I’m going to kind of break form for this installment of Marvel Madness. Usually I’ve been recapping crazy and eccentric stories from Marvel’s back issues. They’ve typically been really goofy stories, ones that are so off the wall you kind of have to see them to believe that they actually exist. It’s fun. Comics are goofy, and it’s really easy to find goofy stories that I want to tell you guys about. But I just encountered a somewhat different story than I usually wouldn’t write up, at least as part of the Marvel Madness series. Because it’s not particularly crazy. I mean, it’s still about a guy who was bitten by a radioactive spider and fights crime while dressing in tights, but comparatively it’s a pretty normal story. There’s no moon vampires or body switching. It’s just a story about Spider-Man doing everything in his power to save one person from a veritable force of nature that seems unstoppable. And it just happens to be one of the most important, formative, and perfect Spider-Man stories I’ve ever read. I heard about this story a while back on the WarRocketAjax podcast, during their segment ranking various comic stories that get emailed to them. And the praise they lavished on this story seemed ridiculous at first. They were comparing it to stuff like “If This Be My Destiny,” possibly the best Spider-Man story of all time, and it just felt like hyperbole. Could a story where Spider-Man fights the Juggernaut really be not only considered one of the best ever, but among the same quality of “If This Be My Destiny,” a story so good and influential to the character of Spider-Man that it can literally bring tears to my eyes when I think about it. And you know what? They’re right. This story certainly isn’t as good as “If This Be My Destiny,” and there are others that may be better than it as well, but it’s a tremendous story. So let’s talk about it.
The story starts off in kind of a weird place. With some strange psychic visions being had by Madame Web about an impending disaster than will befall her. And in case you don’t her, Madame Web is a weird character. She’s a blind psychic who most people think is a scam artist, but who actually does have legitimate abilities. She also requires using a mechanical life support system that looks like a spider-web and has a weird obsession with Spider-Man. I think after this story she started to become more important, and her link with Peter became more and more defined, but at this point she’d only shown up once or twice before, and she was still very mysterious, and both Peter and reader don’t really know what to make of her. But those visions she had, of a dark monster attacking her while being fended off by Spider-Man was enough to convince her to give Peter a call, and convince him that she’ll need his help. Even though she has no idea what the visions mean, when she’ll need him, and what exactly she’ll need him to do. So Peter kind of awkwardly accepts this weird charge, and moves on with his day. And what could these weird visions mean? Well we figure that out right away, because there’s a ship ominously arriving at New York. And who is on that ship?
Boom! Black Tom Cassidy and the Juggernaut! You may remember this lovable pair from a previous Marvel Madness installment where they were busy tricking the X-Men into reenacting a plot from Scooby Doo before being foiled by leprechauns. Black Tom is a mutant with the weird ability to fire blasts of energy through wooden medium, and the Juggernaut is a big guy who has superhuman strength, endurance, and the ability to be unstoppable, all thanks to a magic stone he found. It’s nice to see that after their real estate scheme failed and they both seemingly committed suicide that they’re both still alive and working together. And this time their job is to kidnap Madame Web. They’re apparently going to use her psychic abilities to combat the X-Men and get revenge for their sad performance in that last story. Tom feels like it’s necessary to send an unbeatable rage-monster to go pick up a blind, paralyzed woman who needs a machine to survive, which seems like over-kill, but is shocked when Juggernaut gets impatient and just jumps out of the boat. He then starts marching, along the seafloor, towards New York and his ultimate goal. And nothing gets in his way. Nothing.
As Juggernaut begins his march, Madame Web realizes that he’s coming, and gives Peter a call to let him know their vague deal is ready to be called in. So after dealing with some Daily Bugle drama with Glory Grant and Betty Brant (that’s weird, I’ve never thought of their names so close together), Peter gets the call from Madame Web and he heads out. He suits up and starts web-slinging around town, trying to find this destructive force that Madame Web is freaking out about. And after searching around for a bit, he finally finds the Juggernaut, who is basically just walking in a straight line, destroying whatever gets in his way. He’s walking through trees, buildings, cars, anything and everything that will pose an obstacle, because he’s going in the most direct route, and doesn’t even want to walk around a tree. And it’s pretty clear that Spider-Man has no idea who Juggernaut is, but can tell that this is obviously the guy he’s supposed to stop. So he comes swinging in to smash into Juggernaut, and just bounces right off. Which is a little shocking, but whatever, Spider-Man’s dealt with tough guys before. So next he goes to his other stand-bye, and shoots some webs at him. Which also just fall off, unable to reach him. At this point Spider-Man’s panicking a little, and comes up with the idea to create a wall of webs that will stop Juggernaut. Unfortunately he just walks straight through it, stretching the webs until they just rip off the sides of the building that they were attached to. So this is clearly not the kind of fight that Spider-Man was anticipating. And after trying two more methods of taking down the Juggernaut, dropping him down in a pit and just jumping around him in an attempt to wear him down, Juggernaut finally gets sick of the little pest and just walks through a wall while holding him, knocking Spider-Man out.
