The Parents of Peter Parker!
Writer: Stan Lee
Art: Larry Lieber
Embellished by: Mickey Demeo
Lettered by: Artie Simek
Consultant: Johnny Romita
Originally published: 1968
Holy smokes, Spider-Man’s in Algeria! This issue starts off with a fight, and the setting makes it look a lot different and more interesting than normal. I really like the look and feel of this issue, so kudos to Larry Lieber (40 years late…). In the fight Spidey gets knocked out (in fact, almost killed) and gives a nice big “coma”-induced flashback.
Back in New York Peter was helping his Aunt May move an old chest. When it accidentally busts open, he finds an old newspaper clipping of a dude that looks like him and a chick – his parents. The article says that his parents were killed in a plane crash in Algeria, and that incriminating evidence was found on them indicating that his dad was an anti-American spy.
Peter is shocked, and wonders why May has been keeping this from him. When he confronts May, she spills the beans. Pete’s dad had always been secretive, blah blah blah. But, she doesn’t really seem to believe the accusations, and we learn that she and Ben had written many times to a man in Algeria who had identified the bodies, but never received a reply.
Pete is understandably upset, but he also doesn’t really believe that his parents were traitors. We wants to do something to prove it to himself, but can’t figure out a way to do anything twenty years after the fact. Eventually he resolves to go to Algeria to try to find the truth (in the Fantastic Four’s gyro-cruiser, with no less a pilot than Richard Reed himself).
Remarkably, Spider-Man actually tracks down the restaurant-owner that identified his parents’ bodies, and that dude leads Spidey to a “master of intrigue” that supposedly employed Richard Parker. Unfortunately for old Pete, one of this master’s henchmen overheard that conversation, and had a bunch of jerks attack Spider-Man en route to the master’s address.
Spider-Man wakes up from his coma, and heads back out towards his mysterious destination. Once there, Spider-Man easily takes out the single guard and begins to search the joint. He finds a secret control button that controls a wall panel, revealing a hidden stack of file drawers. Jesus, the suspense! It’s like that time in Lost when they’re in the basement of Mikhail’s communications bunker, and they find all those files. I was so pissed when those got blown up. Anyway, Spidey starts going through the files and finds an awesome ID card in a file with his father’s name:
Spidey is so damn shaken by this news that he doesn’t notice the approach of: Red Skull! Holy crap! Red Skull sends some brute named Sandor after Spidey. By the time Spider-Man kicks his ass, though, Red Skill is gone.
Angered by Spider-Man’s attack – the reasons for which are unknown to him – Red Skull sends his assassin, the Finisher, after Spidey. This dude doesn’t dick around – he shoots a damned missile at Spider-Man. It doesn’t hit him, but it was still a ballsy move. Then he fires another, even better missile. Spider-Man awesomely lures the missile back to the Finisher’s own car and blows the smithereens out of him. Miraculously neither the Finisher nor his driver die in the explosion – at least not immediately.
The Finisher has enough time to tell Spider-Man that Richard Parker was a traitor – against Red Skull! Boo-yah! When the Red Skull found out that Richard Parker was actually a good guy, he had the Finisher assassinate him and plant evidence to make Parker look like a traitor to his own country. In fact, Richard Parker was, as we already know, a secret agent working for the US. Anyway, with that bit of information out of him, the Finisher dies.
I think a lot has been made of the fact that Spider-Man has never killed anyone. I’m pretty sure this one counts as murder, though. Peter knowingly lured a damned missile into the Finisher’s car. If he didn’t expect the dude to die from that, he’s seriously delusional. I’m gonna chalk this up to a definite Spider-Man killing.
After learning the truth about his parents, Spider-Man takes off, vowing to clear his parents’ names. He returns to the Skull and they fight. The fracas causes an explosion, though, and the Skull gets away. Incredibly, the fire from the explosion singes Richard Parker’s ID card (which Peter still had), revealing a hidden internal pocket that contained another ID – his US government ID that can clear his name for good!
This was an awesome issue. Spider-Man needs to be involved in way more freaking international intrigue. Seriously great issue – writing, art, the whole enchilada.
(BTW, there are a couple of lame backup things, as there usually is in these annuals. Nothing of note, though.)