Silver Age Saturdays: The Amazing Spider-Man Annual; Issue #3

The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3: Starring the Avengers, Daredevil and the Hulk.

Written by Stan Lee; Pencils by John Romita Sr. and Don Heck, Inks by Mike Esposito.

What Happened

The Avengers are feeling a little bit undermanned, what with Thor, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch actually having lives. They decide to throw an Avengers Assembly at the Mansion. Even Iron Man and Thor make it out. Here, they discuss the need for another member of  the team: Spider-Man! On the splash page, the Avengers actually have a giant Spidey poster hung up on their bulletin board like true fanboys. The team openly states that Wanda and Pietro’s own opinions on the matter were immaterial, and so they weren’t even contacted. I felt that this was ridiculous. The excuse that they were all the way in Wundagore and so couldn’t be bothered was nonsense; we’ve seen projecto-rays, image inducers, magnetic mirages and countless other means of insta-communication when a quick plot tie-up was needed – this was just lazy. Couldn’t Goliath at least have sent an ant? (LULZ). Could Thor not have used his hammer to get there “in exactly 3 seconds” again? Sloppiness in story writing and discrimination against immigrants, I say!

Most of the members of the famous superhero team eventually agree to induct Spider-Man into their group under the condition that he passes a test. This is the first time we’ve seen that a test is required to join the team. They really must have tightened up their security. After what happened with the Swordsman and Wonder Man; this makes sense. Notably, Janet – the Wasp – doesn’t want Spidey on the team because she just can’t stand him. After all, “- in the wild, wasps and spiders are natural enemies!” Also, it was really cool to see Hawkeye rooting for Spider-Man; he didn’t even think that a test of any sort was necessary to bring the wall crawler into the fold. Cap theorizes that it must be the ‘criminal’ past that they both have in common… Rogers figures that since Spider-Man is always misunderstood in his motives – and that since Hawkeye actually used to be a criminal, Hawkeye must feel that he and Spidey are kindred spirits. While it didn’t actually make that much sense in retrospect, I loved this, but Stan Lee ruined it halfway through the story by having the two heroes get into a silly tiff.

Thor ends up finding Spidey on one of his beats, and makes the initial offer. Spider-Man is surprised and doesn’t know how to take the invite, so Thor tells him he has 24 hours to make his decision, and if he were to agree, he’d have to undertake an unspecified trial in order to become a full member of the Avengers.

After a day of racking his brain, Peter Parker decides that it’s worth it; he may as well embrace his identity as a superhero and apply for membership! When Spidey arrives at the Avengers Mansion however, he discovers a group of unsuspecting heroes with their thumbs up their asses. They’ve had a day to decide on how to test the webslinger, but they’re unprepared with a test, and Spider-Man is understandably ticked off about it. Here he was for the last 23 hours making one of the most important decisions of his life, just to walk into an Avengers meeting where nobody knows what’s going on. Spider-Man trades a couple of blows with Goliath and Cap, and the Wasp even takes a cheap shot at him with her sting while Captain America holds him back. Finally, after much debate and muscle-flexing by the Avengers, it is decided that Spider-Man’s trial will be to capture the Hulk  – who has been sighted in New York recently – and then to bring him back to Avengers Mansion. What!? Then, Spidey’s like, “Alright, no problem,” and swings off like it’s nothing. I feel like that was a pretty tall order for one man alone to be tasked with. The Avenger’s totally set him up for failure there.

While on the hunt for the Hulk, Spidey gets thirsty. In order to quench, the wall crawler decides to head on over to the Daily Bugle and enter J. Jonah Jameson’s office from the window, just to antagonize the man. This was well written, and provided some great comic relief.

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Finally finding the Hulk outside of the Gamma Research Laboratory – who knew – the two misunderstood heroes fight each other. For the most part it’s inconclusive, and the Hulk reverts to Bruce Banner, entrusting his identity to Spider-Man. Shocked, and having much respect for Dr. Banner, Spider-Man decides to let the Hulk off the chain, as he doesn’t want the Avengers to hurt a man so noble who has no choice of becoming something he doesn’t want to. Problem being that the Avengers also understand and want to help. This is a result of the hot tempers that prevailed during the earlier meeting, and when Spider-Man returns to happily report his failure – lying! – to the super team, they are definitely disappointed with the result.

At home, Aunt May offers a tired and dejected Peter Parker some warm milk for the first time I can remember in these silver age issues.

My Thoughts

3/5

Honestly, I’m glad that Spidey didn’t join up with the Avengers, as at this point in their career I feel like most of them are just dolled-up drama queens. Only Thor and to a lesser extent Iron Man have any sort of interesting plot threads at all, and taking away the normal life of Parker – which is plenty interesting at this point – would have turned him into just another boring Avenger, twiddling his thumbs and waiting for something to do once a month.

Pete’s still cruising around on his motorcycle. I actually like this little development.

When Spidey clocks the Hulk and he’s shocked that it staggered him, I was over the moon. I don’t know if we’ve seen the Hulk staggered by a punch before, so this was really cool. I find myself over the last 20 or so Spider-Man issues pleasantly surprised to be an early Spider-Man fan. I attribute this to the work of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Great job, guys!

Next Up

Another two issues of the Sub-Mariner coming up. A new villain for Namor – and his own cousin, no less! First silver age appearance of Byrrah in the next two-issue political thriller.

 

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