In their feature looking back on comics from 10/25/50/75 years ago, CSBG spotlights the February 2011 comic that showed Spider-Man’s guilt dream.

This is “Look Back,” a feature that I plan to do for at least all of 2020 and possibly beyond that (and possibly forget about in a week, who knows?). The concept is that every week (I’ll probably be skipping the four fifth weeks in the year, but maybe not) of a month, I will spotlight a single issue of a comic book that came out in the past and talk about that issue (often in terms of a larger scale, like the series overall, etc.). Each week will be a look at a comic book from a different year that came out the same month X amount of years ago. The first week of the month looks at a book that came out this month ten years ago. The second week looks at a book that came out this month 25 years ago. The third week looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth week looks at a book that came out this month 75 years ago. The occasional fifth week looks at books from 20/30/40/60/70/80 years ago.

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I let you folks decide on whether to go with Flash Thompson’s debut as Agent Venom or this issue and you all voted for this one, so for February 2011, we look at “No One Dies” Part 1 by Dan Slott, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente.

In the previous story arc, Marla Jameson was killed in a fight between Spider-Man and Alistair Smythe. Smythe had been planning on murdering all of J. Jonah Jameson’s loved ones so that Jameson would know what Smythe felt in losing his father (the original head of the Spider-Slayer program, which Jameson had kickstarted years earlier by funding the elder Smythe). However, after Spider-Man successfully knocked out Smythe’s other Spider-Slayer drones, Smythe decided to just kill Jameson, but Jameson’s wife, the scientist Marla Jameson (who he had met when he had hired her to make a new Spider-Slayer) pushed her husband out of the way and she was killed.

In the next issue, after an amazing, dialogue-less funeral for Marla (the opening page of Jonah sleeping on just his side of the bed…OOPH), Peter goes home and falls asleep and has a hell of a guilt-driven dream. It opens with him revisiting the death of his Uncle Ben, who he has always blamed himself for because he allowed the Burglar to escape, but in this maze, he can’t ever actually change the past.

This leads to Peter seeing his other dead loved ones, but his parents taunt him over the fact that, in reality, they died when he was so young that he really DOES see Uncle Ben and Aunt May as his “real” parents now, something that Peter obviously feels tremendous guilt about…

Speaking of feeling tremendous guilt, when Aunt May shows up in his dream, Peter explains to her that he will never let her die, and then his subconscious attacks him again, as May turns to Marla, who opines that Peter would never have allowed her to die had she been his Aunt May….

Few villains know how to hurt Spider-Man as much as his own subconscious. Marla then has an excellent bit where she notes that he shouldn’t worry, as she will return, since she was a supervillain due to her own Spider Slayer connection. When Peter tells her that she isn’t actually a villain, she replies that that means she is really dead. BRUTAL!

Then Martin and Vicente do a BRILLIANT double-page splash of all of the various people in Peter’s life who have died, leading to “Charlie,” The woman that Peter himself killed in Spider-Man vs. Wolverine…

He tells her that he did not mean to do it and that he will never kill anyone again, which then leads to a taunt from Gwen Stacy, haranguing him for NOT killing to avenge her murder. So Peter then finds himself having caught the Burglar and this time, he beats the Burglar nearly to death, only to see that the Burglar is now Uncle Ben, and he realizes that doing this sort of thing would, in effect, be “killing” Uncle Ben, or at least the lessons that Uncle Ben taught him…

How clever is that bit by Slott? With him realizing that he can’t be one of those Punisher/Scourge types, he is confronted again by the dead to ask him what he WILL do about it and that leads to a dramatic double-page splash where Peter decides to declare that he will not allow anyone else to die ever again.

Of course, right after he makes that claim, someone is shot across town, as we meet a new villain named Massacre who has different ideas when it comes to killing. How will Spider-Man deal with Massacre and, of course, how will Peter deal with that ridiculous promise? It is obviously going to haunt him and HOW it comes to haunt him is the purpose of Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man.

This was an excellent one-off issue that actually used the dream sequence conceit well. It didn’t hurt that Martin is extremely inventive, which is always a good match for dream stories.

If you folks have any suggestions for March (or any other later months) 2011, 1996, 1971 and 1946 comic books for me to spotlight, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com! Here is the guide, though, for the cover dates of books so that you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional amount of time between the cover date and the release date of a comic book throughout most of comic history has been two months (it was three months at times, but not during the times we’re discussing here). So the comic books will have a cover date that is two months ahead of the actual release date (so October for a book that came out in August). Obviously, it is easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago was released, since there was internet coverage of books back then.

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