Written by: J Michael Straczynski
Penciled by: John Romita Jr. & John Romita Sr.
Inked by: Scott Hanna
Colored by: Avalon
Lettered by: Randy Gentile
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics
SCENE: The Void Between Realities
(Peter jumps and finds himself in a cemetery. He sees himself as an older man.)
Old Peter: Aunt May, I’m sorry. I’ll make you proud, I promise. Top of the world, Ma!
(The cops move in on Old Peter as Peter looks the other way)
Peter: What the-
(We see a Younger Peter Parker. Young Peter is standing at the back of a crowd… as a familiar glowing spider crawls down from the ceiling)
Peter: What the…. Yes, I know. It is my destiny to change into the spider that bit me, thus performing a loop in time that can never be broken, thus preventing that future I just saw from happening.
(Peter tries… and fails to become a spider)
Peter: Shoot… wait a second, that’s Barry Allen… not me.
(Old Peter looks back at the tombstone)
Old Peter: Don’t try to save me. This is the end. Besides, if you got killed saving your future self, it would kinda defeat the point. And we have enough paradoxes to deal with in our past as is.
Peter: Well, yeah. Any advice you can give me to avoid this happening?
Old Peter: Nah, not really. Besides, as countless X-Men stories have shown us, trying to alter the future based on what you see in a vision or what some time traveler tells you is just asking for trouble. And everyone will forget about me as soon as a new writer takes over the book. Just remember to treat MJ right, tell her that you love her and do right by our son.
Peter: Our son? No daughter?
Old Peter: Nope. Chew on that, Spider-Girl fans!
Peter: Huh. Oh well. Maybe I can stop all that from happening by stopping the spider from biting my past self! Of course that in itself will cause a paradox because if I don’t become Spider-Man, I will never have wound up here in the void to stop myself from being bit. On the other hand, think of all the innocents who will die if I’m not Spider-Man. But on the other hand, if I don’t become Spider-Man, Uncle Ben will have never died. Or Gwen. Or Ned Leeds. Or…
Dr. Strange’s Voice: Are you done guilting out yet?
Peter: Well, I did have a little bit of angsting left….
Dr. Strange’s Voice: There will be time enough for that later. Right now, I need you to embrace the Spell of Becoming.
Peter: Becoming what?
Dr. Strange’s Voice: Becoming a frog if you don’t stop being whining. Now, this spell will slowly bring you forward in time along your own lifeline, forcing you to relive a number of important events from your own life.
Peter: Oooh! Like Quantum Leap.
Dr. Strange: Yes, except without so much coherence or the drag jokes.
Peter: Groovy. Well, thank goodness I’m already past puberty at this point.
(Peter wanders through super-villain fight after super-villain fight; a gigantic montage and tribute to the early works of Stan Lee; all available for your reading pleasure in the “Essential Spider-Man Volumes 1-5” Trade Paperback Collection.)
Peter: Geez, that was a gratuitous plug.
CUT TO: The Office of “Starman” Matt Morrison
Starman: What? It’s a good series!
CUT TO: The Brooklyn Bridge
Peter: Wait a minute…I thought it was the George Washington Bridge?
Green Goblin: It depends on which printing you have. Not that it matters because your girlfriend is falling off of it!
Peter: What? Gwen? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
(Peter jumps and tries to save Gwen. He goes back into the void before he can shoot a web)
Dr. Strange’s Voice: Follow my voice.
Dr. Strange’s Voice: Follow my voice.
Penelope Cruz: Open your eyes.
Dr. Strange’s Voice: Ignore her… and follow my voice.
Peter: No! I can’t do this anymore… I can’t look at all the things I’ve done…everything that happened and… it’s just nonstop fighting and violence and madness… like a Chuck Dixon comic.
Dr. Strange’s Voice: Do you know what the greatest gift that anyone can receive in his lifetime is?
Peter: Yes, but I can’t talk about that in a PSR-rated book.
Dr. Strange’s Voice: No. I refer to the one thing that makes your life worth living. (holds his fingers apart) This.
