Appearing in "“The Story of the Year!”"
- Grovel (First appearance) (Cameo)
- Hulk (Bruce Banner) (Photo)
- Homo superior (Mentioned)
- Nick Bandouveris (Mentioned)
- Graydon Creed (Mentioned)
- Ben Urich (Mentioned)
- Cannonball (Mentioned)
- Storm (Mentioned)
- Ken Ellis (Mentioned)
- Thunderbolts (Mentioned)
- Avengers (Mentioned)
- Blake Tower (Mentioned)
- Angela Yin (Mentioned)
- Evan Swann (Mentioned)
- National Security Council (Mentioned)
- Senator Robert Ralston (Mentioned)
- Senator Robert Kelly (Mentioned)
- Cable (Mentioned)
- Burglar (Only in flashback)
Synopsis for "“The Story of the Year!”"
The issue begins with a photograph of Spider-Man fighting the Hulk. J. Jonah Jameson instructs his staff to take a look at the picture. It manages to capture the whole story in a single image. It captures the pain, the pathos, the sound and fury, the rage, and the arrogance. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth two thousand. It was the story of the year.
But Jameson then dismisses the issue where the photo appears, saying that was last year's story. This year and this day are all about Mutants, Homo sapiens superior. An hour ago his staff saw the news on CNBC. At 7:00 PM, Operation: Zero Tolerance attacked the X-Men. When someone observes that according to the news the X-Men attacked first, Jameson rejects the report. He says that the first rule of journalism is to not believe what you see or hear from anyone else. Least of all from television news.
Jameson continues. He says he did not become publisher of one of the nation's largest-selling newspapers by reporting what he saw on T.V. As they are reporters, it is up to the Daily Bugle to get the story. That is the real story, not what some idiot with make-up and blow-dried hair tells us is the story. This means the Daily Bugle staff will do the research, will separate the fact from fiction, and make sure every word they print is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That, claims Jameson, is why he became publisher and that is what he lives or dies by.
Jameson admits that he would be happy if every super-powered yahoo in a mask and cape fell into an open volcano. But he says that Bastion is a lunatic and his internationally-endorsed Zero Tolerance is about something completely different. It is about witch hunts, scapegoating, and violating civil rights. He then informs them that reporter Nick Bandouveris disappeared when he got too close to the Operation's connection with Graydon Creed. He reminds them that Creed was a presidential candidate and they may want to note that he is dead now. He concludes that something about Bastion and his holy crusade stinks. They have gone this far and there is no reason to assume that they are going to stop. Nearby Joseph Robertson thinks about his evaluation of Jameson. The man may be an arrogant, hot-tempered, judgmental son-of-a-gun. But Jameson should be credited for standing up for what he believes in.
Jameson starts handing assignments. He informs them that Ben Urich is already on his way to Washington, D.C., to find out what the American elected officials are doing about the situation and why some of them support Bastion. Jameson knows the codenames of two captured X-Men, called Cannonball and Storm. They are being held somewhere by Bastion's men. He wants his staff to locate them.
Jameson wants Ken Ellis to get some reaction on this story. He should find the Thunderbolts, if they are at home. He then must head to Avengers Mansion to see if there is anyone of the Avengers still there. He should even squeeze a statement out of district attorney Blake Tower.
Jameson wants Angela Yin to contact with "egghead" Dr. Evan Swann at Empire State University. She should consult him on the authenticity of the Operation's satellite transmissions. He finds it a little too convenient that the images started only after the alleged attack of the X-Men. He comments that people are afraid of the X-Men and that is fine. He personally thinks that they should be afraid of them. But when he sees a military operation like this, he feels it is their duty to get all the facts. Various voices add their support to his statements, though no faces of the staff are seen.
Jameson ends the staff meeting and sends everyone on their way, reminding them that they have a newspaper to put out. He then asks "Robbie" (Joseph Robertson) for the location of photographer Peter Parker. Robertson explains that Parker is already on assignment. He has personally send him to get a photo of Henry Peter Gyrich, the special federal agent attached to superhuman activities. Jameson agrees with Robertson's initiative and says that is why he pays him the big money. Robertson says that they are going to need a new headline and asks Jameson for any preference. Jameson suggests: "Declaration of War".
The scene turns to Peter Parker, still in civilian clothes, who is walking on a wall. He take this assignment on Operation: Zero Tolerance personally. He thinks of the X-Men blasted out of the sky like common criminals, which he finds disturbing. He finds even worse the "awful lot" of people who are happy about it. They are so scared of mutants, that they automatically assume that all mutants are dangerous. If they stand for this now, what is next? He thinks of registration and relocation camps. He fears that they will come after him as well. What is the difference between being born with special powers and gaining them through radiation?
