All Marvel annuals worth their salt have more than one story. In addition to the 33-page main feature, we are also treated to this six page short.
A young homeless girl huddles against the cold in snow-filled alley. She is wrapped up in a copy of the Daily Bugle, depicting Spider-Man fighting Electro. High above her Spider-Man is battling the Vulture. This makes the girl smile. Her choice of newspaper was not a coincidence. The box where she sleeps is filled with pictures of the wall crawler. She kisses a picture of Spidey good night, and settles down to sleep beneath scores of old photographs and newspaper clippings.
In her dreams, Spider-Man comes to her takes her swinging through the skyways of New York. They are joined by Iron Man and Thor. They are berated by J. Jonah Jameson. She is having a whale of a time. But it was not just a dream.
Spider-Man did come to the cold, inert girl and take her still body to the nearest hospital. The doctor says that she is dying: liver and kidney failure. There is nothing they can do, except keep her comfortable. Spider-Man blames himself. He must have swung over the girl a hundred times. If only he had stopped sooner. All those newspaper clippings that he saw there. He was her life, but he never knew that she existed. The doctor tells Spidey that he can't be everywhere, but our hero isn't listening. He rolls up his mask and kisses little Leah (her name was on her necklace) on the cheek.
"Sweet dreams," says Spider-Man. And in those dreams Leah is born off to the light, surrounded by Marvel's best and brightest.
Leah Adezio was a good friend to Peter David, and had been active on the message board of his web site for several years. She passed away on 17 January 2007, and this story is Peter David's tribute to her. I find it remarkably uncomfortable to review or critique a story that has such personal resonance for the author. It is powerfully written, and Colleen Doran's art is extremely expressive. If it was just a story it would be a moving read, the fact that it is about a real person makes it all the more poignant. You can read more about Leah at Peter David's website.