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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the year 1993 and explore a part of the Marvel Comics universe through one of the many tales of the Amazing Spider-Man comic book series.
In my previous retro review, Spider-Man became the new target of The Jury, a team of armored mercenaries founded and led by the father (note: a prominent and powerful man) of one of Venom’s murder victims. Spider-Man was perceived to be responsible for bringing the living alien costume into the world which eventually resulted in the creation of Venom (note: Eddie Brock bonded with the same symbiote) who went on to cause havoc and killed a lot of people.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Amazing Spider-Man #384, published in 1993 by Marvel Comics with a story by David Michelinie and drawn by Mark Bagley.
The story begins inside a certain government building in New York City scheduled for renovation. A heavily restrained and drugged Spider-Man was about to have mask taken off by one of The Jury members when their founder General Taylor intervened and insisted that they keep their honor. Spider-Man is up for questioning and scrutinization in a makeshift trial by The Jury. As the webslinger is not in the proper condition to stand trial, Taylor (in his capacity as the judge) declares a 30-minute recess.
Elsewhere, Peter Parker’s wife Mary Jane received bad news from her boss that her role in the TV show Secret Hospital will be reduced to a recurring role. This troubles her deeply as it means reduced income for her at a time when her marriage with Peter continues to go down. Spider-Man’s lack of quality time with her keeps taking its toll on her…
Firstly, I should say that the Michelinie-Bagley team’s concept of having The Jury as the force of opposition against Spider-Man continues to do wonders creatively in this particular comic book series. In the previous issue, the webslinger was hunted and General Taylor really invested a lot of technologies to get to him in the middle of a very bustling city. In this particular issue, Spider-Man is completely vulnerable being weakened and disoriented as he is about to be tried in a makeshift court.
Along the way, Taylor and his team were portrayed to work within their own system of justice. As no court of law in New York would recognize Spider-Man’s trial, The Jury set up their own court in a very private and unusual manner.
While the planned trial is the major event of this comic book’s concept, Michelinie pulled off a rather unusual move with the narrative. Just as the first witness points to Spider-Man for being responsible for Venom, the iconic webslinger then starts to wonder what the trial is truly all about and then the creative team unleashed a slew of flashbacks that looked back a key events published in certain comic books of Secret Wars, The Amazing Spider-Man and Web of Spider-Man through the years. I’m talking about Spider-Man’s first-ever encounter with the symbiote, how he got rid of it, how the symbiote bonded with Eddie Brock to form Venom, how Venom’s costume left a living seed that Cletus Kassady touched and became Carnage, etc. These flashbacks, all nicely drawn by Mark Bagley, conveniently served as an instant reference for readers to catch up with the current events but this was done at the expense of this comic book’s narrative.
More on the trial, this comic book raises layered questions about the concept of responsibility on Spider-Man. Could the iconic webslinger really be held accountable for whatever murders Venom committed along with the trauma he caused on bystanders given the fact that he really brought the alien costume into their world? Should Spider-Man also be held responsible for any murders committed by Carnage? This is one really loaded script Michelinie came up with and he really had Spider-Man vulnerable not only to The Jury but also to the questions thrown at him during the makeshift trial. To put it short, this is one very unusual Spider-Man tale ever told that carries strong relevance from the past.
As with the previous issues, this comic book sheds a limited amount of the spotlight on Mary Jane and Spider-Man’s Aunt May who at this stage has gotten paranoid with her suspicions about Peter’s parents. The dramatization turned out pretty good.
While the flashbacks were excessive and made the narrative feel bloated, Amazing Spider-Man #384 (1993) still has lots of good stuff fans can enjoy. It has a pretty bold concept of having Spider-Man really trapped and left vulnerable for the makeshift trial. More notably, the narrative pounded heavily on the concept of responsibility in relation to Spider-Man’s past actions that led to the creation of Venom and even Carnage.
Overall, Amazing Spider-Man #384 (1993) is recommended!
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