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The Amazing Spider-Man – The Gauntlet: The Juggernaut – Something Can Stop the Juggernaut (Review/Retrospective)

This April, to celebrate the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we are taking a look at some classic and modern comics featuring Spider-Man (and friends). Check back daily for the latest review.

Something Can Stop the Juggernaut is a bit of an oddity in the grand scheme of The Gauntlet, if not the larger scheme of Brand New Day. One of the stated goals of Brand New Day was to present readers with a thoroughly modernised version of Spider-Man, an iteration of the character who had been distilled to his purest essence, unburdened by the weight of decades of character development and continuity.

As the “new” in Brand New Day suggests, a large part of the editorial stance on Brand New Day was the opportunity to do something novel with The Amazing Spider-Man. It was a conscious break with the old, and an attempt to push the character in new directions. After all, the early issues made an effort to shuffle new characters into the established ensemble and to feature new villains and threats for our hero to face.

Leaping into action...

Leaping into action…

(To the point where the emphasis on classic foes was one of the selling points of The Gauntlet – a sense that the comics were finally trying to bring many of these iconic baddies into the twenty-first century alongside a reinvigorated and re-energised Spider-Man. Indeed, it’s interesting how much of The Gauntlet makes a point to reference or mirror Peter’s continuity reset into Brand New Day. Much like Peter in One More Day, many of his classic foes lose their new-found families to reset them to villainy, except without the benefit of a magical reset button at the end.)

So drawing back in celebrated creator Roger Stern to craft a sequel to a beloved eighties Amazing Spider-Man story feels rather surreal. The three-part Something Can Stop the Juggernaut exists as an explicit to Stern’s deservedly beloved classic Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut, right down to classic flashbacks to the comic, follow-up references to various characters, and the fact that events spiral from that story.

Spidey is a little tied up...

Spidey is a little tied up…

Something Can Stop the Juggernaut is crafted as a celebration of vintage Spider-Man, which works very well in the context of The Gauntlet. As the on-going epic spirals towards its climax in Shed and Grim Hunt, it’s nice to hace a reminder of a classic Spider-Man story. After all, Grim Hunt makes a point to stress the perfection of another classic Spider-Man story, albeit in a very different way.

Something Can Stop the Juggernaut seems to exists to assure readers that the legacy and history of Spider-Man is still valid and meaningful, not rendered moot by the continuity-tinkering shennanigans of One More Day.

The Juggernaut who fell to Earth...

The Juggernaut who fell to Earth…

Continuity is a tricky thing to balance. As stories steeped in decades of mythology, comic books tend to build up a certain amount of continuity. And it’s very tough to offset the need to push forward with the need to acknowledge what came before. After all, too much novelty – too heavy a departure from what came before – can leave a comic book feeling disconnected from its roots. At the same time, stories that lean too heavily on plot points reaching back decades often feel a little insular and a little esoteric.

If there is a problem with Something Can Stop the Juggernaut, it’s the fact that the comic is leaden down with references to what came before. The comic practically wallows in the history that it presents. Offering another encounter between Spider-Man and the Juggernaut, we get a few panels helpfully contextualising their history. Each panel is meticulously and precisely dated, making it clear that that Something Can Stop the Juggernaut traces its roots to the early eighties.

On top of things...

On top of things…

However, it isn’t just the classic Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut that merits a mention. We get flashbacks to Marvel Team-Up and Kurt Busiek’s Avengers run as well – each footnoted and identified for the reader. In fact, Stern isn’t just drawing on the shared history between Peter Parker and Cain Marko, he is drawing on some other classic Spider-Man plot points. Most obviously, the plot sees Spider-Man meeting the new Captain Universe, acknowledging the power he briefly held during the eighties. (Most notably during the whole Acts of Vengeance crossover.)

There is a story at the heart of Something Can Stop the Juggernaut, and it’s a good one. Stern is effectively telling the story of a person who has watched their lives torn apart by powers beyond their control. The new Captain Universe is an anonymous extra from Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut who watched the clash of the titans destroy everything he held dear. His life was destroyed against the backdrop of a comic in which he didn’t register.



It’s a fairly nice hook – a reminder that superhero battles have a scale beyond our costumed characters – and it plays into the larger themes of The Gauntlet as a whole. Like so many characters in the saga, the new Captain Universe lost everything; and made a bad choice as a result. It’s a lovely story, and a nice reminder that not all superheroes adhere to the classic Amazing Spider-Man mantra about the relationship between power and responsibility.

Indeed, the climax of Something Can Stop the Juggernaut sees both the Juggernaut and Captain Universe bickering over about how life is unfair. “Yeah, so your life sucked,” the Juggernaut exclaims. “Big deal!” Captain Universe replies, “It was a big deal. A very big deal! It was my life!” In a way, it’s a nice reminder of the sort of intimate scale that makes The Amazing Spider-Man so compelling – it’s very much a comic rooted in the personal.

Ride along...

