Posted - June 18 & 19, 2014 | July 13 to 18, 2014 | Updated : August 27, 2015

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Marvel Knights Spider-Man 1
Down Among the Dead Men Part One

I love it when a comic references trends current at the time because the references sometimes brings up a delightful sort of nostalgia for the older reader and some historical trivia for the younger set. Marvel Knights Spider-Man started in 2004 and there's a reference to Legally Blonde 2. My favorite is this two panels were the proprietors of an Italian restaurant talk about dvds vs. vhs and compact discs vs. vinyl.

colorful discussion about changing technology

The more time passes the more references like this become period pieces. There are people arriving on the scene these days who don't know what a vhs looks like or what distinguishes a cd from a dvd.

Enough small talk. Artist Terry Dodson is in full swing as he treats us to a panel showing the Green Goblin.

the green goblin

It's Green Goblin vs. Spider-Man but instead of the usual bit where Spidey gets beaten up before taking the fight out of the Goblin, Millar and Dodson do something a little different. Spidey does get beaten up at first but they don't show that anymore, we immediately get to the part where the Goblin gets it handed to him. As in "Who's your Daddy!".

spider-man punches green goblin

They've been fighting each other for so long the Goblin calls Spidey "Parker" and Spider-Man calls the Goblin "Mr. Osborn".

It gets better. Check out the part when Spider-Man is looking for "something heavy" to hit the Goblin with and a bystander helps him out.

spider-man looks for something heavy

And now for the smash!

spider-man pummels the green goblin with 

What a great way to start Marvel Knights Spider-Man. That's the ideal way for this fight to end, but of course, it could have gone the other way.

It wouldn't be a Spider-Man comic without Peter's banter. Here's a sample:

spider-man's color commentary

I love the naughty "nuzzling into their wives" comment.

After the battle Peter looks really, really, bad and he limps on home to MJ and she's like this about the whole super-hero thing:

MJ has got peter's back

You know what that is? That's support. That is a partner supporting her mate. It's not a sexist thing, this could very well be the man supporting the woman - that works too. The reason I'm highlighting this panel is because, now that I have a bit of mileage under me, I realize that support between partners is a very rare thing. Singles take this for granted but outside of the short 'honeymoon period' this is a very rare thing. Heck, from were I'm standing this panel is high fantasy. I'll never get this support, but its still nice to see. Even in the comics.

We find the Parker family - May, MJ and Peter - in the middle of a move. Aunt May is moving out of the iconic house were the Spider-Man story started. I think its a bad idea but Aunt May has this to say:

how to let go of a house

I tend to be clingy about the roof over my head but Aunt May has a very "social" attitude that has me thinking - she has a point. Dodson treats us once again to a very nice panel - this time of Peter's room.

peter's old room

Looking at all the Spidey comics how many panels do you think they have of the Webslinger swinging around the New York skyline? Must be thousands by now. So we get something very rare here when Dodson shows Peter swinging around in street clothes. There are a number of panels. I like the first one:

peter swinging around in street 

And I like this second one showng the details of Peter's acrobatic move.

peter does an acrobatic

This issue is the first of four parts and it ends as expected: With a cliffhanger. Namely, Aunt May's new apartment - trashed.

aunt may's new place has been trashed

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 2
Down Among the Dead Men Part Two

With Aunt May's kidnapping last issue, Peter is eager to keep MJ out of the line of fire. He's telling her to go and check in to a hotel since whoever got Aunt May knows his secret identity. Here they are in front of a cab and Peter gives out some trivia about his spider sense.

peter talking to mj in the rain

"You know my spider-sense doesn't work well in the rain" . It's trivia to us but some super-villains will pay gold for this kind of info as in "its best to attack Spider-Man or pull a caper during a storm".

MJ finally gets into the cab and Peter is left alone to figure this out. There is a sort of lull at this point, a sort of "what next?" moment. I'm realizing that Peter is facing some sort of detective work, and, he's no detective. Peter is smart, science smart, not detective smart. The first name that pops into my head is "Batman", we need Baman for this. Does the Marvel Universe have an equivalent? Colleen Wing, the Black Widow maybe? Dr. Strange for an out-and-out mystical solution. Yes, Dr. Strange would be my first choice.

The first thing that Peter does is call the Black Cat for backup (A move that I am sure MJ will NOT appreciate). Sadly the Cat is unavailable. Now there is a panel of the Black Cat by Terry Dodson, very well rendered but she's knee deep in sewage. The muck makes me think twice about showing that panel but Felicia is just too well drawn so here it is.

the black cat working

Peter's second choice are the Avengers. Hence the cover of this issue.

If you bought this issue based on the cover and are expecting the Avengers to go into action with Spider-Man you will be disappointed. The issue does spend several pages on the Avengers but most of it shows Spidey dodging the Mansion's security arrangement. Ultimately, Peter can't divulge his secret identity, and therefore he can't even say who's missing. With nothing to go on, the Avenger's can't possibly help him. What Millar should have done for Avengers fans was make up the usual lame "misunderstanding" and have Spidey tangle with the Avengers for a few pages - instead we have the more plausible scenario of Spider-Man tangling with Mansion security while the Avengers basically stand around and watch. I can't believe I actually asked for an inane storyline rather than a plausible one. Never fear though. We can salvage something from the Avengers portion of this issue: A panel showing the Scarlet Witch.

the scarlet witch talks to spidey

With the Avengers a bust, Peter goes down his rolodex, I mean address book, you know, from his iPhone 10 or something, and comes up with an underground contact of sorts: The Owl.

A villain, a Daredevil villain to boot, won't do Spidey any favors, of course. So it has to be a trade; and what does a guy in colorful tights have to trade? This:

spider-man talks to the owl

Hmmm, KIngpin vs. Owl. Sounds like a good foundation for a Marvel crossover event, or at least a Marvel Knights crossover event. Anyway, Millar does away with the "mystery" by coming up with two names: The Vulture and Electro. Ha! At last. Not to mention these are two very enjoyable villains - and quite the odd couple.

