Robin Bourne, the daughter of Spider-Man of the year 2211 has had a falling out with her dad. Disguising herself as Hobgoblin 2211 she's jumping between realities with the intent of wiping out all Spider-Men everywhere! She has kidnapped a version of Ben Parker from an alternative reality and dumped him in the mainstream Marvel Universe. Seems as though this Ben was fundamental in keeping the Peter Parker of his reality from turning into a big beastie and killing the Avengers. As the alternate Ben has a rather cold reunion with Aunt May, Spider-Man (our guy) has been captured by this new Hobgoblin. Read on to discover his fate.
Spider-Man is unconscious and stuck to the brick work of the George Washington Bridge. He awakens just in time to see Gwen Stacey plummeting past him to her doom. Of course, this is the work of Hobgoblin 2211. She arrests Gwen's plunge. Hobby says that this is a pivotal moment in Spidey's life - an intersection point that sends ripples throughout reality. It's the second of six such points Spidey will experience in his lifetime. She asks what Spidey what he would give to undo this, and live the life he could have had.
Of course Spidey refuses. He has been there and done that (quite literally, during House of M). He has no desire to jump the tracks and change his lot for the better. Of course, Hobby knew he was going to say that.
The alternate Ben Parker is having an equally rough time. May is outraged that anyone would seek to impersonate her husband and sully the memory of a great man. Why is he here? It must be to hurt Peter. Ben protests. He really is May's husband - he wants to be with her!
Jarvis intervenes and throws Ben off May. Ben Parker has had enough, and he turns on Jarvis, knocking him to the ground. What could Jarvis possibly know about him? What does Jarvis know about what Ben has gone through? But in the depths of this tirade Ben sees the frightened look on May's face and it completely deflates him. He had fantasised about finding his wife alive again, but not like this. Ben walks away into the night.
Back at the George Washington Bridge, Hobby is growing progressively more insane. She is even calling our Spider-Man, "Dad". As she mutters, Spidey's new Stark-tech has adapted to the spores Hobby used to put it out of action. Finally, free Spidey launches himself at his insane enemy. She avoids his clumsy attack, and despairs that one way or another all her encounters with Spider-Men end in the same way. But not today. From a hole in time the Spider- Man of 2211 drops down on Hobby. The force of the attack bears them both into the cold river.
Ben Parker staggers into an alleyway. Should he go back and apologise to May? What would be the point? He doesn't belong here. Everyone and everything has moved on and left Ben behind - even the world. But he is not alone in the alley. A tramp who is "good at blending in" rises from a pile of garbage. He tells Ben not to get mad at the terrible things that have happened to him, but to get even; and he throws Ben a gun.
Ben's immediate response is revulsion, but the tramp has an interesting point of view. Scientists are currently pushing a "myriad ways" theory of existence. For every action or decision you take, all the alternative actions are played out in newly created realities. It doesn't matter what you decide, because somewhere else you'll be doing the opposite. Therefore you might as well do whatever you feel like: in the end nothing truly matters. Ben picks up the gun.
Back in the river, Spider-Man is searching for the 2211 versions of himself and the Hobgoblin (his new suit lets him breathe underwater don't you know). Hobby's glider attempts to mow Spidey down, but he grabs hold of it and redirects it at the Hobgoblin. Unfortunately, this was the point that Spidey 2211 had incapacitated the goblin in some sort of electric web, and the impact of the glider frees Hobby who quickly heads for the surface.
Pausing briefly to reveal that Hobgoblin 2211 is his daughter, the future Spidey tells our Spider-Man to stay out of things that don't concern him and heads off. But as he breaks the surface, Hobby traps him in some sort of force field, and prepares to wipe him from existence with one of her retcon bombs. Erasing the father will means her end as well, but she welcomes it. In the end, Hobby is a pitiable figure who wants a release from her madness.
Suddenly, Spider-Man pops up and snaps the retcon bomb with his webbing. Not realising what it is, he redirects it to Hobgoblin 2211. She is consumed by it and disappears. The Spider-Man of 2211 is distraught that his daughter is gone, and that very soon he'll never remember that he even had a daughter. He argues with Spider-Man, and tells him that he will set the time paradox right and deal with the errant Uncle Ben. He says that Spider-Man didn't kill Hobby because you can't kill someone who never existed. But he still takes all the responsibility on himself.
