Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #420

Issue Date: 
February 1997
Story Title: 
‘Twas the Night before Christmas…

Tom DeFalco (writer), Steve Skroce (pencils), Bud LaRosa (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Bob Sharen (colors), GCW (separations), Ralph Macchio (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

In order to buy his wife Mary Jane a nice Christmas present, Peter Parker takes the job of snapping pictures of a new guru in Central Park. The guru turns out to be Nate Grey, who instantly recognizes Peter as a super-hero. The two quickly decided to have a private talk, during which Spider-Man gets rubbed the wrong way by Nate’s irresponsible display of power. He mentally shows Nate his own past, specifically his role in the death of his Uncle Ben, to learn about responsibility. Nate in turn shows Peter the death of his foster father Forge to show he knows what Peter is talking about. The two start anew as friends and Peter invites Nate for Christmas dinner with his family. As a thank you, Nate gives the slumbering Peter a dream of his Aunt May, assuring him that both she and Peter and MJ’s dead baby daughter are all right. In the meantime, Black Tarantula’s killer, El Uno, tries to kill the Rose’s assassin Delilah a second time and gets killed himself in turn. Afterward, the Rose sends the Black Tarantula El Uno’s head as a Christmas gift.

Full Summary: 

In the West Side Medical Center, journalist Ben Urich presses Detective Lewis that he cannot keep the guy they are squabbling about on ice forever! To this, Lewis retorts he’s a foreign national who illegally entered this country for illegal enterprise. He’s already squabbling with the feds over him. Any truth to the rumor he’s linked to the Black Tarantula? Urich urges. Lewis asks him where he heard that and what does he know about the fracas on the docks the other night? Urich reminds him he has to protect his sources.

They reach the guarded door behind which the patient they are talking about resides. Suddenly, they hear a noise behind it but, when they open the door, they see a huge hole in the wall. One thing’s for sure, that wasn’t Santa sliding down the chimney, Urich observes. To this, Lewis asks Urich if he’s ever been pistol-whipped…

Minutes later, police cars search for the fugitive, a muscular man hiding, known only as El Uno, who lives to serve the Black Tarantula. A grim and deserving punishment awaits those who caused his injuries and recent imprisonment, he vows. Death shall come to the woman named Delilah and to the costumed fool called Spider-Man! He walks up to several vagrants sitting around a fire…

Elsewhere, Peter Parker is in a quandary. He has found the perfect Christmas gift for his wife, Mary Jane, but finds that those boots are way out of his price range. With his job as a freelancer, he can barely cover their living expenses, especially since both he and MJ have returned to university to finish their education. He has to find a way to pay for them! Suddenly, he is called by the Daily Bugle and hopes his luck is about to change.

In his home, the masked criminal the Rose is in a Christmasy mood, wearing a Santa costume and decorating his home. He loves the city at this time of the year, he informs the assassin Delilah. The brightly colored decorations. The happy sounds and smells. Easy for him to say, she scoffs while trying kickboxing. He wasn’t trashed by the Black Tarantula’s boys. He tells her to be of good cheer. He has a surprise for her. One of his contacts just reported that her favorite muscle man managed to escape police custody. She’s going to get another shot at him? Delilah asks. She couldn’t ask for a better present! She just wishes she had an appropriate gift for the Black Tarantula himself. But what do you get for a man who wants you dead?

Elsewhere, Peter Parker is heading to Washington Square Park. The Bugle gave him two assignments which should net him just enough to make Mary Jane very happy and fashionable come Christmas morn, although he has to hurry. The first gig should be a breeze. The special features editor needs a few snaps of a new street prophet who has been gathering quite a following in Washington Square Park.

In the park, Nate Grey sits surrounded by crowd. He is intent on a girl, Meredith, who tells him of her problems. She is really gonzo over a guy, she tells him, but he still has a thing for his old girlfriend, even though she is way over him. Any chance Nate could use his power to make him forget her? Patiently, he tells her that is not what he does. Maybe the two of them should just talk. What good will that do? Meredith asks. She never knows until she tries, he assures her.

The moment Peter lays eyes on Nate, his spider-sense tingles. Nate also scrutinizes him and Peter recalls he is supposed to be a powerful psychic. Nervously, he wonders what to do, as he can’t change into Spider-Man in front of all these people. Nate walks up to him, remarking it’s practically a requirement in situations like this, but is there any chance they could pass on the gratuitous fight? Peter agrees and suggests coffee and a talk instead.

At that moment, somewhere in Argentina, the Black Tarantula chides his servant Chesbro for Christmas preparations. Only a child would appreciate this holiday reminder. He orders his servant to take down the tree. He has no cause to celebrate the season. Not only has El Uno failed to gain him a foothold in the lucrative New York crime market, but he seems to have vanished as well.

Chesbro urges him to have faith. El Uno has been a loyal and steadfast servant for many centuries. He will eventually find a way to reestablish contacts. The Black Tarantula steps out, hoping he speaks the truth.

Nate and Peter begin to walk off, with Nate’s fans following him. A moment later, Nate telepathically influences them and they can no longer see the two. Nate then telekinetically flies himself and Peter upwards onto a roof.

What is he, some kind of mutant? Peter asks. Why should he tell him, Nate retorts. Peter points out it is obvious he can manipulate matter and energy and must also be telepathic, the way he meddled with those people. Does he have a problem with how he handled them? Nate asks. Peter requested privacy… When Peter then criticizes him for acting irresponsibly, Nate quickly retorts. Like if he scanned his mind and discovered the web thing? Peter feigns ignorance but Nate reminds him he can read minds and then telekinetically removes Peter’s normal clothes to display the Spider-Man costume.

