Spider-Man debuted on August 10th 1962 making him 53 years old this year. In celebration of the web head’s enduring popularity we’re going to look back at some of his must-read stories.
Denial – Peter Parker: Spider-Man #14
Denial is a one issue story published in February 2000 which features a continuous fight between Spider-Man and The Hulk. The backstory is that Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker had lost a baby leading to Mary Jane begging Peter to give up being Spider-Man, which Peter agreed to. As Mary Jane returned to modelling and her career took off Peter started donning the Spider-Man costume again leading to huge tensions between them, not helped by Mary Jane having a stalker that she hasn’t told Peter about.
In issue 12 Mary Jane is travelling on a flight and unknown to her ends up sitting next to her stalker. In a huge cliffhanger finish the stalker causes the plane to crash. Issue 13 sees Spider-Man battle Carnage only to learn from Aunt May of Mary Jane’s plane going down.
This issue starts with Spider-Man attacking a rampaging Hulk believing that the Hulk may be responsible for the crash as Hulk had previously been accused of bringing a plane down. Peter is in complete denial over Mary Jane’s fate, presuming that she has been abducted by a villain trying to get at him. Although he knows he can’t go toe to toe with The Hulk and needs to rely on speed and strategy, a Daily Bugle headline proclaiming Mary Jane’s suspected death causes Peter to snap and unleash his anger.
Believing that even if Mary Jane is dead she will come back to him like his own parents, Aunt May and Norman Osborn, Peter rips apart a train track using the sleepers and pieces of track to attack The Hulk before reigning punches on the big green savage monster.
Spider-Man’s fury and tirade at The Hulk leads to him exhausting himself but his words about his deceased wife touches something within The Hulk, who instead of finishing off the exhausted wall-crawler, stops as he empathises with Spidey’s loss.
Interrupted by an oncoming train, Peter is too exhausted to repair the tracks but The Hulk aids him in saving the commuters before making off, leaving Spider-Man to realise he was wrong about The Hulk.
While the story occurs at during a time when the Spider-Man titles were still reeling after the disastrous Clone Saga it’s a well written step outside of the ongoing storylines. The colouring doesn’t seem to lend itself that well to John Romita Jr’s blockier style of artwork, which was always called on for darker story arcs in Daredevil and The Punisher, the artwork is nice and gives Hulk a more savage look although the scene where Hulk offers his condolences is almost a little too 90s Rob Liefeld-esque.
However it’s the story which is Denial’s true strength and the role reversal of a grieving and desperate Spider-Man going against his normal traits and believing that the innocent Hulk may be guilty which justifies attacking him before giving into his rage, while it’s the usually angry rampaging Hulk who is the calmer of the two, protesting his innocence until the key point where he identifies with Peter’s anguish.
While Denial is never going to be considered a classic, it’s a fan favourite that has endured for 15 years and is worthy of being acknowledged.