Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year or so, you know that Peter Parker's wife Mary Jane was supposedly killed in a plane crash. But in Amazing Spider-Man #28 it was revealed that she was, in fact, still alive, and being held prisoner by some creepy guy with some kind of connection to Peter. In ASM #29, Peter and MJ were briefly reunited before being confronted with said creepy guy, who knocked Peter to the floor with one nasty-looking headbutt...
This issue opens with Spider-Man writhing on the floor in pain, courtesy of some scary looking guy with glowing eyes. Mr. Glowing Eyes is the ne'er-do-well who's responsible for the kidnapping of Spidey's wife, Mary Jane. The villain reveals that he's absorbing Peter's powers, memories, and emotions, and in the process, killing Peter. MJ grabs a chair to stop him, but he tells her not to be foolish, as he'd stop her before she got close. So MJ surprises him by clocking Peter with the chair, the pain traveling along the psychic connection between hero and villain to knock them both to the floor. The villain recovers quickly and zaps MJ with some kind of glowing eye trick, making her slump to the floor, unconscious and unresponsive. Peter takes her in his arms, and then looks back to find that the villain has disappeared.
So Peter puts his mask back on and takes MJ to a hospital. The doctors try to help her, but have little luck, since no one, including Spidey, really has any idea what's happened to her. Suddenly, Spidey receives a telepathic communication from the villain, giving him a clue as to his whereabouts, and letting him know that the only way to save MJ is to meet him. As Spidey hops back out the window to meet the evildoer, a nurse at the hospital realizes that their patient is a famous supermodel, long thought dead.
Spider-Man races through a park, thinking about how painful it would be to lose MJ again, when he finds his quarry, calmly feeding the swans. The villain talks about the clue that he sent Peter, and how it is a secret that was shared only between Peter and MJ, and that for him to know it means that he and Peter are connected. He then reveals that he can see the future, and that Peter is going to go through a great deal of pain in the next few minutes, and then die. The villain apologizes for what he has to do, and then zaps Spidey with his scary glowing eyes.
Meanwhile in Forest Hills, Aunt May gets a call from MJ's Aunt Anna, who lets her know that Mary Jane is, in fact, alive. Aunt May immediately begins to fret about her nephew. Back at the park, the nefarious villain rants about how he can no longer fight the obsession to become Peter. Spidey responds by throwing water in his face. The bad guy gets miffed and hurls Spidey through a bridge. He continues ranting about how he deserves Peter's life more than Peter does, and then throws the wall-crawler through some trees, off a rocky outcropping, and into a garbage truck. Then Spidey, broken and battered, brings up the topic of power and responsibility. The villain stops just as he's about to deliver the killing blow, and realizes that if he kills Spidey, he can never become him. The villain turns and starts walking away, saying how he saw all this coming, but just couldn't avoid it. All that he did by trying to become Peter was trade his original pain for Peter's... exc! ept he's not strong enough to hand le it. And with that, he kills himself.
Back at the hospital, Peter finally arrives and fights his way through a throng of reporters to get to his wife's room. He sees Mary Jane and falls to his knees in front of her and they have a tearful reunion.
This isn't really fair on my part, but it'll be impossible for me to look at this issue without considering the other three parts of this ridiculous story arc. I'll say right now that this was by far the best installment of this particular story, and that looking back over this issue just now, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. But there were just too many bad ideas in this story. Mary Jane was gone from the books for about a year and a half, and this is the best idea to bring her back that the creators could come up with in that time? A nameless, throwaway villain with vague powers who faked MJ's death in order to take over Peter Parker's life for some unclear reason? There wasn't an established villain that could've been used, like the Chameleon or the Green Goblin, or, as I often suggested, Nitro the Living Bomb? No, instead we get Mr. Glowing Eyes. And after reading the last part in ASM Annual 2001, I can't help but wonder what the point of all this was.
Paul Jenkins makes the best of a bad situation with this script. After the horrendous second chapter in ASM #29, this story was heading downhill fast, but Mr. Jenkins managed to save it. He actually managed to make this terrible villain somewhat interesting, and even threatening, and Peter's inner monologue on pain as he races to find the bad guy was very moving, in a sad way.
Guest artist Charlie Adlard's work was somewhat hit and miss for me. I found that his work wasn't particularly strong on the faces of the characters in the story, and that at times, they just looked downright strange (particularly Aunt May). But on the other hand, I loved his the action scenes, particularly the big one in the park, where his illustration of the power of the nameless villain made him seem truly dangerous.
As a story arc, I hated it. But as an individual issue, I have to admit that I enjoyed Peter Parker: Spider-Man #29, and that it really earns three webs. Just don't ask me about the last part of this story.