Top Ten Spider-Man Battles (Part II)
(Last month, Mark Ginocchio of Chasing Amazing began his survey of Spider-Man’s top battles by spotlighting confrontations with Mysterio, Thanos, and more. This month, Mark counts down the final five entries on his Top Ten List! And now … heeeeere’s Mark!)
We’ve now reached the second half of my top 10 favorite Spider-Man battles of all-time. The first half of this list consists primarily of Silver and Bronze Age altercations that are right in Longbox Graveyard’s wheelhouse. Well, the second of these lists will definitely contain some old-time classics. But, I’m also about to push some of you out of your comfort zone and introduce some scenes from comics that – gasp – occurred over the last 20 years during the much reviled “Copper” or “Chromium” Age.
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5. Spider-Man vs Hobgoblin (Amazing Spider-Man #249-251)
When Roger Stern introduced Hobgoblin to the world in the mid-80s, the character could have easily devolved into just another cheap Green Goblin rip-off capitalizing on all the heat between Spidey and the Osborn family. Instead, Stern crafted a villain that was as intellectual as he was mad. The three issue arc starts off with Hobgoblin having obtained scores of confidential information about some of New York City’s most elite residents and businessmen. His objective is to blackmail these people for financial gain. Of course Spider-Man gets involved, but during the course of these issues, his Spider-Sense is no longer working (that seems to be a common device in Marvel deck stacking strategy for Spidey). The altercation culminates with Spider-Man attacking Hobgoblin aboard his “Goblin Van.” What follows next is the comic book equivalent of some of the better car chases scenes you’ve ever seen in the movies. The Goblin Van is set to auto-pilot as Hobgoblin and Spidey throw haymakers at each other, including one well-placed punch that reactivates the hero’s Spider Sense. From there, the van crashes into the Hudson River and thanks to the power of self-destruct mode, explodes. Spider-Man moves far enough away from the explosion but finds Hobgoblin’s mask. These issues mark probably the last great Hobgoblin story for Amazing Spider-Man (Stern would later leave the title before the mystery of his identity was resolved). I’ve also long appreciated the indulgence of the Goblin Van sequence. Artistry and nuance is great and all, but sometimes I just want to see stuff blow up.
4. Spider-Man vs Venom (Amazing Spider-Man #346-347)
I’ve spent a lot of time on my own site, Chasing Amazing, reminiscing about the early appearances of Venom. I understand that he’s a bit of a punch line now (though I’d argue that Rick Remender’s run of the Venom solo series starring long-time Peter Parker bully Flash Thompson as the symbiote was pretty solid). But you have to understand that as a reader who first came to comics in the mid-to-late 80s, Venom was the first major Spider-Man adversary created in a comic book that I bought off the rack (Amazing Spider-Man #300). In previous run-ins with Venom, there was always an understanding that Spidey was just lucky to survive. Between Venom’s brute strength, and the ability of his alien symbiote costume (that used to be Peter Parker’s black costume) to disarm Spider-Man’s coveted spider-sense, I always wondered if there would be a situation where the Web Slinger would finally be toast. And that moment was poised to happen in this two-issue arc from the early 90s. Here, Venom scouts out a desert island, knocks Spider-Man unconscious, and then brings him to this island to be hunted and ultimately killed. Spidey is completely out of his element here, as Venom knows the layout of the island quite well and is essentially toying with the hero every step of the way. Venom even sets up a barricade of symbiotic tentacles to prevent Spider-Man from just jumping into the water and swimming to safety. But as is often the case with Spider-Man, when the deck is stacked against him, he is able to use his keen intellect to save the day, or in this case, himself. After finding an old skeleton and some explosives on the island, Peter simulates an explosion to fake his own death. Venom finds a skeleton wearing a Spidey outfit among the wreckage and is suddenly at peace with finally slaying Spider-Man. That gives Peter an opening to escape off the island by swimming to a nearby boat. This issue also marked a certain finality to the Spider-Man/Venom story that had been introduced 47 issues earlier. Of course Marvel went and ruined it all by bringing Venom back to battle another symbiote named Carnage…
3. Spider-Man vs Green Goblin (Amazing Spider-Man #121-122)
Probably more famous for marking the death of Gwen Stacy and the end of the Silver Age, these issues are significant from a conflict resolution standpoint as well. Namely, throughout the duration of his existence Spider-Man/Peter Parker had vowed never to kill an adversary and these issues show Peter moving as close as he ever really gets to delivering a fatal blow to an opponent in the Green Goblin. And even though Peter still doesn’t betray his moral code of power and responsibility, writer Gerry Conway and artist Gil Kane have the sense to at least give the audience some satisfaction, by having Norman Osborn inadvertently kill himself when he summons his glider past a leaping Spider-Man right through the center of his torso. These two issues are filled with sadness and mourning for the death of Gwen Stacy and the personal battle Spider-Man was left to fight against the Green Goblin. The reader is also left questioning Spidey’s failures in rescuing Gwen – did his webbing inadvertently snap her neck after she was thrown from the bridge (most people believe so)? It’s probably the one time in Spider-Man’s history where I would have gladly looked the other way if he decided to beat Norman Osborn to death, and yet the fact that he doesn’t, makes the character all the more noble and heroic.
