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Quote1 But maybe the only real way to honor the dead is by making the most of your life, whether it lasts a few fleeting years... ...or a swiftly-elapsed century. I'll give it a shot, Uncle Ben. For you. Quote2
-- Spider-Man

Appearing in "The Way to Dusty Death"

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  • Bus
  • Train

Synopsis for "The Way to Dusty Death"

Spider-Man is brooding on the Queensboro Bridge, trying to delay the inevitable visit he needs to make to the grave of his Uncle Ben.[Continuity 1] However, this only reminds him of the George Washington Bridge where his first love, Gwen Stacy, had died.[Continuity 2] His thoughts are interrupted when he sees an attractive woman on the walkway. He watches in horror as the woman suddenly jumps off the bridge. Spider-Man swings down, thinking about how he couldn't save Gwen. Fortunately, this time, he swings down and snatches the woman before she can hit the water. The woman struggles to get free because she wants to die, but Spider-Man refuses to let her throw her life away.[Continuity 3] Spider-Man leaps back onto the bridge with the woman, interrupting the flow of traffic. It's then that Spider-Man finally recognizes the woman. It is Melinda Morrison, a woman that he and the Scarlet Witch had saved from Xandu.[Continuity 4] Melinda asks the wall-crawler if he actually saved her, turning his attention to a mystical portal that is opening up behind them. From within, are a number of demons from the Death Dimension that are coming through to collect Melinda. Spider-Man tells Melinda to run while he holds the demons back. He recognizes these as the demons that took Xandu in exchange for Melinda and suspects they make take him`in her place this time.

Meanwhile, Melinda tries to toss herself into the path of an oncoming truck. Before she can do the deed, she is saved by Doctor Strange who then places her in an invisible mystical sphere to keep her safe. He then turns his attention to the demons that Spider-Man is fighting. He asks Spider-Man to leap up into the air about 20 feet while he casts a spell that banishes the demons back to where they came from. Doctor Strange then takes Spider-Man and Melinda back to his Sanctum Sanctorum. There he suspends Melinda in some mist so he and Spider-Man can compare notes. Doctor Strange uses his Eye of Agamotto to examine Melinda and discovers that she is alive, which is surprising as the last time he saw her she was dead. Looking in a display case, Spider-Man sees that Doctor Strange has required the Crystal of Kadavus as well as the Wand of Watoomb. When the wall-crawler reaches out to the Wand, he is jolted back by a protection spell. When he turns and sees Strange's new disciple Rintrah, he panics because he thinks it is one of the demons. However, he relaxes when Doctor Strange explains who Rintrah is. Strange then continues to probe Melinda's mind with the Eye of Agamotto in order to learn what brought her to the Queensboro Bridge that night. They see memories from a few years back when Xandu was younger. He used to entertain audiences in a used bookstore. They see how Melinda was part of the audience and how she was eventually seduced by Xandu. Things shift forward a number of years, and Melinda is now Xandu's apprentice. During a spell casting session, the mystical energies went out of control and struck her dead. Horrified, Xandu then used his magic to contain Melinda in a mystical shelter to preserve her until he could find a way to bring her back to life. Next they see all of Spider-Man's past encounters with Xandu and how Melinda was brought back from the dead. They then see that she was a woman out of time, finding out all of the things that have changed in the world since she was gone.[Continuity 5] When Melinda returned to her hometown, she discovered that her family had died off and her old classmates were now 25 years old than her.

Outside, Rintrah is on his way home when he is suddenly attacked by demons. Soon, Doctor Strange finishes his probe and concludes that Melinda is being drawn to death either to return to her eternal rest or Xandu or some other force is manipulating her. Before they can explore this further, the pair is suddenly ambushed by demons that come crashing in through the front door. When one of the demons strike Spider-Man, his soul is pushed out of his body and it is taken over by Xandu's spirit. Using his magical abilities, Xandu then engages Doctor Strange in the wall-crawler's body. As Spider-Man watches helplessly, Xandu blasts Doctor Strange aside, and while the Sorcerer Supreme is busy fending off the demons, Xandu reclaims the Wand of Watoom and absconds with Melinda's body. Recovering from the attack, Doctor Strange tells Spider-Man to remain calm and joins him in the astral plane. As they begin tracking down Xandu, they find Rintrah who is thankfully safe. As they continue along, Doctor Strange warns Spider-Man that if they don't get his soul back into his body within 24 hours he will cease to exist. Using his mystical powers, Doctor Strange is able to track Xandu and Melinda to Central Station, where Xandu uses the Wand of Watoomb to access a dimensional gateway. Melinda begs Xandu to let him die, but he intends to take her back with him to the Death Dimension with the Wand of Watomb so they can both rule it together.