Before we leave the Owl, if you're snacking while reading this site, I apologize, but I just have to show the Owl's bizarre choice of food.

the owl having a snack

So what do two notorious members of the Sinister Six do after kidnapping an opponent's elderly aunt? They go whoring. Oh, that wasn't a politcally correct term? What I mean is: They go whoring.

a night club

And speaking of whores, I mean escorts, Max Dillon has himself the answer to the question: What if Mystique decided to turn tricks? Yes, a mutant "escort" who can be anybody you want.

electro gets a mutant escort

Anybody who thinks this is a fantastic power for a prostitute to have, raise your hand.

Now I am really interested to know who Electro wanted her to be - its like a Rorschach test you know? If he says She-Hulk or Tigra or the Wasp we'll know more about Electro. If he says Johnny Storm than we'll really know more about Electro. Unfortunately, Millar pens a sudden appearance of the Spider and the question is left unanswered.

In this issue, Spider-Man has a brush with detective work and ends up showing us part of his network, both sides of the spectrum. I still say Dr. Strange should have been his first stop. Mystery solved though, so all's well that ends well.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 3
Down Among the Dead Men Part Three

After reading this issue, I'm renaming it 'Marvel Knights Electro'. I really like the way Electro handled himself here.

First a very, very brief -and slightly incomplete - recap of the last two issues. Aunt May has been kidnapped and Spider-Man has been informed that the perpetrators are Electro and the Vulture. As of the end of issue 2, Spider-Man has tracked them down and is about to confront them.

Before we get to the oh-so-glorious fight scenes, one of Peter's "thought boxes" gives us some additional details about the events of last issue.

the thoughts of one peter parker

I mentioned in my commentary last issue that, in looking for help to find his Aunt May, Peter should have tried Dr. Strange first. It was never mentioned before but it looks like Peter did try the Doctor and even DD. Millar only showed the Avengers and the Owl. This goes down as the fastest retcon I've ever encountered.

Now to the confrontation between Spider-Man, Electro, and the Vulture. You know the old saying about the guy who brought a knife to a gun fight? Well, the Vulture DID NOT bring his wings to this fight so its Electro vs. Spider-Man. Let the games begin.

electro unleashes and spider-man dodges

This fight happens in a bordello, and look, Vulture has found himself a very striking date.

the vulture and his date happen upon spider-man and electro

Contrary to the shapely figure and red hair, Jean Grey isn't moonlighting in a bordello.

Before long, we have this beautifully rendered explosion:

building explosion

The "money" statement is being shouted by Electro to the Vulture. The money involved? $20 million. What are these two lunatics doing lugging around that kind of cash?

Even through it all, Electro finds time to brag about his new costume.

electro bragging about his new costume

How tough is Spider-Man? He gets blasted by Electro and still manages to give Max a solid kick.

spider man is hit but

Look at this, I didn't know Electro could do this.

electro attracts

This is a great exchange between Electro and Spider-Man

electro informs spider-man of what is going on

I've recently been looking at documentaries about unemployment and recessions, so the importance of money has been on my mind a lot lately. I totally agree with Electro here, I don't care if its the Hulk, the loss of twenty million demands an ass kicking.

This next panel is the best Electro panel in the issue. Art by Terry Dodson.

electro approaches

Big, bad Electro coming through. Go get the Spider lightning head! Oops!

So it was Electro and the Vulture right? Where is the Vulture? Here he is:

the vulture floating along

I did not realize that the Vulture had the inherent power to float, I thought he needed his gear. I do know that his wing harness gives Mr. Toomes added vitality, more than making up for hisadvanced age. The fact that Electro is in the thick of it and Toomes is forced to slowly float back to get his gear made me laugh.

Before long, Peter regains the upper hand

spider-man punches electro

My first reaction to the panel above is that its very bloody. This is as bloody as the panel in issue 1 where Spider-Man punches the Green Goblin. I suddenly remembered that the Marvel Knights line was meant to be a grittier, darker take than the regular comic book fare. There are only 22 Marvel Knights Spider-Man issues so lets enjoy them while we can.

Electro has been beaten to a bloody pulp and he has this to say

electro when he's down

I love it! I love how tough Electro is, I love how he behaves when the situation goes against him. There you are, at the mercy of your foe, and you call him a moron. That's just awesome. Welcome to 'Marvel Knights Electro'.

The "moron" thing was all bravura, but now comes the big reveal: Electro and the Vulture had nothing to do with the disappearance of Aunt May. They stole the twenty million from the Owl and the Owl is using Spider-Man to get back at them. Parker is a chump and, more importantly, he is nowhere near getting Aunt May back. But this is Peter Parker, so when it rains it pours - Electro hits the distracted Spider-Man yet again.

electro hits spider-man

This one is bad, Peter winds up in a hospital, where a doctor makes a fateful decision.

peter's mask is taken off

I thought it was simply a doctor practicing her best judgement but a later conversion makes me think.

is somebody on the take?

The whole thing is winding down, but lets not leave before getting a glimpse of MJ.

MJ talking to Peter on the phone

The Vulture is my favorite Spider-Man foe so the final panel of this issue is both amazing and a cliffhanger.

the vulture makes an appearance

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 4
Down Among the Dead Men Part Four

It is the last part of a story arc that began in issue 1. The first issue was wonderful. Beautiful wrap-around cover, great Green Goblin/Spider-Man fight scene. The second issue was disappointing, luring us in with its Avengers cover but never showing the Avengers in action. Issue 3 marked a return to greatness with a fantastic Electro/Spider-Man fight. Now we have come to the last installment, very promising, with the gorgeous Black Cat on the cover. I've been enjoying the gritty style of Marvel Knights Spider-Man so far, let's see if Millar and the Dodsons (Terry and Rachel) nail the dismount.

I had voiced my admiration of the Vulture last issue, so this issue, for me, begins with a reminder that hits me like an ice cold splash of water in the face.

