Owsley promptly killed Leeds in this one-shot, thinking he was crippling DeFalco’s plans. All involved were soon off the books, and Peter David was tasked with the unenviable job of cleaning up the mess, leading to one of the strangest secret identity reveals in the history of comics. All of which would later be undone by Stern, when he returned to the story ten years later. I love comics!

Peter Parker, unprepared to see action as Spider-Man in this foreign country, tries to track down some work threads, and winds up with a German Halloween costume version of his red and blue duds, much to young Ben’s amusement.

Spidey ends up having to follow Wolverine over the wall into communist East Berlin. To this day, I expect every security wall to have landmines and barbed wire defenses behind it.

Spider-Man comes busting through a hotel window (the second time he’s brazenly destroyed property by jumping through it in this story alone) on the trail of the signal from his spider tracer. Not only does he interrupt the coitus of the two naked individuals in bed, they somehow failed to notice the rather noticeable note Wolverine left in the room for Spider-Man to find.

Spider-Man tracks down Wolverine and Charlie (or Charlemagne as it’s revealed, because “shocking”) to a restaurant, where they’re completely surrounded by the bad guys (in yet another instance which shows Spider-Man to be so much more inept than Wolverine in this story). Charlie pulling up her dress so she can grab the large gun she has holstered to her leg was confusingly appealing to me as a tot.

When I was younger, I had the hardest time figuring out what was happening in this last panel here. I couldn’t decipher it.

Finally, we get to the big fight between the two stars of the book. As I’ve stated many times before, I don’t think Wolverine should have any chance of beating Spider-Man in a fight (reference Secret Wars #3). There might have been a time during my “Wolverine phase” that I thought this was acceptable, but let’s go ahead and chalk that up to the ignorance of youth. Anyway, no way is the guy with unbreakable bones as fast as spider guy.

Healing factor or no, I don’t think anyone smiles off their head getting a superpowered beating into a stone tombstone. I am positive Wolverine’s condescending reaction to Spider-Man’s efforts supremely annoyed me. It’s like someone laughing at you when you’re intensely serious about something, it’s infuriating.

I guess this next sequence is more than one panel, but whatever, I’m not fixing it now. This is an intense sequence of events. Spider-Man with his hands around Wolverine’s neck, Wolverine taunting him to snap it (if he even could, I guess he could?). Wolverine putting his fist to Spider-Man’s chin, threatening to pop his claws, which is probably the first time I saw that. Spider-Man fan aside, even I had to admit that was pretty badass. Plus, I would envision how gross that would be. I know I was morbid!

The big turn of the story comes when Charlemagne sneaks up on a still razzled Spider-Man, and he fatally punches her. A calculated move on her part, as she wanted to die. (Now that I think about it, this book seems like it might have been a bit of an attempt of character assassination towards Spider-Man.) I don’t know exactly what she died of, because she survived long enough to give the tearful goodbye to Wolverine. I’m no doctor, but it seems like fatal blunt force trauma would prevent that, but who am I to really care.

Anyway, Peter spends the rest of the issue a bit traumatized by the event, replaying it over and over in his mind, depicted all with red tones. The color of murder most foul!

That brings us to the end. I didn’t actually thoroughly reread this issue because, who has the time, but I believe it involved KGB agents and espionage most secretive. This is probably what drove me to the book so much as a child, with it being a bit of a departure from most Spider-Man stories I had experienced up to that point. It was a little more violent, seemed a little more “real” and scary. People were dying, characters were murdering them. There was such a somber tone permeating the story throughout. This wasn’t your father’s Spider-Man story!

Or maybe it was as simple as the first superhero I ever loved teaming up with, and then fighting, the second superhero I ever loved (however briefly that second love lasted). You really can’t go wrong with a no-holds barred showdown in the cemetery, especially when it ends with a killing blow stalemate.

I still say Spider-Man won, he pounded Wolverine’s head through a tombstone!

If you’ve never read this story before, do yourself a favor and seek out a copy of your very own. Despite my jokes and sarcasm, it’s well worth the money.

Until next time!

Here's a copy:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah this was bad-ass when I read it age 20. Thanks for putting the article up, I was trying to source that "Can't get him to stop smiling" panel for a friend.

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