Hours later, Spider-Man 2211 finds Ben Parker at a cemetery looking at his own grave. He explains who he is and that he has come to return Ben to his own reality. He says that Ben has an important destiny. Ben seems depressed, and Spidey 2211 tries to comfort him. At this point, Ben pulls a gun and shoots Spider-Man 2211 dead.
The murderer says: "So if it's all the same to you, Spider-Man of the year 2211, I think I'll stay around for a while." And the scene pans to a dark alleyway, where we see Ben Parker dead under a pile of garbage.
So, what on Earth was all that about? This arc had a strong first act, became misguided in the middle and now it shoots off in such a wild and inexplicable direction that I'm at a loss to defend it. After several readings of the comic, I still don't understand what happened. I'm stunned Peter David would turn in a story like this.
Who is the tramp in the alleyway? How is Ben dead and the murderer of the future Spider-Man? Why would he do it? What's the point? The main clue, as pointed to by PAD himself, is that at the end the murderer refers to his victim as "the Spider-Man of 2211". Ben Parker couldn't have know this, therefore the murderer is not the displaced Ben Parker. Therefore the dead body in the alleyway is the displaced Ben Parker. But that doesn't come close to explaining anything.
This is what Peter David said about this point: "Think: what's the simplest, most reasonable way that the person who shot Spider-Man at the end of the issue would know he was from the year 2211? There's a dangling plot element from the previous issue that's alluded to, but never followed up upon. And re- read the bum's dialogue in the alleyway - there's a key line there as well. Put all those together and you've got it."
Well, I don't have it and I've reread this issue and issue #9 multiple times. Here are what thoughts I do have, perhaps as readers you can draw your own conclusions and let me know if you have an epiphany. The easiest way the murderer could know the identity of Spidey 2211 is if the murderer has met him before. Does the murderer come from 2211? The murderer is probably the tramp in the alleyway. The tramp had brown eyes, and Ben Parker has been consistently drawn with blue eyes. At the end the Ben Parker that shot Spidey 2211 had brown eyes, and the dead Ben in the alleyway had blue eyes. There have been hints on Peter David's message board that the tramp was in fact the Chameleon of 2211, but I can find nothing in the comic to support that conclusion, apart from the tramp saying that he was good at "blending in".
However, all this discussion is largely irrelevant. The point is that if I can't understand the story, if my fellow Spiderfan staffers can't understand the story, if the posters to Peter David's website can't understand the story and if Peter David himself has to explain the story, then it's not a very good story. There's a complete breakdown in the narrative, which is something I would never expect to see from this writer.
Even if the plot was coherent, the arc would still have fundamental problems. This story was not about Spider-Man. For the past three issues he has been relegated to the status of guest star in his own comic book. In fact the more I think about it, the worse this whole Jumping the Tracks arc becomes - which is a shame considering how much I enjoyed issue #8.
Usually, this would be the point where I say Mike Wieringo's art stopped the issue from being a total failure, but not this month. This is far from Wieringo's best work, and looks as though it was completed in hurry. The rushed art unintentionally muddies our understanding of the crucial scenes in the alley and at the end of the issue. The underwater scenes are also rather ropey.
So all in all a bit of a disaster, really. I hope Peter David pulls something impressive out of his creative hat next month because I'm becoming a little disheartened with his run so far.
A story in a Spider-Man comic that isn't about Spider-Man, an utterly confused plot and below-par art. I'm being very generous giving this one web.
Although it isn't mentioned anywhere in the comic, this is Mike Wieringo's last issue of Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man. My money's on him replacing Bagley on Ultimate Spider-Man, but that's just conjecture on my part.
If you're looking for explanations of what on Earth was going on in this story arc, then you will need to pick up Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #17. The Sandblasted story arc sees Spidey and the Sandman team up to get to the bottom of the alternate Uncle Ben mystery. I didn't review that arc, and I'm quite glad about it as I wouldn't have been very complimentary.