Peter Parker in the hospital receives a dire message

The bad news is the Vulture is a killer. The good news is the Vulture is a killer, I mean, this is no watered down villain. He's dangerous. He's ruthless.

What the Vulture did to the nurse he is going to do to Peter. It makes no matter to him that Parker is lying in a hospital bed after his fight with Electro. This just increases the impact of this scene:

Peter Parker hits the Vulture with a pitcher

Boom! Spidey is down but not out.

The classic Vulture pose is when he's lifting somebody - I've seen him do this every time he appears in a Spider-Man comic.

The Vulture flies off with Peter Parker

In this case, the hapless Peter Parker.

At the bottom panel of the image above, the Vulture is going on about his grandson having leukemia as a reason for why he needs the money he and Electro stole from the Owl. My first instinct: The guy's lying. I mean he just killed that nurse, what's a little lie about a grandson? Subsequent panels show that the Vulture is telling the truth. That complicates things doesn't it? Stealing is stealing, but - for a boy with leukemia? Life isn't black and white, it's gray. It's gray, and I don't know what to think.

The Vulture talks a LOT during his flight with Parker, including this gem about something we already know: the hierarchy among villains.

The Vulture talking to Parker

It makes sense that the big gang bosses like the Kingpin and the Owl are the richest. Hammerhead, Silvermane would be added to the list.

This is a curious statement from the Vulture.

The Vulture drops Peter Parker

How does somebody move from being a nobody to being somebody? By accomplishing something right? Peter Parker has been fighting the good fight and has proven unbeatable as Spider-Man. That's an accomplishment isn't it? So he's no longer a nobody - he just has a secret identity. But the whole argument is useless since the Vulture has already dropped him.

The drugged up Peter has a very calm time falling to the ground

Peter Parker free falling

if you go this peacefully, its a cool way to go.

But we all know Spidey won't die - Spider-Man will never die. I'll be long in my grave and my grandkids will still be reading and swinging around with Peter Parker, enjoying the stories as much as their grandpa. I think that's fantastic.

Enough of this plunging to death baloney. Here she comes!

The Black Cat saves Peter

Ah, here's another great shot of the Vulture

The Vulture at full speed

Looking at this, what comes to my mind is: Wouldn't it be great to have a Vulture vs. Falcon comic?

We don't get Vulture vs. Falcon, what we get is Vulture vs. Black Cat:

The Vulture vs. the Black Cat

What I know about the Vulture's gear is that it made him slightly stronger than the strongest human being - maybe right under Captain America's level. But it seems I was wrong.

The Vulture in flight with the Black Cat on top

Five hundred percent. Lets assume old man Toomes can lift a hundred pounds. With the suit its 500 pounds. Captain America can deadlift 850. Oh, so I wasn't far wrong.

I also thought the Black Cat was here because Peter called here up back in issue 1. Not the case.

The Vulture and the Black Cat, talking

The Black Cat turns over the Vulture to the Owl. Electro, not in the best of shape after winning his fight with Spider-Man (he did win), has also been taken custody by the Owl. We're moving from straight fights to a potential torture scene with Max and Adrian as the recipients. I'm automatically in their corner. It's heartbreaking. Look at them.

Electro and the Vulture have seen better days

Switching back to Peter, who would have known the nerdy Parker would be such a lucky ladies' man.

The women of Peter Parker

I think Marvel better tone down this stuff. The magic of Parker is he's supposed to be like most of us. Supermodels and femme fatalles, that's Tony Stark territory.

And that's the issue. What!? That's it? It clearly states in the title page that this is part 4 of 4. Where is Aunt May? What happenes to Toomes and Dillon?


Still. Still. The art. the fast paced action. The colorful cast. I'm loving Marvel Knights Spider-Man.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 5
Venomous Part One

The title might be "Venomous" but Eddie Brock only has a small cameo in this issue.

Not to worry though, Venom might be absent but we have two villains: One is absolutely terrifying, the other is just dangerous. Let's start with the terrifying one first. Here it is.

a credit card notice is mailed to mj

That's right it's credit card debt. That notice just came in the mail and is being held by MJ. As a further sign that I'm not far wrong to refer to credit card debt as a super-villain, the arrival of this notice activates Peter's spider-sense. No kidding. Not only "no kidding", but I totally agree. I have personal experience with credit card debt and it has palpitated my heart, caused me to break into sweats, tortured me mentally and I think struggling with the credit companies has aged me prematurely. I live cash basis these days but the memories, the terrible, terrible, memories.

Here are more (painful) details about the credit card debt.

call center worker

The lawyers. For those of you who have experienced it. Remember the lawyers?

Because of her relatively more lucrative acting career, Mary Jane is the primary breadwinner of the Parker household. It's the classic example of being relied on for the finances, things are tighter then expected, and the whole house of cards starts to totter. Mary Jane would be able to explain it best . . .

peter and mj walking in central park peter and mj walking in central park

By the way, the top panel background is just amazing isn't it? Central Park presumably? Art is by Frank Cho - very clean, lots of open spaces for Colorist Laura Martin to do her magic.

Peter's reaction to this financial "snowballing" is a typical reaction.

peter and mj sitting on a park bench

The "negotiate with them" reaction. Talk about commonality of human experience.

I wanted to see villains in this comic but this first villain is just too traumatizing. Let's move on to the next villain. But before that I think we all deserve - Peter included, I mean, Peter specially - a little "swing time" as Spider-Man.

spider-man by frank cho

Beautiful Spidey art by Frank Cho.

Ahh, that's better. Now for villain number two:

doctor octopus

Otto Octavius I've never been happier to see you. Even this somewhat younger version of you they've cooked up for Marvel Knights Spider-Man. The Doctor is not himself, he's not talking, and, as Spider-Man noticed, he's uncharacteristically rampaging. He's also drooling.

Here's a beautiful - and beautifully rendered - save by Spider-Man.

spider-man to the rescue

A cultural history note: Girl in pink top is wearing a Discman.

