Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #500

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This story is part of an Arc: "Happy Birthday"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Last issue Peter and Dr. Strange got stuck in some sort of time-flux after battling Dormammu. Spidey was presented with two scenes. His origin and ending. What should he do? Should he try and interfere?

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #500
Dec 2003 : SMURF 500.500 : SM Title
Summary: Dr. Strange Guest Appearance
Arc: Part 3 of "Happy Birthday"
Editor:  Axel Alonso
Writer:  J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils:  John Romita, Jr.
Inker:  Scott Hanna
Cover Art:  Scott Campbell
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man TPB (Amazing) #6
Articles: Ben Parker, Doctor Strange, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn) (FB)

Spidey is looking at both the scenes before him. He debates about whether to interfere. Before he makes a decision, the scene which maybe his end catches his attention. His future self is standing off against some cops. Detective Lamont approaches, tries to convince the older Spidey to stand down. Older Spidey makes reference to Spidey hiding in the shadows. Some shock troops arrive and older Spidey fights until he falls for the final time.

Spidey is again confronted with the scene of his origin. He knows that he could stop the spider from biting his younger self with ease. He's torn by the decision, but decides not to interefere...

Spidey then finds himself in the dark. He can hear Dr. Strange's disembodied voice. Strange sends Spidey a lifeline that will lead Spidey through time and back to the present. The journey starts and Spidey revisits many important moments from his past. From his first battles with the Sandman and the Vulture to the death of Gwen Stacy. After revisiting Gwen's death Spidey breaks down and doesn't want to continue. Dr. Strange appears to give him a bit of a pep talk and Spidey battles on through time.

Finally, Spidey is back in the present, just before Reed Richards uses his machine, which will then lead to the return of Dormammu and the end of the earth. Spidey quickly finds Reed and asks him to hold off on using his machine. Reed and the other heroes decide to trust him.

Soon Strange appears and banishes the monsters that caused all the trouble in the first place, returning them to their dimension and closing the rift.

After the battle, Spidey tells Strange about the alternate time stuff. Strange produces a little trinket and says that's probably why the item appeared in his pocket after the battle. This reminds Spidey that its his birthday and he takes off.

As Spidey leaves, Dr. Strange is engaged in another mystical battle which we're told will be continued in an upcoming Dr. Strange mini-series...

Spidey gets home and MJ and Aunt May are waiting to proceed with the celebrations. Afterwards Pete goes to the roof anf opens the little trinket. A little note appears with the words "You have five minutes. Spend them as you wish." Pete turns to find Uncle Ben. I won't go into details, but a touching scene ensues. Pete then goes to bed with his wife for some birthday lovin'.

In General...

Because this is a birthday issue in more ways than one we decided to all throw in our comments. I'm first up though...

Overall this was a great issue. JMS once again took a storyline that I wasn't too keen on and made into something special. I really liked revisiting the struggles and triumphs that Spidey has gone through. As well as Spidey's inner stuggle, which came across really well. Its a credit to JMS how easy it is to believe that you are really listening to Pete's inner monologue. In fact all of his dialogue this issue is well crafted and it really works to bring out an emaotional response. Particularly at the end with Uncle Ben. That scene in particular is in my opinion a classic scene, right up there with some of the others revisited this issue.

While JMS is firing on all cylinders this issue, you can't go past both Romitas who do an outstanding job! I always love to see JR Sr and wish Marvel would get him to do more work. JR Jr does particularly well this issue, rising to the occassion.

There are continuity issues which would've been a problem, but after some fan outcry on the Spider-man Message Board, JR Jr appeared the quell the concerns. "I don't know if you all noticed but none of the re-run scenes was entirely a perfect cover of the original scenes. It was JMS' thought pattern, correct me if I'm wrong Joe, that the scenes we chose were the same scenes but not the exact second depicted in the original classics. So the scenes we did could be seconds or minutes before or after. Did that make any sense? It sounded good in my head but by the time it got to my fingertips...I don't know!"

My main gripe, once again, is Dr. Strange. I am glad he took more of a back seat this issue, but the advertisement of an upcoming mini-series seemed really out of place and annoyed me! This mysterious mini-series has been advertised in previous Dr. Strange appearances and is still yet to materialise. So why interrupt the flow of the story to give it a plug now?

Overall Rating...

I was going to give this issue 4 webs on my own, but everone else's positive comments were worth at least another half web! Read below to see what the rest of the staff thought.

Footnote...

Here's what some of the other Spiderfan staffers thought:

Scott Knudsen:

I really enjoyed 500. Sure, it was the comic book equivalent of a "clip show", but they managed to send an excellent message along with it. Even for a superhero, life is often a choice between competing evils, and what matters most is that you do your best and fight the good fight. A few minor quibbles/comments :
  • I was surprised that they depicted Gwen as being awake and screaming for help. The flashbacks had been so incredibly accurate prior to that I found it an odd inconsistancy.
  • now that they've promised me a Dr. Strange limited series they had better deliver!
  • a routine complaint of mine surfaces in this book, and that is the complete disconnect between the story and the rest of the Marvel Universe. Most conspicuous were the differences between how Thor and the FF were portrayed compared to their own books. I want to stress that I'm not faulting Stracyzinki and Romita for this, it's just a general peeve of mine.
  • Finally, Romita Sr is ALWAYS a welcome presence in a Spidey book.

Peter Kroon:

Peter likes Get Kraven, so what does he think of this?

A nice ending to the "happy birthday" saga. Both Romitas on one book, they couldn't have picked a better art team for this book. John JR gives us some great battle flashbacks and John SR gives a Uncle Ben. Storywise, JMS finally gives us a happy end, what more could we ask for? In short, I LOVED it.

Mike Fichera:

Mike hasn't reviewed anything from this century for awhile, what's your take?

Typical "Parker Luck" - how else would Spidey spend his birthday but by reliving every beating he's taken over the years? Sure, his trip passing through his timeline COULD have meant taking temporal pitstops in the arms of Betty, Gwen, MJ, and Felicia...but no, not Peter! Try the fists of William, Max, Adrian, Otto, Eddie, and Norman! But what a reaffirmation this story was! After 500 issues of Amazing badluck and heartbreaks...the guy's still happy! Huh! We've been rooting for you all along, Spidey, but who would've thought to ask if he's content with his life...if he'd do it again if he had the chance? JMS did. Nice job JMS, JR JR, and JR SR!

Paul Sebert:

When Venom is your bread and butter, what can one think of an issue such as this? Paul?

It's not the greatest issue of Amazing Spider-Man ever, nor was it the best story I've read this year but I must say this much, ASM 500 was an absolute blast. It was great treat to see John Romita Sr. working on the book again, I loved the little flashbacks to various classic battles from the silver age and that 2-page spread of Spidey battling EVERYONE from Venom to the Ringmaster... dear god. I want this on my bedroom wall right now.

My one complaint no apperance by the Living Brain. :P

Still really wonderful little tribute. Loved the bittersweet ending. Truely a book that succeeded with everything it set out to do.