hellzyeahthewebwieldingavenger
hellzyeahthewebwieldingavenger:

Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11
Synopsis:
The Superior Spider-Man (Otto Octvius) has a flashback where he recounts his first meeting with Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin. Having been invited to Norman’s home in Europe and learning Norman is in fact alive (as opposed to dead as the general public believes), Otto is offered a partnership with Norman so that they can destroy Spider-Man together.
Otto agrees and as weary as he is of Norman he discovers that they are not only able to achieve much by working together but that they are in fact friends. One night Otto mentions his ex fiancé Mary Alice and tells Norman he plans on looking her up once he becomes the world’s greatest scientist. Norman strongly objects to this claiming his main goal should be destroying Spider-Man but Otto feels they are one and the same and that he’d prefer to kill Spider-Man through science.
This enrages Norman who demands Otto kill Spider-Man as he sees fit, proclaiming that he has hidden and waited not to simply kill Spider-Man, but to crush his soul. The pair begin to fight but Otto recognises that for all his cold calculations Norman’s determination isn’t something that should be wasted and he halts the battle as Norman calms down. They continue to work together and eventually create ‘the Octo-Goblin’, a suit to house Norman which gives him four arms similar to Otto’s.
Otto is proud of the work they’ve done and returns to America looking forward to executing thier plan and destroying Spider-Man. However he gets a phone call and comes to a hospital where Norman reveals he’s changed their inital plan because he could forget their argument from a while before (science vs the soul). He explains to Otto he feels he was right and Otto was wrong all along, that a man can heal from a wound but can perhaps not survive a broken soul.
Norman explains he can’t get angry at Otto for holding his opinion because he’s never experienced what Norman is talking about. He continues that he wanted Otto to feel the kind of pain and loss he was talking about and so he found Mary Alice and ran her car off the road. He assures Otto that she was patched up fine by the doctors and given a blood transfusion. After Otto is relieved Norman tells him that he learned his lesson…which is why he infected the transfused blood with a deadly virus.
Review:
I’ve sworn off Superior Spider-Man and most of modern Marvel; I also hate team up books. However, I buckled and decided to check out Superior Spider-Man team –Up #11 because a) it was mostly unconnected to the main Superior event b) it had work by two of my favourites Frenz and Sal Buscema and c) Norman + Otto (as in proper old school pre-Slott Otto) = win
What did I think of the issue? To put it simply this was the Norman Osborn/Otto Octavius story I never knew I wanted until I read it.
To my knowledge, I’ve never read anything from Kevin Shinick before but based off of this I’m curious to see how he handles other Spider-Man characters because he did a wonderful job with Otto and Norman as well as actually crafting a pretty good untold tale that used continuity.
There were a few mistakes. Norman and his wife were not childhood sweethearts since I believe they met in college, but that’s a semantic difference, a minor and easily explainable continuity error. Norman isn’t crazy due to the Goblin formula but that’s a mistake a lot of fans actually make. Finally….one could argue the fact that literally NONE of this was ever mentioned in the Osborn Journal One Shot is a continuity error but a) other events have conspired to undermine that brilliant story and b) one could argue that Norman either placed the events of the this story in either another journal OR he simply felt no need to mention them because the Osborn Journal one shot was Norman reflecting upon the events specifically tied into the Clone Saga since chronologically that issue takes place the night before Norman initiates the final stages of that plan.
Arguably the biggest continuity error (and we’ll see how it pans out in the following issue) is why Norman decided to launch this plan and doesn’t it undermine the whole idea that Norman was lying in wait for the perfect time to strike? Well I think the reason why Norman initiated his plan might have been because he was getting stir crazy and wanted Spider-Man done with. This is the guy who usually has multiple plans on the go after all. His idea of using the Clone Saga to destroy Spider-Man was one plan, but not his only one and he might have simply felt that this other plan was more to his liking or maybe he was going to incorporate the clone into this plan I don’t know but that is the biggest flaw in this story. The Osborn Journal really did make it seem like Norman’s one and only plan to destroy Peter was the clone saga. I dunno, maybe I can come up with a more logical explanation later on since I’m literally writing this immediately after reading the issue. Mind you at the end of this story Norman seems to have abandoned his and Otto’s plan on a whim so maybe the same could be said about him abandoning the Clone plan to team up with Otto in the first place.
I’ve talked about some of the problems with the issue but not the stuff it gets right and where it truly succeeds is the characterisation of Doc Ock and Green Goblin and how they interacted. I always imagined a story which touched upon a relationship between Norman and Otto as one which retconned that they worked together before either one became a super villain. The idea of showing thier first meeting and the build up of thier relationship during Norman’s wilderness years never occurred to me but it really works.
It’s far enough in the past that it lends weight to events we’ve already seen (like Otto trying to kill Norman in marvel Knights) but because they’re already villains it gives us a natural thing to build their relationship around, namely their desire to destroy Spider-Man.
Shinick does an expert job of nailing each mad scientist’s personality and also outlying their differences as villains and characters. Simply put Otto is more cold and calculating than Norman, but Norman is more aggressive and sadistic. The best scene clearly conveys this, when Otto and Norman ‘disagree’ over Spider-Man. Otto feels he can kill Spider-Man through science and that becoming the world’s greatest scientist is the same thing as triumphing over Spider-Man. Well Otto is nuts so the idea that those two things are one and the same would probably only make sense to him. With Norman though we can see how Spider-Man is much, much, much more important to him. For Norman there is nothing more important than Spider-Man’s destruction and that truly is the distinction. Otto wants to coldly kill Spider-Man in a carefully calculated scientific plan.
Norman doesn’t
Norman wants to destroy Spider-Man. He wants to crush his spirit and break his heart. Not only does the scene where they explain this to one another clearly define their differences as characters but it does sum up both characters quite nicely.
Simply put Otto is a scientist and Norman is a sadist.
This of course plays into the final page of the issue where Norman, for seemingly no reason other than to win an argument which ended months ago, injures Otto’s ex-fiance then seemingly saves her with a blood transfusion but infects said blood with a ‘deadly virus’. This too is expert continuity by Shinick (as opposed to continuity porn like Slott would usually pull). Otto’s finace first appeared in Spider-Man Unlimited #3 which also detailed Otto’s origin (and this issue touches on that, which Slott simply hasn’t done in his entire Superior run). In that issue she did have a deadly virus which had something to do with her blood…except that ‘deadly virus’ was in fact AIDs.
Shinick has done what all great retcons do and retroactively made something even better than it was before. Suddenly the awesome Spider-Man Unlimited #3 becomes even better since now (as far as we know, who knows what Superior Team Up #12 will tell us) Otto’s actions are actually motivated by an act of cruelty by Norman Osborn himself. Well done Mister Shinick!
Final points:
 I also liked that Norman was actually a bit of a passive aggressive bully in this issue and took pot shots at Otto. It shows you how Otto is a bad guy but Norman is just, plain, nasty  (and that’s why we love him).
 Thier plan to give Norman his own versions of Otto’s arms is intriguing. I mean I think for most fans of Spider-Man who knew of these two characters that was probably a childhood idea we’ve all wanted to see. Norman with the Ocotpus arms (why not DeFalco already gave us Norman with the Venom symbiote…sorta). I will be interested to see how that pans out because it does raise the question of why Norman has never used those since his return.
 I also liked the continuity references to Michelinie’s run including the Spider Slayers, Venom, Carnage, etc (although I didn’t like Mr. Shinick slagging off the symbiotes, unless he really did just mean it to be how Otto would think of the symbiotes).
 I also loved seeing Otto’s White Business Suit because that thing is totally pimp
 I loved the art by Mister Frenz and Mister Buscema
 I loved the reference to Emily Osborn and Norman saying she was his only friend
 I liked the Sinister Six reference
 I liked that in a screwed up way Norman and Otto were friends, albeit ones who’d violently fight one another, take pot shots at one another and simultaneously regard one another as equals whilst also feeling their each better than the other. It’s pretty obvious that each one considers themselves the ‘true’ arch nemesis of Spider-Man even though they’re working together to achieve new heights neither one could reach alone. And yet this issue did underline that really Norman doesn’t have friends. He just has things which are vaguely close to friends because if he was Otto’s friend he wouldn’t have hurt Mary Alice
 I liked seeing a Spider-Man story with the proper Doc Ock. Not Superior Spider-Man. Not Cancer ridden mummified Ock. Just an overweight dude with sunglasses, a bowl-haircut and four metal arms. Also Shinick did a great job of making Otto’s dialogue pompous, intelligent but not Saturday morning cartoonish like Slott often does.
Bottom line, if you like Doctor Octopus you will like this issue. If you like Norman Osborn you’ll really like this issue. If you like both (and despite my rantings about Superior, I genuinely do like Doctor Octopus) then you will friggin LOVE this issue.
Due to a few continuity glitches I can’t give this a higher grade. So I will just say:
A
Pick this thing up if you haven’t already.

hellzyeahthewebwieldingavenger:

Superior Spider-Man Team Up #11

Synopsis:

The Superior Spider-Man (Otto Octvius) has a flashback where he recounts his first meeting with Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin. Having been invited to Norman’s home in Europe and learning Norman is in fact alive (as opposed to dead as the general public believes), Otto is offered a partnership with Norman so that they can destroy Spider-Man together.

Otto agrees and as weary as he is of Norman he discovers that they are not only able to achieve much by working together but that they are in fact friends. One night Otto mentions his ex fiancé Mary Alice and tells Norman he plans on looking her up once he becomes the world’s greatest scientist. Norman strongly objects to this claiming his main goal should be destroying Spider-Man but Otto feels they are one and the same and that he’d prefer to kill Spider-Man through science.

This enrages Norman who demands Otto kill Spider-Man as he sees fit, proclaiming that he has hidden and waited not to simply kill Spider-Man, but to crush his soul. The pair begin to fight but Otto recognises that for all his cold calculations Norman’s determination isn’t something that should be wasted and he halts the battle as Norman calms down. They continue to work together and eventually create ‘the Octo-Goblin’, a suit to house Norman which gives him four arms similar to Otto’s.

Otto is proud of the work they’ve done and returns to America looking forward to executing thier plan and destroying Spider-Man. However he gets a phone call and comes to a hospital where Norman reveals he’s changed their inital plan because he could forget their argument from a while before (science vs the soul). He explains to Otto he feels he was right and Otto was wrong all along, that a man can heal from a wound but can perhaps not survive a broken soul.

Norman explains he can’t get angry at Otto for holding his opinion because he’s never experienced what Norman is talking about. He continues that he wanted Otto to feel the kind of pain and loss he was talking about and so he found Mary Alice and ran her car off the road. He assures Otto that she was patched up fine by the doctors and given a blood transfusion. After Otto is relieved Norman tells him that he learned his lesson…which is why he infected the transfused blood with a deadly virus.

Review:

I’ve sworn off Superior Spider-Man and most of modern Marvel; I also hate team up books. However, I buckled and decided to check out Superior Spider-Man team –Up #11 because a) it was mostly unconnected to the main Superior event b) it had work by two of my favourites Frenz and Sal Buscema and c) Norman + Otto (as in proper old school pre-Slott Otto) = win

What did I think of the issue? To put it simply this was the Norman Osborn/Otto Octavius story I never knew I wanted until I read it.

To my knowledge, I’ve never read anything from Kevin Shinick before but based off of this I’m curious to see how he handles other Spider-Man characters because he did a wonderful job with Otto and Norman as well as actually crafting a pretty good untold tale that used continuity.

There were a few mistakes. Norman and his wife were not childhood sweethearts since I believe they met in college, but that’s a semantic difference, a minor and easily explainable continuity error. Norman isn’t crazy due to the Goblin formula but that’s a mistake a lot of fans actually make. Finally….one could argue the fact that literally NONE of this was ever mentioned in the Osborn Journal One Shot is a continuity error but a) other events have conspired to undermine that brilliant story and b) one could argue that Norman either placed the events of the this story in either another journal OR he simply felt no need to mention them because the Osborn Journal one shot was Norman reflecting upon the events specifically tied into the Clone Saga since chronologically that issue takes place the night before Norman initiates the final stages of that plan.

Arguably the biggest continuity error (and we’ll see how it pans out in the following issue) is why Norman decided to launch this plan and doesn’t it undermine the whole idea that Norman was lying in wait for the perfect time to strike? Well I think the reason why Norman initiated his plan might have been because he was getting stir crazy and wanted Spider-Man done with. This is the guy who usually has multiple plans on the go after all. His idea of using the Clone Saga to destroy Spider-Man was one plan, but not his only one and he might have simply felt that this other plan was more to his liking or maybe he was going to incorporate the clone into this plan I don’t know but that is the biggest flaw in this story. The Osborn Journal really did make it seem like Norman’s one and only plan to destroy Peter was the clone saga. I dunno, maybe I can come up with a more logical explanation later on since I’m literally writing this immediately after reading the issue. Mind you at the end of this story Norman seems to have abandoned his and Otto’s plan on a whim so maybe the same could be said about him abandoning the Clone plan to team up with Otto in the first place.

I’ve talked about some of the problems with the issue but not the stuff it gets right and where it truly succeeds is the characterisation of Doc Ock and Green Goblin and how they interacted. I always imagined a story which touched upon a relationship between Norman and Otto as one which retconned that they worked together before either one became a super villain. The idea of showing thier first meeting and the build up of thier relationship during Norman’s wilderness years never occurred to me but it really works.

It’s far enough in the past that it lends weight to events we’ve already seen (like Otto trying to kill Norman in marvel Knights) but because they’re already villains it gives us a natural thing to build their relationship around, namely their desire to destroy Spider-Man.

Shinick does an expert job of nailing each mad scientist’s personality and also outlying their differences as villains and characters. Simply put Otto is more cold and calculating than Norman, but Norman is more aggressive and sadistic. The best scene clearly conveys this, when Otto and Norman ‘disagree’ over Spider-Man. Otto feels he can kill Spider-Man through science and that becoming the world’s greatest scientist is the same thing as triumphing over Spider-Man. Well Otto is nuts so the idea that those two things are one and the same would probably only make sense to him. With Norman though we can see how Spider-Man is much, much, much more important to him. For Norman there is nothing more important than Spider-Man’s destruction and that truly is the distinction. Otto wants to coldly kill Spider-Man in a carefully calculated scientific plan.

Norman doesn’t

Norman wants to destroy Spider-Man. He wants to crush his spirit and break his heart. Not only does the scene where they explain this to one another clearly define their differences as characters but it does sum up both characters quite nicely.

Simply put Otto is a scientist and Norman is a sadist.

This of course plays into the final page of the issue where Norman, for seemingly no reason other than to win an argument which ended months ago, injures Otto’s ex-fiance then seemingly saves her with a blood transfusion but infects said blood with a ‘deadly virus’. This too is expert continuity by Shinick (as opposed to continuity porn like Slott would usually pull). Otto’s finace first appeared in Spider-Man Unlimited #3 which also detailed Otto’s origin (and this issue touches on that, which Slott simply hasn’t done in his entire Superior run). In that issue she did have a deadly virus which had something to do with her blood…except that ‘deadly virus’ was in fact AIDs.

Shinick has done what all great retcons do and retroactively made something even better than it was before. Suddenly the awesome Spider-Man Unlimited #3 becomes even better since now (as far as we know, who knows what Superior Team Up #12 will tell us) Otto’s actions are actually motivated by an act of cruelty by Norman Osborn himself. Well done Mister Shinick!

Final points:

  •  I also liked that Norman was actually a bit of a passive aggressive bully in this issue and took pot shots at Otto. It shows you how Otto is a bad guy but Norman is just, plain, nasty  (and that’s why we love him).
  •  Thier plan to give Norman his own versions of Otto’s arms is intriguing. I mean I think for most fans of Spider-Man who knew of these two characters that was probably a childhood idea we’ve all wanted to see. Norman with the Ocotpus arms (why not DeFalco already gave us Norman with the Venom symbiote…sorta). I will be interested to see how that pans out because it does raise the question of why Norman has never used those since his return.
  •  I also liked the continuity references to Michelinie’s run including the Spider Slayers, Venom, Carnage, etc (although I didn’t like Mr. Shinick slagging off the symbiotes, unless he really did just mean it to be how Otto would think of the symbiotes).
  •  I also loved seeing Otto’s White Business Suit because that thing is totally pimp
  •  I loved the art by Mister Frenz and Mister Buscema
  •  I loved the reference to Emily Osborn and Norman saying she was his only friend
  •  I liked the Sinister Six reference
  •  I liked that in a screwed up way Norman and Otto were friends, albeit ones who’d violently fight one another, take pot shots at one another and simultaneously regard one another as equals whilst also feeling their each better than the other. It’s pretty obvious that each one considers themselves the ‘true’ arch nemesis of Spider-Man even though they’re working together to achieve new heights neither one could reach alone. And yet this issue did underline that really Norman doesn’t have friends. He just has things which are vaguely close to friends because if he was Otto’s friend he wouldn’t have hurt Mary Alice
  •  I liked seeing a Spider-Man story with the proper Doc Ock. Not Superior Spider-Man. Not Cancer ridden mummified Ock. Just an overweight dude with sunglasses, a bowl-haircut and four metal arms. Also Shinick did a great job of making Otto’s dialogue pompous, intelligent but not Saturday morning cartoonish like Slott often does.

Bottom line, if you like Doctor Octopus you will like this issue. If you like Norman Osborn you’ll really like this issue. If you like both (and despite my rantings about Superior, I genuinely do like Doctor Octopus) then you will friggin LOVE this issue.