This panel shows just how tough Doc Ock's arms are. To paraphase from Spider-Man, they (the arms) rips through the bus effortlessly.

doctor octopus falls on a bus

Spider-Man saves the day but he is being accosted by a lot of police. And by a lot, I mean, really too much.

spider-man mobbed by S.W.A.T. team operatives

I know this panel is an aesthetic decision on the part of the writer and artist but its a dumbass move to gang up on someone with the proportionate strength of a spider. Spider-Man will simply throw the S.W.A.T. team members off and literally bounce away. They should've used their dart guns. In any case we won't know just yet because this is the last panel of the issue.

Some other worthwhile stuff, hmmmm, let's see . . . Oh, how about this one? Who's better looking slash sexier, MJ or Felicia?

mj, felicia, and peter

Last issue, Peter got beaten up so badly his mask was almost totally ripped from his head. Leave it to J. Jonah Jameson to take advantage of the situation.

spider-man in the papers

Lastly, let's end with some private thought about Mary Jane Watson-Parker from Peter Parker.

mj and peter

No she's not Peter, because you're Spider-Man!. On the other hand, she is the main breadwinner between the both of you so yeah, she is out of your league. That said, I kind of envy 'keeping the book collection in alphabetical order' thing.

Thanks for joining me for this breakdown of Marvel Knights Spider-Man #5! Have a great day!

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 6
Venomous Part Two

The cover is a fake out! The X-Men aren't in this issue - only Rachel Summers. Let's repeat the old mantra: "The cover does not necessarily have anything to do with the issue. The function of the cover is to get the issue bought". Come to think of it, if they featured all the X-Men women with Spider-Man with a bit of a risque slant on the cover I wouldn't be complaining.

Last issue we left Spidey surrounded by what looked like a hundred S.W.A.T. team operatives. I mentioned that mobbing somebody with the proportionate strength of a spider was not the way to go. I further predicted that Spider-Man would shrug them off and bounce out of there. And I was . . .

spider-man repels attackers

. . . right!

Now here come the guns!

spider-man dodges guns

Peter's spider-sense is as good as Luke Cages' steel-hard skin. By the way, awesome art by Terry Dodson.

The comic gets a lot quieter when MJ and Peter meet in a coffee shop.

incognito thing in a coffee shop

Isn't that Ben Grimm on the leftmost part of this panel?

Dodson's got a lot of great art in this issue, but this one is the jewel in the crown.

peter with mj's reflection behind him

Focus on Peter and show MJ's reflection in the background. Brilliant.

Also last issue, the Daily Bugle, that is to say, J. Jonah Jameson, offered five million dollars for the secret identity of Spider-Man. Five million dollars, that's a lot of money. Only an idiot would turn it down. Spider-Man is no idiot. So he comes clean with Jameson and claims the five million for himself.

spider-man unmasked

After all these long years, Otis has finally admitted it. The Bugle says this happens about ten times a day. Don't those lunatics know that if they're ever believed, a small army of super-villains would be hunting them down? MJ even did the research on that this issue. Spider-Man has twenty-eight super-powered enemies currently at large. Small army indeed.

Here's another detail about that reward money.

conversation between j. jonah jameson and peter

Anonymous billionaire my ass! J. Jonah Jameson has a thing about Spidey. It's a level of obsession that borders on mania. Who am I kidding? It's mania, no question. Jameson put up that five million himself - he's just too ashamed to admit it. What's five million to a man who's already spent so much money to fund the research and creation of so many Spider Killers?

Please take a moment to read the captions in this panel.

caption about aunt may

I totally agree. Aunt May is dead. And if she's not - with a description like that - she should be.

In a moment of insanity, Peter actually attempts to ask the Green Goblin for help (face palm). Here's the prison were the Goblin is being held - I forget if its the Vault or the Raft.

the raft or the vault

It just occurred to me how unrealistic this prison is. Taxpayers simply won't allow that much tech in a prison. On the other hand, in Earth-616, super-villains are real. So - maybe.

Okay we have this panel.

swinging spider-man

It's beautiful, no question about it. But I have a problem with it. This is the second time Spider-Man was drawn with that pose in this issue. I have heard stories about artists keeping templates of generic poses that they will then reuse. I'm not saying Mr. Dodson has such a template, its just I was reminded of the existence of such things when I saw this pose a second time in the same issue. I have no problems with using artistic templates. What I dislike is using the same Spider-Man "swing" post more than once in the same issue. Comic books may be products,but they're not. They are works of art and two poses like this is one pose too many.

Let it not be said that the cover was entirely ignored. Here's Spider-Man with Rachel Summers.

rachel summers and spider-man

She is a knockout! Love the "clone" joke.

The comic segues to a super-villain equipment auction run by the Tinkerer. On the way there, somebody asks sombody else about a coat she's wearing. This is the answer.

poeple on the wayh to the super-villain auction

"... one of the Avengers ..." Ha! It's only funny because its totally absurd. The coat wearer's name is Sadie. Could it be the same Sadie that Hydroman and Sandman fought over in Amazing Spider-Man #217?

I was beginning to think that the reason writer Mark Millar called this story arc "Venomous" was because it would be named after the one villain who won't show. Well, at the very last panel here he is at last: Venom!


I suppose Part Three will be the really, really, "Venomous" issue. By the way, Eddie Brock is auctioning out his parasitical alter ego. I wonder how that will turn out?

Thanks for joining me in this breakdown. Now go forth and read more comics!

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 7
Venomous Part Three

From last issue, when Rachel Summers told Peter Parker that his Aunt May might be dead, this issue ramps up the pace, taking us through entire days in a matter of pages. In short order we see Spider-Man tangling with the Lizard.

spider-man punches the lizard

At which point we get this very interesting panel.

spider-man punches the lizard again

Peter is under the ground, in a half submerged, smelly sewer. In a half submerged, smelly sewer with dead bodies floating around giving off a vile stench. And. And. The Lizard looks more dangerous and grosser than I've ever seen him. But Peter is so worried about Aunt May that things barely register - he goes about his business as Spider-Man in a manner that could be described as "workmanlike". Going through the paces. It's familiar isn't it? Moments when life's little ribbings don't hurt you as much as they should because you're still trying to deal with a previous trauma.

