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New Marvel Knights
Astonishing Spider-Man #21
Astonishing Spider-Man
Maximum Vengeance
Part VI: Finale
by Chip Caroon & Ben Kaine
Writer - Scripters - Editor
Editor-in-Chief: Brian Provow

Previously in Astonishing Spider-Man . . .

Goodness, Reader! You come in at the last of a six-part extravaganza and ask for a quick recap? Well, okay, Reader. Take a deep breath. 'Cause here goes nothing!

Peter Parker is secretly the superhero Spider-Man! Until now, he has made a living by selling photos of his alter-ego in action to the Daily Bugle. However, the Bugle has recently mysteriously announced it will no longer buy photos of the Webslinging Wonder. What gives?!

If only financial problems were all Peter had to worry about . . . ! Because you see:

The clone of Peter Parker, Ben Reilly, has returned from the dead, only to accidentally impersonate Peter Parker and sleep with Peter's wife! Distraught over his action, he has fled to Chicago, where he has teamed up with the ex-mobster Jimmy-Six to perform private investigation services for less than reputable clients! His latest job, however, has turned out to be a disaster:

Not only was Ben Reilly's client attacked by the supervillain Blacklash, but it turned out that Ben's client was, in fact, a far more vicious criminal! It was only in the nick of time that Jimmy-Six and Ben Reilly, the Enforcers, saved the day from their own employer!

Meanwhile, Peter Parker has come to Chicago as well, with an entirely different objective: To bring down Doctor Vincent Mendella, the man who has framed his alter-ego Spider-Man for murder! But if he runs into Ben Reilly while working on the case, will the truth about Ben Reilly's mistake come out?

All the answers await you, Reader, in this last ish of the stellar story: "Maximum Vengeance"!


The jet landed back in Chicago in the morning, and thirty minutes past nine, the Enforcers escorted their former employer Winson Brigham off of it and into police custody. The police were ready; they'd been called en route. As Jimmy-Six and Ben Reilly took a seat on a nearby bench in the terminal, an officer began reading Brigham his rights.

It was the oldest policeman who spoke with Jimmy and his tired partner. "We'll be contacting you later for your statements."

"Sure t'ing, Officer. Here's our card," Jimmy said.

The policeman frowned at it. "'The Enforcers'?"

Jimmy grinned. "You got it. Jimmy-Six and Benny the Taps, Offic'r. We're staying at the Excelsior Hotel. If we ain't there, you can just leave a message."

"Um, sure," the policeman said. Actually, he had been trying to figure out whether or not to also arrest Jimmy. New York had already sent the Chicago PD a wire mentioning that the son of one of their greatest gangsters might be in town. Now there Jimmy was, right in front of the officer, but he hadn't done anything illegal. On the contrary, he'd just performed a public service.

The Enforcers finally left the terminal at eleven.

"So," Ben muttered, "I guess it's back to the hotel-"

"Wouldn't get too cozy, Benny. We move out tomorrow," Jimmy replied. "I have a friend who's hookin' us on up with a nice pair o' apartments. Best complex in the city."

"Swell. Look, Jimmy- Are we even going to be able to afford it? Our second case has been almost as big a bust as our first one-"

"We'll take care o' it, Benny. We'll take care o' it. And if you ask me," Jimmy-Six said, "Hey, this was a success."

Not far away, however, another plane had recently landed. Peter Parker had arrived in Chicago, courtesy of the Manhattan Report, to follow a lead. His true lead was in another case, however: A case of his alter-ego, the Astonishing Spider-Man! He barely heard the captain and stewardess at the door wish him a good day as he disembarked. He was too busy thinking.

'Chicago. Wish I could stay and see the sights,' Peter thought. 'But this trip is going to have to be all-business if I'm going to get done what I have to do, both as Peter Parker and as Spider-Man. I guess first mark on the list is to find the address of Mendella's chemical company. I should be in luck. A well-known president and scientist like Mendella should have his works in nothing more than a plain ol' phone book. I'll just find the nearest one and look him up.'

He left the terminal (he'd brought no luggage) and moved for the line of phones, thinking: 'Come to think of it, maybe I should count my blessings. Finding my other enemies is usually a lot harder than this. Heck, Mendella might even be in the 'M's- Hey, waitasec. Who's that over there? His back's turned towards me, but- Is that-?!'

"I don't believe it," he whispered, and then to the blond-haired figure he shouted: "Ben!"