2. Spider-Man vs Morlun (Amazing Spider-Man #30-35, volume 2)
My affinity for this storyline has always seemed to cause controversy when I speak about it on Chasing Amazing. It’s not because people don’t think it’s great – but I’m guessing the fact that it was only written in 2001 makes it difficult for some to rank it among the all-time best. For me, this is the pinnacle of J. Michael Straczynski’s run on Amazing Spider-Man (for what it’s worth, it was also his very first arc). The storyline introduces a new spin on Spidey’s character – that perhaps his animalistic powers were inherent and the radioactive spider bite just brought him the awareness needed to use them. It also introduces Morlun, a supernatural ghoul who feeds off the energy of super-powered folk like Spider-Man. Spidey’s confrontation with Morlun is yet another instance of the creative team throwing as many obstacles as they can think of to stack the odds against Spider-Man. Morlun is faster, stronger and more persistent. And because he’s a brand-new character with plenty of motivation to “feed,” it makes readers wonder if this will finally be the time where Spider-Man doesn’t survive. Spidey himself even questions this, when he makes a depressing call to Aunt May saying he loved her before marching off to meet his uncertain fate in battle. Never have I remembered Spider-Man being so resigned to defeat, but looking straight ahead anyway. And it’s ultimately Peter’s resignation that helps him to succeed. By allowing Morlun to “feed” on him, the villain discovers that Spider-Man is in fact, not pure, and tainted with radioactive blood. The radioactivity weakens Morlun enough that Spider-Man finally has his opening to physically subdue his opponent. I don’t think there was ever a superhero whose impurity was celebrated the way Spider-Man’s was in this storyline.
1. Spider-Man vs Juggernaut (Amazing Spider-Man #229-230)
Probably Roger Stern’s most famous story-arc, the Juggernaut’s crossover into the world of Amazing Spider-Man celebrates everything we love about the Web Slinger. Juggernaut shows up on Spidey’s turf and nearly kills the hero’s friend, Madame Web. From there, every panel is filled with non-stop action and tension as Spider-Man throws every trick in the book to try and subdue his opponent. Juggernaut meanwhile keeps brushing Spidey aside as if he were an annoying little gnat. What makes this confrontation so exceptional and head and shoulders above every other one on this list is that Juggernaut ends up being an absolutely perfect foil for Spider-Man. By definition, “nothing can stop the Juggernaut.” And yet Spider-Man is best known for his uncompromising, never-say-die spirit. So when these two collide, it’s the unstoppable force versus the unbreakable spirit. Of course, because this is a Spider-Man comic, spirit ultimately succeeds over force, but it takes Peter’s intellect, along with some well-placed wet cement to finally stop the Juggernaut in his tracks. There’s a reason why this is consistently ranked one of the greatest Spider-Man storylines of all-time. Because even after reading it dozens of times, it still gets me up and out of my chair and cheering each and every time I give it a look.
(There you have it … Mark’s ten favorite Spider-Man battles of all time. Do you agree with his choices? Which great battle has he snubbed? Sound off in the comments section, below, and please repay Mark’s kindness in writing these guest blogs for Longbox Graveyard by visiting his home blog, Chasing Amazing. You’ll be glad you did!)
NEXT WEDNESDAY: #96 Bend It Like Bendis
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