Like with many comic book hero stories, characters die and come back again in different ways. Spider-Man is no different. In this story from 1990 Spider-Man makes a blunder that would cost him his life. Ironically rears its ugly head as he does a routine rescue only to find himself lying on a rooftop with a failed heart. Luckily everything works out, as Spider-Man died for only one minute.
The story begins with Spider-Man web-slinging and thinking about his chores for the day. Tucked in the backside of his pants is a glass bottle of barbeque sauce for Aunt May. Some window washers fall off their platform and go hurling downward. Spider-Man spots them using his spider-sense and says that the rescue is a piece of cake, and he could do it in his sleep. He manages to save the two window washers with his web shooters and tosses them on a rooftop, but has to quickly go and grab the platform they were standing on before it hits anything. Unfortunately Spider-Man is too late as the platform hits a cooling machine full of Freon. He tries to get in front of the spill to save a mother and daughter who were pinning clothes on a clothes line. The wave of Freon hits him as he hits the roof, the bottle of barbeque sauce breaking and his heart stopping.
At this point Spider-Man has died and his soul is standing over his body. He looks at the woman he was trying to save, just to make sure she was okay. He begins to float upward onto a cloud and catches himself wondering if he will see his old girlfriend Gwen Stacy who had also died. This surprises him since he thought that Mary Jane, his wife, was the one he loved. He spots a brilliantly bright white light. It is so beautiful that he has to go toward it. When he passes through, he describes the areas as a religious graveyard. He turns around and is shocked to see the villain Thanos with his gauntlet and the infinity stones in it. Peter tells him that he thought he was dead. Thanos responds by saying that the idea of death is irrelevant since he loves death and therefore serves death. Next to him is a cloaked womanly figure with a purple robe, presumably Death itself. Thanos allows him to look back at his body on the roof. He also sees the woman he saved, but she is saying that she hates Spider-Man for saving her and not her daughter. Death then points to the girl’s soul on the same plane at Peter, looking at her mother grieving.
Spider-Man tells Thanos to release her because she is too young but he refuses. Spider-Man decides to solve his problems with his fists and keeps punching Thanos until Thanos hits him back. Thanos explains that the reason why heroes are allowed to live so long is because they inspire creative villains, thus causing more destruction than they could ever fix. He calls it the hero’s domino, a ripple effect of destruction they can’t see. Thanos picks up Spider-Man and hands him to Death, who allows Spider-Man to have his life back. The reason for this is not clear. When he wakes up in his body, the woman he saved earlier explains that he, as well as her daughter, had no heart beat for about a minute. So yes, Spider-Man died for one minute. Spider-Man says that he felt like he left his body and traveled.
This all happened in Spider-Man issue 17 from 1990. This was at a point where comic book artists like Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld were beginning to get their feet wet, while creating the comic book hype that would eventually topple down the entire industry. I like these one-issue stories where I don’t have to read a story arc across 12 issues and 4 series titles. Be sure to grab it while it’s nice and cheap. What do you think of this story knowing that Spider-Man died and came back to life? Leave a comment.