Across a crowd of people, the clone of Peter Parker heard his assumed name called out by a voice exactly like his own. He froze, looked at a puzzled Jimmy-Six, and then turned around. "Oh no."

Jimmy frowned. "Someone calling you-"

"It's Peter," Ben said, without explaining further to his confused partner. "He found me!"

Ben Reilly stood as his mind raced. His first impulse was to hide and run away, but somehow, he couldn't. Maybe it was his sense of responsibility that kept him from doing so. All he knew was that at that moment, he felt he had a need inside of him, an urge to clear his conscience and confront his brother. He owed Peter an explanation- Didn't he?

By the time Ben had emerged from thought, however, it was too late to choose. Peter had used the time to catch up to him. "Ben? Ben, how are you? You left and-!"

"I'm fine," Ben said quietly. He looked to the big man beside him. "Peter, this is- er, Jimmy, my business partner. Jimmy, this is Peter Parker, my- cousin."

"Nice to meet you," Jimmy said, extending a large hand.

Peter shook it and Jimmy turned around. He'd seen the look on Ben's face. Something was personal, so he'd keep out of it. He simply began to lead them silently toward the exit.

"Ben, listen-" Peter said. "We gotta talk. You left so suddenly-"

"I know," Ben interrupted. "And there's a reason for it. But I can't tell you right now. How long are you in town, Peter?"

"Just for the day," Peter replied. "I'm- er, working with Matt Murdock on a case."

"Matt Murdock? The lawyer?" Ben asked.

"He called in a favor, so to speak."

"Sure." Ben pulled a piece of paper out and wrote down the hotel address and room number. "Listen, we can talk tonight. This is my hotel room. We can meet anytime after seven."

"Fine, Ben. Deal," Peter replied. He accepted the paper, not too sure what to make of it, or really what to say. "See you then, I guess?"

But Ben Reilly was already walking away, his burly partner at his side. Peter shook his head and put the number away, feeling a dozen new questions in his head. But they'd be resolved later that night- Wouldn't they? He hoped so. He wanted to know what had made Ben leave so quickly. They'd finally been connecting, and Ben had been making a life for himself-

Peter Parker turned around and walked back to the line of phones. He'd find out that night. For the moment, he could concentrate on something else. Peter ran his finger through the White Pages in the phone book. He had been hoping for much greater luck than he'd dared, perhaps a personal address for the drug researcher, but there was no such luck.

He turned to the Yellow Pages and flipped through until he found Pharmaceuticals.

'Come on, come on,' he thought-

Bingo. His finger ran over, stopped on, and stabbed "Mendella Pharmaceuticals, Inc." He reached to tear the page of the phone book out, then stopped. He was, after all, a superhero, he thought with a smile, and a protector of Society and its property. He wrote the address and number down and closed the unspoiled phone book, then began to look for a place to change into his red and blue costume.

It was time for Spider-Man to pay a visit to Doctor Vincent Mendella, the man who had framed him for murder in New York City.


"Um- Excuse me? Um, S-Sir? Sir?"

With the help of a map of Chicago after changing, it hadn't taken Spider-Man long to webswing through the city to the location of Mendella's building. It was a nice, sleek-looking structure, two stories high, located on the west side of the city.

"Sir! Sir!"

He had also figured the best way to get to Mendella would be to walk in the front door.

"Stop!"

When he entered, he ignored the receptionist.

Just like he ignored the door sign marked "AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY". Spider-Man was vaguely aware that the receptionist was picking up the phone and dialing security. Good, he suddenly thought as he looked at the dozen doors of the new hall he was in. It looked like he was going to need the guides. He took several more experimental steps through the off-limits area.

His spider-sense tingled. Spider-Man ignored it. Immediately, two burly, uniformed guards appeared from either side of him. Each one grabbed one of his arms, holding him tightly, and Spider-Man allowed himself to be stopped.

"What's the matter?" one asked. "Can't read?"

"You kiddin', Chuckles?" Spider-Man asked. "I'm a proud graduate of 'Hooked On Phonics', I am. I just wanted to talk to your boss. I kinda figured this was the easiest way to get to him. What's the matter? Was I wrong?"

"Real wrong. I know who you are, Pal, but even Captain America ain't getting in here without-"

"-knocking your lights out first? Listen, Guys, I don't want to have to do that, and you both know I could. I can lift a car. You're not going to be much trouble. Now I just want to know where Mendella's at-"

"He's not here," the first guard said.