Parker locates Gyrich's car, comes down to street level, and silently waits for an opportunity to get a photo. A lowered car window allows him to get a clear photo of Gyrich from the distance. He thinks about Gyrich being a special agent of National Security Council and a mouthpiece for Zero Tolerance. Yet he notices that the man seems to depressed. He decides to change into Spider-Man and keep following "H.P.G."
Spidey knows that the X-Men are good people and can not stand around and watch while they are hunted down like animals. He is not unfamiliar with being hounded and called a menace. But he can at least take off his mask and just be Peter Parker. He can change identities whenever he wants. But what happens when one is born with wings or with an optic blast that fires every time he/she opens their eyes? That person can not even go to the grocery store without praying that nobody notices.
Suddenly, his Spider-sense goes wild, warning him about something. He immediately sees something moving underground fast, tearing up the street, much to the horror of the passers-by, heading right at Gyrich’s limo and knocking it over. Gyrich's bodyguards, Agent Boyd and Agent Mathers exit the wrecked vehicle and prepare to face the threat. They speak in robotic voices, indicating the duo consists of Prime Sentinels.
Spider-Man helps Gyrich out of the wrecked car and comments that his bodyguards do not seem to care about his safety. The attackers identify themselves as Marrow and Callisto, representatives of Homo superior. Since Operation: Zero tolerance effectively declared open season on mutants, the two of them hold its representative Gyrich personally accountable and want to assassinate him.
The scene changes to "somewhere far away". Gambit drinks water from a small lake, amidst a strange-looking wasteland. He notes that the X-Men were knocked off course by the mother of all spaceships. He notes that this is what he gets for being Gambit the X-Man, instead of Remy LeBeau the thief. All for wanting to repay a debt. He asks himself when will this debt be repaid and when will he get back to his own life. He then realizes he is not alone, as the water reflects the image of a horse-like figure. Grovel is standing right behind him.
The scene shifts back to the Daily Bugle. Jameson is talking on the phone with Senator Robert Ralston. He can't believe what he is hearing. Some Senators have thrown their support behind Bastion, a man with a messiah complex and no past. Ralston offers no comment on the situation. Jameson reveals that Bastion may have had one of Jameson's reporters killed (Nick Bandouveris). Ralston suggests that Jameson should speak to Senator Robert Kelly. Jameson replies that he already tried since the "mutant crisis" has always been his cause. But Kelly has been conspicuously silent during the current situation. On hearing Ralston's reply, Jameson gets angry. “Very eloquent, Senator. Can I quote you on that?” He threatens to vote the Republicans in the next election and hangs up the phone.
Jameson then notices that Bastion has entered his office and asks how. Bastion jokes that it is always questions with Jameson. Today Bastion has come to offer him answers. Jameson accuses him of trying to rule the world with his stormtroopers. Bastion claims he is not concerned with ruling the world, he is concerned with preserving it and keeping 3 billion of its human inhabitants safe from extinction. He offers Jameson a deal and tosses a data disc on Jonah’s desk. He suggests that Jameson should not speak too harshly before he sees what is on that disk.
The scene switches to Callisto, who is attacking Gyrich. She disagrees, however, with Marrow. They are not there to kill anyone, they only want their voices to be heard. Spider-Man stops her attack. He also suggests that if they want their voices heard, they should try reaching people through "talk radio". Callisto recognizes Spidey and insists that he should be fighting on their side, not against them. She points that, like them, Spidey knows what it feels like to be hated, hunted, and spat upon just for being different. Spidey replies that this is all the more reason to not give in to anger.
Marrow leaps into the air to evade attacks by the Agents. She disagrees with Callisto and her attempt to use words to get their point through. She insists that the time for words has passed. She adds that all that surface-dwellers understand is death. She throws four stake-shaped bones at Gyrich. Spider-Man uses his Web-Shooters and their fluid to stop the attack and rescue Gyrich's life. Marrow approaches the stunned Gyrich in an attempt to personally finish him. Spidey jumps at her to stop her from performing the act. He points that murdering Gyrich would not promote genetic harmony between the races.
Callisto is left alone. She contemplates that this is not going well and Marrow is getting out of control. When Sarah encountered Cable and Storm, Callisto thought she had been freed of her demons. Now Callisto fears that she had been deluding herself.
The Agents, fully transformed into Prime Sentinels approach Callisto. They say that their sub-programming has been triggered by the mutant attack. The two of them have become Prime Sentinels: Nimrod Battalion. They will serve as her executioners. Meanwhile police officers arrive and their arrival serves as a distraction for Spider-Man and Marrow. The Agents decide to take advantage of their lack of attention and fire at them.
Callisto tries to protect them, reasoning that she has witnessed too many deaths and lost too many of her own kind. She stands as a human shield and takes the blasts herself. This surprises Marrow. Gyrich realizes that Callisto is wounded but still breathing. Spidey hopes they can get her to a hospital. With a weak voice, Callisto urges them not to worry about her and end this now.
