Comics : Untold Tales of Spider-Man Anthology

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club

This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

The stories in this anthology are in chronological order according to events in Spider-Man's life. This story takes place around the time of Amazing Spider-Man #42, November 1966 which is why it follows our last story "Identity Crisis", which took place around the time of Amazing Spider-Man #39, August 1966. So, it's really just dumb luck (or bum luck) that this story has to immediately follow the best story in the book. Let's see how it does.

In Detail...

"The Doctor's Dilemma"
Untold Tales of Spider-Man Anthology (Story 6)
SMURF 043.700
Summary: Dr. Bromwell seeks to get Peter out of crime photography.
Editor:  Kurt Busiek, Stan Lee
Writer:  Danny Fingeroth
Illustrator:  Jeff Albrecht, Mark Bagley
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Review

Dr. Bromwell grabs Peter by the arm and tells him he must talk to him about "his double life." But Bromwell hasn't stumbled on Pete's secret identity. He's talking about the dangers Pete gets into as a Daily Bugle photographer. He asks Peter, for May's sake, to give up the job. Although Peter has worried about the dangers himself, he stiffs Bromwell, saying "I'd appreciate it if you'd mind your own business, Doctor." Regretting every word, Peter goes into an unfair critique of Bromwell and a defense of his photography work. Taken aback, Bromwell gives Pete a new prescription for May and heads toward the door. Peter calls him back and apologizes. He tells him he has considered the dangers but still thinks the reward is worth the risk. Once Bromwell leaves, Peter changes to Spider-Man, eventually web-swinging to the pharmacy to fill May's prescription.

Back at his office, Bromwell can't stop thinking about Peter. Suddenly, he gets a brainstorm. He wants to give Peter a job in the sciences instead. First he goes to Metro Hospital and talks to Dr. Gordon, who saved May's life after Spider-Man brought in the needed ISO-36 (in Amazing Spider-Man #33, February 1966). Gordon reveals that, shortly after Spidey left, a beaten and bruised Peter appeared. Bromwell doesn't know what kind of deal Peter has with Spider-Man but he suspects the web-slinger is taking advantage of him.

Out web-slinging, Spidey comes upon "an eight-foot tall, four-foot wide gent in the green spandex suit" who is trashing an armored car. He is also "amazingly fast and as strong as the Hulk." When Spidey asks for a name, the giant comes up with "Impact," revealing that he volunteered for an experiment involving radioactive steroids (a combination just asking for trouble) for which he never got paid. Now paying himself in his own way, Impact slams Spidey against a wall and escapes.

The next day, Bromwell makes a house call and finds Peter all battered and bruised. He offers Pete a job in his own office helping with his research and lab work. Peter accepts. Aunt May overhears this conversation and is wracked with guilt for letting Peter risk his life taking pictures simply because they desperately needed the money.

So, Peter goes to work for Bromwell. There he researches steroids and finds out that Impact is Walter Cobb, a family man whose mind was warped by the experiment. As the days go by, Peter works at Bromwell's office, just missing catching up to Impact at his various crime scenes. Finally, Bromwell is called to the ER to help treat some victims of Impact's latest assault. As he leaves, Bromwell asks Peter to not go out for news photos. But Peter has to go out to stop Impact. Arriving at the scene,he finds Impact holding two hostages. The police bring out Impact's wife and kids to plead with him. It appears to work, with Impact releasing his hostages. Peter starts imagining a day when his work with Bromwell will lead to greater things than his web-swinging. Then a shot rings out and Impact goes on the rampage again. Spidey tries to calm him but he is too far gone. After pounding on the wall-crawler for a bit, Impact collapses. Bromwell is on the scene and pronounces the giant dead. As Spidey swings home, he reflects on it all. "Bromwell tells me that I should think about my aunt – like I don't do that enough. Impact shows me that there's a right way and a wrong way to try to help those you love. All these lessons! But...what am I supposed to learn from them? Where's the curriculum? Where's the syllabus?"

A great ending, right? But, oops, there's more! On his way home, Peter realizes that he could be as dead as Impact and decides to give up the webs. But at dinner, Aunt May tells him to keep doing what he's doing if it's what he wants to do. The next day, Bromwell waves the Daily Bugle at Peter, indicating the front page photo Pete took, and tells him he let him down, abandoning his lab work for the very work he begged him to avoid. He tells Peter that he has done all he can and that he's letting him go from his job. Pete can tell that Bromwell is hoping he will ask for another chance but Peter doesn't. He has come to completely understand that he does not become Spidey for thrills but to help people and that Uncle Ben and Aunt May would approve if they knew. Or, as he puts it, "Love the power. Guess I'll just have to live with the responsibility."

In General...

Author Danny Fingeroth wrote a lot of comics for a lot of years and I have to say that none of them really made much of an impression on me. But this 20-page Spidey story resonates very nicely. First, it's good to see Dr. Bromwell again. He's been missing from the comics for far too long. Danny does a nice job of rationalizing Bromwell's behavior in a more contemporary setting, stating that the doc makes frequent house calls because of a paternalistic streak, compensating for Peter's loss of Uncle Ben, that he is still charging 1950s style rates and that his office is a "tiny workspace in a nondescript walkup on Queens Boulevard" from which he helps people who don't have a dime. Danny also tells us that Uncle Ben had no insurance, which explains why May is hurting for money immediately, and that May and Peter have no health insurance. He nicely ties in Peter's appearance at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #33, in which the doctor encounters a beaten and bruised Peter and gives the doctor a last name as well. He refers to Spidey's web mask as "silk-screened" which has never been mentioned as far as I recall. (But it makes sense. He didn't stitch all those webs, did he?) And he gives us nice lines like this: "As he watched a few kids play basketball in the yard, Peter wondered for the millionth time why a school in the far reaches of Queens should be named Midtown High." Impact's story is heartfelt and poignant if a bit perfunctory. There's some nice psychoanalysis of the various characters as well. Unfortunately, there's too much of that and it bogs things down a bit, the story goes on too long, and it all ends on an anti-climactic note. Too bad.

Overall Rating...

It almost had a four web or more rating. But those annoying negatives are too large to ignore. I'm giving it three and a half webs.

Footnote...

Next: Peter is moving in with Harry and things happen that the comic never told you about.