Due to a few continuity glitches I can’t give this a higher grade. So I will just say:

A

Pick this thing up if you haven’t already.

hellzyeahthewebwieldingavenger

hellzyeahthewebwieldingavenger:

Revelations

Complete Ben Reilly Epic Volume 6: Spectacular Spider-Man #240, Sensational Spider-Man #11, Amazing Spider-Man #418 and Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75

Ladies and gentlemen…we made it. The END of the Clone Saga is here in the four part crossover Revelations. This is the big one folks so to do it justice I have to divide the synopsis and review sections up into four separate parts. It really is that big. Disclaimers before we start, I love this story, it’s my third favourite Spider-Man story ever and part 4 of this tale was the very first Spider-Man comic I ever read, so objectivity will be difficult here; expect a lot of gushing. Also understand I will be talking briefly about the bonus pages from the Revelations Trade paperback, but I won’t focus upon them too much. Strap yourselves in people; we’re closing out the Clone Saga with a story which, to this day, rocks the Spider-Man world. Let’s start:

Synopsis:

Part 1:

Trainer is in a cobbled together lab under the ruins of Multiplex. He begins the rejuvenation process of Gaunt, during which Gaunt will be unable to communicate with him. Gaunt’s boss shows up to ask how long it will take for the cyborg to be rejuvenated (saying he’s waited years so he doesn’t really mind waiting a bit longer). Trainer is so terrified to learn the identity of Gaunt’s boss that he resolves to tell Peter and Ben. In Forest Hills, amidst Halloween decorations MJ tells Peter how happy she is to be having the baby with him before hopping on a bus to go shopping with Aunt Anna. Ben shows up and Peter asks him to help get rid of stuff in the attic since they’re relics of both of their memories. Ben says he learned to travel light whilst on the road and put the past behind him, but a picture of Aunt May and Uncle Ben has him and Peter well up. Peter admits to Ben that seeing how Ben coped with being a clone helped get him get through the same experience; he goes onto say that he loves Ben.

At the Bugle Ben Urich and Glory Grant get black envelopes without return addresses. Ben’s is from Liz Allan asking him to meet her at the Bugle at 10.00 to ‘pay him back’ for his discretion. Ben thinks it is something to do with his book exposing the Osborns as the Green Goblins. Around the same time two new maintenance men (with recommendations from Osborn industries and Multivex) are hired by the Bugle on short notice. Across town, a woman named Alison Mongrain is also hired by Shirley at the Daily Grind after some of her staff drop out unexpectedly. At Osborn Industries, Liz Osborn also gets a black envelope (apparently from Ben Urich) asking her to meet him at the Bugle; she decides to take her boyfriend Foggy Nelson along. Back with the Parker brothers, Peter confesses to Ben that Aunt May knew he was Spider-Man and that he didn’t tell him this because after learning he was the clone this knowledge made him feel special; Ben forgives him.

Whilst all this is going on Trainer has escaped the lab and gone to Ben’s apartment, hoping to warn them of their true enemy and to tell him Ben the truth about how he deceived him, Peter and everyone else about lots of things (including who was the clone). As he gets to the apartment though the door is blown off and Gaunt stands there in new battle armour, having been ordered to kill Trainer for his treachery. The chase leads Trainer into the subway where he manages to get away and make his way to the Bugle to find Peter. When he’s almost there though Gaunt blasts him into an alleyway, where Trainer slips away again. This time however, Gaunt’s boss finds him and snaps his neck. The boss then orders Gaunt to dispose of the body, kill Reilly in front of Peter and keep him occupied so he won’t be near Mary Jane, saying tonight Peter will pay for having a life. Back at Forest Hills Peter and Ben play battleship but deny it when MJ calls to invite them to dinner at the Daily Grind; this exchange is recorded by someone listening in on the conversation.

Part 2:

Mary Jane and Aunt Anna agree to meet Ben and Peter at the Daily Grind before continuing their shopping trip. Meanwhile the Gaunt’s boss orders him to kill Reilly in front of Parker, bringing their little charade to an end. Literally across the street from the villains, Jonah rants in the Bugle about being called into a late night meeting. Robbie telling Jonah that he’s been called too does nothing to calm him down. Jonah then screams his head off at the two maintenance men who are ‘fixing’ the elevators. At a police station Arthur Stacy finds Detective Trevane and asks for his help in finding Spider-Man since Trevane knew his brother George. At the same time Flash Thompson and Betty Brant receive black envelopes inviting them to meet at the Bugle that very night.

Back in Forest Hills, Ben finds Peter’s beeper (which will alert him about MJ if she goes into labour) for him as they leave the house. Ben tells Peter he admires him for surviving all the tragedies in his life as Peter wonders if (given the lack of heroes in the wake of Onslaught) he should get back into action. Ben is apprehensive about this since Peter is a father to be and his powers keep cutting out sporadically. Peter showcases his abilities and Ben relents. Sensing danger nearby, the brothers find three children playing in the ruins of a school. Peter begins shepherding them out when Gaunt attacks Ben. Whilst Peter ensures the kids get to safety (noting how his powers have cut out) Ben changes into Spider-Man and begins to fight Gaunt. Elsewhere at the Daily Grind, the new waitress (Alison Mongrain) spikes Mary Jane’s food. Back at the school Ben learns who he’s fighting (since he didn’t recognise him) and wonders what happened to Trainer. Meanwhile Peter’s powers return in time for his spider sense to warn him about the kids, whose eyes begin glowing. Ben manages to remove Gaunt’s mask and discovers he is in fact Mendel Stromm, a.k.a. The Robot Master (an old villain who apparently died in Amazing Spider-Man #37) who sends out robot drones to fight Ben.

Back at the Daily Grind, Mary Jane has gone into a painful labour but the doctors can tell something is wrong because it’s like nothing they’ve seen before. They rush her to hospital as Mongrain slips out the back. Peter discovers the kids are themselves robots and uses his powers to free himself from them and join Ben. Stromm is intent upon killing Reilly to end his service to his master but just then Peter’s beeper goes off, alerting him to MJ’s labour.

Part 3:

MJ is in the hospital where she meets Doctor Folsome who is covering for her regular doctor (oh dear). As Anna wonders where Peter is Angela Yin (a young Bugle photographer) sees MJ and recognises her. Back at the school, whilst Ben continues to fight Gaunt and his robot drones, Peter contends with the robot children who each have a unique power. Ben orders Peter to go to MJ (who’s still beeping him) but Peter refuses since he can’t abandon Ben. At the Bugle, Robbie gets a call from Angela Yin learning of the complications with MJ. Regretfully he tells Glory, who came to his office asking about the Halloween party. They both sorrowfully wonder how much tragedy Peter and Mary Jane could endure given all that’s happened to them in the past year, whilst outside the maintenance men continue their work. Meanwhile, Ben succeeds in destroying Gaunt’s robot drones whilst Peter takes out one of the robot children. Mary Jane however is fairing far worse, experiencing a very difficult labour which Folsome assures her is going according to plan. These sentiments echoed by Stromm’s boss who is watching the birth privately from the shadows, though he soon departs.

Peter finds a phone and uses it to contact Aunt Anna learning of the complications with MJ, whilst he defeats the other robot children. Across town at the police station, Trevane introduces Arthur Stacy to some other officers who are familiar with Spider-Man. Returning to Ben’s fight, Stromm manages to tag his shoulder and as he advances upon him he tells Ben he should know something about his friend Trainer. Before he can get a word out however, Peter shows up and saves Ben, who attacks Stromm with Peter. Stromm unleashes a gas he thinks will immobilise them both (that’s what his boss told him anyway) but it seems to have no effect. Just then one of the drones catches Peter unawares, which Ben chalks up to his powers cutting out again. However he is himself unaware that behind him Stromm has unsheathed a large blade; their respective spider senses have been disabled.

Meanwhile Jonah rants about how the board meeting him and Robbie were to attend that night seems to be happening at the same time and place as an office Halloween party. Robbie tells Jonah it’s probably something done by the staff to boost morale in light of the cutbacks. He encourages Jonah to not be down on the party as nothing bad could happen if they take the night off. As he says this one of the maintenance men places a  jack-o’-lantern on a desk and activates a time bomb hidden inside it.

Elsewhere, Spider-Man barely dodges Stromm as he lunges at him with the blade. He demands to know about Seward and Stromm exposits that Seward was assigned to keep track of Ben and win his confidence, as well as rejuvenate Gaunt’s body. Ben doesn’t believe him but when hearing that Seward ‘outlived his usefulness’ he accuses Stromm of killing him. Stromm says it doesn’t matter who did that specifically which enrages Ben to the point where he rips off Stromm’s blade and follows that up by tearing Stromm from his armour. As Stromm pleads with him, Ben says he wishes he could kill him but that just isn’t who he is. Peter congratulates him for this but Ben just tells him to get moving and greet his daughter on his behalf.

As Peter leaves Ben turns to interrogate Stromm, but is stunned from behind, his Spider Sense still disabled. From behind him, Ben’s attacker says if he wants to know who Stromm was working for, he’d be better off going to the source. Wondering how he was ambushed (and realising it must of been the gas) Ben put’s two and two together, realising (as he turns around to gaze at his opponent) who his attacker is. Ben can’t believe what he’s seeing because he saw this man die. As his enemy fires off more energy blasts from his gloves he tells Ben ‘appearances can be deceiving’, before knocking Ben out. Stromm says he didn’t need his boss’ help, but his boss says that since he had to complete Stromm’s assignment he has failed him, and he knows the penalty for failure. With that he blasts Stromm, causing him to scream.

Mary Jane herself screams back in the hospital as she finally gives birth and falls back on her pillow. When she gets up again, she asks the doctor about her baby and why she isn’t crying, but Folsome just looks sorrowful. MJ begins to cry as Folsome tells her he’s sorry. As MJ breaks down denying what has just happened, one of the nurses who exited her room shortly before wheels a tray out of the hospital to a car, removing her surgical mask to reveal herself as…Alison Mongrain! She takes her car to a shadowy pier where (carrying a bundle in her arms) she meets her employer, informing him there were no difficulties and that she has his ‘delivery’. He congratulates her, gives her a bonus, puts her on a boat and wishes her farewell on her extended leave in Europe, saying he trusts she’ll make sure the ‘delivery’ is never seen again. As she bids her boss goodbye he tells her to not be so formal. Igniting his lighter to illuminate his face he tells her she can refer to him by his real name: Norman…Norman Osborn…

Part 4:

Normie Osborn is trick-or-treating with his friend and his friend’s mother. They bump into a man who gives them some candy and comments that they’re a frightening pair of little goblins. Normie removes his mask and looks up at the stranger. As he’s ushered away, the stranger tells him to stay safe as Halloween can be a dangerous night…a night of goblins. Before he loses sight of the man, Normie quietly mutters “G-G-rampa?”

Meanwhile Peter Parker makes his way via rooftop to the hospital. Once there though, no one seems to be able to locate Mary Jane and he wastes time looking for her. Finally Doctor Folsome approaches him and tells him there’s been a complication. As Peter starts to ask what’s wrong Folsome injects him with something to knock him out, seemingly transform into a  jack-o’-lantern before Peter’s (heavily drugged) eyes.

Meanwhile at the Bugle Robbie and Jonah enter an elevator with Flash Thompson. When they exist they find Foggy Nelson, Liz Osborn, Glory Grant, Betty Brant, Ben Urich, Angela Yin and Ken Ellis all gathered there by the black envelopes. Wondering what’s going on Jonah notes only Peter is missing.

Elsewhere, Peter regains consciousness and realises he’s in his original Spider-Man costume. Remembering Mary Jane and the baby, he tries to fight the dizziness but a voice tells him it’s useless, as a  jack-o’-lantern emitting a special gas has immobilised him (at least until the voice deems otherwise). The voice says (as its face emerges from the darkness) it’s been a long time. Peter thinks it’s Harry Osborn, but the voice tells him Harry, his son, is dead, killed by Peter; he’s returned to make Peter pay for that transgression against his family. As Peter’s vision clears and he sees the stranger he denies what his eyes tell him for it is…Norman Osborn. Peter says he saw Norman die and Norman agrees, reminding him of how he killed Gwen and was impaled by his own glider. He assures Peter he’s the genuine article and rips off his shirt, revealing the scars from the goblin glider to prove his case.

Back at the Bugle the gang discovers the phones are dead, the elevators won’t work, the e-mail system is down and the fire escape is locked. At a sports bar, Arthur Stacy meets with his fellow officers telling them how the skeleton from the smoke stack prompted him to investigate Spider-Man again after all these years, given his involvement in the deaths of Arthur’s brother and niece. The appearance of the skeleton has made Arthur think that Spidey is a murderer and wants the policemen to help him find out the truth.

Back with Norman and Peter, Norman can’t believe how pathetic Peter is, saying how he couldn’t do anything if he ever targeted MJ or the baby. He begins to suit up. As he does so, Peter demands to know how Norman survived their last fight. Norman explains the Goblin formula gave him an unforeseen healing factor which repaired his heart and that Harry bribed the right people to fake his autopsy. He goes on to say how he killed a vagrant similar enough to him and had him replace his own body in the morgue. When Norman returned to his warehouse he found Harry testing out the Goblin equipment and decided to let him have a chance as the Goblin whilst he left for Europe. When Peter ‘killed’ Harry he decided to return and make him pay. Peter asks what Norman wants from him and as Norman kicks Spider-Man in the face before he answers ‘everything’. He wants everything he has, everything he’s ever had and everything he might ever have. He wants Peter’s life but finds it funny as he already has that and Peter doesn’t even know it.

At the Bugle Jonah orders everyone to the windows to attract some help and privately confides to Robbie that he’s very worried, he senses something bad is going to happen; which Robbie concurs with. Flash and Betty bump into one another and Betty is not pleased to see him at all. Flash confides to Liz (who introduces Foggy Nelson as her ‘friend’) that he and Betty fell apart after her husband Ned died because Flash didn’t know how to act. He says he doesn’t know how to act outside of High School and almost mentions Harry. Liz says she made her peace with Harry a long time ago thanks to friends like him and Peter, also saying she can’t believe how much they’ve changed since High School. Liz wishes Peter was here because he’s a special guy, and Flash adds that he’s an even better friend. Just then he notices someone in the darkened building across the street from the Bugle. It’s Peter and Norman, who are still having their little exchange.

Norman tells Peter it’s always been about the two of them, but Peter reveals Norman’s got the wrong guy since he’s a clone. Norman snidely tells Peter HE was manipulating the clone situation the whole time and pulls out a beaten and battered Ben from the shadows.  He reveals he was controlling the Jackal and Seward Trainer the whole time to convince Peter he was a clone. Tossing both Spider-Men aside Norman says that beating Ben is meaningless, he wants Peter to suffer as he’s suffered. He tells Peter that he hates him most of all for surviving and living on in spite of Gwen’s death, learning he was a clone and everything else he or Harry put him through. Donning his mask and once more becoming the Green Goblin, Norman says he took something from Peter to even the score for his killing Harry. This prompts Peter to fight off the drugs and attack Norman, demanding to know what he meant. Norman is pleased as he wants their final battle to be a grand one. As he tosses Spider-Man out of the window as he heads over to the Bugle cackling about making Peter lose everything, including the people who are unfortunate enough to know him.

As Peter hangs out the window, Ben regains consciousness and remembers what happened. He recalls how after Norman zapped him he told Ben he was a clone but he didn’t believe it, choosing to attack Norman himself for manipulating him and for messing with Peter’s happiness. He put up a decent fight until Norman knocked him out and revealed how he planned to kill Peter’s friends at the Bugle. He relays this to Peter and explains that Norman has rigged explosives inside the Bugle. Peter tells Ben he can’t fight Norman in his condition and asks him instead to evacuate the place and clear the bombs out.

Across the street Jonah tells Liz and Foggy to stop talking but he stops (his cigar dropping from his mouth) as the Goblin crashes through the window. Jonah recognises Norman’s voice as he is flown outside by the Goblin, who is raving about Jonah’s lack of action against Spider-Man. Spider-Man swings up to them but the Goblin zaps his web-lines sending, him falling. The Goblin tosses Jonah back inside and smacks his daughter-in-law Liz across the face for keeping Harry from becoming a man, a chance he tells her she won’t have with little Normie. Addressing the assembled crowd he says all of them have earned his hatred and disgust. Jonah calls him crazy but Norman assures him he’s never been saner as Spider-Man yanks him back outside via web-line to resume their battle.

As the crowd in the Bugle prays Spider-Man will win (and fears what will happen should he fail), crowds gather below too watch the battle rage above them. Ben slips away, heading for the Bugle whilst the news of the fight sends Arthur Stacy, Devon, Shirley and Buzz (and apparently an off panel Jimmy Six) to the scene of the fight to watch the spectacle.

Back to the fight itself, Spider-Man searches for the Goblin amidst the onslaught of explosions and finally get’s tagged by one of the blasts falling into the Bugle sign, seemingly beaten. The Green Goblin cackles to the heavens speaking to his dead son Harry about how a real Osborn does things and what a disgrace he was to let Spider-Man beat him. However the Goblin is shocked to see Spider-Man, groggily rising to his feet, saying he’ll have to do much better than that if he wants him dead and beckoning him to finish the fight. Norman charges at him asking what he must do to keep him down but Spidey says he won’t fall until he knows what’s happened to Mary Jane and the baby.

Back at the Bugle Ben evacuates everyone and collects the bombs. One of them rolls away towards Flash but Ben smothers it, being injured by the blast in the process but saving Flash. Gathering up the bombs Ben decides to dump them on Osborn’s building before tackling Norman himself. Outside Norman asks Peter why he doesn’t just give up since he’s clearly beaten. He continues to ask how much pain he must inflict and how much he must tear away from Peter until he dies, since he’s nothing more than flesh and blood under that costume. Yet time and again he endures whatever agony befalls him and keeps coming forward , he carries on living and Norman demands to know why, as he dive bombs towards Peter.

Spider-Man says he does it to spite the Goblin and in spite of him, as he knocks the Goblin off his glider. Standing over his enemy he pronounces Halloween to be over and removes both of their masks. He tells Norman he was right, it has always been about Peter Parker and Norman Osborn, not Spider-Man and the Green Goblin and now they can finish their battle as men. Norman is shocked by this and can’t believe he had Peter at his mercy but somehow allowed him to win anyway. He demands to know why Peter won’t just die, but Peter simply says it’s because that would mean Norman would win and he’d never let that happen. With that he punches Norman clear across the roof.

Ben shows up with the bombs and half collapses form his wounds. He suggests Peter take the bombs over to Norman’s building which Peter agrees to do so long as Ben keeps an eye on Norman. Just as he leaves though Norman activates his remote controlled glider, having it unsheathe several spikes and aim for Peter’s back (just as he did when he and Peter last fought all those years ago after Gwen died). Ben senses the danger and saves Peter by getting between him and the glider. Peter watches in horror as Ben is propelled over the street and is then dropped over the pavement. Norman mounts his glider again and attacks once more, saying goodbye to Peter. Spider-Man however throws the bombs at the Goblin and says goodbye to him too the bombs engulf the Goblin in a mighty explosion. As he falls Norman laughs about how he’ll never ever die, how Peter has no idea what he’s taken from him earlier and how it ensures that Peter has merely won a pyrrhic victory.

