X-Man #24 and Peter Parker: Spider-Man #77-78

Synopsis: I’m gonna be real brief with the synopsis of the X-Man issue. On Christmas day, Peter finds X-Man in one of his neighbour’s basements having been infected by Morbius the Living Vampire. Stuff happens and X-Man is cured, Morbius has become even more powerful than before because he’s fed off of X-Man and then he escapes with Spidey in pursuit.

On Boxing day Morbius attacks someone on the ESU campus (wow that’s just like the 90s Spider-Man cartoon) prompting Spidey to look into it. Peter meets up with MJ and (to his chagrin) Jill Stacy, who he feels very awkward around. Peter is taken aback when MJ, rather than forcing Jill on him, is actually encouraging of his finding Morbius and putting an end to the killings. Jill wants to talk about Gwen but Peter isn’t keen and it is shortly thereafter that Jill’s dad Arthur shows up and arranges dinner with the Parkers. Later MJ says she thinks it’d be good for them all to talk about Gwen but Peter isn’t keen, sending MJ off in frustration.

Betty Brant shows up and wants to discuss Flash, but a group of anti-mutant thugs (stirred up by the assassination of anti-mutant politician Graydon Creed) start a ruckus which gets them thrown out. Betty starts to tell Peter about her reservations regarding getting together with Flash but he ducks out on her, having spotted Morbius. Peter is attacked by the anti-mutant thugs whom he easily eludes by becoming Spider-Man.

Spidey finds Morbius seemingly attacking the beautiful Doctor Andrea Janson, although he claims he wasn’t going to hurt her. During their battle Morbius bites Spider-Man, weakening him enough for Morbius to flee. Peter groggily makes his way to the dinner with the Stacys and, shortly after learning Arthur bears Spider-Man no ill will, passes out on the table.

Later on, MJ (having invented a cover story) and Peter travel on the subway heading home, Peter sleeping whilst MJ’s mind wanders to a simpler time when Harry and Gwen were alive, when she and Peter were young and in love and she neither knew nor cared about Spider-Man. She stares down some thugs on the train and is a little annoyed when Peter reveals he’s awake, but resolves to not start a fight over the Stacy’s given his condition. Meanwhile Morbius is killing another victim and thinking about how his hunger comes more quickly now and how he must find Dr Jansen to cure him forever. Later on Peter awakes sweating and running a fever but insists (despite MJ’s concerns) on going out as Spider-Man to stop Morbius. MJ decides this time she isn’t going to sit on the sidelines (which she’s decided to do on at least 2 other occasions before this but never mind) and goes after him.

At the hospital Betty Brant is being patched up after she got too close to a story and Flash is there to look in on her. He offers her a lift but she already has one. He asks if he can call her but she says she doesn’t know, so he leaves saying she should take care of herself. Across town, Dr. Jansen is in her lab where she says she is amazed by Morbius and might be able to use him as part of her research (having familiarised herself with Morbius’ own research). Morbius approaches her from the shadows.

Peter meanwhile makes it to ESU but he’s so groggy from the bite that he misses his web-line and almost falls off a building whilst MJ looks up in fear. However she’s distracted by someone behind her ordering her to stop. Morbius asks Jansen if she will help him but Spider-Man arrives and says if Morbius was really apologetic for his crimes and really wanted to be cured he would’ve stopped killing long ago. Outside MJ is confronted by the anti-mutant thugs from earlier, who are patrolling the campus to ensure the safety of the students from the monster attacking them (whom they think is a mutant). They’re interrupted when Spider-Man and Morbius crash to the ground, Spidey saying if Morbius really wanted blood he could get it without killing. When Morbius has Spidey at his mercy, the anti-mutant thugs (the Friends of Humanity) begin to attack Morbius, diverting his attention and making him feed on one of them. Spider-Man stops him but Morbius turns his attentions back onto the weakened Spider-Man, preparing to kill him.