The scene shifts back to the Daily Bugle. Bastion explains that the disc includes all the available information he has managed to gather and decrypt on the outlaw X-Men and their associates. He is working on translating even more vital information. He tempts Jameson with being able to out the civilian identities of "the monsters" feared by the general public. He suggests that this is the story of the decade, Pulitzer Prize material. He wants Jameson to print it. Jameson contemplates the offer.
The scene turns back to the battle. The Agents realize their cover identities have been discredited. Their left with no alternative but to initiate their "scorched earth" program. Which involves eliminating all witnesses, including Gyrich. Marrow thinks that these "humans" are turning on their own kind and calls them vulgar. Spidey uses a "webbing shield" to protect himself and Gyrich but the Sentinels' blasts prove too strong for it. He starts trying to retreat, taking Gyrich with him.
He asks Gyrich if he knew that his bodyguards where some new form of Sentinels. Gyrich denies any knowledge and points that these two were considered two of their best agents. He realizes these were the same two agents who guarded Graydon Creed during his assassination.
Spidey and Marrow team-up to face the continued attack of the Agents. She asks why is he doing this, since this battle has nothing to do with him. He tells her that "a long time ago", he learned that with great power there must come great responsibility. Sarah finds this to be a foolish motto to live by. The Sentinels prepare to annihilate them, but they are soon shot full of bullets. Spidey and Marrow have been saved by Gyrich and the unnamed police officers.
Spidey thinks Gyrich has killed the Agents and seems shocked. Gyrich doubts if all this ammo was able to kill them. At best it should keep them down until his people arrive. He comments that these Sentinels were as much of a threat to public safety as the mutant they nearly terminated. Marrow takes this as an insult to Callisto and is enraged. She jumps in to attack him again. She claims that mutants spend years trying to hide and to fit it. But those days are over. A police officer comments that this is what they get for spending all their bullets on the Sentinels.
Spidey uses web-fluid to stop her and slam her into a nearby wall. He points to Marrow that her friend is hurt and he knows that this is bad. But Callisto was hurt trying to save Marrow's life. He will not stand by and watch Marrow throw this life away. Marrow does not get what he is saying and threatens to kill him.
The scene turns back to the Daily Bugle. Jameson says that he has already been working on his own story for quite some time. Ever since Bastion tried to scare him off of the Creed story. The story is called "Bastion". He invites Bastion to see what he has got on his computer. Bastion sees nothing. Jameson find this telling, since there is not a single page of reference about this person.
Jameson points that Bastion has managed to ingratiate, intimidate, and dominate his way into a position of power in over a dozen countries. Yet there is no evidence of his existence. To Jameson this means the greatest story to follow is Bastion himself. He implies that Bastion was behind the disappearance of reporter Nick Bandouveris. And this means Bastion would kill to keep his secrets. He starts burning the data disk.
Jameson declares that he has every intention of learning everything there is to know about Bastion, about his reason for hunting mutants, and about the X-Men. But not by taking the word of a murderer. He insists that the Daily Bugle's soul is not for sale. The printed word has tremendous power and it comes from the truth, not from someone's ability to twist the truth and manipulate it for his own end. He wants Bastion out of his office and warns that he will see him charged with Nick's murder.
The scene shifts back to Spidey and Marrow. He tries to reason with her. He claims that if killing him would prevent her from hurting other people, he might let her do it. He points that she is not the first person who has been hated for being different. He informs her that even before he became Spider-Man, there were very few people who genuinely cared about him. He reminisces that he got s wrapped up in himself that he lost everything. There is a flashback scene with Spidey confronting the Burglar. He then says that he does not want this to happen to Marrow as well.
Marrow asks what happens if she has nothing to loose and nothing to begin with. Spidey insists that there is no such thing as "nothing". Gyrich attempts to arrest Marrow at gunpoint, insisting that this woman is a terrorist. Spidey points that "Pete" can not arrest anyone with his weapon out of bullets. He knows about it since his spider-sense indicates no danger coming from Gyrich, though he neglects to inform him about the source of his knowledge.
Spidey insists that Marrow should be left free. She has learned something this day and he is giving her the benefit of the doubt. If she tries to assassinate anyone again, Spidey vows to bring her in personally. Marrow meanwhile, lifts the wounded Callisto in her arms. A police officer informs the woman that her friend needs a hospital. Marrow replies that Callisto needs to recover among people who can help her. She departs through a nearby sewer. She promises that she will be back. Spidey leaves as well and hopes the world she will return to will not be so miserable as the present one.
The scene shifts back to the Daily Bugle. There is a fire at Jameson's office and Robertson uses a fire extinguisher to put it out. He asks Jameson what this is about. Jameson is silent and brooding. When Robertson asks again, he replies it is about nothing. The story ends.