Moments later Spider-Man descends to the street to find Ben’s body. The doctors say there is nothing they can do and Ben asks Peter to come closer to him so no one will overhear what he has to say. As Jonah, Robbie, Shirley, Ken Ellis, Angela Yin, Ben Urich, Buzz, Betty, Liz, Flash, Foggy, Glory, Devon, Arthur Stacy and Jimmy Six watch on, Ben tells Peter that, clone or not, he is Spider-Man from now on, and he must carry on for Ben. In his dying words he asks Peter to take care of his niece and to tell her about…her Uncle Ben.

Peter notices Ben’s body beginning to change and swings him away to a rooftop, watching as Ben’s body degenerates. Realising Norman wasn’t lying, Peter accepts that Ben was the clone after all and he was the real Peter Parker all along. Heading for the hospital Peter finally reunites with Mary Jane who tearfully begins to tell him about the baby, but he already knows. As they hug and cry, he promises Mary Jane they will get through this, through the tears and the pain, and they will face the future together as husband and wife (f*** you One More Day, f*** you).

Several days later at the Parker residence, all of Peter and Mary Jane’s friends have gathered and insisted they hold a funeral for Ben Reilly and the baby, determined to show support to Peter and MJ in their time of need. As they do so, Peter thinks about how he and MJ just wanted to act like it all never happened and move on, but they have to accept that it did happen (now that’s one helluva swipe at Marvel editorial right there). Even Jimmy Six himself approaches Peter and Mary Jane, offering his deepest condolences and asking to speak with Peter. He tells Peter that he didn’t know Ben for very long but in that short time he was the best friend he ever had and he’s going to miss him. He promises Peter that the Green Goblin (and, if he was involved, Spider-Man too) are gonna get whacked if he shows his face again. Jimmy tells Peter that he will do anything for him and his family if they need anything because it is now Peter who is his friend. Peter thanks him and leaves to do one last thing for Ben. Going to the Brooklyn Bridge where Gwen Stacy died, Peter as Spider-Man scatters Ben’s ashes to the wind and tells his brother he will always miss him.

As Ben’s ashes travel throughout the city on the winds they pass by Osborn’s building opposite the Bugle. Construction workers comment about how the building is to be made into a homeless shelter on Liz Osborn’s orders and how the Goblin’s body was never found when a figure rises up from behind them. The figure kills the workers and comments about how things turned out quite well thanks to his planning for any eventuality (something he could never teach Harry). As the figure discards the charred remains of its costume, it says it accomplished most of what it intended to do as the Goblin and now the rest will be up to…Norman Osborn!

Wow. Where to start.

Part 1:

The opening scene is spooky, and lends a lot of gravitas to the mysterious mastermind. Were this more poorly written by Dezago Trainer’s fear would be nothing more than a cheap ploy to build up the villain, but when he’s ultimately revealed later on he earns every ounce of fear Trainer displays through Ross’ art. I also liked that Trainer is still a fundamentally decent man. He wasn’t a coward pretending to be Ben’s friend, he really was Ben’s friend (his father really) and he was living in genuine fear. Throughout the issue he strives to do the right thing for Peter and more than this for Ben’s forgiveness but it isn’t enough. Trainer’s death was unfortunate since he was a good supporting character but more than this, it means Peter and Ben didn’t get the heads up they needed, adding to the impending doom. Nevertheless when his neck was snapped (there is a lot of that in the Clone Saga) in the reflection of Gaunt’s armour, the story really conveyed how ruthless and powerful the big bad of the Saga really is. Ultimately Trainer’s arc is that of a somewhat standard, yet well done tragedy.

This issue had a very big ‘Terminator’ vibe as the techno-terror Gaunt stalking Trainer whilst he was on the run reminding me a lot of the very first movie, and brought out a horror movie vibe almost. Additionally I don’t care how 90s that design was, Luke Ross’s splash page made it work; especially the eye patch which was a clue to his identity. In fact there might have been another little clue (or maybe misdirection) in regards to who the mastermind was when Trainer went to Ben’s apartment and the door was blown off. That moment was somewhat reminiscent of the scene from ASM #136 when Peter’s apartment blew up when he opened the door. The culprit in that case was Harry Osborn as the Green Goblin so maybe Dezago was trying to hint Harry or another Goblin was behind this.

The scene with Peter and MJ is both good and bad. The bad is that it’s cheesy, over the top and wince inducingly saccharine, but that’s due to the dialogue more than anything else. When writing these two (or most couples really) this kind of over the top dialogue can detract from the scene. The sentiments the bad dialogue is expressing though are justified and good to see (again, Dezago writes a good married MJ and Peter). In particular I loved MJ saying she couldn’t do this without her best friend (Peter).

The art is nice and the scene is idyllic but just like the Death of Gwen Stacy (or countless stage play tragedies like Othello), there is an uneasiness, a palpable sense of dread in the air, where you know this happy scene at the start will lead to something bad. Indeed when the story is finished, looking back at this scene just twists the knife. When I first read this issue (knowing what was to come) I whimpered out a big “ohhhhhhhhh” because I knew what Peter and Mary Jane, and their baby were in for; especially given the not so subtle foreshadowing with Halloween decorations  and a ‘Dead End’ sign. I felt similarly about the scene between Peter and Ben in the attic, Peter having invited Ben to get rid of their old memories together (which was an “aww” moment in and of itself). And I don’t mean like I disliked it, I mean the story drew me in so I felt sorry for the characters. This palpable sense of dread carries on through the rest of the issue and the rest of the story really until we hit the miscarriage in part 3. Another example of it in this issue (but only if you know what happens ahead of time) was when Alison Mongrain showed up. She plays a big role in this story, then in some post Clone Saga issues (then sadly in the Final Chapter where she’s derailed) and finally in Spider-Girl. I don’t know if it was a little joke or cruel foreshadowing, but there is even a panel where Mongrain is underneath a picture of a wicked witch which bears more than passing resemblance to her.

As I’ve said in the past the brotherly relationship between Peter and Ben was very much Dezago’s wheel house and here he gives us his best work yet (I suppose as a fond send off to that relationship). Their friendly greeting to each other, Peter inviting Ben to get rid of their shared memories, Ben welling up with Peter as they both miss Uncle Ben and Aunt May (and really I like BOTH those characters being dead), Peter’s confession he felt bad about not letting Ben see Aunt May before she died and not telling Ben that Aunt May knew the secret (because it made him feel real, and he says this holding a copy of Pinocchio, well done Dezago, well done), Peter telling Ben he inspired his recovery when he discovered he was a clone (although MJ was half responsible for that too), Peter telling Ben he loves him, them saying “I never realised we read so much” (because they both remember being lonely nerds, whilst now they’ve got each other so they’re not alone), them saying they loved Peter Pan and  got the chance to fly after all; then there’s them playing battleship and pretending to get stuff done to MJ. It all is just heart warming stuff (with a bit of comedy thrown in as well).

In particular Peter hording the information that May knew he was Spider-Man was great. Apart from showing great character insight and flaws on Peter’s part (even referencing Maximum Clonage, brave man is our Dezago) it is a lovely bit of continuity which makes use of a brilliant issue and status quo (Aunt May being dead). If you didn’t think of them as brothers before you did now and them both looking over relics of their shared childhoods and memories (even playing battleship together) really cements that, giving us something new from a Spider-Man book. More than that it gives Spider-Man something he didn’t know he was missing his whole life, a brother, a friend (where they hang out AS friends, which didn’t happen as much with Harry or Flash) and a companion who understands him because he IS him in many ways. It is almost like Dezago tortured us by showing us what tremendous potential there could be for Peter and Ben’s relationship but he does it in the story where Ben is destined to die, which I suppose is good storytelling since it makes his death more of a loss (for us as much as Peter). I mean when Ben dies, it happens on the same day that (hours before) he and Peter were growing even closer as family.

In this issue we also see the first of the invitations which shall gather the supporting characters (whom we love but haven’t seen much of in the Clone Saga) at the Bugle for the grand showdown. I think this little subplot throughout parts 1-3 was done really well, building the tension gradually as everyone got invites for different reasons with cryptic clues left all over the place. Similarly the obviously shady maintenance men who put the bombs in the Bugle ratchet up the dread even more (especially when they have letters of recommendation from Osborn industries and Multivex). Now it isn’t just Peter or Ben in danger the entire supporting cast is there too. With Ben Urich we get the subtle reference to ‘paying him back’ for his discretion with the Legacy of Evil book which was a BIG clue as to where this was going (if the black envelope he and Glory got didn’t also do that).  But there is an even bigger clue when Liz is in Osborn industries and seated under a sign which says “Our founder” whilst talking about her father-in-law. We don’t see the portrait but we know it must be Norman Osborn, heck when the scene plays out Liz literally says “you don’t know what could happen” whilst the final panel uses shadows to literally form a big arrow and POINT to Norman. At the time this was probably poor foreshadowing as it was too obvious, but I still like it because Norman makes such an epic re-re-entrance in part 3. On a side note, I liked Liz and Foggy Nelson dating, means we can have more Spider-Man/Daredevil cross-pollination. 

The bad aspect of this issue is that it all but broadcasts that Ben is the clone and Peter is the original. I’d have preferred that that little reveal happen in the final part, preferably when Ben degenerates, mind you I suppose they wanted to leave you in no doubt.

Part 2:

The worst thing about this issue is that the start of it rehashes the ending of the last part. Necessary when you read on a weekly basis but not so good when you want a complete story, where one part naturally flows into the other. It’s especially egregious because Dezago wrote BOTH parts; still Wieringo’s art is cool.

Also he overdoes it in the opening narrations “Mary Jane is so happy, so pregnant so full of joy…and in terrible danger muahahahaha”. He equally over does it with Jonah’s ranting and raving though it is funny, plus it was good to see a slow build to how the Bugle will become a death trap for everyone who attends the meeting that night (what with the repairmen disabling the elevators).

We got a…frankly too obvious clue as to who Gaunt was when he’s referred to as Mendel. Who else could it be but Mendel Stromm at that point and who else could his boss be except Norman Osborn; that spoiled the reveal later in the issue? However, in the same scene we also got some nice set up for Part 4 when we see that the HQ of the bad guys is directly opposite the Bugle. By the way, I know it’s a totally 90s design but even so…Stromm’s new look is still bad ass; for awhile I thought only Luke Ross would pull it off but Wieringo does it justice as well. It is a strange thing but considering the story grows darker with each part, it’s oddly appropriate that we begin with two light and fun artists in parts 1-2 (Wieringo and Ross) and conclude with Romita Jr in part 4 where things get dark. No offense to Romita Jr, but his art does convey a darker and more serious tone, which would’ve telegraphed how this story would’ve gone.  On a side note Wieringo draws the Fantastic Four briefly in this issue which is interesting since he will draw them again in a run with Mark Waid in the 2000s (which was my first run on the series actually).

I think Dezago did a good job in this part of mirroring himself from part 1. There Pete praised Ben and said he inspired him to recover from being a clone. Here Ben is saying Peter is someone he admired for his ability to survive and bounce back, which of course is not only completely true of Peter’s character but also foreshadows part 4 when the Goblin learns this lesson the hard way.

I liked that they used a little bit of continuity carried over from Onslaught (the destroyed buildings) since it shows the real ramifications of that event. Now the robot kids are goofy but also in their own way creepy (but they’ll be goofier in part 3 sadly), and when you actually look at how they fare against TWO Spider-Men…they’re actually more effective than most of the Spider Slayers the Smythe’s cooked up (yet another reason why I prefer Gaunt to Smythe). Gaunt himself is kind of bad ass here, taking the role of the mastermind’s right hand man to the nth degree and loving his new power (he is kind of the Vader to Norman’s Palpatine). The fight with Gaunt and Ben was nice to see because it’s a rematch from Blood Brothers, made more personal when Ben learns something has happened to Seward (and will sadly never find out what, he’s gonna die thinking Seward betrayed him). Furthermore, Gaunt is still played as mysterious and spooky with references to Gaunt having known Spider-Man long ago. Less impressive was the reveal of Gaunt as Mendel Stromm. Do not get me wrong, I like Stromm and it isn’t a bad reveal but it was a bit underwhelming because Stromm doesn’t look distinctive enough for you to immediately tell who he was. Nevertheless revealing this guy to be a villain with roots as far back as the Ditko days (with Ben almost mentioning he worked for Norman) was a nice little shocker and made Gaunt/Stromm more than just a new villain.

Dezago also used a bit of continuity in referencing the times Ben and Peter both considered the idea of Peter getting back into action in the wake of Onslaught. I was apprehensive over Peter’s desire to be a hero again but I think it’s (a) dad shock and (b) he really can’t help himself but BE Spider-Man. I particularly liked in this scene where Ben is seen as the older brother, even though the reality is the opposite. The scene is also good for the ending of part 4 where Ben changes his tune and encourages Peter to be both a father and Spider-Man (something he’s against initially before reluctantly agreeing to in this scene. There’s even more foreshadowing in that Ben says he won’t let anything happen to his little brother (who’s actually his big brother), which obviously sets up his sacrifice in part 4.

The scene with Arthur Stacy is mixed for me. It is good because again it goes back to one of the elements from the series when I first started reading. It is bad though because it’s made clear here Arthur has an axe to grind with Spider-Man, but later issues will reveal he has no malice towards him.

When Flash and Betty get invitations it’s interesting to note that Flash and her apparently got onto bad terms off panel somehow (they were dating a while back before Flash hooked up with Felicia in Michellinie’s run), Betty still wears her wedding ring (which is something to remember for Hobgoblin Lives when we get there) and we get more foreshadowing when Betty’s letter is signed ‘O’, which leaves Betty puzzled as she has no idea who that could be.

Once more you feel dread (and if you know what’s coming, despair too) when Mongrain drugs MJ’s food because it’s just so cruel and it makes you (rightly) hate Mongrain. On a lighter note…what happened to everyone else who ate that food she drugged?

The scene where MJ is taken to the hospital also has Ben’s entire regular supporting cast in it, looking more sombre than we’ve ever seen them before. It’s a tiny thing but it shows how Peter and Ben’s worlds have merged together, that Ben’s friends feel connected to and sorry for Mary Jane. It is also just a sad scene generally, that begins the process of tearing your heart out, which part 3 will finish off (leaving part 4 to just stamp on it in front of you).

This was overall another decent little issue to move the plot along and gives us another big revelation (earning this arc’s name) and ends on one helluva cliffhanger.

Oh and there was a nice little cameo from the Joker and Harley Quinn in there too.

Part 3:

Right from the start Skroce’s art really brings part 3 down and undermines the scene where MJ realises they’ve lost the baby (as well as all of her other scenes, in fact EVERY other scene is undermined, except for when he draws Spider-Man). This being said that scene (and the other labour scenes) really are the heartbreaker of the issue, maybe even the whole Clone Saga as (like Peter and MJ) we’ve followed the pregnancy from start to finish and to see it culminate in tragedy like this…it’s good storytelling because it makes you feel stuff; in this case you feel just so sad. I seriously find that scene hard to read to this day and of course wish they’d kept the baby. I will give Skroce some credit regarding the panel layout of that specific scene actually because he intersperses Mongrain’s actions with MJ realising what has happened. You really feel the gut punches hit you one after the other.

But all was not lost for in this very issue, we get so much evidence to the idea that the baby is NOT dead but instead kidnapped (though one wonders how MJ didn’t hear is crying, maybe she was knocked out and didn’t realise the time and maybe Anna was out of ear shot) that frankly it pisses me off whenever people stupidly say the baby died. There is a lot more evidence to the contrary in fact, a big expel being it’d be out of character for Norman to kill the baby. Why kill the baby when he can fake her death, thus making Peter and MJ experience what he felt when Harry died, and then get a double revenge by raising the kid himself who will have spider powers like her father (which Norman knows from experience are superior to his own Goblin powers). Face facts people, as it played out, the baby never died, Norman kidnapped her and has had her ever since.

Speaking of Norman…oh.my. god. That last panel was…I had to put the comic down and just immerse myself in it. The shock. The scale. The malevolence. Although the clues were obvious kudos to the writers for keeping Norman obscured until that last panel when he lit up his lighter to reveal himself. I can’t imagine people’s reactions back in the day but I do know that (even knowing the ending) when Norman was revealed I felt this sense of exhilaration and could only imagine people wondering HOW it happened. THIS is why Norman is the best Spider-Man villain there is, THIS is why he’s such a bad ass and that reveal (whether you liked it or not) was mind blowing. Here he is, the most memorable Spider-Man villain ever, the killer of Gwen Stacy (who is so memorable because of that storyline) and HE’S the one who’s been pulling the strings since…well, not even since the start of the Clone Saga, since before then, way back when the Jackal first showed up in the 1970s. And he’s back and he’s evil and he’s stolen Spider-Man’s baby, and he’s killed Gaunt and he’s got something special planned for Spider-Man and…*gushing noises*.

For over 20 years we’d heard about Norman Osborn, we’d known about him, he existed as a symbol of ultimate evil in the Spider-Man universe having killed Gwen and unmasked Spider-Man. We’d seen his legacy give rise to multiple Goblins including the Hobgoblin and Harry Osborn’s own tragic turn as the Goblin, but now the original model was back and he is going to go head to head with Spider-Man again. I get complaints about his resurrection to some extent but Norman does prove that you CAN bring a character back from the dead well if you do it right. He might be the only villain whose resurrection was as awesome as his death. Hell even his take down of Ben when we didn’t see his face (just his visage, which was getting clearer and clearer as the story progresses, going from him being off panel in the first scene of part 1 to being very much on panel in part 4) was full of dread and scale. If BEN is scared of this guy, who could he be? How big would he have to be to orchestrate all this AND scare Ben too?