"Strike one, Bud. Now don't feed me that line. I know he came to Chicago. I followed him here," Spider-Man said. It was a bit of a bluff, but they didn't look too bright anyway. "I want to talk to him about a little something called- Well, heck. It's not like he probably keeps you guys updated on his evil schemes. I'll just say it again: Where's Mendella?"

The guards looked at each other. Spider-Man smiled under his mask. He could almost hear the gears working in their heads. They had to know he was right. They weren't a match for him. If they were intimidated enough-

The second guard sighed. "You need to go to the third floor."

"Is that where the good Doctor Mendella is?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that's where he is."

"Oh, good! I guessed right!" Spider-Man said. "Now what do I get for winning? Well, heck. Tell you what: I'm so excited I'll just give you guys something."

The next sound was a loud 'thwip', followed by the curses of the guards who were pinned to the walls by the gray adhesive Spider-Man liked to call his Webbing. Spider-Man moved past them, tipping an imaginary hat as he did. "Thanks again, Guys. You've been great."

And with that, Spider-Man ran for the stairs. Once within the stairwell he fired a new strand of webbing directly upwards, attaching it to the ceiling three floors higher. He grabbed it, test-pulled, and them climbed. It was easier than exhausting his little legs on all those stairs, after all.

On the third floor, he leaped off his webline and through the door, entering his final destination: A well-lit hall with a nice Persian carpet. There were only a few doors, each with a name on a gold plaque. It had to be the floor for executive offices.

He walked down the hall and read the names as he went. Vincent Mendella's was the last one in the line. He smiled. Now, how to enter? Well-

The door broke into fifty pieces. Spider-Man stepped inside.

Folded his arms. "Yoohoo. Doctor Mendella? Is there a doctor in the house?"

An ashen-faced Doctor Vincent Mendella had been sitting in a large armchair, facing the window behind his desk and talking on the phone, when Spider-Man took his first step inside. He spun around with wide eyes and a slackened jaw. It took several moments for him to regain composure and remember that he had a phone in hand.

"Harry? I'll- I'll get back to you," he quicky told the person on the other end. He hung up.

"Time to come clean, Doc. You've been a pretty bad boy."

"I- I haven't done anything," Mendella slowly said. "Why are you-? You have no proof-!"

"Save it, Doc. I know who your father was: The late Doctor Mendella, creator of the Death's Arrow drug. And I know what you've done with your newly-designed version of that drug. I got the whole story from the guy who hired you: The Kingpin of Crime himself. He's washing his hands of you, now that we're onto everything."

"I'm a respected-"

"Maybe you were, Doc, but I'd say that ended the day you decided to follow in your father's footsteps. And I definitely know it ended the day you injected my pal Daredevil with that mind and body-altering crud of yours. Now are you coming quietly or- Whoops!"

Mendella's hand had been reaching for a button, just underneath his desk. A small gob of webbing stopped him, gluing his hand to the wood. Spider-Man said: "Answered my question. Just sit tight, Doc. While I'd love to find out what kind of deadly booby traps or henchmen you've bought with all your dirty money, I think we should just wait for the Chicago police."

"You- You have no right!" Mendella cried. He was finally panicking. "There's no charge!"

"Sure is. Possession of Illegal Substances," the Webslinger smiled under his mask. "Come on, Doctor. That part was easy. Once the police obtain samples of the Death's Arrow you have stored here, they'll be able to analyze it. Now how much do you want to bet that Death's Arrow composition, with all of its mind and body hazards, will qualify as an illegal narcotic?"

"No! No! You- I'll- It's not fair! This isn't how it was supposed to be," the doctor whimpered. His other hand reached for a drawer and was immediately webbed, just like the first time. Spider-Man leaped forward onto the desk surface and opened it, revealing the hand gun.

"Let's just take that away," he said. The doctor slumped to the floor- sobbing. The vigilante took a seat near the pen holders. "You know, Doctor, I've gotta hand it to you. It wasn't a bad scheme. And as these things go, this entire finale has been downright pleasant. Most of my enemies don't go so gently into the night. Oops! Here come the police! Thanks for playing, Doctor, but I guess you played your hand before you were ready for the Big Leagues."

Spider-Man leaped off the desk as the policemen stormed in. "Heck, you're not even your father. And that, Doc, in my opinion, is one heck of an insult. He's all yours, Captain."

