As is the case in most Marvel books this month, ASM is taking a look back at the past, in a world before Fantastic Four #1. Young Peter Parker is 13 years old, three years away from a fateful encounter with an irradiated spider...
This book begins as the Parkers three (Uncle Ben, Aunt May and Peter) are cleaning out the attic. Pete finds a box full of old comics from Uncle Ben's childhood, and dives into the "imaginary" world of such Golden Age heroes as Captain America and the original Human Torch. As he reads, he dreams of life as a super hero.
Meanwhile, Jacob Conover is attempting to get his footing as a NYC crime reporter for the Daily Bugle, and Joe Robertson meets J. Jonah Jameson for the first time. Conover heads out to meet his informant, Fortunato, about the recent instability in the underworld. New York's boss of bosses, Don Rigoletto, is killed by Wilson Fisk, who assumes the role of New York's Kingpin. Jake Conover saves the life of Fortunato as Fisk's hitmen target him. Fortunato flees the city, but only after he declares his debt to Conover, and swears to repay if Jake ever needs a hand. Conover, shaken by the whole ordeal, swears off crime reporting.
The book ends with an amusing special feature revealing the "secrets" of Peter Parker. Drawn by Pat Olliffe and Al Williamson, from Untold Tales Of Spider-Man, this little tidbit further explains just how pathetic little Pete was.
After the continued success of UToSM (due as much to the writing ability of Kurt Busiek as to the actual concept) and the "Flashback" Spider-Man annuals of last year, all of Marvel seems to be drawing from their characters' past. This is a good thing, but as I read more and more books sprouting from the same vein, I worry about the idea getting worn thin.
Fortunately, this book manages to entertain and enlighten. Tom DeFalco reminds us that, as long as he doesn't fill the books with cliched Ninja warriors, he is still a good writer. Also, Joe Bennett seems to be cleaning up his pencilling a little bit, and growing into a fine Marvel artist; throwing in little tidbits like the "Skrocian" first page that smilin' Stan Lee bursts through, and the Superman statuette on page 2. It's a shame that Skroce is coming back next month for the climactic battle between Spidey & X-Man and Electro!