Additionally, the scene where Norman takes down Ben from above (his face hidden and taking advantage of Ben’s spider sense being disabled) is just bad ass (even with Skroce’s poor art). The mini fight they have where Norman’s appearance is getting clearer and clearer (but we still can’t make it out) is genuinely effective (albeit sadly cartoonish) what with Norman‘s concealed reflection standing above Ben, reflected in his mask lens. Ben’s terror and denial (more than anyone’s I think) sells how BIG this bad guy must be and how dangerous. The scene contains even more clues to the mastermind being Norman because of course finger blasters are one of Norman’s favourite gadgets and Ben says he saw this mastermind die. This meant it HAD to be someone from BEFORE the first Clone Saga or otherwise from the new one when Ben was introduced. That narrows the suspects down quite a bit to the point where, when you put all the clues together, it can ONLY be Norman. And of course only Norman could do something as awful as this issue. Norman will forever be remembered as the guy who killed Gwen Stacy, but frankly this issue was when he did his most despicable thing of all, in kidnapping Peter and Mary Jane’s baby and faking her death. That…that’s evil. Pure, pure evil. NO ONE has ever done anything as terrible as that to Spider-Man (and given their desire to not give him children, they never will again)

Many people expected Harry, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Harry could never have pulled this whole thing off, he wouldn’t have hurt Mary Jane like this and frankly, since Spec #200 was entirely about his death (whilst the Death of Gwen Stacy was more about Gwen’s death than Norman’s) bringing him back here would be cheap as all get out. As it played out, they DID use continuity from Spec #200 as Norman’s primary motivation was revenge for Harry’s death. You could almost say from Spec #200 to this story Peter’s been caught between two Green Goblins, with both Harry and Norman manipulating his life during that time.

This might just be one of the most important Spider-Man issues out there for the sheer volume of life changing stuff that goes on in it. Stromm’s elimination by Norman was heavily foreshadowed as far back as Blood Brothers, but was still awesome to see. I’ve always like Stromm. He has a super villain name and his relationship to Norman makes him more than just a robot guy, which Smythe basically is.

Now that the BIG stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about the other aspects of this part.

Doc Folsome gives you that sinking feeling as soon as you hear that he’s replaced MJ’s regular doctor (and to his credit Skroce does actually make him look evil). He’s obviously an Osborn plant but if Osborn made sure the baby would die when he had Mongrain drug MJ’s food…why does he need BOTH Mongrain AND Folsome (or either in fact) there when MJ gives birth f it’s a sure thing that it was a miscarriage? In fact why is he there observing it…? Unless the baby was never intended to die, and never did die…and actually Folsome and Mongrain were there to deliver the baby to Norman or give MJ and/or the baby something to keep them quiet/make them not notice what’s going on (or maybe Mary Jane just passed out)???? What other ‘package’ could Mongrain possibly be delivering to Norman, what else could she be wheeling away from the hospital? Sorry, I’ll try not to get back into that, but my point is the overwhelming majority of the evidence is pointing towards the baby being alive. I also liked that Angela Yin showed concern for Peter and Mary Jane in spite of not knowing them that well. She’s a nice little supporting character so I was sorry to see her disappear eventually (even if taking photos of a woman in labour in a hospital isn’t going to make her any friends).

Now for some criticisms. I love DeFalco and I understand that between his old school sensibilities and the way comics were done in the 90s dialogue was used to catch the reader up on the goings on, but…when he writes Peter’s thought captions on that opening double page spread…it’s just clunky and too expositional. Stromm’s dialogue also slightly changes. It’s a subtle but noticeable change to more traditional/cliché comic book villain dialogue, whereas in parts 1-2 Gaunt’s voice was more consistently menacing I felt.

Also Skroce decided the sleek looking robots Wieringo drew in the last part needed to be replaced with these green alien things (which Ben claims he’s fought before but unless I missed something neither he nor Peter have met these things before). Okay, he’s referencing the robots from ASM #37 but still, Wieringo’s design was better. And needless to say, Wieringo drew everything else better. Skroce gives everyone wrinkly faces and exaggerated eyebrows. Wieringo also does the latter but this stuff is…I don’t know it’s just ugly and over the top.

Going back to some positives, Robbie and Glory’s scene was small but effective showcasing (especially in Robbie’s case) that they both really care about Peter and Mary Jane when they get news about the complications with the labour. And then there are the maintenance men just outside the window, ominously working away to seal everyone’s doom.  Personally I preferred the scene where they planted a pumpkin with a bomb inside it (maybe the least subtle clue yet, a literal ‘pumpkin-bomb’ really?), with Robbie saying there wouldn’t be a major disaster whilst the scene played out.

The kid robots were frankly annoying; they should’ve stayed silent killers not the comedic little rugrats we saw in this part. That’s too light-hearted for where we are going to go in the next part, where we’ve come from in Parts 1-2, heck it’s too light hearted for where we went at the end of this part. Where this a slightly less serious story, scenes where Peter fights the robot children whilst Anna tells him about MJ’s labour might be okay, but here…it’s standard super heroics but it nevertheless doesn’t fit well. However that scene in particular does end with the ironic statement by Peter that nothing will keep him from MJ’s side, because…yes it will.

Getting back to the fight with Stromm himself, it’s kind of interestingly choreographed (I especially liked Ben ripping off his arm blade and then the rest of his armour) but the dialogue is frankly more riveting, particularly when Ben and Stromm start talking about who he works for and Stromm reveals Seward’s role (and death) in the Clone Saga. Again I love Stromm’s unabashed hatred for his boss (which Norman knows about no doubt) but I don’t get why Ben would think Mysterio was behind this? It’s supposed to be someone dead and Mysterio was not a dead guy last he knew (he showed up in ‘Bug Story’). I did like when Stromm used the gas to disable Ben and Peter’s Spider Sense though. I always loved that little trick that Norman could pull and of course it’s at the heart of the Spider-Man/Goblin mythology because that’s how Norman found out Peter was Spider-Man in the first place; the case was yet another little clue to who the mastermind was.

Ben’s ending the fight was cool I must admit, even with Skroce trying to ruin it. This was in a sense Ben’s last great battle. Peter will fight Norman but Ben get’s Norman’s second in command and Gaunt wasn’t a bad opponent for him, nor was his victory over the guy. I also liked Ben telling Peter to give his daughter a kiss from her godfather immediately after beating Gaunt. Gaunt’s death was built up quite well, we’ve seen him talk about how evil his boss is and how he rewards failure with death (Stromm himself carrying out such deaths) so seeing Stromm succumb to the same fate was only natural (especially when you consider Norman has a history of screwing him over). I’ll miss Stromm because I think he was an effective villain in this arc and really my biggest complaint about him was that he continued to talk in a modulated computer voice even after he lost his technological armour, WTH?

Let’s finish this part off with some more trivial stuff.  The scene with Arthur Stacy had the exact same problems as the one from the previous issue, only worse because Skroce is drawing it. This being said, it was fun seeing Tork again, he’s an old school police character from the 1980s, specifically the ‘Gang War’ storyline.

Finally, there was a good joke (if you’re juvenile at heart, which I am) about masturbation (notice it was about masturbation, not directly involving it Mr. Slott) which surprised me because you would not expect that from DeFalco.

This issue overall was the weakest part of this story but not irredeemable.  If nothing else it had okayish-nice action scenes going for it, to say nothing of shock and heartbreak value.

Part 4:

READ THIS ISSUE AFTER DARK, I implore you. It will add so many atmospheres to the story.

What is most striking about this issue going in is how well it actually reads on its own. Reading this over 10 years ago when I jumped on board without having read the other parts (or any Spider-Man story for that matter) and re-reading it now with the other parts I can appreciate what a masterpiece Mackie and Romita crafted here. This is their best issue. Unquestionably so, their later stuff isn’t bad at all, but this is their peak.

Right off the bat we have a scene which (thanks to Romita’s art and Mackie’s writing) is positively seething with malevolence, symbolism and continuity. Norman Osborn meets his grandson (his namesake) for the first time ever and of course young Norman is dressed as a green goblin-like monster (foreshadowing his destiny in Spider-Girl as much as referencing his family legacy). Of course Norman has a twisted love for his grandson that he’d make sure he is alright before he kills the boy’s mother. And of course Normie recognises his grandfather from the portrait his father showed him in Spectacular Spider-Man #200 where Harry died, where many of the seeds for the 90s Clone Saga began in fact. The Osborn legacy is on full display here.

The story also does a good job of living up to the new name of the comic. ‘Spider-Man’ was renamed ‘Peter Parker: Spider-Man’ to send a clear message about who was going to be the main character from now on and who was the real deal. And, unlike parts 1-3 which are very much Peter AND Ben’s story for the most part, Part 4 is Peter’s story, plain and simple. Oh Ben is there, he has his moments, he plays hero and works with Peter but this is NOT a team effort anymore. The focus is heavily upon Peter, following his journey through this book and most especially building up his rivalry with Norman. I’d even go so far as to say the story up until now was about Peter and Ben, but this issue is about Peter and Norman. That’s why Ben’s fight in part 3 against Stromm was so important folks. It was HIS last hurrah, one last fight for him to win on his own, unquestionably as Spider-Man against a foe who’d previously kicked his ass and also ruined his life. Now in this is Peter’s fight. Ben might owe Norman some licks, he might hate him, and they might have a business to settle (which happens in the bonus pages where we get a cool flashback fight where Ben actually looks to be winning for awhile) but when push comes to shove Norman is Peter’s arch-nemesis. HE’S the one who deserves to take Norman down, he’s the one Norman has hurt the most and he’s the one who’s wife and child Norman is withholding from him. This is Peter’s story.

For awhile when Peter searches for MJ in the hospital, we get some of the old Parker luck but the way the art, layouts and colours are done you see things through Peter’s eyes, feel his frustration, his desperation, his despair (which pales compared to that of the readers’ who saw last issue and know what’s happened to MJ and who’s waiting for Peter) and feel like (thanks to the black areas  surrounding the panels) like they’re in the grip of night; the Night of the Goblin that is. Folsome’s appearance makes him look almost demonic before he literally turns into a jack-o’-lantern and (thanks to the art) I’m now terrified of those.

Speaking of the art, I’ve always said I like Romita Jr’s art but honestly here…this might just be the best issue he’s ever drawn (partially due to Hanna’s inks). It is so beautifully done. The use of darkness in this story really makes you feel like your reading this at night and that there is evil in the air. The scene where Peter slowly emerges from the darkness as Spider-Man is so spooky, yet so beautiful to look at too.  It’s a quick (if a bit nonsensical) way of getting him in costume, but more than this it’s symbolic of Peter emerging from the darkness and becoming the one true Spider-Man again. By the same token, Norman emerging from the darkness really puts across the idea he’s arisen from the dead to torment Spider-Man and leaves you in no doubt…this man is truly evil.

In regards to Norman, I think it’s very telling that he WANTS a fight with Peter, he doesn’t want to just kill him, he wants to prove himself superior to his enemy physically, and specifically he has to do it AS the Goblin and Peter must be Spider-Man when it happens (in the original costume no less) because Norman wants the full experience. He wants this because he thinks in terms of physical violence due to his family history of physical abuse. Unless he physically beats Spider-Man a part of him will always think he wasn’t good enough compared to him.

There is also a nice bit of symmetry early on when Peter realises Norman is back, since he (like his brother Ben) denies that Norman can be alive because he saw him die (memories Ben shares with him). The letterer even outdoes themselves on this issue as you can feel Peter’s denials of Norman being alive growing louder as the words grow larger in the speech balloons.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention by the way that John Romita Sr. worked on ‘The Death of Gwen Stacy’ where Gwen and Norman kicked the bucket and now in this issue, his son get’s to pencil a quick flashback of Gwen and Norman’s epic return. Also Romita Sr. drew Norman unmasking as the Goblin in his very first issue on the title. My point? Nothing really I just like those coincidences, although having Romita Jr. pencil what is essentially a sequel to the second most famous Spider-Man story of all time (cos the origin is always the most well known) given his dad worked on it seems almost like destiny.

The double page spread this happens on by the way has been burned into my mind for over 10 years (although I forgot the hilarious editors note that the Death of Gwen Stacy is only NOW a classic story). THIS is the most iconic shot of Norman of all time, followed up by even more iconic shots like when Norman tears his shirt off revealing his scars (which is more proof he’s the real deal). In that panel Norman not only looks bad ass but he says words which, rarely for comic books, are utterly true: “I am Norman Osborn…your worst nightmare.” He speaks more words which get to the heart of their relationship when he says it always had to come down to the two of them fighting each other.

The explanation of how Norman can be alive isn’t actually as out of left field as people think. Apart from this being standard super villain routine (see Doc Ock surviving a nuclear explosion be wrapping himself in his tentacles) Norman survived an electrocution to the head as well as the Goblin formula exploding in his face which started his criminal career. He should’ve died or had horrific chemical burns from those, but he’s fine. Why? Because the formula heals him. It always has probably. The page of exposition is done eloquently enough to plug several questions readers no doubt asked though most will be addressed (and repeated) in the Osborn Journal One Shot. This page where Norman suits up really conveys just how much seething hatred and how personal his and Peter’s war is. This isn’t like when Peter fights Doctor Octopus or even Venom. Norman loathes Peter for a legitimate reason from the bottom of his soul and Peter feels the same way given how Norman’s hurt him and MJ. Doctor Octopus wants to prove his superiority to Spider-Man. Venom wants to kill him. Norman wants everything about Peter. He wants to destroy everything he was, is and might ever be.

Looking at the supporting cast for a moment, the situation at the Bugle in this part let’s them shine a little bit independently  of Peter, demonstrating how they’re really an ensemble cast when you get down to it. There is this claustrophobia established from them all being locked in the Bugle together (the maintenance men’s work being responsible for that). That was great build up by the way, seeing the maintenance men join then carry out their work through parts 1-3, all culminating in one locked office. It really gave you a good sense of the passage of time and had the story build organically.

Seeing Jonah rant and rave as a coping mechanism to reassure the others (whilst privately confiding his fear to Robbie) was great characterisation for him. Where the issue trips up though is with Flash and Betty’s relationship (which, along with Flash’s negative feelings, play a part in Post-Clone Saga stories). Flash claims it went bad after her husband died but that wasn’t really the case in reality.  Also Liz has moved on from Harry’s death which was about a year ago, which is a bit fast. These however are nit picks in the grand scheme of this issue.

Similarly (and it pains me to say this) Jonah and Robbie’s dialogue in the elevator really conflicts with what happened in part 3 because they’re back to assuming they’re going to a board meeting and act like they haven’t spoken to each other about it (in fact Robbie claims Jonah signed his letter himself). That is hardly something to tear this issue apart over though.

Another con is in the form of Arthur Stacy. I like this character, I really do, but his motivations here will be basically forgotten later on which is poor storytelling but not the fault of this issue…what IS the fault of this issue though is including him in it when he contributes nothing to THIS specific story. It distracts from the main action of the thing. This being said there is a good dialogue box where it says he is heading to the scene of the fight to see the man who killed his brother and niece pay dearly. It’s meant to mean Spider-Man but of course the Goblin was the guy who killed Gwen.

Turning our attentions to Mister Reilly, seeing Ben all beat up is disheartening, but in a good way. It shows what a bad ass Norman is and how desperate the situation really is. I mean if he has already defeated one Spider-Man tonight…The reveal that he’s been manipulating things since the 1970s also adds greater scale to Norman’s menace and you can tell that he is loving his little monologue about how he fooled Peter and how he (like Peter once upon a time) regards Ben as a meaningless creature, an inhuman thing. The panel where Norman holds both Spider-Men in his arms doesn’t just look good but it’s symbolic of how he’s held both of them in his hands throughout the Clone Saga and how the tired and tattered Ben is destined to give way to Peter in this very issue. Romita follows this up with a truly epic splash page of the Green Goblin in full gear and back in action after 23 years. Once more Norman eloquently puts into words WHY he hates Spider-Man so much. More than anything he hates the fact that (as Ben himself pointed out in part 2) Peter can survive anything despite his best efforts.

I hate to sound redundant but Romita Jr seriously draws one iconic page after another as when the fight starts he uses a double page spread to showcase Spider-Man and the Goblin coming in from opposite ends at each other as larger than life titans, picking up where their old rivalry left of back in Amazing Spider-Man #122. The dialogue from Norman is ambiguous enough that you aren’t sure if he’s killed Peter’s baby or stolen her, he just says he’s ‘taken’ her to even the score for killing Harry. As I’ve said before Norman wouldn’t just kill the child of his greatest enemy. He’d consider raising the child as his own (and making use of those marvellous powers she might inherit) an even greater victory, but he would make Peter THINK his daughter is dead, and make him feel the same pain Norman himself felt over Harry’s death.

Returning to the supporting cast, Jonah’s face, the dropping of the cigar and his fear would all be funny in another comic but here it is really not. I can’t say what it is but funny is the last thing that it is. The same goes for Norman’s announcement to the Bugle crowd. Here you see how crazy he is, he’s holding a grudge against people who he’s never even met, who don’t even know what they’ve done to offend him. Norman’s resentment of Liz for making Harry weak showcases Norman’s background in violence and resentment even of Harry himself. It also shows Norman’s hatred of women which is subtly documented around his history.

When the fight truly begins Spidey and Gobby fall back into a routine in a sense, there’s standard (I say standard, Romita Jr takes it up several notches) super heroics going on here but it builds up from there. Spider-Man has tiny pieces of humour but they aren’t what you’d expect. How can they be, this is far and away the most serious he’s ever been in a fight. This isn’t him getting revenge, this is him beating the man who killed his girlfriend and who might have hurt his wife and child. He is arguably more serious now than he’s ever been.

Another way this part really succeeds is its use of various elements of the mythology. Whilst Spider-Man fights his greatest enemy, we have Spider-Man’s friend’s lives on the line, whilst who knows what has happened to Mary Jane and the baby and all of this happens at the Bugle, the most frequently used location in the Spider-Man mythology. The battle is so epic it draws in people on the street, patrons of the Daily Grind and even Arthur Stacy. It brings in so many of the supporting cast and elements of the mythology to make a truly memorable wham bam finale to the Clone Saga.

I think my absolute favourite set of pages are when Gobby blasts Peter through the Bugle sign itself and shouts to the his dead son about how he was a disgrace for losing to Spider-Man, only to be shocked that Peter isn’t out of the game yet. The epicness is off the scale when Peter stands up and essentially tells the Goblin: “bring it on bitch!” THAT’S the sentiments of the Master Planner scene done right, no rubble, no rip-off, but it’s the same thing at its core. And of course (as the issue points out) the Goblin just can’t figure it out; he never could. He literally can’t beat Spider-Man so long as he’s got MJ and the baby to think about. Of all people on Earth, he  is the least likely to make Spider-Man stay down because he is the one person Spider-Man can’t let win, the one person’s who’s continued presence means Spider-Man will make sure he lives on, just to spite him. This all happens on a double page spread where the situation is reversed from when Peter and Norman first began their battle. Their on opposite sides of the page and their battle is closing, not opening. More than this it’s the Goblin who gets his butt kicked in this scene, not Peter.