- This issue marks an early cameo of Grovel, with his image reflected on the water. However, this image differs considerably from other depictions. His features are horse-like, possibly indicating a Kymellian origin of the character. His following appearances depict him with more amphibian and/or reptilian features. Note that the surroundings of Gambit in this issue are later revealed as illusions.
- The Marvel Chronology Project has this information about the characters who are not members of the regular cast:
- Bastion appears here directly following X-Men Vol 2 65 (June, 1997). He next appears in X-Men Vol 2 66 (August, 1997).
- Callisto appears here following Cable Vol 1 42 (April, 1997). She next appears in Uncanny X-Men Vol 1 347 (September, 1997), though not interacting with the main cast.
- This is the earliest chronological appearance for Grovel, who has never received an origin story.
- Henry Peter Gyrich appears here following Uncanny X-Men Vol 1 344 (May, 1997). He next appears in X-Men Vol 2 65 (June, 1997). He subsequently appears in a flashback in Cable Vol 1 45 (August, 1997) and has a full appearance in Wolverine Vol 2 116 (September, 1997).
- J. Jonah Jameson appears here following Sensational Spider-Man Vol 1 18 (August, 1997). His next chronological appearance is in Spider-Man Team-Up Vol 1 7 (June, 1997).
- Marrow appears here following Cable Vol 1 42 (April, 1997). She next appears in Uncanny X-Men Vol 1 347 (September, 1997), though not interacting with the main cast.
- Joseph Robertson appears here following Spider-Man: Dead Man's Hand Vol 1 1 (April, 1997). His next chronological appearance is in Spider-Man Team-Up Vol 1 7 (June, 1997).
- Spider-Man appears here following the first story in Marvel Valentine Special Vol 1 1 (March, 1997). His next chronological appearance is in Silver Surfer Vol 3 132
- Senator Robert Ralston appears here, on the phone only, following Incredible Hulk Vol 1 436 (December, 1995).
- Ben Urich's behind-the-scenes appearance in this issue follows Punisher Vol 3 17 (March, 1997). His next chronological appearance is in Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 423 (May, 1997).
- Ken Ellis' behind-the-scenes appearance in this issue follows Spider-Man Vol 1 75 (December, 1996). His next chronological appearance is is Spider-Man Unlimited Vol 1 22 (November, 1998).
- Angela Yin's behind-the-scenes appearance in this issue follows Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 421 (March, 1997). Her next chronological appearance is in Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 423 (May, 1997).
- This is a spotlight issue for J. Jonah Jameson, who is given more depth and integrity than what he usually gets in Spider-related books. While he would like an end to superhuman vigilantism, he sees Operation: Zero Tolerance as a mass violation of civil rights and approaches the situation from this angle. Spider-Man also gets solid characterization, though no new ground is really covered. He simply manages to get through to Marrow with a hard-learned lesson.
- It is somewhat peculiar for Jameson to be the voice of truth-seeking and fact-based reporting. Since the 1960s, he is known for letting his personal biases and obsessions affect what gets printed in his newspaper.
- The Marrow featured here is the redesigned and prettified version of the character. Her original looks were rather uglier. The redesign is in anticipation of her upcoming entry into the X-Men team and becomes her standard look.
- Marrow may look prettier but remains a killer at heart. Her sole redeeming quality in this issue is her care for her mentor, Callisto. The issue at least implies that she is a world-weary cynic, whose harsh life has given her a harsh outlook. Which is rather better than a villain for the sake of it.
- Henry Peter Gyrich is here depicted as rather depressed about the effects of Operation: Zero Tolerance, following previous hints that he privately doubts the purpose and methods of the organization. Meanwhile he appears in various X-titles as the spokesperson of the Operation.
- The Agents have also appeared in previous issues as bodyguards to Graydon Creed, though this is possibly the first time they are named. Their status as killer Sentinels implies that they had something to do with Creed's assassination. This would fit with hints that their true master, Bastion, benefited from the assassination and possibly ordered it. However these clues are later ignored and the mysterious assassin of Creed is revealed to be Mystique.
- Callisto's motivation in this issue is rather perplexing. She does not want to kill anyone and actually serves as a cooler head than Marrow. She does, however, attack Gyrich and her plans, if any, are left unexplained.
- While Callisto and Marrow's initial attack seems impressive, it is never really explained how they managed to tear up the street and wreck a car without going near it. Callisto has an enhanced body and superhuman senses, while Marrow uses her own bones to forge weapons. Neither seems capable of such as a feat.
- This issue introduces a subplot about a wounded Callisto clinging to life. It was followed up by several of her following appearances. How she manages to recover without proper medical care was never really explained.
- Bastion's ultimate plot in this issue is to expose the secret identities of the X-Men to the reading public. Which is something few X-villains have sought to do.