Peter: You SURE you aren’t talking about…
Dr. Strange’s Voice: (sighs) Why do I bother?
Peter: I dunno, but I really liked this talk better when Jack Palance did it.
Dr. Strange: Indeed. But now… follow my voice!
(Peter turns and fights his way across a splash page of nearly every costumed bad guy he ever fought)
Peter: Mmm…. Romita.
(Suddenly, Peter is back in the present. Or twenty minutes before it at any rate.)
Peter: What? Mindless ones? I think…. You there lad, what day is this?
Urchin: Me, sir? Why it’s doomsday!
Peter: Yes! I’m back! There’s still time to change!
(Peter hops up to the roof as the urchin is squished like a grape)
Reed Richards: So all you have to do is channel your energies into the flux capacitor and…
Peter: Wait! I come from a distant future… well, 20 minutes in the future anyway with a warning from my guardian angel, Clarence. If you use the ray thing to close the portals, that big flame-headed evil guy Dr. Strange fights all the time will come back here and loads of bad stuff will happen.
Iron Man: I dunno… it sounds pretty unlikely.
Reed: Well, I suppose it IS possible my meddling with forces I only pretend to understand COULD cause such a thing to happen…
Thor: I sense truth in him though Trickery doth wear many faces. I recall the time that my brother Loki did wear the face of a giant lizard being when we were both youths, and he did convince me that he would eat me were I not to give him all my cookies.
Peter: Yeah… uh… so let’s just kick butt until the Doc gets here to fix things.
Thor: Verily I say then… LET US BRING IT!
(Much more superheroic ass-whooping takes place until Dr. Strange shows up and closes the portal. Sometime later, Dr. Strange and Peter discuss what happened)
Dr. Strange: So my past self sent you back in time and then brought you back here to provide a warning of something that might happen.
Peter: Yeah. And he was still in the future when he did it. So is he still there? Or…
Dr. Strange: It doesn’t matter. Just be thankful that you came through this without your son from the future or an alternate version of him showing up and then getting his own inexplicably popular series.
Scott Summers: (in the background) Tell me about it!
Dr. Strange: Oh, one more thing. Don’t ask me how, but this wound up in my pocket. I believe it is for you. (hands Peter a box)
Peter: Holy snikes! I almost forgot that today is my birthday! Or… wait, it was a few days in the future when I left that it was my birthday… or was it?
Dr. Strange: Time is fluid… especially in our universe. Consider how even now Magneto is enslaving the entire island of Manhattan as years in the future the Asgardians rule the Earth. And in a distant past, Captain American has returned home in 1964 to a world where the Nazis won World War II….
Peter: Uh-huh. Well, I’ll just read the summary later. See ya!
Dr. Strange: Indeed.
(Suddenly Dr. Strange is trapped in a magical bubble)
Dr. Strange: What the-
(ENTER Baron Mordo)
Baron Mordo: Congratulations. Your tampering with the timelines has now allowed me to trap you. Now I shall send you back as you did Spider-Man, arranging things so that you will become much weaker and easier to destroy.
Dr. Strange: If you trapped me so easily, why don’t you just destroy me now?
Baron Mordo: Because then we could not make mention of the upcoming Dr. Strange mini-series!
Dr. Strange: Hold on… I was supposed to get one of those the LAST time I made an appearance in this book…. I couldn’t help Spider-Man because I had an appointment with Death….
Baron Mordo: Don’t hurt yourself thinking about it. Now, onto the past!
(Meanwhile, Peter is web-swinging home. As he crawls through the window..)
Aunt May and MJ: Surprise! Happy Birthday!
Peter: But… when I left, it was late… we were getting ready for bed… and you were… and we were about to… did time warp somehow? Or did-
MJ: Hush. Don’t worry about it! There will be plenty of time for that later, Tiger. And I’ll even wear the heels you like.
Peter: (ponders this) Okay.
Fans Who Read The Issue Already: What? Hey, you left out the best part of the book in your humorous summary!
Starman: Yeah… well, I couldn’t bring myself to make fun of that. All kidding aside, I LOVED this two-part story! Besides, you have to leave SOME surprises.