Shortly after, in a scene where it’s Peter’s turn to philosophise on their relationship (saying it’s never been between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, it’s been between Peter Parker and Norman Osborn, which has been utterly true since ASM #39), he removes his and Norman’s mask which by sheer coincidence ALSO happened when he and Harry battled in ‘The Child Within’, which further developed the Parker-Osborn feud. Following this we get Peter at his most bad ass in the Clone Saga when he just punches Norman out as Norman (reduced to the pathetic man he really is) tries to scrabble at Peter’s chest and bemoans the fact that he’s lost again!

But let’s not forget Ben. He plays hero again in rescuing the trapped folks at the Bugle and is marked for death from the gut wound he took to save Flash. When he gets to the roof he has a sarcastic little line about how he has some experience at this job which is a phrase Mackie has been throwing back and forth between Peter and Ben for awhile by this point. Here though it’s all the more poignant because he’s saying it just as the Goblin recreates the same scenario from the issue where he (Norman) first died; he remote controls his glider to impale Peter. Only this time it’s Ben who takes it instead of Peter. People don’t talk about this moment enough but they should. Ben thought he was the original Peter Parker when this happened. He thought Peter was his clone. But Ben gave his life to save Peter anyway, even though Peter was just a copy of him. He did it because Peter had a family and a life to lead, he did it because Peter was his brother, he did it because Ben Reilly was a true hero. In giving his life for Peter he fulfilled the fundamental moral message the Clone Saga should have had throughout, instead of just pretending to have throughout: that it is our actions which make us who we are, not how we were born. Ben was a clone but he performed an act of supreme heroism, which obviously put any doubts about the value of clones as people (and characters) to rest (or it should do any way).

Romita Jr. has Peter (in a moment of subtle hatred and anger) basically try and kill Norman by throwing a bunch of bombs at him and causing a brilliant explosion which is ANOTHER iconic panel I remember even 10 years later. Oh, and Norman says Spider-Man has no idea what he’s taken from him. If Norman earlier told Spider-Man he took something to even the score for killing Harry (implying the baby) and is now saying Peter has no idea what he’s done (even though he already told him what he’d done) then wouldn’t THAT imply Norman has actually tricked Peter? That what Peter doesn’t realise Norman has ‘taken’ is his baby, as in he’s physically stolen their child and his chance to be a father. I mean why would Peter have no idea that Norman’s killed the baby when he pretty much implied that and Norman knows that Peter’s gonna be told the baby is dead soon anyway?

Then we get Ben’s death. I am blessed to have never lost a parent or close relative. So when I read ASM #400 I have yet to get truly teary eyed (I pray I never do frankly). This being said…because I’ve followed him and loved his character so much, when Ben dies…the tears come my friends. They come. When he says Peter has to take care of his niece and has to tell her about her Uncle Ben…I well up, I’m not ashamed to admit that. It’s emotional stuff, which twists the knife further because WE know Peter can’t fulfil Ben’s dying wish because the baby (dead or not) is gone (FUCK YOU NORMAN SHE’LL LEARN ABOUT HER UNCLE BEN IN SPIDER-GIRL, oh sorry I got too drawn in there for a moment). The scene brings in the supporting cast, old and new to witness Ben’s death. Apart from Jonah, Robbie, Flash, Glory and Betty (who doesn’t seem to care her new boyfriend is dying), we have Ben’s own supporting cast in Shirley, Devon, Buzz and even Jimmy Six. They’re all there to watch a Spider-Man die, to see their friend die just like us, the readers. And Peter…oh Peter…he’s just like us too, he’s saying “No” over and over again because he doesn’t want Ben to leave either. There are lots of ways for it to be retconned that Ben Reilly didn’t really die, e.g. “because this wasn’t actually Ben Reilly, it was ANOTHER clone LOLS”…but that’d really cheapen his actions and death here. I WANT Ben back but don’t just say it wasn’t him in this issue. Find a way to say he did died here and then resurrect him or something. Ben’s degeneration was a way to cement that Peter was the one true Spider-Man but it does raise head scratching questions since the issue of degeneration is very iffy in the Clone Saga. No one knows who degenerates and who doesn’t. This is why there are so many theories about Ben not actually being dead or how he could come back out there. Also, Ben dies in Peter’s clothes which is very ironic and just a perfect symbol of their relationship and what the message of the Clone Saga is about.

And the heartbreak doesn’t stop with Ben’s death. Oh boy. Then…we finally, at the very end of this story, have Peter and Mary Jane reunite, having been separated since the start of part 1. This is…this is by far and away the single worst moment in their relationship. I don’t mean it’s badly written, far from it, I mean emotionally for these characters this is the worst tragedy in their relationship, the worst thing to happen to them in their lives as individuals and as a couple. A full term miscarriage is a horrible thing which no act by a fictional comic book super villain could ever come close to. It is something which happens in real life so in a sense having it happen to Spider-Man of all characters made sense. And if you like Peter and/or Mary Jane (especially if you’ve been reading them for years)…your heart literally hurts when you read this scene.

It is in its own unique way a victory for them as well. It’s the greatest tragedy of their lives but they survived it. Because, just like Norman said, Peter can survive anything; he even listed off things he’s done to Peter which he’s survived, starting off with Gwen’s death. Here is a secret Norman (and other readers) might not realise: Peter survived all that stuff because of Mary Jane. MJ was there when Gwen died, when he found out he was a clone and when Norman threw all this other stuff at him. It isn’t Peter who’s the survivor, it’s him and MJ togetherwho thrive and survive (as Spectacular Spider-Man #241 will show us). And if they can survive this real world horror…they can survive anything.

Sorry to break my review for a moment but I honestly think as soon as this issue happened, and as soon as Peter and MJ obviously weren’t gonna break up as a result of the miscarriage, the creators’ window of opportunity to end the marriage officially closed. If they went through this and stayed together then nothing else short of mind control or mind wipes or unrealistic comic book stuff like that was actually going to break them up. That’s why when they forced them to separate in the Reboot and in OMD it was so utterly fake because you wouldn’t believe it of them after this. Glen Greenburg who writes a blog about the behind the scenes stuff on the Clone Saga said it best when he basically said that part of the Clone Saga’s remit was to end the marriage and they were working on ways to do that in Revelations, to have MJ and Peter break up at the end. But what happened in reality was that the Clone Saga ended with them being closer than ever before. Dunno if that’s good or bad writing really.

Okay, let’s refocus. Even though Maximum Clonage Alpha is I think undeniably Peter at his lowest, most vulnerable point, this story is the worst night of Peter’s life bar none. Take your Civil Wars and Back in Blacks and One More Days and your Dying Wishes and shuv em where the sun don’t shine. In this issue, on this one night, Spider-Man’s worst nightmare in the form of his greatest enemy arose to hurt him and kill his brother and his baby in one stroke. THIS was the greatest tragedy of his life. THIS was the characters most painful storyline. But at the same time it was a story which did get to the core of who Peter was. Hell the entire damn Clone Saga could be said to do that in an abstract sense. Here we see Spider-Man as the proper, adult, flawed, human hero that he is, who fights until the end.

Getting onto the bonus pages from the Revelations trade paperback, these pages are seamlessly integrated into the original version of part 4. The epilogue has a minor hiccup because two characters who haven’t been introduced yet appear (although you could just say they’re random people) but otherwise it’s a really touching scene as MJ and Peter mourn Ben and their baby amongst their friends and family. Also surprisingly touching, is the scene where Jimmy Six remembers Peter was Ben’s cousin and promises to make Ben’s killers pay for harming his friend, also offering Peter any assistance if he needs it. Again, this was why I liked Jimmy Six, a noble gangster. Peter scattering Ben’s ashes from the bridge where Gwen died was a nice touch because it called back to the 1970s. Not only was Gwen’s death the catalyst for the Clone Saga in many ways but all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #151, Peter disposed of Ben’s body in a smokestack saying that, since it was his desire to be cremated when he dies he figured Ben (who back then was just ‘a clone’) would want that as well. Well, he wasn’t cremated but now Ben Reilly is dust and so Peter scatters his ashes.

Finally, the bonus pages contain a profoundly terrifying scene where Norman rises from the ashes of his and Spider-Man’s battle (once more coming back to life) and looks all burnt and beat up. Romita’s art once more sells that Norman has transcended what he was once upon a time and is now almost a force of pure evil that is once more arising from the dead. His words about letting ‘Norman Osborn’ battle Spider-Man from now on shall have a profound impact in the Post-Clone Saga era (especially Spectacular Spider-Man #250, so watch out for that). Unintentionally or otherwise Romita Jr’s art also makes Norman in this scene bear a striking resemblance to the villain Carrion, a clone of the Jackal (well there’s much more to it than that but just accept that Carrion was a clone of Warren). Bill Mantlo who created Carrion allegedly had the idea that Carrion (who looks like a zombie and carries a bag around with him, not dissimilar to Norman’s bag of goblin gadgets) would be Norman Osborn arisen from the dead so maybe Romita was referencing that.

Looking at some points about the storyline more generally, I really liked how each issue moved the actual time of the story along as well. Part 1 was bright and sunny (perfect for Luke Ross’ art), part 2 was still bright and still happens in the day but night is falling, part 3 was darker still and night falls as tragedy strikes the Parker family and then part 4 happened, which was entirely at night, was indeed named Night of the Goblin, and had very fitting moody Romita Jr. art to go with it.

Additionally it’s been said that part 4 is the great issue in Revelations and don’t talk much about parts 1-3, claiming they’re kind of ordinary at best. I have to disagree. Yes part 4 was the best part but parts 1-3 are its foundation. You need them to support and hold up part 4 to make the overall storyline work as well as it does and to make it as good as it is. Again, would Ben’s death be as sad if in part 1 you hadn’t seen him and Peter being so friendly to one another? Would the miscarriage sting as much as it does without Peter and Mary Jane being as happy as they were in part 1? No. These parts by themselves might be only okay but together they form something really special.

The Clone Saga had its ups and downs but my lord did it end with one helluva up. Read THIS story if you never read any other Clone Saga story in your life. And you know what, I WILL get on my soap box right now and say it. If you hate this issue (as many do) you’ve either not read it, not read it in context or…you are a goddam narrow minded fool, because this story is OBJECTIVLY one of the absolute best Spider-Man stories of all time.

A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And with that we’ve concluded the Clone Saga. Now let us push forward as we leave behind the darkness of the Clone Saga and embrace a more upbeat tone. We now enter my favourite era of Spider-Man in the Post-Clone Saga era. But don’t think the Clone Saga will be forgotten. Oh no, there’s more than a few plot threads carried over. We might even be seeing some old faces pop up. Maybe even…some from this very arc????? Read on True Believers.

Most carelessly I reblogged this to the wrong place. Sorry about that. If you are reading these chronologically this takes place before the Spec #241 review

angryfantasyfan
angryfantasyfan:

hellzyeahwebwieldingreviews:

A New Day Dawning
Complete Ben Reilly Epic Volume 6: Spectacular Spider-Man #241
Synopsis: Spider-Man swings through the city thinking of all he has lost and all he has suffered these past few months: Aunt May, Ben Reilly…his daughter. He thinks how he’ll forever be sad for those losses but in spite of all he has lost, his thoughts of his wife and of reclaiming his identity fill him with new hope and optimism. Meanwhile the Chameleon in Ravencroft has recovered from his vegetative state (his mind retreated into itself in ‘Pursuit’, ASM #389) and he is masquerading as his deceased half-brother, Kraven the Hunter. Ashley Kafka tries to reach Chameleon but it doesn’t go all that well since he is upset over being transferred out of Ravencroft.
At May Parker’s house Aunt Anna is with Mary Jane who has finished clearing out what would have been the baby’s room. Mary Jane herself is feeling more optimistic than she has been recently, claiming that as sad as she’s felt over the loss of her child, tonight she feels blessed to have known her at all. Spider-Man checks in on Jameson at the Bugle and considers ribbing the old goat before he has a change of heart, seeing him look older and more frail than usual. Instead he taps on the window (getting Jonah to rant and rave as a result) and advises Jonah to call it a night and head home, which he does. However, as he leaves it appears he is being watched by the villain Jack O’Lantern. At the Parker home Peter and Mary Jane watch the night sky and agree it is time to put it all behind them, with MJ asking if they can move out of May’s home (which Peter agrees to). At Ravencroft John Jameson is shocked and surprised by a phone call from his dad who called just to tell him he’s proud of John and loves him. A back and forth between John and Kafka is interrupted when Ashley notices the Chameleon has vanished from his cell.
Back at the Parker residence Peter, thinks MJ is asleep and decides to go out web swinging. MJ sees him on his way out and he offers to stay with her, but instead she prompts him to take her with him. Spider-Man and Mary Jane swing through the city, ultimately winding up at the top of the tallest building in New York. Overlooking all of the city they embrace and take in a new sunrise. However, in the Ravencroft basement, the Chameleon is offered a helping hand b…Ashley Kafka.
I…I love this story….a lot.
It’s the first one written by my favourite Spider-Man writer (J.M. DeMatteis) on quite possibly my favourite run on Spider-Man ever (certainly this is my favourite era of the series). Like DeMatteis’ seminal Kraven’s Last Hunt (my all time favourite Spider-Man story), this story is ultimately life affirming. Luke Ross’s art is cartoonish but after a while it grew on me. The Chameleon and Jack O’Lantern stuff is stereotypical set up for future superheroics but the heart of this story really is Peter and Mary Jane. You see both of them separately going through their day over a month after their miscarriage and then at the end they come together to begin moving on with their lives.
There is a continuity error which unfortunately makes it seem Mary Jane is in denial, but I can let it slide. Basically she thinks she got to hold her baby and then it died, when that never happened. Maybe this is just her way of coping and she got over it later on.
This issues’ main flaw is that it comes off VERY insensitive if you read it too soon after Revelations. This issue originally came out one week after that storyline and I advise you wait at least that long before reading this if you just read Revelations. I read this story for the first time a day or two after I re-read PPSM #75 for the first time in 10 years and it felt jarring, it felt like Peter and MJ got over their loss too quickly and Marvel itself just wanted to push the issue aside insensitively. Technically speaking that is EXACTLY what was happening. Marvel wanted to move on and in a way I do not blame them because honest to God who wanted to read Spider-Man and MJ going through that kind of Hell for months on end before we could climb out of the darkness which the titles had been going through for years (alleviated briefly by Ben’s stint)? I sure didn’t but at the same time I wanted an organic progression, I didn’t want it to be cheaply written off, because if nothing else that would be disingenuous to the people who really go through this tragedy. Now Marvel for a few years DID acknowledge that the miscarriage happened and didn’t just have Peter and MJ act as if nothing happened. They were sad, reflective but most of their grieving happens off panel. The thing is this issue does sell you on the fact that it happened, they were hurt but now they are prepared to start living again. I have a whole theory on why they were able to get to this point which I will share with you at some point, but essentially it does make a weird kind of sense that they could move on this quickly given who these characters are.
Really this issue was like the 90s cartoon, something with a job to do but had a lot of constraints placed upon it. But also like the 90s cartoon it is something special, something great and the reason why the issue honestly works (not that it is an honest and harshly realistic look at a couple dealing with this tragedy) is entirely because J.M. DeMatteis is writing it. Honestly, as much as I love DeFalco, I really do not think anyone else could have pulled this issue off; it would’ve flopped at best and been a train wreck at worst. But because JMD is just that good I am going to give this issue a grade of:
A
It is in its own way beautiful, especially those pages where Spider-Man and Mary Jane swing through the city.

This was the issue that made me realize i wasn’t reading comics just for the action. Great review of one of my favorite single issues.

Thank you

angryfantasyfan:

hellzyeahwebwieldingreviews:

A New Day Dawning

Complete Ben Reilly Epic Volume 6: Spectacular Spider-Man #241

Synopsis: Spider-Man swings through the city thinking of all he has lost and all he has suffered these past few months: Aunt May, Ben Reilly…his daughter. He thinks how he’ll forever be sad for those losses but in spite of all he has lost, his thoughts of his wife and of reclaiming his identity fill him with new hope and optimism. Meanwhile the Chameleon in Ravencroft has recovered from his vegetative state (his mind retreated into itself in ‘Pursuit’, ASM #389) and he is masquerading as his deceased half-brother, Kraven the Hunter. Ashley Kafka tries to reach Chameleon but it doesn’t go all that well since he is upset over being transferred out of Ravencroft.

At May Parker’s house Aunt Anna is with Mary Jane who has finished clearing out what would have been the baby’s room. Mary Jane herself is feeling more optimistic than she has been recently, claiming that as sad as she’s felt over the loss of her child, tonight she feels blessed to have known her at all. Spider-Man checks in on Jameson at the Bugle and considers ribbing the old goat before he has a change of heart, seeing him look older and more frail than usual. Instead he taps on the window (getting Jonah to rant and rave as a result) and advises Jonah to call it a night and head home, which he does. However, as he leaves it appears he is being watched by the villain Jack O’Lantern. At the Parker home Peter and Mary Jane watch the night sky and agree it is time to put it all behind them, with MJ asking if they can move out of May’s home (which Peter agrees to). At Ravencroft John Jameson is shocked and surprised by a phone call from his dad who called just to tell him he’s proud of John and loves him. A back and forth between John and Kafka is interrupted when Ashley notices the Chameleon has vanished from his cell.

Back at the Parker residence Peter, thinks MJ is asleep and decides to go out web swinging. MJ sees him on his way out and he offers to stay with her, but instead she prompts him to take her with him. Spider-Man and Mary Jane swing through the city, ultimately winding up at the top of the tallest building in New York. Overlooking all of the city they embrace and take in a new sunrise. However, in the Ravencroft basement, the Chameleon is offered a helping hand b…Ashley Kafka.

I…I love this story….a lot.

It’s the first one written by my favourite Spider-Man writer (J.M. DeMatteis) on quite possibly my favourite run on Spider-Man ever (certainly this is my favourite era of the series). Like DeMatteis’ seminal Kraven’s Last Hunt (my all time favourite Spider-Man story), this story is ultimately life affirming. Luke Ross’s art is cartoonish but after a while it grew on me. The Chameleon and Jack O’Lantern stuff is stereotypical set up for future superheroics but the heart of this story really is Peter and Mary Jane. You see both of them separately going through their day over a month after their miscarriage and then at the end they come together to begin moving on with their lives.

