Peter's back...even though Spider-Man is still Doc Ock... DON'T QUESTION IT! MARVEL NEEDS MONEY!
Actually, this story is set in the past. I'm not quite sure when, but it looks like late-70s or early-80s...
Our story begins in November, when “the nights begin earlier…last longer…get colder.” Spider-Man climbs to the top of the city to remind himself why he keeps fighting. He remembers how earlier that night he foiled a kidnapper’s scheme, saved a couple from a drunk driver, halted two punks from beating a man, stopped the robbery of a car carrying cash, and saved a falling gondola.
Peter thinks about how he has the same routine very night and how his hopes that people won’t need him are always incorrect. Shivering above NYC, Spider-Man reflects, “Each night ends the same way… Knowing that there isn’t enough time… That there’s always more to do… That even Spider-Man can run out of strength.”
Soon, Peter returns to his apartment, and spots a flash of lighting as he enters his skylight. He figures that he feels like he does simply because November nights are colder. While taking a shower, Peter thinks, “It’s nothing more than winter on the way.” A dark cloud begins to cover NYC.
The next day, Peter meets Jameson at the Daily Bugle, who tells him, “The TV news stations keep killing our circulation. Unless you want to lose your job, get me more pictures of [Spider-Man].” Jonah’s planning a new special edition about his enemy. He explains that Spider-Man has caused eighty-five million dollars’ worth of damage in the past year. Jameson reveals that the gondola Spidey saved earlier had been tampered with. This leads to the editor to ask, “Is he turning the city into an invalid so people will think he’s wonderful for taking care of them?”
Before Jonah continues, he is startled that Peter is bundled up. Our main character tells him that he cannot get warm. Jameson forces him out of his office, to prevent getting sick and in hopes he will get pictures of “that predator sabotaging the city.”
At house in Forest Hills, Aunt May greets Peter at her doorstep. She’s concerned that something is wrong, but Peter reassures that just wants to talk. May makes small talk about the storm that’s coming tomorrow evening. When May asks if Peter’s not feeling well, he explains, “I feel like something’s drawing heat from me, taking away my energy.” Then, he tells May that spiders build a new web every day. “Maybe, as winter comes, those spiders don’t die because it’s cold but because they’re worn out,” he suggests.
To comfort Peter, Aunt May tells him a story about Uncle Ben’s feeling about November. Ben thought the better weather was “nature’s way of telling up to rest.” The saddest day of the year for him was when the frost first hit. “But he said nothing was so sad it didn’t bring something positive,” she says. In Ben’s opinion, the frost feels sorry for killing the flowers, and gives them new life on windows in the form of crystals.”
Aunt May figures that the blizzard will be good because there will be no news for Peter to take pictures of. She says, “This time of the year, you’ve got to build up your strength.” Peter walks home after eating a dinner prepared by May. He sits on his apartment bed and thinks about going out as Spider-Man, but falls asleep instead.
While our hero is snoozing, the highly anticipated blizzard strikes the city. Taxi drivers make take their last refugees, people rush to markets to grab last-minute groceries, and men hurry to buy shovels. When Peter wakes, he is astonished that the blizzard has already taken the city: snow covers everything outside and everybody is indoors.
Elsewhere, a mother, her son, a woman probably battling or recovering from cancer, her caretaker, and Aunt May watch the news channels talk about how unpredictable and severe the blizzard is, urging everybody to stay off the streets. Peter says, “For a change…no one needs Spider-Man.”
Sadly, Peter is incorrect because the Alfred E. Smith House Projects, where the mother, son, cancer victim, and caretaker reside, is on fire. They are all trapped and the fire fighters are having difficulty operating in the snow.
Adding to the chaos, a tree branch breaks by the snow, lands on an electricity pole, and shuts off the power to NYC. When this happens, Peter calls Aunt May, but the phones are out. He becomes concerned and rightfully so. May, lighting a candle, hears a crash in her bathroom and finds her window has been broken by a tree branch.
As Peter’s spider-sense begins to tingle, May’s house becomes colder and she’s stranded. Paranoid for her safety, Peter dons his Spider-Man costume and ventures into the blizzard to save his favorite aunt.
When I first read this story, I was totally unimpressed. So what an unexpected blizzard strikes NYC? It happened in Zeb Wells’ ASM #555. So what Aunt May’s in danger? Lord knows it’s not the first or last time. I guess I would have been left thinking this if I hadn’t read it again recently and found just how great it is.
Looking past the simple plot, this story has great characterization. Peter and May’s relationship is fantastically highlighted in a way that it hasn’t been since J. Michael Straczynski’s ASM run. You can feel the motherly love May has for Peter and you have to smile at the story she tells about Ben. May’s advice is terrific for an emotionally distraught Peter.
Speaking of Peter, Morrell’s never written him before but already has a great handle on the character. Peter becomes overwhelmed and tired when there are too many people he feels he has to save, but is anxious and bored when everybody is safe. This is a totally accurate depiction of Peter’s somewhat obsessive personality. I know Morrell has been writing this story for a few years and it’s obvious he really contemplated his take on the characters.
I also enjoyed the nostalgia this story brings for the late-70s early-80s issues of Spider-Man. You’ve got to love J. Jonah Jameson’s irrational ranting and the scene where Spider-Man lowered into his apartment skylight brought back lots of memories. I stand by my words when I say that the best Spider-Man decade was the 80’s.
Lastly, Klaus Janson’s artwork was stellar. Janson’s art is a bit of a mix between Bill Sienkiewicz’s chaotic style and John Romita Jr.’s blocky style. The storytelling is so vivid that you could practically read the entire comic without actually reading the dialogue. When Spider-Man’s climbing to the top of the city, his art depicts his weariness through body language. The peril and desperateness of Aunt May’s situation is portrayed brilliantly on Page 29, Panels 3 and 5. The creative layout and varying sizes of the panels also portray many different perspectives without slowing down the story.
Morrell's great characterization and depiction of Peter and May's relationship is terrific. Janson's storytelling enhances the script vividly. This is a Spider-Man story worth telling.