Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, it’s Amazing Spider-Man annual #23.
The Nostalgia November archive can be found here.
Amazing Spider-Man annual #23 by Gerry Conway, David Michelinie, and Rob Liefeld is actually part four of the 1989 Marvel crossover “Atlantis Attacks,” which took place in all of their annuals for that year. It’s a neat way to have a big event that’s also kept separate from the monthly titles allowing fans who aren’t interested in the event to not get dragged in — and for it actually feel like an event with 64-page books. This is also the time that I think Marvel really started using their annuals well with the main story acting as a chapter in the crossover and, then, a bunch of cool back-up features that allow for short stories or cool two-page things. All of the 1989 annuals had a chapter in the “Saga of the Serpent Crown,” which tied into “Atlantis Attacks” and this issue has five other back-up features. I’ll get them out of the way first before jumping into “Atlantis Attacks” and the main story where Spider-Man and She-Hulk team up to fight the Abomination… and it’s all drawn by Rob Liefeld.
The first back-up story is a retelling of Spider-Man origin as told through a school report by Peter Parker. Does that narrative device make reading this story again any less tedious? No. There are certain characters whose origins I never ever want to see again in any form and Spider-Man is one of them (Batman, Superman, maybe Hulk and Iron Man being others). Never again.
Then, there’s the FIRST Aunt May solo story (is that true, by the way?) where a fat tabloid photographer is trying to rent a room at her place in order to discover how Peter gets all those great Spider-Man pics. But, May sees him for the scumball he is and chases him away with a broom… mostly for suggesting that Peter may… get ready… drink beverages of an alcoholic nature!!!!!!!! It doesn’t say, but I think Peter is meant to be in high school, so the idea is possibly outside the realm of possibility, but still. Or, is he in college? It’s hard to tell since they give no clear indication of when this story takes place — and in the main continuity, Peter is married to Mary Jane… but was he even 21 then? How old is he? Is he 21 yet? Also, the legal drinking age in Ontario? 19. (I know, I know, it’s lower in other places, but I’ll mock Americans whenever I can… you can join in… it’s fun…)
There’s a short thing on Spider-Man’s spider-sense that I skipped because who cares…
Fred Hembeck does two three-page pieces that are fun. One is a countdown of the top 30 Spider-Man villains. His list differs from the results of the recent CSBG poll Brian took.
Hembeck’s top ten/CSBG’s top ten:
1. “The Goblin Brothers” (Green Goblin and Hobgoblin) / Green Goblin (by default)
2. Dr. Octopus / Dr. Octopus
3. Kraven / Venom
4. Kingpin / J. Jonah Jameson
5. Dr. Doom / Kraven
6. Vulture / Hobgoblin
7. Scorpion / Kingpin
8. Venom / Mysterio
9. The Burgler that Shot Uncle Ben / Electro
10. J. Jonah Jameson / Sandman
Granted, Venom had just debuted then, but the list varies a bit. His other feature is a recounting of the Spider-Man/J. Jonah Jameson feud, which is a lot of fun. If I recall, Hembeck did similar features in the other two Spider-Man titles’ annuals that year, too. One list I recall was a countdown of the most important women in his life — I can’t remember if Aunt May or Mary Jane took the top spot… I think his mom was #3 and Gwen Stacey was #4… who would you have given the top spot to: May or MJ? I’m voting Mary Jane…
That just leaves that Serpent Crown saga story, but I skipped it too.
Bringing us back to the main event of Spider-Man, She-Hulk, the Abomination, and Rob Liefeld. Now, I know all of you are just waiting for him to begin mocking Liefeld’s art in a way that makes my comments in other posts that were called too harsh, mean, and generally convinced people I’m an asshole look like compliments, but that’s not going to happen, because… well, it’s Rob Liefeld. We all know what to expect and, honestly, this stuff isn’t that bad. It’s still not what I would call good art, but it’s not the horrible scratchings that we all associate with Liefeld completely.
My one big Liefeld comment: in the big tits ’90s, one thing that got lost is that Liefeld has always been a legs man. The man loves drawing women’s legs, which is on display here with Mary Jane and She-Hulk. His breasts… well, they remind me of how women who were A-cups and then got breast implants look. Yes, they’re bigger than average, but they’re also not THAT big. They’re just round solid objects situated around three feet apart from one another on the woman’s chest and never ever move. Which some may find attractive, but not me (for the record).
From what I understand, “Atlantis Attacks” has the Atlanteans join forces with the Deviants or something to attack the surface world — and bring the serpent god Set to earth and rebuild the Serpent Crown. Part of bringing Set back is finding seven brides for him, so one of the running threads through the annuals is the Deviant High Priest Ghaur putting the mark of Set on the throat of various MU women. In this issue, that’s She-Hulk. She’s all physically impressive and she’s green, so she’s obviously the perfect bride for a serpent god.
In this issue, Ghaur and his people need to get Tyrannus back — he’s currently the Abomination — so they use a machine to turn Emil Blonsky back into the Abomination, but it goes wrong and the Abomination is a mindless monster. It goes on a destroying spree, and She-Hulk and Spider-Man respond to stop him. The surrounding plots for both characters are nothing special. Spidey takes pictures of the navy mobilising to defend the US against the Atlanteans for the Bugle and She-Hulk yells at J. Jonah Jameson for his editorial suggesting that Manhattan solve its homeless problem by shipping them all to New Jersey (to be fair, he does offer to pay for their bus fare). It’s not terribly involved as they fight the Abomination and eventually set him on fire, whereupon he jumps off a pier and hits a boat, which explodes.
The storytelling here is odd as random panels featuring characters that play no role whatsoever are thrown in like Aunt May watching new coverage of the events at home and hoping that Peter is smart enough to stay away — or the Kingpin standing on his balcony with the narration captions talking about how he’s concerned since this is his city. Did Liefeld just draw those characters on his own or were they in Conway’s original plot and Michelinie was stuck with them? They add nothing at all and stand out.
Then again, Michelinie’s scripting is odd in spots. Like Ghaur saying “Hail Set” at the end of a page and the first caption on the next (in a panel where Spider-Man is taking those pictures) reads “HAIL? MAYBE IN COLORADO!” What the fuck is that? What does that even mean? That’s the oddest example I could find, but the scripting is wacky like that throughout the issue.
However, at the time, this cost $2.00 US ($2.75 in Canada) and you sure got your money’s worth with, what, one 30-page story and a half-dozen extras/back-up features? That’s how you do annuals and I wish they still did that. I loved looking through these as a kid (my dad had all of them), especially the cool back-up features like Hembeck’s stuff. Great fun.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the other “Atlantis Attacks” book that I own, X-Factor annual #4.