So Spider-Man is left int he rubble while Juggernaut continues his destructive march towards Madame Web. And it’s at that point that Spider-Man realizes that he’s in over his head, and after calling Madame Web to inform her of his lack of progress, and asks her to contact the Avengers and the Fantastic Four in hopes that they can help out. Next he swings over to Dr. Strange’s house, realizing that Juggernauts reference to the Cyttorak crystal may be more in Strange’s wheelhouse. Unfortunately Strange isn’t in, and all Wong can recommend is maybe talking to the X-Men, and just generally staying out of Juggernaut’s way. Which Peter is obviously not going to do. So he heads out to Madame Web’s apartment to fortify her position while the Juggernaut’s stroll continues. He stomps through some police barricades while they fire all kinds of weapons at him. But obviously he just strolls right through it all, and makes his way to Madame Web’s apartment. And once there he finds a couple more webbing traps. Spider-Man’s webbed up the stairwell, and Madame Web’s apartment door, while also hot-wiring the webs attached to the door in the hopes that it will fry Juggernaut. And unsurprisingly, this does nothing.
So Juggernaut gets into the room, and Spider-Man jumps in between him and Web, even though he knows that there’s nothing he can do to stop him. Spider-Man does everything he can, tussling with the unbeatable monster. And inevitably Juggernaut succeeds. He punches Spider-Man out and sends him flying into a wall before grabbing Madame Web and yanking her out of her chair. Which promptly sends Madame Web into convulsions, which confuses Juggernaut. Spider-Man comes to and explains that if she’s not in her special chair, she’ll die. Which irritates Juggernaut, since apparently neither he nor Black Tom knew this, and since that sounds like more work than it’s worth, he just decides to leave, making the entire thing worthless. And as he leaves, Spider-Man springs into action, taking care of Madame Webb until the police and paramedics show up to save her life. And once he’s positive she’s safe, Spider-Man starts to freak out. It’s not just that Juggernaut destroyed the city to get her, and it’s not just that he dropped her like she was worthless when he didn’t want to deal with her, it was the fact that he wasn’t able to protect her. And he vows that he’s going to make sure Juggernaut is unable to hurt anyone else.
And that’s just the first issue! What comes next is Spider-Man doing everything in his goddamn power to stop Juggernaut. Not to punish him for treating Madame Web so poorly, but to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone else. So he chases after Juggernaut, losing his temper and just throwing everything he’s got at him. First he makes a web sling-shot, and fires a steel girder at Juggernaut, only for him to catch it and crumple it up like a paper airplane. So Spider-Man decides to escalate things, and walks Juggernaut into a construction yard where they’re knocking down an old hotel. So Spider-Man drops some of the building down on Juggernaut and then uses the 3-ton wrecking ball like a mace and starts smashing him. But that still does next to nothing, and Juggernaut knocks down more of the building on top of Spider-Man to get him to stop following him. Spider-Man drags himself out of the pile of bricks, pissed off that he still hasn’t accomplished anything.