There is a continuity error which unfortunately makes it seem Mary Jane is in denial, but I can let it slide. Basically she thinks she got to hold her baby and then it died, when that never happened. Maybe this is just her way of coping and she got over it later on.

This issues’ main flaw is that it comes off VERY insensitive if you read it too soon after Revelations. This issue originally came out one week after that storyline and I advise you wait at least that long before reading this if you just read Revelations. I read this story for the first time a day or two after I re-read PPSM #75 for the first time in 10 years and it felt jarring, it felt like Peter and MJ got over their loss too quickly and Marvel itself just wanted to push the issue aside insensitively. Technically speaking that is EXACTLY what was happening. Marvel wanted to move on and in a way I do not blame them because honest to God who wanted to read Spider-Man and MJ going through that kind of Hell for months on end before we could climb out of the darkness which the titles had been going through for years (alleviated briefly by Ben’s stint)? I sure didn’t but at the same time I wanted an organic progression, I didn’t want it to be cheaply written off, because if nothing else that would be disingenuous to the people who really go through this tragedy. Now Marvel for a few years DID acknowledge that the miscarriage happened and didn’t just have Peter and MJ act as if nothing happened. They were sad, reflective but most of their grieving happens off panel. The thing is this issue does sell you on the fact that it happened, they were hurt but now they are prepared to start living again. I have a whole theory on why they were able to get to this point which I will share with you at some point, but essentially it does make a weird kind of sense that they could move on this quickly given who these characters are.

Really this issue was like the 90s cartoon, something with a job to do but had a lot of constraints placed upon it. But also like the 90s cartoon it is something special, something great and the reason why the issue honestly works (not that it is an honest and harshly realistic look at a couple dealing with this tragedy) is entirely because J.M. DeMatteis is writing it. Honestly, as much as I love DeFalco, I really do not think anyone else could have pulled this issue off; it would’ve flopped at best and been a train wreck at worst. But because JMD is just that good I am going to give this issue a grade of:

A

It is in its own way beautiful, especially those pages where Spider-Man and Mary Jane swing through the city.

This was the issue that made me realize i wasn’t reading comics just for the action. Great review of one of my favorite single issues.

Thank you

Okay so…confession time guys. When I did the reviews I did them as fun additions to my reading project but more recently it’s been feeling more and more like a chore, like I’m reading the issues in order to DO the reviews. I’ve sort of come to realise that a) I don’t have time to do that and b) I feel that it’s counterproductive to the quality of the reviews. I am stopping and starting each issue to jot down my thoughts and that just isn’t a good way for this to work. If you can kind of imagine it like there are 2 ways to write a review, one way is where the review is the POINT and the other is where the experience of reading the comic is the point, I was doing the latter and then whacked on some reviews later. I can’t do this the other way around. To this end I am going to keep on reading normally and then at a later date return to the reviews hopefully. I am truly sorry if this disappoints anyone because that is the last thing I want to do but I just can’t work like this. I mean it takes about 30 minutes to read just one comic, a while to write up a synopsis, a while to jot down my thoughts and then rewrite everything so it isn’t just raw notes, usually involving me re-reading issues as I go. Under my current work schedule I’m lucky to get like one hour off per day to myself so I’d be getting through just three issues per week if I was lucky. Hopefully I will return to these eventually I just don’t know how or when, but I know I have to get back to reading these for fun to really reignite my passion for actually reviewing them. 

Okay so…confession time guys. When I did the reviews I did them as fun additions to my reading project but more recently it’s been feeling more and more like a chore, like I’m reading the issues in order to DO the reviews. I’ve sort of come to realise that a) I don’t have time to do that and b) I feel that it’s counterproductive to the quality of the reviews. I am stopping and starting each issue to jot down my thoughts and that just isn’t a good way for this to work. If you can kind of imagine it like there are 2 ways to write a review, one way is where the review is the POINT and the other is where the experience of reading the comic is the point, I was doing the latter and then whacked on some reviews later. I can’t do this the other way around. To this end I am going to keep on reading normally and then at a later date return to the reviews hopefully. I am truly sorry if this disappoints anyone because that is the last thing I want to do but I just can’t work like this. I mean it takes about 30 minutes to read just one comic, a while to write up a synopsis, a while to jot down my thoughts and then rewrite everything so it isn’t just raw notes, usually involving me re-reading issues as I go. Under my current work schedule I’m lucky to get like one hour off per day to myself so I’d be getting through just three issues per week if I was lucky. Hopefully I will return to these eventually I just don’t know how or when, but I know I have to get back to reading these for fun to really reignite my passion for actually reviewing them. 

Sensational Spider-Man #19-20

Synopsis: A teenager called Akasha is biking when she encounters a blue light and is engulfed by it; her friends find her unconscious shortly afterwards. In New York City, Spider-Man is en route for home after grocery shopping but intervenes in an attempted mugging. Meanwhile, Akasha is catatonic, but in her mind has memories of being the Living Pharaoh, a villain who was a conduit for immense power and who battled Spider-Man and Thor at one point. Akasha awakes from her coma and weeks later (with her father), visits a museum which has a new Egyptian exhibit. Peter has been assigned by the Bugle to take photos of the exhibit and has decided to spend time with MJ while he’s at it. When Akasha grabs an artefact called the Staff of Horus, the whole museum begins to quake, forcing Spidey to go into action and rescue people. He quickly finds Akasha has she transforms into the Living Pharaoh and remembers Spider-Man. As she attacks him, Spidey leads her into a vault believing that it will slow her down since the Living Pharaoh gets power from the cosmic rays which continually bombard the Earth. Unfortunately he underestimated her and she blasts her way out.

Spidey and Akasha continue thier fight and take it outside. MJ tries to help Spidey and as she does so Akasha briefly regains her senses and, seeing that she’s about to kill Spider-Man, teleports away. As she uses her new powers to change her wardrobe, intrusive thoughts keep popping into her head from the Living Pharaoh. At home MJ cheers Peter up with sex and a camera (how else am I meant to describe that scene?). Meanwhile, Akasha is dancing in a club when the Living Pharaoh intrudes on her mind again. Later at the Bugle, Peter meets Akasha’s father and goes out with him to find Akasha. Having tracked her down, Peter becomes Spidey and attempts to wrestle the Staff of Horus from her, thinking it’s the source of her power. He succeeds but learns the Staff merely channels her innate power. He figures out that the staff also redirects energy back into her and thus deduces that destroying the staff will save the day. After he does this, the Living Pharaoh’s influence is gone from Akasha but she grows golden wings and begins soaring through the air. She tells her dad she needs time to figure this all out and departs for the skies.

I miss Wieringo, both from the last issue and in general. The art here by Rich Case I must say is very lacking for everyone apart from Spider-Man,  with several character looking ugly and deformed in some ways. It’s very sad to see since on the Prowler/D.K. three parter Dezago previously worked on he did a very good job and looked close enough to Wieringo to get a pass. Here I don’t know what happened.

Dezago is also off his A-game. He’s demonstrated before he’s comfortable using past continuity for his stories and so drudges up the Living Pharaoh from some kind of Spidey/Thor team up that I’ve never even heard of; there isn’t even a footnote until part 2. Because of my lack of familiarity I don’t care for this villain at all, even though the idea of absorbing the residual cosmic rays buffeting Earth is a neat idea for a super power. The character just seems a bit too cosmic/mystical for Spider-Man and I expected more from Dezago. Like he sounds like a great Avengers or X-Men villain but he’s just too powerful for Spidey.

By far and away the WORST thing about this issue was the dialogue. Whilst most of the dialogue is kind of flat and functional without much flair, Dezago’s attempt and capturing the voice of the (presumably) teenaged characters is paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaainful. I know DeFalco was his mentor but did h have to replicate his ‘gift’ for teenaged dialogue? I mean DeFalco is from Stan Lee’s generation, at least he has an excuse for not knowing how modern (well, 90s) teens talk, what’s Dezago’s excuse?

I liked the woman with the pepper spray just because it’s relatively unusual for the would be victim to mix it up whenever Spidey steps in to stop a street crime. I also liked the fight with the street thugs because it was actually amusing with how Spidey was carrying groceries (a down to Earth mundane element of the story in the spirit of the character), swapped the knife for a banana, got ‘stabbed’ with said banana and lazily knocked out the thug after he’d been pepper sprayed. Equally amusing was the ending of part 1 when his plan to trap the Pharaoh quickly fell apart to his annoyance. I also liked that Peter was making a bit of an effort to spend time with MJ. That was a nice touch, as was MJ’s encouraging him to go be a hero. Again Dezago despite his various flaws as a (relatively inexperienced) writer was quite capable of handling the marriage. Sexist as it might sound I enjoyed the brief scene where Pete saved MJ from the collapsing rubble as well as Mary Jane offhandedly helping a man out, which showed a bit of a heroic side to her too.

A big flaw of part 1 though, was that the issue flies by surprisingly quickly, too quickly I think, with too little development of Akasha as a villainess.

Part 2 however drags this whole story waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down, and it wasn’t exactly great to start with. It left me quite speechless actually. First of all, the recap page informs us that what transformed Akasha was a fragment of the living monolith or something, but that was never in part 1 so way to go there, not like we needed that bit of information or anything.

Second of all for the praise I usually give Dezago for writing the marriage well, he plays it badly here where he essentially has Peter quickly and pointlessly angst about his inability to save the day and then uses MJ to just have kinky camera sex with him to lift his spirits. I don’t MIND them doing something like that every now and then (the sex, not the camera aspect) if it’s played well but when MJ is more or less used just that way in this issue (she does do something else but we’ll get to that) and it’s clearly just lazy fanservice, I have to mark it down as a drawback of the story.

Third of all the explanation of what and how exactly Akasha’s powers work is very vague and Spider-Man figures out how to stop it completely out of thin air, deducing what exactly the staff is and how it works. In fact much of this plot involves stuff just straight up happening out of thin air with no build up or explanation.

And not only does this stuff just randomly happen, but the stuff that randomly happens is quite insane. The most offensive examples are the Egyptian D.J. and his rap (I am dead serious) about Akasha’s destiny and then at the end we get Akasha randomly growing wings…do I need to elaborate upon that? She just grows wings, out of nowhere, for reasons that MIGHT have been earlier in the comic but I’ll be damned if I caught them. Now I say all that, but there is a genuine reason she grows wings and that reason is that Dezago was trying to do what Mackie tried during the whole ‘S.H.O.C./Crown’ Saga and spin off a new hero. What is it with these guys and trying to spin-off new lame characters from Spider-Man? They’re still doing that today with things like Alpha.

To cap it all off are the wince inducing attempts to be ‘young and hip’ with terrible godforsaken dialogue which includes the aforementioned Egyptian rap and phrases like ‘phat’ which aren’t just dated but I’m willing to bet not that accurate to the times in the first place. Akasha herself is a selfish unlikable character whether she is a villain or a hero so why anyone would want to follow her adventures after this I don’t know.

There are SOME positives though

The art is not as bad as last issue; in fact there are some very nice Spider-Man images in the story. BUT it is very inconsistent vacillating between decentish art and the crap from part 1.

At the start Spidey fights dirty by throwing sand in Akasha’s eyes, which I liked because a) it was smart and resourceful and b) it shows that he isn’t entirely wholesome.

Finally Mary Jane kind of saved Spider-Man in this issue which is always a plus, although it left me confused. She basically was yelling at Peter to get up and then yelled ‘you’re gonna be late for school’. This is confusing because a) why would she think that would work and b) its ambiguous if she was yelling it at Peter or Akasha. I say it’s ambiguous because Spidey does mumble in response to hearing MJ but it seems to snap Akasha out of it as well. If she WAS yelling it at Akasha…why? Did she just presume she was a student? If so why would she think that would work? Okay it was a desperate situation and maybe she was doing anything to help out without thinking about it, but…still, it’s not great writing now is it?

Damn, even the positives have negatives to them. With that in mind I’m sorry Dezago but:

D-

Then Came…Elektra
Amazing Spider-Man #424
Synopsis: I’m going to try out a different style of synopsis. Let me know how it compares to what you’ve seen from me in the past.
Elektra (former master assassin and lover of Daredevil) interrogates a member of the ninja clan, the Hand. She learns that the Hand is there to eliminate their fellow ninjas, the True Believers and decides she must get involved to protect innocents. At the Bugle Jonah is happy with the True Believers story Robbie called in, but when Ben Urich wonders if the Bugle staff will become targets Jonah gets worried. He arranges to leave the country whilst Martha (Robbie’s wife) thinks he’s got the right idea and encourages Robbie to do the same thing. Meanwhile at the True Believers base, Meiko is being scolded for her failure to kill Robbie, being ordered to kill her cousin Angela Yin as reparation.
While all this is going on, Spider-Man is having a seriously rough day between his headache and humiliation from Electro defeating him; he even snaps at Aunt Anna when she tries to look after him. After Elektra gets word of the True Believers from the Rose, Meiko tries and fails to kill Angela, running away instead. Later, Spidey himself is informed by a shadowy snitch about something going down with the True Believers and Elektra; unfortunately his headache is so bad he mishears the informant and thinks he said ‘Electro’ instead of Elektra.
He encounters Elektra and is chided when he smashes a train carriage in frustration. Both of them team up to take down some True Believers who have targeted Meiko as punishment for her failure. Elektra defeats most of the ninjas and Meiko defeats the leader. However, Spider-Man gives vent to this frustrations and goes as far as to hold a train carriage above his head threatening to bring it down on a ninja, saying he’s through being everyone’s patsy and holding back. Elektra talks him down and during a pep talk to Meiko (where she tells her she can choose to give into vengeance or take the harder path and let go) Spider-Man decides to let go of (at least some of) his hatred for Electro defeating him.
Both Elektra and Meiko leave and later on Chesbro informs the Black Tarantula of the True Believer’s latest failure. Angered BT orders the True Believers back from New York and opts to go to there personally.
This issue was kind of mediocre really, but it is good that we’re wrapping up the True Believers stuff now; they were never great and thier exit is most welcome. As far as art goes, Bennett I have to admit doesn’t draw Elektra (in her 90s costume) too badly. In fact, I don’t know if he’s actually improving or if I’m just getting used to it, but Bennett’s art (whilst still poor) is more tolerable this time around. Nevertheless with TWO scantily clad ninja warrior women running around (the other is Delilah) his sexualised art is sadly to the foreground. And it’s not just the scantily clad women either, Meiko and Angela are unrealistically proportioned as well. That being said he draws a genuinely decent Spider-Man on the page where (following Anna’s departure) Peter gets back into action.
Speaking of Anna, the scene with her was mediocre, but I feel it does show that she could more than fill the role of Aunt May as the ‘old woman’ of the supporting cast, whilst allowing us to let May rest in peace. More than this I think you can get away with scenes where Peter loses his cool with Aunt Anna more so than if you put Aunt May in her place so, in a small way it’s something new. At the same time, through Anna DeFalco shows how Peter can still be plagued by some problems, even somewhat exaggerated versions of otherwise mundane ones. We’ve all had relatives who’ve fussed over us when we don’t want them too or have held us up without meaning to, and Peter is no exception to this. It’s something, married or not (and in this case it’s his aunt-in-law, so it does utilise the marriage) that Peter can be plagued by. 
Looking at Elektra for a moment, its clear DeFalco prefers this incarnation of Elektra since she kind of showed up again in his MC2 work. I’ve read a fair bit of Frank Miller’s Daredevil run and between that and being Greek myself I am fond of Elektra and this design for her, so seeing her is a plus in my book. Here she is played as a bad ass, but with a human side too so it’s a decently well rounded approach to the character.
I think the strengths of this issue really were its follow up on last issue’s events with the Bugle storyline and Peter’s frustrations, as well as all the ninja stuff. We’re finally involving Angela Yin which is a good thing since up until now her family connection to Meiko has been more or less irrelevant. I think using Angela a minor character who the readers are at least familiar with, is a good way to make us give a damn about Dragonfly/Meiko who is otherwise pretty worthless as a character.
But let’s turn our attentions to the star of the book. I liked the way DeFalco used Spider-Man’s illness in this issue to facilitate a humorous mix up when he tracks down Elektra (because he misheard the informant, thinking he said ‘Electro’). Coincidentally Elektra was also referenced in the epic 2001 Playstation game, ‘Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro’ obviously (again) because of their similar sounding names. DeFalco’s whole initial exchange between Elektra and Spider-Man was actually very amusing. On the one hand Spidey is being immature but considering he’s so unwell and having a shitty time of it I can kind of sympathise with the guy. Elektra’s more deadpan dialogue and serious tone is a great contrast to him, even having a bit of humour in there too. E.g. when Spidey says she used to hang with Daredevil and she replies “Do you usually define women by the men they were once associated with?” making Spidey somewhat embarrassed. It’s a good way to show humanity in Elektra so she isn’t a one note bad ass ninja warrior.
Truth be told, DeFalco did a good job balancing humour and drama frequently in this issue. The scene where Jonah departs is on the one hand a good character display for Jonah, showing that he’s a flawed human being not immune to bouts of selfishness or cowardice (it’s also amusing to see, and reminiscent of when he went to France before the 1970s Clone Saga) and on the other hand it’s not really an unsympathetic thing to do given the situation. I think a lot of us would feel the same way as Jonah did in his shoes. Robbie’s wife even points this out and her and Robbie’s whole exchange was a small but effective counterweight to the comedy in this one little scene (again I love developing Robbie).
I also think DeFalco deserves credit in this issue for not only doing a refreshing 180 on how he used Peter’s headaches last issue, but on how everyone has used them up until now (and will use them in the near future). Previously they were a weakness which meant Spidey’s enemies could gain the upper hand, but here he’s in so much pain and is so frustrated that it actually makes him mad enough to lash out and be a threat, kicking ninja ass which is satisfying. I also like how Peter is shown to be a humble guy generally but he has his flaws, his points of pride and here he’s seriously pissed off about Electro humiliating him. Towards the end of the issue he switches gears from just wanting to find Electro because it’s more or less his job to kind of coming out and just saying what’s been bubbling underneath the whole time: he wants payback.
I think ultimately DeFalco sadly takes it too far. Spider-Man is too angry and too out of control for the situation to warrant it, even with his illness and humiliation playing into it. Nevertheless DeFalco came close to pulling it off, with the image of Spider-Man holding a train carriage above his head and threatening a dude with it being simply awesome in conception if nothing else.
Actually you know what, I do still think that dialogue and the image unto itself was still pretty cool. I like that, unlike so many modern writers, DeFalco isn’t afraid to convey that Spider-Man is no weakling. He can lift 10 tonnes and when you think how powerful that truly makes him, sure there are guys in the Marvel universe who top him, but he’s still not a guy to cross. I loved his mentioning that he holds back most of the time and I even loved him mentioning that he’s through being everyone’s patsy. Oh sure, we’ve seen such moments and dialogue play out before but here DeFalco does earn it since Spidey is reacting to a very humiliating defeat by a guy who usually he makes a fool of. That’s got to eat at anyone’s self-esteem immediately afterwards, and between that and his headaches I think he just had a moment where he had had enough of everyone’s s***. Indeed in looking at the previous two issues of ASM, things were getting a bit on top of Peter what with Paul Stacy being an asshole, his studies slipping, the Bugle work not coming in, etc. I think here we were just seeing a bad day (not that he would’ve gone through with it).
This being said, I found Elektra’s ‘words of wisdom’ both directly and indirectly towards Spider-Man pretentious. The implication was kind of Peter thought that he wanted some kind of dark REVENGE on Electro but the truth is he never did so, the grand moment where Peter silently let’s go of his anger isn’t very well earned I am afraid to say.
Other flaws of the issue include the first appearance of Spider-Man. I love DeFalco but his first page with Spider-Man has the classic problems of a) internal monologue spoken aloud b) over exposition and c) saying stuff when realistically you’d never have enough time to say it (in this case he’s having Spider-Man exposit whilst he’s falling). Equally the dialogue by the True Believers and Meiko is horrrrrrrrrribly cliché Asian stereotype fodder. You know what I mean: “You dishonour me young lotus dragon”; that kinda stuff.
Finally, the thing which seriously irks me about this issue is the shadowy and out of nowhere informer who let Spidey know about Elektra. Maybe this will pay off later but as is it’s a serious narrative cheat.
Still, the ending was a thrill for me because Black Tarantula is finally coming to NYC and I remember when he first entered the scene over ten years ago when I began reading. It’ll be interesting to see how that holds up.
C-

Then Came…Elektra

Amazing Spider-Man #424

Synopsis: I’m going to try out a different style of synopsis. Let me know how it compares to what you’ve seen from me in the past.

