"Jumping the Tracks Part 1"
Writer: Peter David
Artists: Mike Wieringo (p), Karl Kesel (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: In an alternate timeline, Aunt May dies instead of Uncle Ben, and Peter Parker's life goes in a radically different direction. Peter's lifestyle disappoints Uncle Ben, and when Ben is offered a chance to see what might have been by the shadowy Hobgoblin of 2211, he accepts.
Commentary: I have to hand it to Peter David as a writer for taking the storyline of a long dead character coming back to life and turning it on its head. Usually this plot is treated as a mystery where the character returns and the reasons of why are revealed later. Here, Peter David shows the audience exactly how it happened first before getting on with the story proper.
I dug this not only because it was unconventional, but it also allowed Peter David to show exactly how influential Uncle Ben's death was to Peter Parker's life. Uncle Ben's death showed Peter (Parker, not David) that with great power there must also come great responsibility because he failed to stop the robber who would later gun his uncle down. It makes sense that without that guilt, Peter would have continued along the selfish path he had embarked on. Aunt May dying from an accidental fall doesn't have the same emotional weight as Uncle Ben's getting capped had.
So Peter becomes a bigger and bigger jerk. It was an interesting what-if scenario and Peter David (not Parker) used his talents of writing dialogue and characterization to show how this affected Ben Parker in the alternate reality. It also lent credence to Ben's willingness to go to follow the Hobgoblin of 2211 to see what his nephew would have been like if he used his abilities to help people and, more importantly, to see the woman he loved one more time. Ben Parker is a lonely man, and you could feel this through Peter (David's, not Parker's) writing.
I also enjoyed the fact that after May saw Ben through the window that both Jarvis and Spider-Man immediately thought it was a trap. May was in shock and that is to be expected, but the other two have seen enough clones, Life Model Decoys, alternate realities and all kinds of stuff that would boggle the mind to know a potential trap when they see one. The thing is, it was a trap but Ben wasn't directly involved. This was great because it shows that Peter David has a good handle on the characters he is writing and respects their histories and experiences.
In The End: Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel's art was fantastic throughout the issue. They nailed the loneliness that Ben was feeling, and it was interesting to see their alternate version of Peter Parker who had a whole different set of mannerisms and ticks than the one we are familiar with. The ending had the shock value it was intended to have and was a great way to close out the issue. Peter David and crew have started an interesting storyline that, knowing the people involved, is probably going to take a good number of twists and turns before it is over.
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