Several years ago, Peter Parker's Uncle Ben was killed when Peter neglected his responsibilities. Peter has tried his best to make up for that mistake as the Amazing Spider-Man, and every year when the anniversary of Ben's death rolls around, Peter takes the chance to reflect - by going to a ballgame.
Spider-Man hangs high above the city, his mask pulled back and tears welling up in his eyes, for this is the day that his Uncle Ben died. He thinks about how it was his fault that Ben died, and how he's tried to atone for it by saving lives and fighting all sorts of wackos, but he knows that he'll never really get over that one mistake. Meanwhile, Aunt May goes to visit Ben's grave, where she finds that Peter has already been there.
Peter, at the same time, is getting ready to deal with the anniversary in his own way, by going to the Mets game. Pete takes the subway, surrounded by other hopeful Mets fans as he remarks upon the ineptitude of the team, and when he passes through the turnstiles at Shea Stadium, he flashes back to the first time that he went to a ballgame, when he was just a little kid with his Uncle Ben. Pete was immediately fascinated by the game, but was crushed when the Mets blew a four run lead in the ninth inning and wound up losing. When Ben noticed how Peter was pouting after the loss, he explained that sometimes you have to lose, because it makes winning all the sweeter. Over time, as the Mets continued to lose every year on Ben and Peter's annual game, that became known as "The Speech".
Then Peter flashes back to another game, a few years later, when the Mets were getting blown out in spectacular fashion. Peter was totally disappointed with the game, but he perked up when a foul ball was coming right for him. He raised his glove and took the ball squarely off the forehead. Pete was knocked out, and as the paramedics attended to him, the Mets mascot went to check him out. Unfortunately, when Peter came to, the first thing he saw was the mascot's enormous, smiling baseball-face, and he screamed and fainted. Peter's beaning turned out to be the highlight of the game.
Peter flashes forward another few years. This year, Uncle Ben is eagerly anticipating the game, but Peter is not interested. When he informs his Uncle that he wants to pass this year, a stern look from his Aunt May changes Peter's mind. So they go to the game, but Peter is practically going out of his way to have a bad time, and he and his Uncle barely talk through the entire nine innings. But then something incredible starts to happen - the Mets actually start winning. They actually manage to hang on and win the game and Peter is absolutely thrilled, as Ben just gives him a knowing smile. And three days after that game, Ben was dead.
Peter flashes back to the present, thinking about how badly his misses his Uncle. The game is long over, the Mets have been slaughtered, and Peter finds that he's sitting in the stands alone. He gets up to leave, and as he makes his way out, he swears he can hear an old man's voice whispering "Maybe next year".
I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to review this issue, as it combines two of my very favorite things in the world: Spider-Man and baseball. Unfortunately, I was somewhat dissatisfied with the result.
Paul Jenkins does a good job with the script, but there are some aspects of it that bothered me. First, several issues ago in PP:SM #30, Pete, Randy, Jill, and Glory were playing Trivial Pursuit, and Pete made a fool of himself trying to answer a baseball question. But if Peter was the baseball fan that he seems to be in this issue, he should have been able to at least make an educated guess at the answer. It's just a minor continuity glitch, but I expect more from Mr. Jenkins. Second, I disliked how the Mets were portrayed as such a horrible team. It may be good for the comedy of the story to have the Mets lose by thirty runs almost every time that Peter attends, but to me, a baseball fan, it just seemed unrealistic.
As usual, Mark Buckingham does a fine job with the art, but again, I had some problems with it. I found that some of the baseball action seemed rather stiff, and some of the details (like a team's manager wearing street clothes and smoking a cigar) weren't true to life. But the rest of the art, particularly when showcasing Ben and Peter, is very solid.
Much of this issue did strike a chord with me, though. When my Dad took me to my first ballgame at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, I was probably around the same age as Peter at his first game. And, like Pete's Mets, the Tigers lost at my first game. But since then, I've seen them win and lose dozens of times, and I still try to get to the ballgame every chance I have. I've got many, many fond memories of watching Tiger games, with my friends or with my Dad, and it was nice to see a Spider-Man story focus on the same kind of thing.
Oh, and the mascot scene was hilarious.
After the Fusion story, this was bound to be a bit of a letdown. Still, this was a nice little character-driven story about America's favorite pastime, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Three webs.