Elektra (former master assassin and lover of Daredevil) interrogates a member of the ninja clan, the Hand. She learns that the Hand is there to eliminate their fellow ninjas, the True Believers and decides she must get involved to protect innocents. At the Bugle Jonah is happy with the True Believers story Robbie called in, but when Ben Urich wonders if the Bugle staff will become targets Jonah gets worried. He arranges to leave the country whilst Martha (Robbie’s wife) thinks he’s got the right idea and encourages Robbie to do the same thing. Meanwhile at the True Believers base, Meiko is being scolded for her failure to kill Robbie, being ordered to kill her cousin Angela Yin as reparation.

While all this is going on, Spider-Man is having a seriously rough day between his headache and humiliation from Electro defeating him; he even snaps at Aunt Anna when she tries to look after him. After Elektra gets word of the True Believers from the Rose, Meiko tries and fails to kill Angela, running away instead. Later, Spidey himself is informed by a shadowy snitch about something going down with the True Believers and Elektra; unfortunately his headache is so bad he mishears the informant and thinks he said ‘Electro’ instead of Elektra.

He encounters Elektra and is chided when he smashes a train carriage in frustration. Both of them team up to take down some True Believers who have targeted Meiko as punishment for her failure. Elektra defeats most of the ninjas and Meiko defeats the leader. However, Spider-Man gives vent to this frustrations and goes as far as to hold a train carriage above his head threatening to bring it down on a ninja, saying he’s through being everyone’s patsy and holding back. Elektra talks him down and during a pep talk to Meiko (where she tells her she can choose to give into vengeance or take the harder path and let go) Spider-Man decides to let go of (at least some of) his hatred for Electro defeating him.

Both Elektra and Meiko leave and later on Chesbro informs the Black Tarantula of the True Believer’s latest failure. Angered BT orders the True Believers back from New York and opts to go to there personally.

This issue was kind of mediocre really, but it is good that we’re wrapping up the True Believers stuff now; they were never great and thier exit is most welcome. As far as art goes, Bennett I have to admit doesn’t draw Elektra (in her 90s costume) too badly. In fact, I don’t know if he’s actually improving or if I’m just getting used to it, but Bennett’s art (whilst still poor) is more tolerable this time around. Nevertheless with TWO scantily clad ninja warrior women running around (the other is Delilah) his sexualised art is sadly to the foreground. And it’s not just the scantily clad women either, Meiko and Angela are unrealistically proportioned as well. That being said he draws a genuinely decent Spider-Man on the page where (following Anna’s departure) Peter gets back into action.

Speaking of Anna, the scene with her was mediocre, but I feel it does show that she could more than fill the role of Aunt May as the ‘old woman’ of the supporting cast, whilst allowing us to let May rest in peace. More than this I think you can get away with scenes where Peter loses his cool with Aunt Anna more so than if you put Aunt May in her place so, in a small way it’s something new. At the same time, through Anna DeFalco shows how Peter can still be plagued by some problems, even somewhat exaggerated versions of otherwise mundane ones. We’ve all had relatives who’ve fussed over us when we don’t want them too or have held us up without meaning to, and Peter is no exception to this. It’s something, married or not (and in this case it’s his aunt-in-law, so it does utilise the marriage) that Peter can be plagued by. 

Looking at Elektra for a moment, its clear DeFalco prefers this incarnation of Elektra since she kind of showed up again in his MC2 work. I’ve read a fair bit of Frank Miller’s Daredevil run and between that and being Greek myself I am fond of Elektra and this design for her, so seeing her is a plus in my book. Here she is played as a bad ass, but with a human side too so it’s a decently well rounded approach to the character.

I think the strengths of this issue really were its follow up on last issue’s events with the Bugle storyline and Peter’s frustrations, as well as all the ninja stuff. We’re finally involving Angela Yin which is a good thing since up until now her family connection to Meiko has been more or less irrelevant. I think using Angela a minor character who the readers are at least familiar with, is a good way to make us give a damn about Dragonfly/Meiko who is otherwise pretty worthless as a character.

But let’s turn our attentions to the star of the book. I liked the way DeFalco used Spider-Man’s illness in this issue to facilitate a humorous mix up when he tracks down Elektra (because he misheard the informant, thinking he said ‘Electro’). Coincidentally Elektra was also referenced in the epic 2001 Playstation game, ‘Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro’ obviously (again) because of their similar sounding names. DeFalco’s whole initial exchange between Elektra and Spider-Man was actually very amusing. On the one hand Spidey is being immature but considering he’s so unwell and having a shitty time of it I can kind of sympathise with the guy. Elektra’s more deadpan dialogue and serious tone is a great contrast to him, even having a bit of humour in there too. E.g. when Spidey says she used to hang with Daredevil and she replies “Do you usually define women by the men they were once associated with?” making Spidey somewhat embarrassed. It’s a good way to show humanity in Elektra so she isn’t a one note bad ass ninja warrior.

Truth be told, DeFalco did a good job balancing humour and drama frequently in this issue. The scene where Jonah departs is on the one hand a good character display for Jonah, showing that he’s a flawed human being not immune to bouts of selfishness or cowardice (it’s also amusing to see, and reminiscent of when he went to France before the 1970s Clone Saga) and on the other hand it’s not really an unsympathetic thing to do given the situation. I think a lot of us would feel the same way as Jonah did in his shoes. Robbie’s wife even points this out and her and Robbie’s whole exchange was a small but effective counterweight to the comedy in this one little scene (again I love developing Robbie).

I also think DeFalco deserves credit in this issue for not only doing a refreshing 180 on how he used Peter’s headaches last issue, but on how everyone has used them up until now (and will use them in the near future). Previously they were a weakness which meant Spidey’s enemies could gain the upper hand, but here he’s in so much pain and is so frustrated that it actually makes him mad enough to lash out and be a threat, kicking ninja ass which is satisfying. I also like how Peter is shown to be a humble guy generally but he has his flaws, his points of pride and here he’s seriously pissed off about Electro humiliating him. Towards the end of the issue he switches gears from just wanting to find Electro because it’s more or less his job to kind of coming out and just saying what’s been bubbling underneath the whole time: he wants payback.

I think ultimately DeFalco sadly takes it too far. Spider-Man is too angry and too out of control for the situation to warrant it, even with his illness and humiliation playing into it. Nevertheless DeFalco came close to pulling it off, with the image of Spider-Man holding a train carriage above his head and threatening a dude with it being simply awesome in conception if nothing else.

Actually you know what, I do still think that dialogue and the image unto itself was still pretty cool. I like that, unlike so many modern writers, DeFalco isn’t afraid to convey that Spider-Man is no weakling. He can lift 10 tonnes and when you think how powerful that truly makes him, sure there are guys in the Marvel universe who top him, but he’s still not a guy to cross. I loved his mentioning that he holds back most of the time and I even loved him mentioning that he’s through being everyone’s patsy. Oh sure, we’ve seen such moments and dialogue play out before but here DeFalco does earn it since Spidey is reacting to a very humiliating defeat by a guy who usually he makes a fool of. That’s got to eat at anyone’s self-esteem immediately afterwards, and between that and his headaches I think he just had a moment where he had had enough of everyone’s s***. Indeed in looking at the previous two issues of ASM, things were getting a bit on top of Peter what with Paul Stacy being an asshole, his studies slipping, the Bugle work not coming in, etc. I think here we were just seeing a bad day (not that he would’ve gone through with it).

This being said, I found Elektra’s ‘words of wisdom’ both directly and indirectly towards Spider-Man pretentious. The implication was kind of Peter thought that he wanted some kind of dark REVENGE on Electro but the truth is he never did so, the grand moment where Peter silently let’s go of his anger isn’t very well earned I am afraid to say.

Other flaws of the issue include the first appearance of Spider-Man. I love DeFalco but his first page with Spider-Man has the classic problems of a) internal monologue spoken aloud b) over exposition and c) saying stuff when realistically you’d never have enough time to say it (in this case he’s having Spider-Man exposit whilst he’s falling). Equally the dialogue by the True Believers and Meiko is horrrrrrrrrribly cliché Asian stereotype fodder. You know what I mean: “You dishonour me young lotus dragon”; that kinda stuff.

Finally, the thing which seriously irks me about this issue is the shadowy and out of nowhere informer who let Spidey know about Elektra. Maybe this will pay off later but as is it’s a serious narrative cheat.

Still, the ending was a thrill for me because Black Tarantula is finally coming to NYC and I remember when he first entered the scene over ten years ago when I began reading. It’ll be interesting to see how that holds up.

C-

Choices
Amazing Spider-Man #423
Synopsis: Robbie’s wife presses him to talk to Jonah about the additional hours he’s making Robbie work (what with the Bugle under financial pressure) and Robbie promises to talk to the old goat (but privately thinks it won’t do anything). Meanwhile at the Rose’s hideout, Electro is revelling in his new power and even getting a tad aggressive with Rose and Delilah, threatening to not do the task they hired him for. Dragonfly for her part is training with Madam Qwa and getting above her own station when she questions her task to assassinate Joe Robertson. But she eventually relents and apologises for questioning their master, the Black Tarantula.
At the Bugle Jonah is ranting and raving at Robbie that they need bigger, more sensationalist storylines to sell the paper out of danger, and that he and Robbie will lead by example by working even harder than before; Robbie isn’t pleased to hear this, but doesn’t let Jonah know that. At E.S.U. (wow, this thing jumps around a lot) Peter is trying to tutor Neil Aiken (is he supposed to be NEAL Aiken, the new super hero Shoc, from Mackie’s recent issues of PPSM; God only knows) when Paul Stacy passes by to fulfil his douchebag quota for the issue, saying Peter sucks and Neil should come see him which Neil does. Peter isn’t fussed about this too much since he’s finding it hard enough to adjust back to the collage lifestyle and goes out as Spider-Man to see if he can find any newsworthy action to photograph.
Back at the Bugle, Robbie chases up Ben Urich about the Black Tarantula story, but is displeased to hear it won’t be ready anytime soon. Angela Yin then introduces Robbie to her cousin Meiko, who is secretly the ninja assassin Dragonfly, there to kill Robbie. Changing into her ninja gear (which includes a mask) she follows Robbie on his way to lunch with his wife. Spider-Man spots Dragonfly and realises it must be Meiko. Suspicious, Spider-Man follows her, whilst ordinary citizens call in sightings of Meiko’s True Believer brethren. Word quickly reaches the Rose, who sends Electro to deal with the Ninjas for interfering with his operations. At lunch, Robbie’s wife quickly deduces Robbie didn’t talk to Jonah at all, but before she can say another word they’re attacked by the True Believers and Dragonfly.
However, Spidey intervenes and let’s Robbie and his wife escape. Robbie however tells his wife to phone the Bugle and send a photographer down to him as this could be the big story the Bugle needs. Spider-Man and Dragonfly are about to fight (with Spider-Man noting the headache he’s been suffering from recently is still playing up) but Electro strikes. Electro rants about how he’s going to make Spider-Man pay for humiliating him in the ‘Light the Night’ storyline (even though Spider-Man points out he actually saved Electro and was thanked by him) but then turns his attention on the True Believers, easily defeating them. After two quick scenes where Jonah rants that Spider-Man was leading a gang of ninjas against Robbie and Robbie’s wife angsts about her husband’s life, Dragonfly evades Electro’s attacks. Spider-Man briefly distracts Electro long enough for Dragonfly to try and hit Electro with a deathblow but by getting so close to Electro she electrocuted herself. Having defeated the ninjas, Electro focuses on Spider-Man whilst Robbie pulls Meiko to safety.
Meiko says that her honour (oh God this cliché) demands that she spare Robbie’s life and she even answers a few questions about the Black Tarantula. Meanwhile Spidey is having trouble with Electro as neither he nor his webbing can get close enough to him without being fried. He tries to short circuit the villain by dousing him with water from a fire hydrant but Electro just evaporates it and interrupts the electrical impulses in Spider-Man’s brain. In immense pain and completely helpless, Spider-Man is totally at Electro’s mercy, and the villain taunts him by asking how it feels to be the loser he always made him to feel like.
Electro threatens to kill Spider-Man and everyone in a ten block radius unless Spidey begs for his mercy. After Electro asks him if he’s man enough to sacrifice his pride, Spider-Man relents and begs for Electro to not kill him (being forced by Electro to say it repeatedly, each time louder than the last). Satisfied, Electro departs, leaving a defeated and humiliated Spider-Man. Robbie runs out to greet Spider-Man and ask if he’s okay. Peter wonders if Robbie is trying to spare his feelings by pretending to not know what happened but then is shocked to learn that Robbie let the ninjas go. Robbie says he could have done more to stop them but chose to pursue a story instead; it’s one of those hard decisions in life you have to do your best to live with. With that Robbie leaves to meet his wife.
Well, this issue wasn’t as strong as ASM #422 but it was okay I suppose. The highlight was Robbie. I liked the Robbie scene at the start of the story simply because, well, it had Robbie in it and he’s one of my favourite supporting cast members. I liked that we get not only more development but more humanisation of Robbie. Although this isn’t a bad role for Robbie, too often he is stereotyped as the kindly father figure. Whereas here (and in Conway’s runs on Spec and Web) he has flaws and apprehensions, but his and Jonah’s loyalty and friendship are absolute. Added to this is the fact that I think DeFalco might be using the Bugle’s dwindling sales and their need to boost circulation through sensationalism as a metaphor for what was happening in the comic book industry at the time. He has done this before in the past, in Spec #225 he took a swipe at the power the sales department had at Marvel at that time. Robbie’s actions regarding the True Believers were morally questionable, which was good unto itself, but it led to a scene where Spider-Man’s own feelings of being defeated were passed off too quickly. Robbie tells Spider-Man that life’s full of hard choices and that we just have to live with them, and then that to all intents and purposes ends Spider-Man’s angst over being beaten. It was all too quick although in fairness maybe it will play out a bit more as the other issues progresses forwards.
The whole battle with Electro was a bit underwhelming but that was partially because I’d built it up in my head for the past few years and months, having never read this before. Honestly it was probably better than I feel it was at this moment in time. Electro was bad ass in this story, and did own everyone (including Dragonfly, which was satisfying) which is cool to see when really he IS one of Spider-Man’s most powerful enemies. It was very clever to have him disrupt the electrical impulses in Spider-Man’s brain as a way to defeat Spidey; I wish other writers remembered he could do that. I especially liked that he dropped the goofy star shaped mask. I’m fond of it, but with just the suit it somehow adds a rougher more threatening quality to Electro. The worst thing about Electro this issue was his talking out loud (that always sucks) and the way Bennett drew him (and everyone else for that matter). I’d take Bennett over Skroce any day, but it still is really piss poor for the main title. Especially when you consider we have just come off the back of the godlike Mark Bagley run. Ron Garney filled in on ASM #417 after Bagley left and I think he’d have been a much better choice than either Bennett or Skroce (he did great work in JMS’s run years later).
The scene at the end where Max makes Spider-Man beg, I think could have been handled a tad more dramatically but it works okay I guess. I liked that Spider-Man was smarting from his humiliation and defeat. I think that the humiliation (and pain) caused him to think things like “why did I let him debase me like that. But I had no choice lives were at stake”. Dude he was gonna kill you; don’t let your pride stand in the way of your LIFE man. Again though, that was his instant reaction. I also liked the little aside he had where he thought Robbie might be trying to spare his feelings by pretending to not have seen his defeat.
Some final little observations:
DeFalco presents Robbie’s wife with a very real fear given the situation but since he also written MJ like that very frequently it doesn’t reflect very well on him.
I liked that in this war with the Black Tarantula, the Rose isn’t just getting his butt kicked. He’s actively fighting back and actually holding his own. Electro is a really powerful asset to him.
Dragonfly and Madame Qwa seemed to grate on other people’s nerves the moment they showed up. I’ve had a higher tolerance but now, yes they’re getting annoying, although I still like the build up we’re getting with Black Tarantula. Final note of Dragonfly, her flying death kick attack is horribly cliché as is most of her dialogue really.
As a side note, I liked seeing more Delilah/Rose scenes which alluded to them having a thing together. Also Delilah might just be the best drawn character in this.
Cool little thing I noted, Spidey mentions dividing the city into a grid pattern and using his Spider Sense to find danger. This is almost word for word the same dialogue DeFalco uses in the terrific Spider-Girl #10, where Spider-Man’s daughter (Mayday Parker) does the same thing to find the a time travelling super villain.
Overall this would be a C+.