After the Lizard, its Hydroman's turn.

spider-man vs. hydroman

Then Sandman.

spider-man vs. sandman

Then Rhino.

spider-man vs. rhino

Then the Enforcers.

spider-man vs. the enforcers

I like this Enforcers panel because it emphasizes Spider-Man's strength. Put in all the Spider-Man panels ever made and I bet ninety percent would showcase agility instead of strength. So these "strength" panels are worth savoring.

I also notice Terry Dodson gave Spider-Man slitted eye lenses, making him look fiercer.

Did you like Dodson's villain panels? Those are nothing compared to these:

Black Cat.

sexy black cat

Back to the troubles of Mr. Parker. I did mention this issue speeded up time somewhat? We are informed that it is now more than a month since Aunt May's disappearance, no ransom demands, no communications whatsoever. This mystery has been ongoing since Marvel Knights Spider-Man 1.

What happens next can only happen in the pages of a Spider-Man comic, and, I daresay, should be one reason why you should read Spider-Man. Where was I? Oh yes, what happens next is that Spider-Man has to take a leak.

So he goes into a diner and uses the rest room. He's about to go out when he's accosted by a waitress pointing out that the rest room is "for customers only". Since Peter has already used the facility he is compelled to sit down.

spider-man in a diner

Coffee? you should have gone for the Key Lime Pie Peter. That sounded really delicious.

So Peter's talking with the waitress, Ramona, when it comes out that she is the Vulture's daughter-in-law. The one he talked about back in Marvel Knights Spider-Man 4. She has a son with leukemia - Vulture's grandson - and the Vulture was doing a job with Electro in order to have money for the kid's operation.

Peter can't do anything at this point but make a polite exit but I'm really hoping that Ramona gets some help in future issues. And the Vulture. My favorite Spidey villain in the cruel clutches of the Owl. What of him?

On a lighter note: MJ just got up from a good night's sleep.

sexy mj

If any of us had to look at an outfit like that in the morning who needs caffeine?

And now a word from Peter.

peter and mj

I find that very difficult to swallow. The Master of the Mystic Arts can't find Aunt May? Impossible. But there it is.

Next up is something I almost intentionally neglected because its about Peter and MJ attending Peter's High School reunion.

high school reunion

Here's how Peter describes going through high school.

peter parker and liz osborn

It seems he has had quite a terrible time in High School. What baffles me is why he even goes to his reunions? Wait a minute.This guy is Spider-Man. If I was Spider-Man I'd go no problem.

So Peter is in attendance and his bastard classmates still treat him like shit. They take him to the gym and are about to humiliate him by giving him a wedgie.


Peter pushes them away.

peter pushes away some bullies

If there was any time I wanted Peter to use the proportionate strength of a Spider to turn anybody into a bloody pulp its now. I cannot believe the cruelty of bullying somebody in High School and bullying him again in the High School reunion. So I'm about to settle down to watch Peter wipe the floor with these guys when Venom does a surprise attack.

It's Venom but its not. Eddie Brock has been replaced by eighteen year old Angelo Fortunato. Venom knows Peter's real identity having served as the "costume" for some time. So now Angelo knows too and Venom calls Peter "Spider-Man" right in front of his ex-schoolmate.

spider-man talking to the new venom

For a moment there, I was like - uh-0h, the secret's out. But . . .

venom kills somebody

The schoolmate is immediately killed by Venom.

By now the gym is littered with the dead bodies of the group that was about to pick on Peter. Death is definitely too extreme for bullies but I'm hard put to feel any regret or sympathy. To a victim of bullying, or anybody from the outside looking in and empathizing (like us), the feeling would be more like "good riddance to bad garbage". I supposed that's why we all live in a system of laws - emotions are a very poor foundation for justice.

Part Three of "Venomous" has finally become Venomous. I suppose next issue will be the Spider-Man vs. Venom issue - I'm a bit concerned that we leave Peter in a situation were he's not wearing his costume though. That could get in the way of the action. Oh well, I'm sure writer Millar will figure something out.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 8
Venomous Part Four

This piece of art from the splash page.

peter parker and venom smashes through the high school shower room

Not particulary good except, except, for the rendition of the tiles to the left side of the panel. That's exactly how tiles would come apart (not that I've ever seen tiles come apart, but it looks authentic).

Ever since last issue Millar has been harping on Peter Parker being bullied in High School. Along those lines, we get this panel.

peter parker punches venom

I think the balance has been lost and suspension of disbelief along with it. According to this panel, Parker has been victimized twice a week for years. Who keeps going to the gym showers for years to be victimized as if it was some kind of regular schedule from hell? A person would simply avoid the showers or fake a sickness, or something. Anything, except going there year after year to get your ass kicked. Millar pushed it too far here, this is just not believable. Unless Peter is exaggerating.

Okay. Now pure art: Venom vs. Spider-Man by Terry Dodson.

venom jumps at spider-man

Last issue I was concerned about how Peter would get into costume. It seems that he's getting into costume while fighting Venom. Is that even plausible?

I don't know, the web panel below looks vaguely pornographic to me.

spider-man spins a web

Throughout the issue we get insight about what makes Venom tick. Like this one.

venom's hand catches spider web

Just like Spidey, Venom's reaction time is so fast that normally fast things seem to be moving in slow motion.

Another great Venom/Spider-Man panel.

spider-man kicks venom

Remember that famous Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry "Make my day" statement? The one below doesn't even come close, but how often do we hear the jokester Spider-Man get with the threats?

spider-man fist clenched

Here are more details about Venom's powerset.

spider-man pursues while
	venom becomes invisible

Web-spinning (obviously) , proof to Spider-sense, and invisibilty! Wow.