Is he crazy? Peter shouts. Where does he come off pulling a stunt like that? Where is his sense of responsibility? Nate reminds Peter he just tried to lie to him. He doesn’t like people who keep secrets. Okay, Peter angrily agrees. They’ll do it Nate’s way. Like he really has a choice! Nate scoffs.

Meanwhile on the west side, a naked vagrant is taken in. He protests that it ain’t fair. He and his buddies were minding their own business when this wacko popped up and demanded their clothes. The cops scoff at this. Delilah watches from the rooftops, unaware that she in turn is watched by El Uno, who now wears the vagrant’s clothes.

Peter tells Nate the Readers’ Digest version of his life. How he was bitten by a radioactive Spider when he was in high school and acquired some amazing powers. But he got so full of himself that he couldn’t be bothered to stop a burglar who was racing past him, a burglar who later murdered his uncle.

He had no idea; Nate admits. Is there more? Too much to go into now. The point is, he learned with greater power should also come great responsibility. Nate should think before trespassing into someone’s mind. Before he exposes others’ secrets. But he supposes it’s easier to force people to act the way he wants.

Nate’s eye glows. Does Peter think he knows him? He doesn’t! He grabs Peter’s arm. They have a lot more in common than he realizes and he is going to see it all!

Nate shows him his memories. The world he came from, some kind of parallel universe? Peter asks. Nate admits it would seem that way to him. To Nate it was simply home. A planet which was ruled and eventually destroyed by a tyrant.

To Peter, the memories are hauntingly familiar like a distorted fun house mirror version of his own. He hates to think that such an aberration could actually have existed, and yet on some instinctive level he knows it did.

Nate asks Peter to follow him and shows him a shed, a place where everything changed for him and he learned his own lesson about responsibility. They see younger Nate crouching on the ground, a dying man in his arms. Nate’s foster father, Forge. When he died, Nate ignored everything he had taught him and allowed himself to be exploited. He later learned that the man who was using him was the same man who had killed Forge. Like Peter, he knows all about pain and guilt and he also failed to save someone he loves.

Peter announces that they got off to a really bad start. Let’s try again, he suggests. He has a few errands to run. Care to join him? They can talk on the way. Best offer he had all day, Nate agrees and levitates after the swinging Spider-Man. These errands, he asks, are they connected with those boots which keep floating to the front if his mind? Spidey orders him to stop that. He shouldn’t eavesdrop on another person’s thoughts. It’s very annoying. Okay, okay, Nate agrees, but Mary Jane seems like great. She is. Nate continues he is sorry to learn about Peter’s recent tragedy. Going for immediate counseling was a good idea, but he doesn’t think Peter should feel guilty about… This isn’t a subject he wants to discuss now, Spider-Man announces.

Meanwhile, Delilah waits, aware that El Uno robbed those vagrants within a ten block radius of the hospital. Is he still in the area, looking for her? That moment, he jumps at her and hits her hard.

Elsewhere, Spider-Man takes photographs of the hole in the hospital wall. That’s it? Nate asks disappointed. It’s what the Daily Bugle wanted, Spidey explains. Never even told him who or what caused it. He just wants to drop the film and buy some boots. He’s really glad he packed some extra civies today and tells Nate to be careful with the clothes next time. They are not cheap in their world.

Nearby, Delilah falls off the roof and El Uno jumps after her. They come crashing though a roof into an apartment.

In the meantime, Peter and Nate have picked up the money for the pictures and Jameson even forked over a holiday bonus. He didn’t? Peter asks Nate. Nope, the telepath assures him. As he gets the boots, Peter asks Nate if he has any plans for the evening.

In the apartment, Delilah kicks El Uno through the wall.

In the subway, Peter tells Nate everything’s cool. He called Mary Jane and Aunt Anna and they practically insisted Nate come. Insisted? Nate repeats. Well, they said it would be okay.

And so, later, Nate is welcomed at the Christmas dinner. Anna likes the way the boys eats. Something tells her it’s been a while since Nate’s last home cooked meal. Longer than she could guess, he agrees.

Delilah and El Uno fall. Delilah makes sure she is on top and jumps clear before El Uno is hit by a truck which explodes. Is he in pain? She asks mocking and assures him it won’t hurt for long…

Later, Nate leaves the Parkers and thanks them for the invitation. He tells Peter he is a lucky man. Peter agrees. At times like this, he’d say his life is almost perfect.

Later at night, Peter wakes when someone whispers his name. He sees Aunt May before him. She tells him she wishes him the very best for the holidays and coming New Year. Is it really her? he asks. Of course not, this is only a dream, but he can still tell her what’s bothering him. It’s about the baby, he tells her. He can’t forgive himself for not being with Mary Jane when…

May hugs him and assures him it’s not his fault. There was nothing he could have done. That’s what the therapist keeps saying, he agrees. May urges him to listen to her. He knows she’s telling the truth. And he needn’t worry about the baby anymore. Little May is safe and happy. He and Mary Jane will be reunited with her someday. With a relieved smile, Pete thanks her.

He’s welcome, Nate Grey standing outside whispers and wishes him a Merry Christmas.

Somewhere in Argentina, the Black Tarantula asks his servant Chesbro if there has been any word from El Uno. Chesbro bring a parcel from the United States. Chesbro opens it to find a Christmas wreath of roses and El Uno’s head. Retuned to him with warmest regards from the Rose…

Characters Involved: 

Nate Grey / X-Man

Mary Jane Watson
Anna Watson

Ben Urich
Detective Lewis

The Rose
El Uno
Black Tarantula

as Nate’s illusion:
Aunt May

Story Notes: 

The fight on the docks occurred last issue.

Nate’s street prophet phase was in X-Man #29-35.

Nate and Peter stay friends and meet again in X-Man #36-38.

At the time of the story, Aunt May was believed to be dead.

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