"Gotta hand it to you, Spider-Man," the policeman said. "We've been trying to get Mendella for months. And here you blow in from New York for a day and take care of it for us. If you ever want to move over here, I'll try to get you the respect you deserve!"

"Thanks, Captain," Spider-Man said, walking through the burst doorway. "But your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man isn't changing neighborhoods right now. I appreciate the offer, though. Maybe we can be pen pals. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a few things to do."

'Like a photo assignment for the Report,' Spider-Man thought as he stepped out into the sun. 'And my meeting with Ben. That should be interesting. Well, hopefully, both of those things will go as easily as my beating Mendella. If they do, all told, this will have been a pretty pleasant trip!'


It was after seven. Before Peter Parker, the Excelsior Hotel reared up into the Chicago Sky, one of the most posh places he'd ever seen. He entered the lobby and then the gold elevator. The platform rose. A ding later, he was walking through a hall way, looking for the right room number. Finally, he found it, and knocked.

The door immediately opened to reveal a dressed, ready-to-go, and very serious Ben Reilly.

"Come on, Peter," he said. "Let's go. I'll walk you back to your hotel."


Later, the two were on the sidewalks, moving among the people. So far, both had been silent.

"So, how did your case go?" Ben asked.

"It's over on my end," Peter said. "Now it's up to Matt to tie up the loose ends in New York."

More silence. They jogged across a street crossing together and reached the other side. Ahead, Peter Parker's own, far more drab hotel sat, an ugly sight. It wasn’t until they entered the elevator that Peter talked again. This time, he was to the point.

"So, what happened?" Peter asked. "You leave, I find you in Chicago. You're dressing in Armani suits now with silk ties. What gives?"

Ben sighed. "Listen, Pete- Well, I guess I'll start where I should. I'm sorry I ran out on you in New York. I'm sorry I ran out on everyone. You, Desiree- Everyone at the Daily Grind. Everyone. But I had to do it. I realized Peter, for the final time, something obvious: We can't coexist in the same city."

"That's not true, Ben. We've been over that and-"

"I keep hurting you, Peter."

"We haven't had a problem since-!"

"Not that you've known about," Ben said slowly.

"What?" Ding. The elevator stopped. Peter stepped out, but Ben remained inside.

Ben took a deep breath. "Peter, it's- about Mary Jane."

"Mary Jane? What about Mary Jane?"

"Remember that night you were in the sewer?" Ben asked.

Peter gave a grin. "Which night of my life are we referring to?"

"Peter! Please! No jokes. Not right now. I'm talking about your being in the sewers literally. When that new super-maniac, 'Legerdemain', broke out into Central Park with some big robot. Remember, Peter?" Ben asked.

He continued: "Well, you were gone all night, and- Mary Jane was worrying about you again, big time. So was I. From what the news cameras showed, it looked like you'd just been totally pulped. I was even thinking it might've been the end. But MJ- I don't like to see MJ worry, Peter. I know how much she means to you. Heck- She means a lot to me. So I tried to stop it."

"Huh?"

"I washed the dye out of my hair and went over pretending to be you."

Peter's eyes widened. "You did what?"

Ben's eyes hardened. "I just meant to be there for an hour or so. But something happened. Peter- She was so glad to see you. She- I don't even clearly remember. Most of the night- it's a blur. But the next morning-" He closed his eyes. "I woke up in your bed. With her beside me."

"W-What?" Peter said. "Are you- Ben, are you telling me you slept with- my wife?"

Ben hung his head. "I'm sorry, Peter-"

"Sorry?! Sorry?! You're-! That's the best you can do?" Peter shouted. His fists clenched. In a blur, Peter was on him-! "You sleep with my wife and then run away-!"

"Peter- Ngh!" The blow knocked Ben Reilly fully back into the elevator. Peter might have continued after that. But then, just when it seemed there might truly be a beating, a loud click was heard. Peter turned to see the large form of Jimmy, Ben Reilly's new partner, holding a shotgun.

"Don't try," the big man said. "I'm good."

"Ben!" Peter growled, but Ben Reilly was standing again, even as Jimmy joined him inside the elevator. The two men stood together, as Ben reached out to hit the button for the lobby.

"Now you understand, Peter," Ben said, rubbing his jaw. "I just thought- that it would be best for all of us. I didn't want to cause any more harm. I was hoping you wouldn't find me so that I wouldn't have to tell, but when I saw you this afternoon, that overwhelming sense of responsibility hit me over the head. You know the one. I'm sorry, Peter."