It's an exciting half chase, half fight, then this happens.

venom kills spider-man

That's right, its apparently the last issue of Spider-Man. How is Millar going to get out of an uber-large visual showing Venom murder Spider-Man? How?

This is how: Remember the five million dollars being offered by J. Jonah Jameson for the secret identity of Spider-Man? It all started in Marvel Knights Spider-Man 5. So because of this contest, somebody dresses up as Spider-Man and hangs around a rooftop while a friend takes some pics. This is the guy that gets killed by Venom. Poor guy.

Speaking of poor guys, let's take a closer look at Angelo Fortunato I'm convinced that he's not a bad kid, he just grew up in a family that essentially "broke" him. Peter knows . . .


More than that, Peter has a judgement on it.

spider-man punching

Peter has every right to say that, since he went through the same thing. Pressure was brought to bear and Angelo broke; Peter didn't. Still, I know how tough life can be, how dark it can be. so I tend to pull my punches when it comes time to castigating people who break under pressure. It won't stop me from wanting justice but there's always this little voice in my head saying "There but for the grace of God is me".

As you can glean from Peter's sentiment, Peter will really be pouring it on. Venom is the same fearless alien he always was but his host, Angelo, is starting to buck. Iv'e never seen Venom talk to his host - until now.


Here' another thing we've never seen: Venom voluntarily separating from his host.

venom separates from angelo fotunato

When I saw this my immediate thought was: Okay, who's going to be the next Venom?

Angelo falls to his death. Good for him. I mean it. His life was a constant beatdown from his father and his other relatives. There are times when the one thing worst then death is life.

Speaking about death, Eddie Brock commits suicide.

If Brock really died I'd be a bit sad about it but the operative phrase is "doesn't look like he'll make the night". So he's not dead, and he won't die as we all know. The next thing I want to note is that why did Brock cut his wrist in the street? Why not indoors? The only thing I can think of is that he wanted to be found, he wanted to be saved. While he was fighting Angelo, Peter said that the old Venom, meaning the "Brock" Venom had a twisted set of morals - Brock played by certain rules. That got me to thinking. Spider-Man has two foes that are on the borderline between villainy and, well, not heroism. Let's say between villainy and non-villainy. The two villains? Eddie Brock's Venom and the Sandman.

The Spider-Man books showcase Spider-Man's powers, of course, but, they also showcase the Parker smarts. And we have come to the point when Peter Parker uses his brilliant mind to put an end to J. Jonah Jameson's five million dollar campaign for Spider-Man's identity. And Peter does this by revealing, finally, to Jameson, who Spider-Man is. Ta-dahh!

pictures of spider-man and john jameson

Hahahaha! From this issue forward Jameson is going to think Spider-Man is his son, John Jameson!

It gets even better. It gets even better. It turns out I was wrong. Jameson didn't put down the money for Spider-Man's identity - it really was an anonymous donor. Jameson keeps most of it but, since Peter has done the "big reveal" he gives Peter five hundred thousand dollars. Woo-hoo! As we saw in Marvel Knights Spider-Man 5, Peter and MJ are having credit card problems. Perfect. No. More. Problems.

Not really.

Hold that thought. Before we leave Jameson, his nice office is worth a panel shot.

j. jonah jameson in his office

Just beautiful. Now back to the money. Peter gives it away!

To whom you ask? To the Vulture's daughter-in-law. Lets backtrack a bit to Marvel Knights Spider-Man 4 where the Vulture confesses that he was stealing money for his grandson who has leukemia. Then lets backtrack again to Marvel Knights Spider-Man 6 where Peter meets Vulture's daughter-in-law and is able to confirm that the poor kid with leukemia really does exist and the Vulture wasn't lying. Peter receives five hundred thousand dollars from Jameson and, in a not-so-subtle coincidence, the sick kid needs five hundred thousand dollars - and Mr. Parker provides it. I mentioned in issue 6 that I wished somebody would help the kid and it turns out that somebody is Peter.

I'm fast realizing that I'm reading about a far better man than I am. I must admit that in Peter's place I would have conveniently "forgotten" about the Vulture's grandsan - pushing it out of my mind as "not my problem. Here's hoping that some of Peter's goodness rubs off on me as I keep reading Spider-Man.

Finally! Peter gets a call about his Aunt May. There will surely be more on that next issue.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 9
Last Stand Part One

After the colorful side roads taken since way back in Marvel Knights Spider-Man 2 we finally come full circle to resolving the mystery encountered at the end of Marvel Knights Spider-Man 1. Namely: Where in the world is May Parker?

A lot of things need to be explained, so this issue pushes aside the action for some necessary talk.

It starts with Peter who is thinking about how many people he has had to bury over the years. There's even a flashback to his younger days when Ben Parker was still alive. It's a curious little sequence that has the thirteen-year-old Peter getting caught crying by Uncle Ben. Here's the reason why.

thirteen year old peter parker crying

Once again I have to bring out the phrase "commonality of human experience". I must have been nine or ten when I first became aware of the concept of death. I have a grandmother who practically raised me and whom I love very much and just like Peter I couldn't help but be aware of how old she was, and just like Peter I was scared that a person I cared for very much would leave so early. I was nine and silly in that nine-year-old way and I remember lying in bed closing my eyes and holding my breath and imagining I would be in a coffin. It felt so terrible and my nine-year-old brain would think that my grandmother would someday find hereself in such a situation and I would cry. Just like Peter. Commonality of human experience.

Peter's flashback is an incomplete history of the Spider and it includes a wonderful Terry Dodson rendition of the Green Goblin vs. Spider-Man.

green goblin vs. spider-man

The whole point of the nostalgia trip is to make us aware that all these deaths weigh heavy on Peter and he does not want Aunt May's death to be added to the list.

And now, the answer to the question: Who is responsible for the disappearance of Aunt May?

There are two.

