In the category of “long-overdue conversations” …
Aunt May discovers that her nephew Peter is Spider-Man—which means he’s been lying to her for years. It’s the sort of thing that requires setting aside some time to chat…perhaps an entire issue to chat.
The Amazing Spider-Man #38 (or #479, since the cover plays it both ways) features no super-heroic action whatsoever. It’s just Peter and May talking. Between all the history behind the conversation and how well J. Michael Straczynski writes it, it’s engaging throughout, full of emotion rather than melodrama. Both characters have been holding secrets in, and the release is scary, relieving, and scary all over again.
A nice touch is how much credit the story gives Aunt May. She had often been portrayed as elderly and frail, but here Straczynski gives the impression she’s a remarkably resilient old lady, and she would have to be to single-handedly raise a teenager after her husband’s murder and in the face of repeated health problems and financial troubles.
The issue doesn’t reach any tidy resolution. There’s no happily ever after—there’s just moving forward.
Straczynski had a memorable run on Spider-Man a few over fifteen years ago, and this was the best thing he did with the book. It needed to happen (though I’m pretty sure it was retconned along with Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage, alas).
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Scott Hanna
Cover: Kaare Andrews
Publisher: Marvel Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2: Revelations (TPB)