The elevator doors began to close. Ben straightened his new, silk tie. "I truly am sorry. I won't be bothering you anymore. I have a new life now, here in Chicago, with Jimmy. I'm an Enforcer. And I'm no longer your worry. But I do hope- Someday, you might forgive me. Goodbye, Pete. Thanks for the memories. Literally."

Ding. The elevator closed and descended. Peter stood alone. Tomorrow morning, he would be leaving for New York City, with a whole new load on his mind.


New York City, the next morning. At the courthouse, a hearing was coming to a close. The court stood as the Judge read a sentencing in the case of Liz Osborn.

"After hearing all of the testimony," the judge said, "I have decided that Miss Osborn no longer presents a threat to Society. The actions she undertook, it is this court's opinion, were not taken in a rational state of mind. Liz Osborn's child was in danger. Now that her son is returned to her, I trust that Liz Osborn will continue her exemplary record as an upstanding citizen. I am commuting her sentence to time served. Miss Osborn- You are free to go."

A bang of the gavel meant Freedom. A teary-eyed Liz Osborn jumped for joy. She hugged Franklin Nelson, her boyfriend and lawyer, then her cousin. Last but certainly not least, she turned to the miniature version of her deceased husband running down the aisle.

"Mommy!" her son Normie said. Liz scooped him up. Her words to him were as comforting to her as they could ever be to her son.

"Everything's good now, Pum'kin," she said. "Everything's fine. We can go home."


He had been invited to the celebration of Liz's release, but he'd had to decline. Peter knew that if he was going to get a paycheck in time to help pay for his house utilities, he had to get to Stanley King's apartment immediately. The editor of the 'Spider-Man Fanzine' was going to want to see his pictures. And considering the Daily Bugle had stopped buying them, thank God for that.

He arrived at the proper door and knocked.

"Who is it?" the voice on the other side yelled.

"Peter Parker, Sir. I have some pictures of Spider-Man in Chicago. May I come in?"

"The door's open!"

Peter walked in and made his way through the apartment, to the room that Stanley King used as his office. He entered the room and for the second time in twenty-four hours, stood absolutely shocked. Stanley King was where Peter had figured he would be, behind his desk, but there was a guest in the visitor's chair: Peter Parker's ex-editor at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson himself, puffing away at his cigar.

"Jonah?!" Peter cried. "What are you doing here?!"

"It's pretty simple, Mister Parker: Mister Jameson here is my business partner!" Stanley King said with a smile. "He owns half of the publishing company that prints my fanzine."

"And you own the other half?"

"Give the man the grand prize, Stanley," Jonah huffed, smoking away. "The traitor's smart."

Peter was reeling, but something within him allowed him an anchor. He had come to sell his photos. Jonah wasn't buying them anymore. "I came to Stanley because he'll buy them, Jonah. It wasn't my decision. If the Daily Bugle hadn't stopped-"

"Parker," Jonah interrupted. "There was a reason we stopped buying Spider-Man photos!"

"Why?"

Now Jonah sighed. His cheeks turned red. "Because, Parker, I wanted your exclusive photos for this fanzine. And- And maybe I figured it was possible we could use your connection with Spider-Man t'get him to endorse it."

For a moment, Peter was stunned.

Then he was laughing. "I don't believe it! J. Jonah Jameson! Now a Spider-Man fan? A publisher of the magazine? I don't believe it! You really have mellowed in your old age!"

"Start blabbing it around and I'll kill you."

"Oh, sure, Jonah. I promise. But hey, since I'm here, why don't I just give you some Spider-Man pictures? Since it seems you're busy in a little editor's meeting, it might help to have an idea of some of the pictures you might be publishing in the next edition."

"Fine," Jameson growled. "It's a deal. Stanley's already given you a rate. Leave the photos and get outta here. We have some paperwork to finish up."

"Whatever, Jonah," Peter said with a smile. He placed the packet on the desk and turned around. "I'll see both of you later. And I promise to talk to Spider-Man about the endorsement!"

Stanley and Jonah were alone again. Stanley picked up a pile of papers and began sorting through them. "Actually, Jonah, it's a good thing he stopped by. We haven't even settled on a theme for the next issue. Maybe Peter's photos will help."

Jonah thought about that, mumbled that the photos might help. He sighed, puffing on his cigar a little more, and then reached for the packet of pictures. It was just then that Stanley King's office window was tapped several times. Then it was opened. Then entered the Astonishing Spider-Man.

"Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle if my brother ever has a child!" Spider-Man said. "Peter told me about the fanzine, which was weirdness in itself- But with J. Jonah Jameson at the helm? Pinch me! I'm in an episode of the Twilight Zone, aren't I? Or is this one of those shows where a guy with a television camera pops up and a host cries 'Gotcha'?""

"Hmmp!" Jameson grunted. "If only it were, you little smart-lipped tights-wearer!"

"Now that's the Jonah I know and love. Which is why I think I'll just talk to Stanley over here," Spider-Man said. He looked to the editor. "Mr. King, I was informed of your fine publication just after you first hired Peter. Mr. Parker told me that you might actually be hoping for an endorsement from Little Old Me?"

"If that is possible," Stanley said.

"Well, I'd be happy to endorse your wonderful little periodical!" Spider-Man laughed. "But, I'm afraid I'll only do it under one condition, Guys."

"What's that?"

"You change the name to the 'SPIDER-MAN MAGAZINE'," Spider-Man said. "Deal?"

Stanley and Jonah spoke together. "Deal!"


It was a slightly awkard hug to end a slightly awkward day. As he entered the house, Peter Parker was immediately embraced, as always, by his beautiful wife. But as they kissed and pulled each other close, Peter's thoughts immediately returned to something he had almost been able to forget about, after the episode with Jonah: What Ben had told him, not even twenty-four hours ago in Chicago.

She reentered the kitchen to start dinner. Peter, exhausted after the week's events, fell onto the couch. He heard Mary Jane call to him from the other room: "Hon, a letter came for you from Matt. I think it's about your case."

He found it. He read it. It was a simple letter, short and to the point: "Peter, everything's taken care of. Exoneration complete. Good work in Chicago. -Matt."

But it did what it needed to do: It allowed Peter Parker, once again, to breathe easy. Perhaps, actually, to breathe even more easily than he had in some time. He folded the note and put it away. In the kitchen, he could just see Mary Jane, singing quietly to herself as she fixed a welcome-home dinner for him.

Amazing, he thought as he turned, now looking out the window. He could just make out New York City, from there. From Mary Jane's point of view, he could see what there was to smile about. It must have looked like they had never been better. She had a new, steady job, as did he, as the only photographer who could supply a steady stream of photos for the 'Spider-Man Magazine'. They had a car, for the first time in- well, they'd never had a car. He'd just been cleared of all false murder charges.

But she didn't know everything (nor would she ever know, he decided). She didn't know she'd been violated, by the man he'd tried to trust, his own genetic double. The same man who had saved his life. The man who had shared his responsibilities, who had exiled himself from his entire life after-

Ben Reilly. His brother.

The next words Peter Parker whispered were hard, even if the man who they were meant for couldn't hear them, being all the way in Chicago. He said them anyhow as the love of his life entered with steaming dinner.

"I forgive you, Ben. I forgive you," Peter said.

"What's that, Tiger?"

"Nothing, Mary Jane," he said. He rose in a flash and kissed her. "Nothing."

Maximum Vengeance Brought To You By Chip Caroon & Ben Kaine. The End.


NEXT: As our new regular writer prepares to begin a new era in the life of our Astonishing Arachnid, your own humble Spider-Editor fills in for our next incredible issue! It's Ben Kaine with a little story we can only call: "Astonishing Acts"! See you soon, New Believers!
WRITER'S NOTES

Dear Readers:

And so ends my last issue. I apologize for this six-issue arc to take over a year to complete, but I hope it was worth it.

The last six issues have been an interesting experience for me. Believe it or not, the majority of this storyline was written with an incredible case of writer's block. Getting some issues out was like pulling teeth. But now it is done, and all of the loose ends are tied up from the last couple of runs. Looking back, writing Astonishing Spider-Man has been an enjoyable experience.

Once more, I thank Ben Kaine. First for his kind words a couple of issues ago, and second for being the kind of editor he is. He really improved the story as a whole, and suggested ways to get out of any problems that arose.

And now, I can get back to writing my other Spider-Man series at DC/Marvel: The Merging (http://dcmarvel.cjb.net). It's not quite the same, but it's a lot of fun. You never know what to expect next. (Yeah, I know, shameless plug.)

-Chip Caroon
Writer of New Marvel's The Astonishing Spider-Man # 16-21