It is Mac Gargan the Scorpion who tells the story. He begins in World War II, when the first super-heroes began appearing. At this point, Terry Dodson gives us a very welcome panel featuring the Invaders.

the invaders by terry dodson

The story goes that the rise of super-powered mystery men (and women) during the middle of the twentiieth century became a cause of alarm for the 1%. In order to counter the threat, the rich set about creating divisiveness between the masked powers - thus creating super-heroes and super-villians.

One of the best things about Millar's narrative is that it effectively explains why some heroes keep meeting the same villains over and over again - these villains were "assigned" to those heroes. Elegant isn't it?

So onwards the decades went with this kind of setup. Norman Osborn, a member of the 1%, was a key part of it until he went crazy and became one of the super-villains himself. Now that Spider-Man put Osborn behind bars the 1% are anxious that he might "spill the beans" on them. Therefore Osborn has detected subtle but indeniable signs that the noose is beginning to tighten around his neck. He simply knows too much to be left alive. Therefore, he had Aunt May kidnapped in order to blackmail Peter to free him from jail.

You can just imagine what Peter feels like.

peter parker walking

This panel is very powerful and representative of those life moments when we're backed into a corner, on the verge of panic unable to think straight. What happens next is baffling, but baffling in a delightful way.

Things, for Peter, get just a tad more intolerable. When your problematic about something, what's the last thing you want? A distraction. This is just what Peter gets in the form of one of his students asking for some help with science studies.

peter parker talking to a student

Spider-Man is a hero because Peter is a hero, not the other way around. So Peter masters himself, sits down, and helps. Those of you who know what its like to be in tough life situations will appreciate the Herculean effort it took for Peter to push aside the "Aunt May issue" and help out with homework. Then something inexplicable happens and its shown in these panels.

peter parker the tutor

I have no idea what that was about, but judging by Peter's smile, something good about the Aunt May situation just happened. This is the most significant cliffhanger of this issue.

The less significant but more visually striking cliffhanger is this.

mac gargan and venom

Mac Gargan and Venom. What gives?

It's the issue that aims to answer most of the question marks of the past story arcs. It clears a path for a conclusion of a story that began all the way from the first issue of Marvel Knights Spider-Man.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 10
Last Stand Part One

This issue starts with the intricacies of being Peter Parker and ends with the intricacies of being Spider-Man. It's an exciting issue which promises an even more exciting next issue. Let's get to it shall we?

Here's the deal: Peter is being blackmailed to break-out Norman Osborn from Riker's Prison. Of course, he has to tell his wife and, because this isn't something that he's familiar with, he has to consult an expert. This turns out to be the Black Cat - Peter's ex-girlfriend. Get the picture? No? Here it is.

peter, mj, and felicia

We all know MJ is used to Peter facing danger. She's cool with that. I mean who wouldn't be? It's not like Peter is Daredevil going out to the wide world protected by a solid grounding on Criminal Law. Peter has super-powers. When you've got the powers of the Spider, how dangerous could danger get? So MJ's cool with that. She's definitely not mad because of the danger factor.

That leaves two suspects. Is MJ mad that Peter is going to cross a "line" by breaking the law (you know, aside from the law making Vigilantism illegal)? Or is she mad because he's going out with his ex? Everybody who thinks its the "ex situation" raise your hand. Everybody else, c'mon, isn't it obvious? It's not sexism. Its just the way I think a woman's mind works.

Am I an expert on the female mind? No, in fact, I'm the exact opposite. How could MJ think that just because Felicia is sexy, naughty, beautiful - did I already say "sexy" - that Peter has got things in mind other than the job at hand or rescuing Aunt May? I'm a man, so I know, the ONLY thing on Peter's mind is rescuing Aunt May - and the Black Cat's tits, but strictly just as a passing thought-really. So there's nothing to be jealous about MJ.

And off they go, the brilliant pair - silhouettes in the moonlight.

spider-man and black cat silhoutte against the night sky

Art by Terry Dodson.

More great art from Terry Dodson? How about this patrol Tug going around Riker's Island.

riker's island patrol tug

Beautiful light show don't you think? Colors by Ian Hannin.

Inside Riker's, Black Cat makes herself immediately useful

black cat bypassing security

A few issue's back it was revealed by the Green Goblin to Spider-Man that he. the Goblin, did a very cruel thing: On the guise of helping one of his guard's wife, he was actually prescribing something that killed her. Well, the wife has died and the guard is out for revenge. His fellow guards are with him on this. The plan is simple: Go to Osborn's cell and kill him. Simple. Here they are talking about it.

armed prison guards

The thing on my mind is the word "consequences". Isn't anybody thinking about what happens next after you murder an inmate inside a prison? Aren't these guards with lives and families thinking about what will happen to them AFTER they get their revenge? Apparently not. It's the pure heat of the moment typified by the phrase "... doesn't matter what happens to me afterwards ...". Yes it doesn't. Until it does. Good, well-meaning people have actually flushed the rest of their lives away because their current emotion about things were so strong they mistook these feelings for the truth. Those ancient tales about sirens with their irresistible songs leading sailors to come too close to shore? Those sirens symbolized emotions. Live a life where you act on your emotions exclusively, you will have a shipwreck of a life.

In the great Comics Recommended tradition of drooling over location panels here's a great one of Riker's.

helicopters over riker's

Talk about an oddball trio.

black cat, norman osborne, and spider-man

Spidey in the lead, his costume hidden under the baggy "stealth" clothing given him by the Black Cat. A whiny Norman Osborn follows still in handcuffs. Those cuffs must be strong to resist the strength of the Green Goblin. Black Cat brings up the rear. Look at the expression on Norman's face, it's perfect for his dialogue.

Things get crazy really fast. Before long, Peter is being pursued by guards with guns and he gets separated from the Goblin and Felicia. Diving under the water, this is a beautiful shot of the Spider swimming among the bullets.

spider-man underwater bullets whizzing all around

Here's a curious panel.

spider-man swimming very fast

It seems that Spider-Man can swim exceedingly fast - superhumanly fast. Wow, that's great.