Ride along…

Naturally, the Juggernaut points out that Captain Universe isn’t the only character who ever had a run of bad luck. “Think you’re the only one who–?” he demands. During all of this, Spider-Man is cast as negotiator, trying to keep both sides calm. He doesn’t share his own tragic back story, or the bad luck leading to it. Instead, he focuses on trying to do the right thing, which is very much the essence of his character. “But you are a fool for trying to protect the Juggernaut,” Captain Universe taunts Spider-Man. “He’s tried to kill you.” Maybe he’s right – but Spider-Man simply works that way. He does the right thing.

The biggest problem with Something Can Stop the Juggernaut is that this is a story that could easily be told across an issue – or even two. Quite a lot of Something Can Stop the Juggernaut is eaten up by flashbacks and remembrances and references, with the three-issue story arc feeling like a nostalgic tribute to times long past. This makes a great deal of sense in context, but it doesn’t help the flow of the story itself.

He's practically flying...

He’s practically flying…

History feels very much like the name of the game here, and there’s a sense that it’s a major part of Something Can Stop the Juggernaut. It has been positioned before the climax of The Gauntlet for a reason. Both writer Roger Stern and artist Lee Weeks are established comic book veterans. Weeks has been working since the eighties and really established himself with an early nineties run on Daredevil. Stern has been working since the seventies, part of Marvel’s “third wave.”

This should not – emphatically not – be taken as any diminishing or reductive statement about Stern or Weeks’ talent. Both are absolutely wonderful creators. In particular, Marvel recently collected a lovely hardcover omnibus of Stern’s work on The Amazing Spider-Man that serves as a reminder of his skill writing the character. Like his contemporary Chris Claremont, Stern is still consistently producing work for Marvel, demonstrating he can keep pace with modern publishing.

The Juggernaut struggles to keep his head...

The Juggernaut struggles to keep his head…

Similarly, Lee Weeks’ artwork remains superb. Again, Weeks remains an artist who has worked with Marvel quite frequently – earning a great deal of praise for that work. Certainly, his artwork on Something Can Stop the Juggernaut measures up against any other artist featured in The Gauntlet. It is simply that the choice of creative team on Something Can Stop the Juggernaut is very much a “classic” team, particularly when compared to some of the “web-heads” rotating on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Stern’s script plays up this sense of nostalgia, peppering the three-issue story with references to vintage Spider-Man. The opening pages see Peter reflecting on his “wonder years.” Even as he tries to juggle a relationship with new character Charlie Cooper, his mind drifts back to the earliest days of his superheroic career. “I wish Charlie Cooper had been around when I was in high school,” he reflects. “I really needed a friend like her back then…!” Peter even returns to his apartment to find I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For playing, to reinforce the vintage eighties vibe.

Walking it off...

Walking it off…

It’s also interesting that Something Can Stop the Juggernaut is clearly written as an optimistic little story. Despite the fact that Peter is officially unemployed, he is still able to get close to the Juggernaut’s crash site. “Police can be so reasonable if you make nice… and aren’t wearing a mask,” he explains. Of course, it seems like even that cynicism is unfair. Later in the same issue, the police are happy to assist Spider-Man as he lowers a car to street level. “Give ‘im room. Lots of room.”

More than that, though, Something Can Stop the Juggernaut actually has a happy ending. Barring Rage of the Rhino, which is little more than a clever feint, this is the only part of The Gauntlet to end on a happy note. Nobody dies. New York is safe. The Juggernaut apologises for the mindless destruction he cause. While the new Captain Universe doesn’t get to hold on to his powers, he does avoid prison; and he gets some fame as part of the bargain. This is very much Spider-Man’s biggest “win” in quite some time.

Can't hold a good Juggernaut down...

Can’t hold a good Juggernaut down…

This is all important in the context of The Gauntlet. The Gauntlet is building towards Grim Hunt. Like Something Can Stop the Juggernaut, Grim Hunt is effectively a sequel to a beloved eighties story that makes a point to involve the original writer. Both stories draw attention to that connection, depending quite heavily on established continuity. However, while Something Can Stop the Juggernaut seems to suggest that past stories weren’t always as clean as they might seem, Grim Hunt argues that the flip side of the equation – that Spider-Man comics can only get so dark as long as they are built around the central character.

With both Shed and Grim Hunt plunging Peter Parker into the heart of darkness, it makes sense for something like Something Can Stop the Juggernaut to break the tension. Without any reference to the Kravinoffs, it allows us to get an idea of how a typical Spider-Man story tends to go; Peter’s decency and empathy are enough to help prevent things from getting too out of hand. It serves as an effective contrast with Shed and Grim Hunt, where it seems like the narrative is being subverted and picked apart.

Has Cain Marko amounted to (Jugger)naut?

Has Cain Marko amounted to (Jugger)naut?

Something Can Stop the Juggernaut often feels a little bit too light, a little bit too reliant on continuity and references and what came before, but it’s still an effective little story that serves a pretty essential function in the larger context of The Gauntlet. It’s a story that is very much about history and legacy, one that exists to assure us that while circumstances may change, Peter Parker is really the same fundamental character that he always was.

You might be interested in our other reviews of The Gauntlet and Grim Hunt:


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