This story takes place before ASM #700...
Our story begins with Spider-Man running into the Lenox Hill Hospital with a bloody kid, calling for a doctor. Our hero explains that the victim was shot in the back as the doctors frantically attend to him. Spidey walks away, head in hand.
Hours later, Peter sits in the dark, miserable. Mary Jane enters the apartment and he mutters to her, “I got a kid shot today.” Surprised, MJ tells Peter to elaborate. He explains that he was stopping a bank robbery when a thug “pulled a gun” behind him. Peter was aware of the gun and planned on dodging it, but a “wannabe hero kid” with a Spider-Man jacket tackled the thug. Consequently, he was shot in the back by another criminal, leaving Peter to swing him to the hospital.
The kid tried to save him; therefore Peter blames himself for his injury. MJ assures him that it was an accident, but Peter says, “Isn’t it enough that I have to take responsibility for my own actions? Now I have to watch out for idiots like that kid too?” He decides that, wherever he goes, someone will suffer because of him.
In Lenox Hill I.C.U., Peter talks to the kid, who is unconscious and hooked to machines. Peter says, “I should be there instead of you. But I’m not.” He expounds that he has his spider-sense to warn him, but the kid had nothing. When the parents walk into the room, Peter explains that he witnessed their son’s “brave” act. The father erupts at him, yelling, “It was that damn Spider-Man’s fault. He was there. He could’ve stopped it.” Peter agrees, and as he’s leaving, hears the father wish Spider-Man was dying instead of his son.
Hours later at the hospital, the father tells Peter in the waiting room that his son is awake and wishes to speak to him; he doesn’t know why. When Peter enters the room, the boy begins saying that he knows his identity as Spider-man. He figures, “Why else would a stranger be here? Besides…I wasn’t really asleep.”
Immediately, Peter apologizes, but the kid simply says that he knew what he was doing. When he was six, he had watched Spider-Man save a girl from being hit by a bus. After that moment, the kid lived his life asking, “What would Spider-Man do?” and even drew a comic about him. Peter denies that he’s a hero. “Sure I have powers, but I’m no one to look up to,” he explains. The kid replies, “At the end of the day, even though you might not have won, you always got back up--swinging through the city again. If that's not a hero, I don't know what--” Suddenly, the kid goes into cardiac arrest, and a fleet of doctors gather around him.
Later at Calvary Cemetery, Peter stands outside the memorial service given for the kid. The patents approach him, and explain that they know he’s Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s photographer. They hand him an envelope that the kid, now introduced as Tommy, wanted him to have. As they walk away, the father says, “Tell Spider-Man not to blame himself.”
When Peter opens the envelope, he finds the comic Tommy drew called “What Would Spider-Man Do?” Flipping through, Peter finds panels of Spider-Man saving the girl from the bus, facing Juggernaut, and being saved by Tommy’s fly-like super hero persona.
The captions say, “Spider-Man is the greatest hero and always does what’s right, He doesn’t care about the odds, or how impossible the fight. He isn’t always perfect, and isn’t always smart. But Spidey knows I have his back, because I listen to my heart. Even if he falls, he always gets back on his feet. He taught me how to be a hero and to never accept defeat. So when I’m feeling sad, and I don’t know what to do…I close my eyes and say out loud, ‘What would Spider-Man do?’”
Peter walks away, saying, “Thanks, Tommy--I owe you one, buddy.”
This is one of those stories that really hit you in the gut, much like “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man” which is one of my favorite comic book stories of all time. It’s a fantastic character story, essentially restating the essence of Spider-Man in a kid’s terms. The tone begins with sadness, and ends with a sort of tragic happiness. I feel like the use of the comic book at the end was brilliant to bring Peter up a bit after such despondency. Lee Week’s art is gorgeous and shows emotions terrifically. (Isn’t it always?) My only problem with this story is that I feel like it isn’t an exactly original concept after “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” We've all seen many stories with a kid's death affecting a main character and it's become a bit of a gimmick now.
Although it doesn't really feel original, this is a good character story that restates the core of Spider-Man's character.