MJ steps in and asks him if he’s a man or a monster, sentiments Jansen concurs with, before offering Morbius a choice: drink a bag of blood she brought from her lab and gain her help, or kill for blood and be left alone. He chooses the former but Spider-Man still wants to bring him in until MJ persuades him he’s not strong enough right now and that Morbius’ victim needs their help right now. Spider-Man chooses to save the victim and MJ thinks that he can always be counted on to do the right thing, no matter what the price. However, neither are aware the Bugle now blames Spider-Man and Morbius for the attacks and make a connection between them and mutants.

This is weird. Technically speaking this is a 2 parter, but it’s also technically a 3 parter and even more technically a 4 parter if you include ASM #420. Essentially X-Man #24 picks up right where ASM #420 left off. The latter was set on Christmas Eve and the former is on Christmas day. There is a sweet little scene where Peter and MJ celebrate Christmas and Peter thinks about how he couldn’t do all the stuff he does in his life without MJ but then the actual plot starts and…I don’t care. I don’t care about these X-Men related plots even though I like the X-Men and like X-Man. I do not know WTF is going on but somehow Morbius the Living Vampire bites X-Man and turns him into a vampire even though he can’t do that and even though X-Man is curing himself somehow. Anyway Morbius hunts X-Man’s black yet also Irish girlfriend because they both have a ‘HUNGER’, or something like that, I don’t know.

Moving onto the actual Spider-Man books, Morbius’ hunger issues got boring after a while but goddam, did he look cool. In fact this fill in guy (Claudio Castilini) for PPSM #77 is really, really good. His Spider-Man reminds me of modern Deodato Junior and (although all his women other than Jill Stacy look the same, right down to having red hair) his Mary Jane (who is back to her 60s hairstyle instead of her McFarlane look for some reason) is also drawn really beautifully; I wish this guy had done more work for Spider-Man.

I enjoyed the abrasiveness of the Stacys and how Peter really didn’t want to meet them, but not enough was done with it in this issue. The next issue though, is mostly from MJ’s POV and it opens up with…well with one of the most epic MJ scenes ever in my opinion. Peter is asleep on the subway, recovering from the bite from Morbius and MJ is looking after him when some punks come looking for trouble. They don’t say anything but their intent is clear. MJ, thinking to herself of how she’s faced worse than these losers and how Peter needs to rest, literally just stares at them for a minute and they walk off. Bad.  Ass. Again, more proof Mackie could write MJ and the marriage well once upon a time. Also Romita Junior draws an awesome Morbius.

In all honestly though, the character stuff bored me in this issue. It wasn’t bad, I just don’t care about Morbius, though I cared more than the pointless Friends of Humanity stuff in the book (granted it’s important down the road). Really the highlight was the Mary Jane stuff, MJ looking after Peter and defending him from Morbius (echoing what she did earlier on the subway). Also I loved the bit at the end where MJ has faith in him.

There were only two complaints though regarding MJ. Firstly there were the thought captions on the train when MJ said that before she KNEW or CARED about Spider-Man, she and Peter were young (Mackie, even here, had a thing about mentioning how young Peter and MJ were, even though they were 27 or 28 by this point) and in love and partying with Gwen and Harry (Flash is on the page but MJ ignores him for some reason). This is poor continuity because (even ignoring Parallel Lives) Mary Jane DEFINITLY knew about Spider-Man’s existence before she and Peter were in love, heck she knew who he was in her second ever appearance when she and Peter went on their first ‘date’ (if you can call one bike ride to see a man dressed as a rhino a date). And at no point were she and Peter in love when Gwen was alive.

The other possible bone of contention is that we get MJ waiting by a window, which is something of a cliché with MJ’s character in the marriage years but here‘s why this time it was okay. There is nothing wrong with making MJ wait by a window so long as you execute the scene well and you do not do it excessively. This scene was fine because a) MJ didn’t actually wait by the window and b) this is like the first time MJ has waited for Peter by a window since I think the Final Adventure, so it had been a decent amount of time.

The X-Man issue gets a D because I didn’t care about it

PPSM #77 bets a B mostly for the art

PPSM #78 gets a B+ for the art, the writing and MJ being awesome.

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