So, Spider-Man. Peter Parker has been webslinging since 1962 and he's had quite the time of it over those 54 years. He has lost his entire family (pretty much), got married, died, been resurrected, been cloned, gone to space numerous times, been body-swapped and accrued a gallery of enemies second only to Batman and a gallery of titles that number in the "too many". He's been involved in some great storylines against some of the greatest villains in comic book history and has been the face of Marvel since his inception. But he's also the guy who seems to get a lot of Marvels less well thought out ideas. So here's the list, the Top 10 Worst Spider-Man storylines.
Warning: Opinions below. And bad Spider-Man storylines, which is even worse than the opinions. Do not read if sensitive.
10. Chapter One (1998-99)
We kick off with a storyline that isn't necessarily bad, but incredibly ill-judged. In 1998, Spider-Man had been through what can only be described as "Marvel in the '90's", which if you know anything about comic book history I'm sure that sentence will make you shudder. So, to recapture the flagging audience the series had lost due to convoluted plots and nonsensical twists, Marvel decided to re-write and update Spider-Man's origins, much like they would later do with Ultimate Spider-Man. However, unlike Ultimate Spider-Man what they did was not change all that much, they just slightly tweaked some of the early classic Lee/ Ditko stories. And I'm sure we can all guess how that went down. The reception was, I think ambivalent is probably the best word and the comic is now regarded as non-canon to the series, which is a major achievement considering some of the stuff we're going to cover later in this list is actually canon.
9. Maximum Carnage (1993)
So, the 90's. A time where comics were ruled by style over substance, violence was key for many titles and crossovers (especially massive crossovers between similar titles) were "the in thing". And this was the culmination. The writer J.M DeMatteis basically used the series as a way to air his distaste for all of the above tropes and in fairness to him, he achieved his goal, if said goal was to create the most over the top example of everything that was wrong with comics at the time. Spread out over the 4 concurrent Spider-Man titles of the time, the storyline involved Carnage and 4 Z-list villains against (bear with me here) Spider-Man, Venom, Cloak and Dagger, Morbius, Black-Cat, Deathlok, Firestar, Nightwatch, Iron Fist and Captain America, had very little plot (there was something about a killing spree, one of the villains control peoples minds to make them violent and Spider-Man and Venom didn't get on which is a shocker) and lasted for 14 issues. And it's not even the most 90's storyline Spider-Man has on his resume.
8. The Other (2005- 2006)
Another cross-over between Spider-Man titles and, let's be cynical about this for a second, there where 4 parts to this story, yet there were 13 exclusive variant covers, of varying rarity of course. As for the actual content, well Peter gets a mystery illness, is hunted by Morlun (who is a vampire but not), gets the snot beaten out of him, eats Morlun's neck (I am not kidding), then dies in MJ's arms because cliché and is reborn from a cocoon with new powers, because mystical reasons apparently. Basically serving as a stop-gap thing between the formation of the New Avengers and Civil War, I'm pretty sure I can safely assume they only made this a cross-over so they could milk the variant covers for all the money they could.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man 131 (1974)
This was a thing that happened. The premise for this being that Doctor Octopus wanted to marry Aunt May because she inherited an island that contained an atomic processing plant, which she didn't know about by the way. Firstly, what? Secondly, how does one inherit an atomic processing plant? And three, what again? For someone who didn't know about Spider-Man's secret identity at the time, Octavius sure had a thing for schemes involving Aunt May over the 60's and 70's.
6. Civil War (2006- 07)
Looking at this storyline in a vacuum, it is actually not that bad. It makes sense to have Spider-Man side with Iron Man at first, considering their relationship in the New Avengers, and it makes sense for him to swap sides when he discovers the direction Iron Man is taking. Unmasking Spider-Man and killing Aunt May also open up a whole plethora of storylines that could explore the fallout of Spider-Man's actions during Civil War, so no complaints there. However, if we then take this out of the vacuum and plonk it right back into Marvel continuity and, there we go, completely ruined. What you did here Marvel is annoy a lot of fans with a massive swerve and then do nothing with it, in fact, you did less than nothing, you went backwards. Kingpin could have been elevated from "that guy that Daredevil fights a lot but was originally a Spider-Man villain" to a major player, in the leagues of Green Goblin. But nope, he get beaten up quite quickly and dumped back on Daredevil. Oh and the whole, public identity thing lasts for all of five seconds. But we'll get to that.
5. Reign (2006-07)
So, on a list of things I didn't need to know nor wanted to know, the fact that Peter Parker has radioactive semen has got to be up there. That this is how Mary Jane Watson dies in this (thankfully now non-canon) storyline makes it even worse. Marvel's attempt to make a Spider-Man version of The Dark Knight Returns, it falls at the first hurdle by giving us the aforementioned information about Spidey's reproductive issues. It also fields an allstar cast of very wrinkly Spider-Man villains (except Doc Ock, who is literally a walking corpse), all of whom get one chance to beat up OAPeter before being very easily dismissed the second time round (although this does give us a classic moment of an Electro/ Hydro-Man team up, with predicable results). So, to sum up, an overly drab and depressingly bland story with it's one memorable bit being that we found out Peter Parker quite literally killed MJ with sex. Amazing.
