Comics Reviews

Why Spider-Man’s First Avengers Membership Was a Huge Failure


Today, we look at how Spider-Man’s first stint as a member of the Avengers didn’t even last an entire story arc! And his second chance didn’t rate much better!

In every installment of Abandoned Love we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer without actively contradicting an earlier story (so the more passive definition of retcons as being anything that is retroactively added to continuity, even if there is no specific conflict with a past story). Feel free to e-mail me at brianc@cbr.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.


Over the years, it seemed as though there were a number of Marvel superheroes who just would never join the Avengers, even if you would think that they would make good members of the team. Typically it would be heroes who were considered more “street level” type heroes. Daredevil was one of these heroes, but the most famous one was clearly Spider-Man, whose whole “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” setup didn’t really seem to lend itself to traveling the globe in a Quinjet to help save the universe or whatever.

However, there were a few times when it seems like Spider-Man was almost going to join, including once where he actively TRIED to join the team in a clever story written by the then-writer of Spider-Man’s flagship series, Amazing Spider-Man, Roger Stern, so it fit into Spider-Man continuity really well. I’ll spotlight those instances in a future article. For now, though, let’s look at when Spider-Man finally joined the Avengers…for a little bit!


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SPIDER-MAN HELPS THE AVNEGERS WHEN THE UNIVERSE CEASES TO EXIST

It all started in Avengers #314 (by John Byrne, Paul Ryan and Tom Palmer), when Thor is transporting some scrap metal when suddenly the whole universe blinks out of existence for a second, causing Thor to drop the scrap metal in the middle of New York City! Luckily, Spider-Man swings in and uses his webs to get the metal out of the way. Thor is grateful and he tells Spider-Man to come with him to see what the heck is going on…

Spider-Man follows Thor to Avengers Mansion where they go through another one of those universe blinking out of existence deals…


They are coming with more frequency now and Sersi uses her Eternal powers to concentrate and form a force field around the heroes and suddenly the universe is gone…except for a chunk of Avengers headquarters!!

Spider-Man, though, in the next issue, realizes that the Avengers aren’t alone, there is also a corporate headquarters where the whole energy problem started. The Avengers head there and discover the villainous Nebula has come up with a powerful energy source that can affect the whole universe. One of the scientists there tells Spider-Man that the key is to get rid of the power source…


After some fighting, Spider-Man literally pulls the plug on Nebula’s plot…

Spider-Man is amazed that he just saved the universe and no one will know, as no one else even knows that the universe just blinked out of existence! Nebula escapes, though, and the Avengers plan to follow her to her space ship…

This leads Spider-Man, in the next issue, to agree to continue on the mission with the Avengers in outer space to see things through to the end…

Captain America is impressed by this behavior by Spider-Man.

SPIDER-MAN JOINS THE AVENGERS

The Avengers then defeat Nebula again in outer space, and in the aftermath of the battle, Captain America asks Spider-Man to join the Avengers and Spidey agrees. However, Nebula escapes AGAIN and this time, her plan is to take the power of the cosmic being known as the Stranger and once again try to blink the universe out of existence!


During the fight in the next issue (with Fabian Nicieza now scripting over Byrne’s plot), Spider-Man marvel over how different this is from the sort of things he normally gets up to as a crimefighter…

He feels a bit out of his element.

SPIDER-MAN IS ASKED TO LEAVE THE AVENGERS

Things were bleak in the final issue (with Nicieiza now having to write the story all by himself), as Nebula was seemingly all-powerful and Spider-Man was near death at one point, but the Avengers save the day eventually and Spider-Man was in no mood with Nebula at the end…

As the story concludes, Captain America rethinks his earlier position and now tells Spider-Man that he thinks that Spidey really doesn’t fit on the Avengers and Spider-Man agrees…

I asked Fabian Nicieza if this was how the story was always going to end and he didn’t know what Byrne’s plans were, but once Byrne was off of the book, Nicieza and Marvel editorial felt it made sense to not have Spider-Man on the Avengers.

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SPIDER-MAN JOINS THE AVENGERS AGAIN!

Surprisingly, then, a year later, in Avengers #329 (by Larry Hama, Ryan and Palmer), Spider-Man was once again made an Avenger, but this time specifically a reserve member of the team…

This was when the Avengers reincorporated as a United Nations-affiliated team with more strict membership rules.

SPIDER-MAN’s AVENGER STINT WAS LESS THAN STELLAR

During that first issue, the “Starting lineup” Avengers were all transported away by some cosmic beings, thus activating the reserves…

So while they didn’t do much in the issue (as most of the issue followed the main team), Spider-Man was technically an active Avengers in Avengers #330…

The main team returned at the end, though.

However, outside of showing up for a party in Avengers #332 (which also included many non-Avenger superheroes like Daredevil and Doctor Strange)…

and having a single team-up with the Avengers in Amazing Spider-Man #348 (by David Michelinie, Erik Larsen and Randy Emberlin)…

a comic that was notable for writing Sandman off of the Avengers (he had become a reserve member along with Spider-Man, which I wrote about recently), Spider-Man really didn’t do much with the Avengers.

SPIDER-MAN IS NO LONGER AN AVENGER…AGAIN!

The breaking point for this stint came when Captain America sent a call out for all Avengers, active or reserve, to help in the crossover known as Operation: Galactic Storm. However, as seen in Avengers #345 (by Bob Harras, Steve Epting and Tom Palmer), Spider-Man didn’t show up…

So when he got back from the space adventure, Captain America removed Spider-Man from Avengers membership in Captain America #401 (by Mark Gruenwald, Rik Levins and Danny Bulanadi, the infamous “Captain America lecture series” issue)…

Don’t worry, though, Spider-Man would return to the Avengers a little over a decade later and this stint lasted quite a long time!

If anyone has a suggestion for a future edition of Abandoned Love, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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