"The Final Curtain"
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Art: Mark Buckingham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: As Peter visits the gravesite of his Uncle Ben on Christmas Day, he remembers the happy moments from his childhood, as he thinks back on the snowball fights, and the Calvin and Hobbes style snowmen sculptures. Peter then uses this opportunity to discuss his recent troubles with Uncle Ben, as it's clear Peter's going through yet another personal crisis where he feels overwhelmed by all the troubles that seem to rain down upon his life. Uncle Ben has Peter think back on similar moments of adversity in his childhood, and remind him that no matter how bad it seems, he always makes it through all the stronger for the experience.
Comments: Peter's birth parents haven't really gotten much attention from previous writers, and the attention that they have received has been a little goofy, as we've learned that they were a husband/wife team of spies, and we also got the ill-conceived plot where we they returned from the dead, only to be exposed as robots. This issue Paul Jenkins takes a moment to examine one of the few memories of his parents that Peter still clings to, and it does a lovely job of capturing the idea that these people were real people, and not simply the plot devices that they been used for in the past. Now there's no real eye-opening moment of insight in this issue, as we learn that Peter was much loved by his parents before their deaths. We also learn that Uncle Ben was a darn cool father figure before his untimely death, as the man was very much a kid at heart, and as such, Aunt May often found herself dealing with two unruly children. In fact, one of the Uncle Ben's more amusing elements is that he's willing to listen to his inner child, as I can't think of many adults who would plug up the chimney with a snow man. The issue also attempts to push aside some of Peter's guilt complex, as Uncle Ben essentially lets Peter off the hook for the role that he played in his murder and while it was a noble attempt, the simple fact of the matter is that Peter's guilt is a fundamental component of the character. As such, I doubt this attempt to free him from this pit of emotional quicksand will last beyond this issue. There's also a nice Pulp Fiction "glowing suitcase" moment, as we never quite learn what was inside that little box that Peter left at the gravesite, but this doesn't make it any less intriguing.
Mark Buckingham returns to this title for one last kick at the can, and it would appear that he's decided to bring a new look to the table, as the flashback material does an amazing job of capturing the innocence of Peter's childhood. The Calvin and Hobbes influence over these scenes is ever so apparent, as the young Peter does look like he could have stepped out Bill Watterson's universe, and the snow men creations would do Calvin proud. The art also does a lovely job on the more emotional moments, as the look of utter terror on Peter's face after he forgets his line was perfectly realized, and the backstage chaos was also perfectly presented. I also have to say the final page image is a fantastic goodbye to Paul Jenkins & Mark Buckingham's run on this title, as pretty much the entire cast of characters during their run puts in an appearance, as do the creators themselves. The cover image is also one of the best final issue covers I've ever come across.
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