A little over two years ago, Marvel decided to start a second volume of Spectacular Spider-Man after the long-running original was canceled as part of the much-maligned Spider-Man relaunch of 1999. When Volume 2 started, it was placed in the very capable hands of writer Paul Jenkins who, along with artist Mark Buckingham, had just finished a successful run on the since-canceled Peter Parker: Spider-Man. Now Marvel has decided to once again can Spectacular, and Jenkins and Bucky are back to see it off...
This issue opens with Peter Parker flashing back to a childhood snowball fight with his Uncle Ben. Then Peter comes back to the present and we discover that it's Christmas, and Peter has come to his uncle's grave for an imaginary visit. Peter and Ben chat and joke about the horrible scarves and mittens that Aunt May used to knit. Then they fondly recall he elaborate snowman scenes that they used to create to torment May.
After awhile, Ben finally asks Peter what's bothering him. Peter says that it's not any one thing, but rather just the day-to-day grind of trying to balance his personal life with making the world a better place, and now he can't even escape his responsibilities while he sleeps. Peter tells his uncle about a dream that he's having where all his greatest enemies gather around him and taunt him.
Ben tries to make Peter feel better by explaining to him that being Spider-Man is his own choice. He goes on to tell Peter the story of his first-grade play. In the first-grade play, Peter was a soldier ant, and when his mother and Aunt May made his costume, Peter insisted that it have eight legs, even though ants only have six. Peter was terribly nervous, because he had the first line in the play, and when the kids got all dressed up and it was time for Peter to deliver his line, he promptly forgot it in front of all those people.
And Ben goes on to explain to Peter that the reason that he's Spider-Man isn't because of what happened to him when Peter shirked his responsibility... he's Spider-Man because of his parents. Ben tells Peter to stop worrying so much about all the tragedies that he's endured and all the people he's lost, and to go and live his life as well as he can. After Peter leaves, Aunt May arrives only to find another ridiculous snowman scene. And back at Peter's apartment that night, he sleeps peacefully and dreams of taking a bow onstage after his first grade play along with Spider-Man and his entire rogues gallery.
Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham's very first issue of Spider-Man (Peter Parker: Spider-Man #20) was about a distraught Peter Parker visiting his Uncle Ben's grave for guidance, and it's nice to seem them bring things full circle here. As expected, the story by Jenkins is very good, because these are the kinds of quiet, thoughtful stories that he excels at. I was particularly moved by the revelation that Peter does what he does not to avenge his Uncle's death so much as it is just to make his parents proud. And the art by Buckingham (who provides both the pencils and inks in his only issue of Spectacular) is very good as well.
The titanic team-up of Jenkins and Buckingham gives a nice send-off to Spectacular. Four webs.