But he sure as hell isn’t going to give up. Spider-man starts chasing after Juggernaut, following the path of destruction, until his webs give out. He’s completely out of webs, and is still pretty far from Juggernaut, who is getting ever closer to the waterfront, which Spider-Man knows is his final destination. But the fates have smiled on Peter Parker, because when he runs out of webs he happens to land on an oil tanker, which he decides logically means he should steal the truck and run Juggernaut down. Spider-Man then puts the pedal to the metal, barreling down on the villain before bailing at the last second. And the resulting impact causes a massive explosion which covers Juggernaut in a fiery holocaust in which nothing can survive. Except the Juggernaut. He comes strolling right out of the fire, barely having noticed what happened. All while Black Tom is watching with his binoculars, amused at Juggernaut’s fun little day. And it’s at this point that Spider-Man loses his shit. He runs at Juggernaut, jumping on his back in an attempt to rip his helmet off. But years of dealing with the X-Men pulling the same bullshit has taught Juggernaut to weld his mask on, reaching yet another dead end for Peter. But he doesn’t give up. He just stays clung to Juggernaut’s back, holding on for dear life, covering his eyes. And since Juggernaut has no idea what’s going on, he accidentally walks right into another construction sight. Only this one is building a new skyscraper, and Juggernaut walks right into the cement for the foundation. Juggernaut at first says that this won’t do anything to him, and starts to boast that he’ll climb right out. But what he didn’t realize was that a foundation, especially this close to the waterfront, is pretty damn deep. And he just starts sinking. Spider-Man watches Juggernaut sink into the foundation, knowing that this may finally be the thing that will stop him. And once Juggernaut is gone, Spider-Man heads off to develop the pictures he took of the fight for the Bugle, and goes to check in on Madame Web, who is suffering from some serious memory loss, and doesn’t even remember who Peter is. Which is a bummer, but hey, he did it. She’s alive. He saved her. And the story ends with Black Tom watching the cement that Juggernaut sank into, hoping that his stupid buddy will make it out so they can continue their terrible crime duo.
So there we go. Spider-Man did the impossible. He stopped Juggernaut, the immovable object. And it was wonderful. Back at the beginning of the article I talked about “If This Be My Destiny,” which is widely considered one of the best stories of Spider-Man, if not the best. And it really is. The thing I often hear about that story is that it’s the thing that made Spider-Man a hero. He got superpowers in Amazing Fantasy #15, but he became a real hero in that story. Because it’s in that story that he really comes to terms with the fact that his life may always be terrible. He’s going to sacrifice everything in his life, to do his job. And his job is never-ending. Batman’s whole goal is to end crime in Gotham. That’s technically possible. It’s in no way probable, but it’s a goal that could conceivably be accomplished. Spider-Man’s goal is one of repentance. He failed Uncle Ben. There’s no getting around that. He had the power and the ability to circumvent Ben’s death, and he didn’t do it. So now he’s made it his life’s mission to protect people. Yes, Aunt May in particular, but Peter Parker’s goal in life is to protect everyone in New York. And he’ll never succeed. Even if Peter Parker goes his entire life as Spider-Man, I kind of feel like he’ll go to his deathbed thinking he didn’t do enough. Which is ridiculous, but it’s how he thinks. So of course when he’s presented with the seemingly simple task of protecting Madame Web from some vague harm, he does his best. And for most of the story, his best isn’t good enough. He does everything that he can think of, every trick in his arsenal that he’s used to best his other villains, and nothing works. And in the end, he almost fails. He doesn’t stop the Juggernaut before he reaches Madame Web. Juggernaut almost kills her. That would have been yet another death on Peter’s already incredibly burdened conscious. But through some miracle he’s able to keep Web alive, and then spends the rest of the second issue doing everything in his power to keep Juggernaut from harming another person. And that’s what makes Peter Parker a hero, and one of the best superheroes there is. I’ve ranted and raved about this topic before on the site, so I apologize for sounding like a broken record, but it’s a realization I’ve made in the last year or so, and one that’s profoundly changed my views on superheroes. Peter Parker wants to save people. He doesn’t want to punish Juggernaut, even though he’s furious at him, he wants to make sure no one else gets hurt. Because that’s all Peter Parker will ever want. No one should get hurt when Peter Parker is around. At least that’s what he thinks. And the depressing thing is, they will. There’s no way Peter Parker will be successful in his goal. It’s insurmountable. And he knows it. But he doesn’t give up. Peter knows that it’s futile to hope that he can stop everyone in New York from being hurt. But he goes out there, every night, and does his best to make that a reality. And that’s why I love the guy. And this story is one of the shining examples of that fundamental philosophy in the series. It’s a small vignette that perfectly encapsulates Peter’s mission, his drive, and his integrity. So yeah, it’s not as silly as other entries in this series. But it’s still one of the most exciting and emotional stories I’ve come across, and I needed to share it.
The Amazing Spider-Man #229-230, “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut,” was written by Roger Stern and drawn by John Romita, Jr, 1982.