A little suspense with this panel as Spider-Man - coming to shore - is hit by what appears like a column of water.

spider-man pummeled by a water column

Guess who?


hydro-man and spider-man

Sandman has Black Cat captive.

hydro-man, spider-man, sandman, and the black cat

The excitement is really building up with these latest developments but Millar and Dodson really up the ante with this.

the sinister twelve

They call themselves the Sinister Twelve. Let's see . . . Goblin is the leader. The Lizard leftmost. The Vulture flying overhead. The Vulture?! I thought he was held captive by the Owl? Anyway, I see Shocker there then Hydro-Man. Electro . . . again wasn't Dillon held by the Owl? Boomerang. Sandman on the rightmost. I can't place the rest. According to the Green Goblin he's missing the Scorpion. Ohmigod! Here he is . . .

mac gargan as venom

Mac Gargan is the new Venom.

So its the Sinister Twelve vs. the Spider and the Cat. Something tells me the next issue is going to be stupendous.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man 11
Last Stand Part Three

Last issue we left Spider-Man and the Black Cat surrounded by, twelve, yes twelve, of Spider-Man's deadliest foes. It's like you got in trouble with a lot of bullies in your school, you and you're girlfriend are walking home after a movie and twelve bullies suddenly surround you. It's that bad.

Before the incredible action starts we have time to enjoy some of the details. Like, for example, the gorgeous Goblin Glider from artist Terry Dodson.

the green goblin talking to venom

The Batman can actually sue the Green Goblin for copyright infringement here. Still, its minimistically elegant isn't it? It's basically a jet turbine with wings attached, the intentional pollution just makes the big bad Goblin that much worst.

Ok. Action time! First up: Spider-Man!

spider-man takes on the sinister 12

One flaw I can see in this panel is the expression on the Black Cat's face. That smile doesn't belong in this desperate situation.

Then the Black Cat!

black cat takes on the sinister 12

Nice detail on the kind of footwear the Cat has on her costume - seems perfect for her parkour-like activities.

Spider-Man's speed and agility and strength gives him the upper hand even against such odds until . . .

venom takes down spider-man

At first I couldn't tell who hit Spider-Man. The costume is black so I initially thought it was the Vulture. Then I saw the distinctively styled dialogue balloon. Oh, it's Venom. Venom came in late and had a bird's eye view of the battle from an adjoining building - apparently he just zeroed in and leapt.

This little Venom speech just brings home how desperate the situation was for Spider-Man and the Black Cat from the beginning.

venom threatens spider-man

I'm reading this and I'm getting a sense of things being too overwhelming to be overcome. I'm not so much scared for Peter as I am for the gorgeous Black Cat - I can just see Gargan licking his lips under his Venom "suit".

Speaking of Venom, here is an oft-mentioned characteristic of the symbiote.

venom about to punch spider-man

Venom gets stronger and bigger the more pain and resentment his host has. There is a New Age author named Eckhart Tolle who talks about the "pain body" - that part of ourselves that comes out when we have our bouts with self-pity or self-destructive activities. That out-of-control part of ourselves that actually enjoys being miserable in that sick way. Man, that's Venom. That's what Venom symbolizes - being taken over by the "pain body". The pity parties. The suicidal tendencies. That's Venom.

The situation we find in this issue is a study on what Peter Parker is like when things are hopeless. When there is no light at the end of the tunnel. To those who've been through horrendous life moments - becoming homeless, having your house taken by a storm, any situation where you have more month than money. You wish you could just give up, but you're still alive. You have to go on. A sort of fatalism takes hold - a morbid kind of acceptance. This is what happens to Peter.

spider-man fighting pose

Peter gives it everything. It's a joy to see the big, bad Venom go flying.

venom is hit and goes flying

Terry Dodson gives us a very narrow panel that manages to pack in everybody against the Spider.

the sinister 12 gangs up on spider-man

The claustrophobic narrowness of the panel just increases the desperation I feel for Spider-Man. He can't handle it. He needs help. Somebody call the Avengers.

Did I say call the Avengers? It turns out MJ does make a call. Not to the Avengers but to S.H.I.E.L.D. This is even better than the Avengers because S.H.I.E.L.D. has contact points on everybody. Avengers I said? How about this: Avengers + Fantastic Four + Daredevil. Woohoo!

the avengers, the fantastic four, and daredevil

God forbid a well-illustrated Thing panel appears in Spider-Man and I don't show it.

the thing

Things have gone from "hopeless" to "hopeless for the bad guys". Just when I can breathe a bit easier writer Mark Millar increases the tension levels again. The Green Goblin isn't in this fight, he skipped to the other side of town.

mj and the green goblin

Oh shit.

So now Spider-Man is racing to MJ, trying to beat the clock. The distance is significant as this panel suggests.

swinging spider-man

I'm thinking, faster Pete, faster! Then this happens!

venom attacks spider-man

Venom is not an easy obstacle. He makes it clear that he's just here to delay Spider-Man so that the Green Goblin can have his way with MJ. This just ups the desperation. To make things worst, Venom plays on Peter's heroism by pulling apart the surrounding buildings to endanger civilians. Look at this catastrophe.

venom rains down debris on new york city as spider-man looks on

Spidey has no choice and weaves his web. Look at this amazing save.

spider-man's web holds a ton of debris

Here's the best part of all! Spider-Man pulls a whole building down on Venom.

spider-man buries venom under  a building

Finally, Peter can go on his way and the issue ends with this.

spider-man confronts the green goblin with mj as a hostage

Whew! What an issue. I knew at the end of issue 10 that 11 was going to be a blockbuster and it was.

Wait a minute! Wait a minute! There is ONE more thing. The Sinister Twelve is obviously modelled after the Sinister Six. Do you remember the leader of the Sinister Six? That's right, he has four incredibly strong mechanical arms and he's probably smarter then Peter Parker. In this story arc he's also "programmed" to go after Norman Osborn. And, most importantly, he's loose!

doctor octopus on the loose

Doctor Octopus is bound to make things very interesting.

Next: Marvel Knights Spider-Man 12 to 22