For Spider-Man more than most superheroes, the man behind the mask is far more important than the colorful crimefighting persona. That was a huge part of his original appeal, which was pretty novel back in the ‘60s—Peter Parker was, at his core, a regular guy with regular problems who just happened to be a superhero, and a highly imperfect one at that.
When writer Paul Jenkins took over Peter Parker: Spider-Man, he did an excellent job focusing on Peter’s humanity. It’s especially evident in his first issue, #20, in which Peter, despondent over a recent loss, visits his Uncle Ben’s grave for some soul-searching.
Nothing is funny anymore, Peter feels, and he reflects on his childhood growing up with his aunt and uncle, particularly how he and Ben would repeatedly prank each other, constantly trying to make the other laugh.
The flashbacks fill in details about this important relationship in his life. After all, it was his uncle’s avoidable murder that motivated Peter to use his powers to help others. Not only is it nice to deepen the relationship, but it also shows us how Peter developed his distinctive sense of humor. Great character work throughout.
There’s no super-villain plot here, but there’s plenty of emotion. And it all comes to an uplifting ending.
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Penciler: Mark Buckingham
Inker: Dan Green
Publisher: Marvel Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; included in Peter Parker: Spider-Man: A Day in the Life (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 10 and up