Long-time readers of Chasing Amazing are well aware of my love-hate relationship with Annual issues. Sure, Marvel has long used Amazing Spider-Man Annuals to introduce key events and storylines – the first appearance of the Sinister Six, Spidey trying to join the Avengers, the origin of his parents and his marriage to Mary Jane to name a few – but in recent years I had become increasingly more jaded towards this big oversized issues because I felt like they totally lost their fun and focused more on trying to market other comic books. Last year’s ASM Annual, for example, tied-in to stories in Deadpool and Wolverine (I believe, I honestly can’t even remember and felt the whole thing was so dull, I can’t be bothered to look it up and confirm). It just felt like the days of opening up an Annual and being able to celebrate the past and present of Spider-Man in a wholly original one-shot story were long gone.
So imagine my surprise when I picked up my copy of ASM Annual #39 and was treated to a one-shot story in the classic mold of Annuals past. The concept of this comic book was the perfect blend of past and present – a story that was initiated through Peter Parker’s current job at Horizon Labs which brought him face-to-face with an alternative universe version of the man who essentially created Spider-Man (through his death), Uncle Ben. So in the span of 40 pages, we had some nostalgic looks back to Spidey’s first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 in the context of one of Horizon’s wacky inventions altering the timeline of the current universe (also a shout out to the ASM time travel story from a few months ago).
That’s not to say this story was perfect by any stretch – criticism from around the Internet has pointed out that Annual #39 was great in concept but fair in execution, something I can’t necessarily argue with – but I’m excited that Marvel decided to put forward an issue like this all the same. Look ahead to Marvel’s solicitations in July and August, and there’s going to be a lot of retro/throwback stories dealing with Spider-Man’s 50th Anniversary, and while I know in 2012 it’s imperative for a publisher to be looking to the future, there’s nothing wrong with capitalizing on those of us looking for a little nostalgia. I can only hope that Marvel will continue this trend, even beyond ASM’s “Golden Anniversary” year.