4. Sins Past (2004)
Everyone remembers that classic moment where Gwen Stacy dies by the hands of the Green Goblin right? It's one of the most important moments in comic book history and is considered a turning point in the comics industry. Well, this storyline completely ruins it. So, apparently the reason that Goblin threw Gwen off a bridge was not because he wanted to mess with Peter Parker. Nope, it was because he wanted to hide the fact that Gwen had recently given birth (despite that not being very evident in the stories at the time, but retconning). And who got her pregnant? Well Norman of course, because that isn't creepy in the slightest. And of course, Gwen is forced to go through with the pregnancy (which she showed no signs of at all) and gives birth to twins, who, because of Normans irradiated sperm (oh not this again) age far more rapidly than normal and develop Green Goblin-esque abilities. And Norman being Norman, sets them on Spider-Man. Do I need to explain any further why this is on the list? Why do the writers at Marvel have a fixation with radioactive man liquid?
3. The Clone Saga (1994-96)
You know when I said that Maximum Carnage wasn't the most 90's storyline in Spider-Man history? Well this is it. Two years worth of plot twists, character death and resurrection, confusion and just general awfulness. I won't even try to explain the plot, because it doesn't make sense, but the long and short of it is, back in the 70's a villain called The Jackal cloned both Peter and Gwen, then in the 90's Peter's clone is found to be alive, confusion ensues as to whole is actually the real Spider-Man, then Green Goblin comes back from the dead and is revealed to be behind it all because reasons. In this story, The Jackal dies (and is later brought back to life), Aunt May dies (but that's apparently a hoax), Peter's clone dies (and has probably been brought back at some point in the Spider-Verse I'd imagine) and Norman Osbourne comes back to life after 20 years of deadness. The whole story is too convoluted and lasts a year too long, as it really should have ended when the Jackal "dies" half way though, though it probably could have been shortened even further by, I don't know, not doing it. It gets so bad that Marvel even launched another Spider-Man title full of one-shot stories that didn't focus on the clone saga just so fans had some Spidey to read and not get confused by.
2. The Superior Spider-Man
No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, nonononononononononononononononononoNO!
I do not like the Superior Spider-Man. I don't care how good the writing is, or the art or the storylines or anything. The central premise is terrible and who ever thought of it should be taken in front of their family and lashed a thousand times. So you take one of the greatest superheroes and mindswap him with one of his greatest enemies then you kill the body of the enemy that has the heroes mind inside so the enemy in the heroes body is free to do what he wants but it turns out that the heroes mind is still in his body so the enemy and the hero struggle for control over the same body whilst everyone else is getting suspicious of how the hero/ enemy is acting and then the enemy in the heroes body manages to remove the hero from his own body but it turns out he didn't and then the enemy in the heroes body messes up some very important world changing stuff and the hero gets his body back so the status quo goes back to what it was before any of this happened begging the question WHAT WAS THE POINT? And that is basically the premise of the Superior Spider-Man storyline and it makes as much sense as I've made it make.
1. One. More. Day (2007)
So, with all of the aforementioned terribleness, how do you top all of that. How do you beat confusing clone arcs, purposefully terrible 90's style-fests, bodyswapping shenanigans. Well, it's quite simple really, you undo 20 years worth of continuity in such a manner that means nobody comes out looking good. The writers, nope, the characters, nope, Marvel, yeah right. The story of Peter selling himself to the devil to save Aunt May's life is a kick in the testicles (which are probably radioactive, knowing Marvel) to any long time Spider-Man fan. Peter and Mary-Jane's relationship is probably the second most cherished romance in comic book history, behind Lois and Clark, and this undoes that. At the time this was published, the pair had been married for 20 years, longer than some fans had been alive. A lot of people hadn't read a Spider-Man comic where Peter and MJ weren't an item. They also undid Peter revealing his identity in Civil War, meaning that storyline would be consigned to the pit of "good God that was a bad idea that had no pay-off wasn't it?" I'm all for changing things up, but when changing things up means going back to a status quo that hasn't been the status quo for over 20 years, that's the wrong way to do it. And the way they did it was so ham-fisted, never mind Aunt May had already died and come back to life twice previously. Having the Parkers make a deal with Mephisto (basically the devil) and in effect, sacrificing their unborn child (which is what Mephisto implies when it is revealed that the strange girl the couple have been seeing throughout the story is the child they will now never have) just paints the pair in the worst light possible. And it's a perfect example of one of the worst tropes in comics, characters don't progress. No-one dies and everyone is the same as they were when they were created, and if they do develop, retcon retcon retcon, because God forbid characters age, grow up, have families, pass on their mantels to the next generation or even die.
So that's my list. And I'm depressed now. Anyway, let me know what you think the worst Spider-Man storylines are down in the comments below. Even better, let me know what you think the worst comic book storylines are in general, so I can look into the for future lists.
And with that