That's when Doctor Strange and the spirit of Spider-Man arrive on the scene. While Doctor Strange battles with Xandu, Spider-Man is ordered to stop Melinda from entering the portal. When the wall-crawler's spirit tries to stop her, he discovers that she is in some kind of trance. Meanwhile, Xandu summons an army of demons to keep Doctor Strange busy while he continues his spell. As Melinda enters the portal, Spider-Man leaps in after her, despite Strange's protests. They pass through the dimensional barrier and find themselves in the Death Dimension. They are soon attacked by a demon, and after realizing that he is solid in this dimension and fights back against it. While he is busy with one demon, another grabs Melinda and takes it to a nearby castle constructed out of a massive skull. When Spider-Man follows after the demon, Spider-Man is shocked to discover both Gwen Stacy and his Uncle Ben waiting for him inside. While in the world of the living, Doctor Strange uses all his mystical might to destroy the demons that Xandu has summoned. The two enter into mystical combat against each other. Back in the Death Dimension, Spider-Man is accused by the apparitions before him. They both blame him for their deaths. When they suggest that Spider-Man die as well, he begins accepting this fate. However, these "spirits" reveal their true forms too late, and Spider-Man realizes that they are impostors and fights off their influence, wanting to live. His proclamation toward life causes the demons to drop their disguises and flee.

Traveling further through the castle, Spider-Man finds Melinda standing beside Xandu's physical body. Fighting past the demon guards, Spider-Man then enters Xandu's body taking possession of it. By this point, Xandu and Doctor Strange have fallen through the dimensional gateway and are now in the Death Dimension as well. When Spider-Man arrives in Xandu's body, Doctor Strange is able to cast a spell that returns their souls to their proper bodies. Suddenly, they are rocked by a tremor, which horrifies Doctor Strange. When he chastises Xandu for threatening Melinda's life, Xandu reveals that she has always been dead. That his attempts to bring her back to life have left her in a state of death that resembled sleep. Realizing that her continued existence in the land of the living would only serve to drive her mad, Xandu was attempting to bring her back to the Death Dimension so they could live together in peace. As the tremors increase, Doctor Strange casts some spells to confirm his worst fears: Xandu and Melinda's co-existence in the Death Dimension is causing an imbalance that threatens to rip the astral plane apart. In order to reverse this, one must be brought to the land of the living and the other must remain.

Xandu refuses to be separated from Melinda and takes the Wand of Watoomb and threatens to destroy the two heroes. However, Spider-Man manages to catch the mystical object in his webbing and smash it on the ground. Since Melinda now has control over the Death Dimension, Doctor Strange orders her to scream as loudly as she can. As she does so, she sends Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and Xandu back to the realm of the living. In the aftermath of the battle, Xandu is a near catatonic state after once more losing the love of his life. Doctor Strange assures Spider-Man that he will deal with Xandu and the wall-crawler departs. With the battle over, Spider-Man heads to Queens so he can finally pay respect at Uncle Ben's grave.

Notes

Continuity Notes

  1. Peter's Uncle Ben was murdered by a burglar in Amazing Fantasy #15.
  2. Gwen Stacy was murdered by the Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man #121.
  3. Peter thinks about Mary Jane, whom he refers to as his wife. However, years later, their marriage was erased by the demon Mephisto in Amazing Spider-Man #545. As such they should be considered a common-law couple here.
  4. The narrative mentions Xandu's previous appearances to date, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, Marvel Team-Up #21, and Marvel Fanfare #6. It's in the latter story that Spider-Man and the Scarlet Witch faced Xandu.
  5. Some of the events that Melinda is stated to have missed out on are the presidency of Richard Nixon, the death of both John and Bobby Kennedy, and the entire Vietnam War. This should all be considered topical references per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616. Modern readers should interpret these events as happening 25 years prior to this story, but not set to any specific period in history.

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