In the milestone issue Amazing Spider-Man #6, otherwise known as Amazing Spider-Man #900, by Zeb Wells, Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales, Wade Von Grawbadger, Cliff Rathburn, Marcio Menyz, Dijjo Lima, Erick Arciniega, and Joe Caramagna, featuring a cover by John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, and Menyz-- Peter Parker finds himself facing off against some of his oldest enemies. In fact, you might even consider elements of the issue to be a remix of some of the classic Marvel Comics issues starring the wall-crawler. It’s been a long road for Parker, getting from Amazing Fantasy to here, and this story underscores that well!
Happy Birthday Peter
After a brief, supervillain-centric prologue set at Freshkills Park (more on that momentarily), the introductory scene shifts to a surprise birthday party for Peter Parker. This scene emphasizes the history of the character under the mask, giving readers the chance to check in with many familiar faces that have played supporting roles in the ASM story over the years. These include longstanding characters like Liz Allen, Flash Thompson, and Aunt May, as well as Felicia Hardy (Black Cat).
Also present at the party were more recently introduced characters like Max Modell, introduced in 2010's ASM #648 by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas, Edgar Delgado, and Caramagna and his husband, Hector Baez, introduced in 2012’s ASM #682 by Slott, Stefano Caselli, Frank Martin Jr., and Caramagna. Anna Maria Marconi, who made her debut in 2013's The Superior Spider-Man #5 in a story called 'Emotional Triggers' by Slott, Guiseppe Camuncoli, John Dell, Delgado, Antonio Fabella, and Chris Eliopoulos, is also present. These appearances help highlight how significant an effect Slott’s tenure on ASM has been to the ongoing Spider-Man story.
And of course, arguably the most important person in Parker’s life is present at the party, as well – at least once Doctor Octopus’s arms burst into the building with him! J. Jonah Jameson has been in Peter’s life since 1962's Amazing Spider-Man #1 by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Stan Goldberg, and Jon D’Agostino. Parker’s longtime boss needs no additional introduction, considering the extremely enduring nature of the character (thanks in part to the sublime casting of J.K. Simmons in the role in Sam Raimi’s 2002 big screen Spider-Man adaptation).
The Living BrainHowever, J. Jonah Jameson isn’t the only character from Parker’s earliest days to play a significant role in ASM #900. Playing the role of the antagonist is The Living Brain! Originally introduced in 1963’s Spider-Man #8 in the story 'The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain!' by Lee, Ditko, and Art Simek. The Living Brain has given himself a major update, and he’s enlisted the assistance of the Super Adaptoid, first introduced in 1966’s Tales of Suspense #82 in a story called 'The Maddening Mystery of the Inconceivable Adaptoid!' by Lee, Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia, and Simek.
But it’s a tangled web that Spidey’s antagonist weaves! As if all this weren’t already enough to put your average superhero out, the Super Adaptoid has been beefed up, and enhanced with the powers of the original Sinister Six!
The Sinister Six first appeared in 1964's Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 by Lee, Ditko, and Sam Rosen. This issue saw Doctor Octopus, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Sandman, and Vulture agreeing to work together in order to defeat the meddling web slinger once and for all! In this issue, in order to achieve their nefarious goal, each of the six super villains faced off against Spider-Man one after the other. While Spidey was able to overcome each of them, they created an incredibly difficult gauntlet that he had to fight his way through.
The Living Brain finds a way to make an even more difficult challenge for Spidey, by combining the abilities of every member of the Sinister Six into a single antagonist: the beefed-up Super Adaptoid. But how can Spider-Man possibly overcome such a daunting opponent on his own?
The Sinister Seven
The answer is: he can’t! However, there’s an intriguing proposition proposed by the issue's cover: the Sinister Seven. One might assume, given the roster of super villains who appear in this issue, that the Sinister Seven must be the original Sinister Six (all of whom appear here) plus the Living Brain. But the Living Brain has aligned himself against the original Sinister Six, stealing their super powers and abilities in order to soup-up the Super Adaptoid.
In a suprise twist, the final member of the Sinister Seven is Spider-Man himself! This is far from the first time that Spidey has been forced to align himself with his opponents. And while the rest of the Sinister Seven may not be comfortable with Spider-Man referring to them as "friends," they are able to set aside their differences for long enough to join forces and overcome the Super Adaptoid, leading to several superior splash pages.
Who is Spider-Man?
But what does the Living Brain want from Spider-Man, anyway? As he tells Parker’s civilian friends after abducting them from the birthday party, he wants to know who Spider-Man is. While the reader (and said civilians) think that this is a inquiry after Spider-Man’s secret identity, the Living Brain is actually after a deeper truth.
The Living Brain wants to know who Spider-Man is on a fundamental level – not the name on his birth certificate, but in a more profound way. What defines the man, not as a super hero or secret identity, but as a person?
The answer comes when Spidey refuses to disconnect the Ultra Living Brain at the conclusion of the issue. This isn’t an easy decision – in fact, it’s even one he has to fight for, because the other members of the Sinister Seven turn against him when he announces that he won’t be disconnecting the artificial entity that has caused so many issues for them.
Through this decision, the answer to the Living Brain’s question is answered. Who is Spider-Man? He’s a person who is deeply empathetic, and at the end of the day, the goal he prioritizes above all is helping others – even when those others have hurt him in the past.
No wonder he’s still swinging after 900 issues!