Choices

Amazing Spider-Man #423

Synopsis: Robbie’s wife presses him to talk to Jonah about the additional hours he’s making Robbie work (what with the Bugle under financial pressure) and Robbie promises to talk to the old goat (but privately thinks it won’t do anything). Meanwhile at the Rose’s hideout, Electro is revelling in his new power and even getting a tad aggressive with Rose and Delilah, threatening to not do the task they hired him for. Dragonfly for her part is training with Madam Qwa and getting above her own station when she questions her task to assassinate Joe Robertson. But she eventually relents and apologises for questioning their master, the Black Tarantula.

At the Bugle Jonah is ranting and raving at Robbie that they need bigger, more sensationalist storylines to sell the paper out of danger, and that he and Robbie will lead by example by working even harder than before; Robbie isn’t pleased to hear this, but doesn’t let Jonah know that. At E.S.U. (wow, this thing jumps around a lot) Peter is trying to tutor Neil Aiken (is he supposed to be NEAL Aiken, the new super hero Shoc, from Mackie’s recent issues of PPSM; God only knows) when Paul Stacy passes by to fulfil his douchebag quota for the issue, saying Peter sucks and Neil should come see him which Neil does. Peter isn’t fussed about this too much since he’s finding it hard enough to adjust back to the collage lifestyle and goes out as Spider-Man to see if he can find any newsworthy action to photograph.

Back at the Bugle, Robbie chases up Ben Urich about the Black Tarantula story, but is displeased to hear it won’t be ready anytime soon. Angela Yin then introduces Robbie to her cousin Meiko, who is secretly the ninja assassin Dragonfly, there to kill Robbie. Changing into her ninja gear (which includes a mask) she follows Robbie on his way to lunch with his wife. Spider-Man spots Dragonfly and realises it must be Meiko. Suspicious, Spider-Man follows her, whilst ordinary citizens call in sightings of Meiko’s True Believer brethren. Word quickly reaches the Rose, who sends Electro to deal with the Ninjas for interfering with his operations. At lunch, Robbie’s wife quickly deduces Robbie didn’t talk to Jonah at all, but before she can say another word they’re attacked by the True Believers and Dragonfly.

However, Spidey intervenes and let’s Robbie and his wife escape. Robbie however tells his wife to phone the Bugle and send a photographer down to him as this could be the big story the Bugle needs. Spider-Man and Dragonfly are about to fight (with Spider-Man noting the headache he’s been suffering from recently is still playing up) but Electro strikes. Electro rants about how he’s going to make Spider-Man pay for humiliating him in the ‘Light the Night’ storyline (even though Spider-Man points out he actually saved Electro and was thanked by him) but then turns his attention on the True Believers, easily defeating them. After two quick scenes where Jonah rants that Spider-Man was leading a gang of ninjas against Robbie and Robbie’s wife angsts about her husband’s life, Dragonfly evades Electro’s attacks. Spider-Man briefly distracts Electro long enough for Dragonfly to try and hit Electro with a deathblow but by getting so close to Electro she electrocuted herself. Having defeated the ninjas, Electro focuses on Spider-Man whilst Robbie pulls Meiko to safety.

Meiko says that her honour (oh God this cliché) demands that she spare Robbie’s life and she even answers a few questions about the Black Tarantula. Meanwhile Spidey is having trouble with Electro as neither he nor his webbing can get close enough to him without being fried. He tries to short circuit the villain by dousing him with water from a fire hydrant but Electro just evaporates it and interrupts the electrical impulses in Spider-Man’s brain. In immense pain and completely helpless, Spider-Man is totally at Electro’s mercy, and the villain taunts him by asking how it feels to be the loser he always made him to feel like.

Electro threatens to kill Spider-Man and everyone in a ten block radius unless Spidey begs for his mercy. After Electro asks him if he’s man enough to sacrifice his pride, Spider-Man relents and begs for Electro to not kill him (being forced by Electro to say it repeatedly, each time louder than the last). Satisfied, Electro departs, leaving a defeated and humiliated Spider-Man. Robbie runs out to greet Spider-Man and ask if he’s okay. Peter wonders if Robbie is trying to spare his feelings by pretending to not know what happened but then is shocked to learn that Robbie let the ninjas go. Robbie says he could have done more to stop them but chose to pursue a story instead; it’s one of those hard decisions in life you have to do your best to live with. With that Robbie leaves to meet his wife.

Well, this issue wasn’t as strong as ASM #422 but it was okay I suppose. The highlight was Robbie. I liked the Robbie scene at the start of the story simply because, well, it had Robbie in it and he’s one of my favourite supporting cast members. I liked that we get not only more development but more humanisation of Robbie. Although this isn’t a bad role for Robbie, too often he is stereotyped as the kindly father figure. Whereas here (and in Conway’s runs on Spec and Web) he has flaws and apprehensions, but his and Jonah’s loyalty and friendship are absolute. Added to this is the fact that I think DeFalco might be using the Bugle’s dwindling sales and their need to boost circulation through sensationalism as a metaphor for what was happening in the comic book industry at the time. He has done this before in the past, in Spec #225 he took a swipe at the power the sales department had at Marvel at that time. Robbie’s actions regarding the True Believers were morally questionable, which was good unto itself, but it led to a scene where Spider-Man’s own feelings of being defeated were passed off too quickly. Robbie tells Spider-Man that life’s full of hard choices and that we just have to live with them, and then that to all intents and purposes ends Spider-Man’s angst over being beaten. It was all too quick although in fairness maybe it will play out a bit more as the other issues progresses forwards.

The whole battle with Electro was a bit underwhelming but that was partially because I’d built it up in my head for the past few years and months, having never read this before. Honestly it was probably better than I feel it was at this moment in time. Electro was bad ass in this story, and did own everyone (including Dragonfly, which was satisfying) which is cool to see when really he IS one of Spider-Man’s most powerful enemies. It was very clever to have him disrupt the electrical impulses in Spider-Man’s brain as a way to defeat Spidey; I wish other writers remembered he could do that. I especially liked that he dropped the goofy star shaped mask. I’m fond of it, but with just the suit it somehow adds a rougher more threatening quality to Electro. The worst thing about Electro this issue was his talking out loud (that always sucks) and the way Bennett drew him (and everyone else for that matter). I’d take Bennett over Skroce any day, but it still is really piss poor for the main title. Especially when you consider we have just come off the back of the godlike Mark Bagley run. Ron Garney filled in on ASM #417 after Bagley left and I think he’d have been a much better choice than either Bennett or Skroce (he did great work in JMS’s run years later).

The scene at the end where Max makes Spider-Man beg, I think could have been handled a tad more dramatically but it works okay I guess. I liked that Spider-Man was smarting from his humiliation and defeat. I think that the humiliation (and pain) caused him to think things like “why did I let him debase me like that. But I had no choice lives were at stake”. Dude he was gonna kill you; don’t let your pride stand in the way of your LIFE man. Again though, that was his instant reaction. I also liked the little aside he had where he thought Robbie might be trying to spare his feelings by pretending to not have seen his defeat.

Some final little observations:

DeFalco presents Robbie’s wife with a very real fear given the situation but since he also written MJ like that very frequently it doesn’t reflect very well on him.

I liked that in this war with the Black Tarantula, the Rose isn’t just getting his butt kicked. He’s actively fighting back and actually holding his own. Electro is a really powerful asset to him.

Dragonfly and Madame Qwa seemed to grate on other people’s nerves the moment they showed up. I’ve had a higher tolerance but now, yes they’re getting annoying, although I still like the build up we’re getting with Black Tarantula. Final note of Dragonfly, her flying death kick attack is horribly cliché as is most of her dialogue really.

As a side note, I liked seeing more Delilah/Rose scenes which alluded to them having a thing together. Also Delilah might just be the best drawn character in this.

Cool little thing I noted, Spidey mentions dividing the city into a grid pattern and using his Spider Sense to find danger. This is almost word for word the same dialogue DeFalco uses in the terrific Spider-Girl #10, where Spider-Man’s daughter (Mayday Parker) does the same thing to find the a time travelling super villain.

Overall this would be a C+.

The Wages of Conquest
Spider-Man Unlimited #16
Synopsis: Betty Brant is held prisoner by Dreadknight in a castle in Latveria because she found out Roxxon were involved in some kind of shady dealing there and there’s been political turmoil since Doctor Doom died in the Onslaught event and now Dreadknight and his techno-soldiers have taken over and I’m telling you all this ahead of time to speed things up. Long story short, Dreadknight is going to publicly execute Betty for uncovering everything. Jonah is really upset about this because he sent Betty out there and still feels guilty about Ned Leeds’ death. Spider-Man wants to save Betty. Silver Sable recruits him to stop Dreadknight because they’ve been hired to free Latveria from his control. When her Wild Pack engages Dreadknight’s men they knock out their power sources, allowing the Wild Pack to gain the upper hand. Silver Sable fights some sexist secret agent and beats him. Spider-Man fights Dreadknight and uses his weapon and the generator to beat him and save Betty. Roxxon get off scot free and MJ reminds Peter it wasn’t a total loss and they smooch; Roxxon’s shadowy board members say this was a temporary setback, and they’ll chart America’s future, yadda yadda whatever.
Oh look another issue of the worst Spider-Man title of this era to read just a few issues after the last one…yay.
The first thing to note is that Joe Bennett again does the art and, as is his trademark, he over sexualises the female characters. I have never seen Betty Brant look as sexed up as in this issue, although Bennett’s rendering of her face is good. His Spider-Man is also a bit more tolerable here, especially in the opening action scene. It’s nothing special but it’s just nice spider-action and spider-quippage.
The scene with Jonah at the bar is surprisingly good for Spider-Man Unlimited with mentions of Ned Leeds and Jonah feeling guilty about what happened to Betty and Ned, even indulging in some sexism to hide his true feelings.
The scene where Peter walks in to find MJ asleep on the couch was kind of cliché and overly sappy. I have a soft spot for that stuff personally but I think that it is genuinely a good moment when you consider this is Spider-Man Unlimited and you take what you can get. The same goes for the overused “MJ says something profound and then she and Peter have sex” happy ending.
I like seeing Silver Sable, she is an underrated character generally as well as an underrated character related to Spider-Man (and created by one of my favourite writers, Tom DeFalco). It was refreshing seeing her interactions with Spider-Man here, which are strictly professional as opposed to that BS about her having a thing for him in Dan Slott’s run. I also adored the acknowledgement of ‘the Return of Spider-Man’ arc which opened up Ben Reilly’s tenure as Spider-Man, wherein Silver Sable used Sandman to deduce that the Spider-Man in the new costume was not the same one she’d known in the past.
The rest of this issue is dull, generic fights, but it doesn’t have the usual soul sucking awfulness Unlim usually sells you. Seeing Silver Sable in action is vaguely fun, but it’s against a generic, no name, ex-C.I.A. loser whose only memorable because he is (inhales in shock) SEXIST! Dreadknight looks kind of cool but again, he was just an obstacle for Spider-Man to get past. I dunno, maybe I’d like him more if I knew more about Dreadknight, but as is he is just a fight. Betty’s entire storyline in this was something we could’ve done without.
Overall this would be a D+ because again, it wasn’t as bad as other Spider-Man Unlimited issues and had tiny nuggets of good stuff but you still don’t need to waste any time or money on this thing.

The Wages of Conquest

Spider-Man Unlimited #16

Synopsis: Betty Brant is held prisoner by Dreadknight in a castle in Latveria because she found out Roxxon were involved in some kind of shady dealing there and there’s been political turmoil since Doctor Doom died in the Onslaught event and now Dreadknight and his techno-soldiers have taken over and I’m telling you all this ahead of time to speed things up. Long story short, Dreadknight is going to publicly execute Betty for uncovering everything. Jonah is really upset about this because he sent Betty out there and still feels guilty about Ned Leeds’ death. Spider-Man wants to save Betty. Silver Sable recruits him to stop Dreadknight because they’ve been hired to free Latveria from his control. When her Wild Pack engages Dreadknight’s men they knock out their power sources, allowing the Wild Pack to gain the upper hand. Silver Sable fights some sexist secret agent and beats him. Spider-Man fights Dreadknight and uses his weapon and the generator to beat him and save Betty. Roxxon get off scot free and MJ reminds Peter it wasn’t a total loss and they smooch; Roxxon’s shadowy board members say this was a temporary setback, and they’ll chart America’s future, yadda yadda whatever.

Oh look another issue of the worst Spider-Man title of this era to read just a few issues after the last one…yay.

The first thing to note is that Joe Bennett again does the art and, as is his trademark, he over sexualises the female characters. I have never seen Betty Brant look as sexed up as in this issue, although Bennett’s rendering of her face is good. His Spider-Man is also a bit more tolerable here, especially in the opening action scene. It’s nothing special but it’s just nice spider-action and spider-quippage.

The scene with Jonah at the bar is surprisingly good for Spider-Man Unlimited with mentions of Ned Leeds and Jonah feeling guilty about what happened to Betty and Ned, even indulging in some sexism to hide his true feelings.

The scene where Peter walks in to find MJ asleep on the couch was kind of cliché and overly sappy. I have a soft spot for that stuff personally but I think that it is genuinely a good moment when you consider this is Spider-Man Unlimited and you take what you can get. The same goes for the overused “MJ says something profound and then she and Peter have sex” happy ending.

I like seeing Silver Sable, she is an underrated character generally as well as an underrated character related to Spider-Man (and created by one of my favourite writers, Tom DeFalco). It was refreshing seeing her interactions with Spider-Man here, which are strictly professional as opposed to that BS about her having a thing for him in Dan Slott’s run. I also adored the acknowledgement of ‘the Return of Spider-Man’ arc which opened up Ben Reilly’s tenure as Spider-Man, wherein Silver Sable used Sandman to deduce that the Spider-Man in the new costume was not the same one she’d known in the past.

The rest of this issue is dull, generic fights, but it doesn’t have the usual soul sucking awfulness Unlim usually sells you. Seeing Silver Sable in action is vaguely fun, but it’s against a generic, no name, ex-C.I.A. loser whose only memorable because he is (inhales in shock) SEXIST! Dreadknight looks kind of cool but again, he was just an obstacle for Spider-Man to get past. I dunno, maybe I’d like him more if I knew more about Dreadknight, but as is he is just a fight. Betty’s entire storyline in this was something we could’ve done without.

Overall this would be a D+ because again, it wasn’t as bad as other Spider-Man Unlimited issues and had tiny nuggets of good stuff but you still don’t need to waste any time or money on this thing.

Peter Parker: Spider-Man #79-80

Synopsis: Doctor Andrea Jansen has Morbius imprisoned and is conducting painful experiments upon him before Crown confronts her and she is revealed as his lover and an agent of H.Y.D.R.A.; she hopes to use Morbius to serve their purposes. At the Bugle, Betty Brant is doing late night research on Dr. Fields’ murder (and trying to persuade herself against getting back together with Flash Thompson) when Jonah offers her  very special overseas assignment, saying he thinks she’s ready for it (but also saying she should be careful). The next day Peter swings across town when he gets another dizzy spell and falls; thankfully Shoc is there to save him before flying off. At his mansion, Don Fortunato and his H.Y.D.R.A. goons greet Crown, Jansen and the imprisoned Morbius. Fortunato is mildly displeased with Morbius’ presence there but allows Jansen to continue experimenting upon him, whilst also ordering Crown to retrieve the son of Dr. Fields as they’ve uncovered his identity. Fortunato informs his master that Crown will not fail them and his master says he hopes not, for the sake of Fortunato’s family.

At ESU Peter meets MJ and Betty, apologising to Betty for running out on her the other night and Betty (prompted by MJ) forgives Peter, saying MJ explained they’d had a fight which had distracted him. NEAL (not Neil this issue) Aiken comes over and tells Peter Dr. Lanning has cancelled their meeting. Betty shows an interest in Neal/Neil upon hearing he’s involved with Dr. Lanning. Paul Stacy then comes over to show off his goatee and chastise Peter if he doesn’t show up to their tutoring session. As an aside Peter and MJ met Paul in ASM #421 but here Peter introduces him to MJ because Howard Mackie was bad with continuity but hey, maybe Peter just forgot or was otherwise being sarcastic. Later Betty uses her feminine charms to get Neail to promise to take her on a tour of the science building; with that Betty departs for Latveria, the home of Doctor Doom.

Walking home Peter gets another dizzy spell and then he and Neial part ways before the sky goes black and black blobs drop from it, becoming H.Y.D.R.A. shock troopers. The troopers attack Peter (who’s not at peak condition what with his dizziness) because he was with ‘him’ (oh, I wonder who they’re talking about?) when Neil/Neal/Neail/Neial attacks them with his super powers (my, what a SHOCking development!) to subdue them, revealing himself to be Shoc (truly this is a revelation up there with the end of the Sixth Sense). 

Crown shows up and Shoc accuses him of killing his dad and Crown says it wasn’t as simple as all that (and we shall never know what THAT means). Crown captures Peter and threatens to kill him unless Shoc powers down, which he does because as he tells Peter, he has met his wife now (which is a scene I actually liked). Crown tells a depowered Shoc that they’re even more powerful than he realises, that they were both born from a H.Y.D.R.A. experiment. He goes on to say that once Shoc is examined and leads H.Y.D.R.A. to his dad’s journals, they’re power will belong to H.Y.D.R.A. After being teleported away, Peter wakes up in a cell to find himself trapped and at the mercy of Morbius!

Meanwhile Dr. Jansen experiments upon Shoc, causing him a lot of pain whilst Fortunato and his boss (Baron Von Strucker) watch (but not for long, the Baron soon departs). Crown implores Jansen to hurry as her examinations of Shoc are necessary to save his life (which is why she joined H.Y.D.R.A. in the first place). Meanwhile several armed goons infiltrate the H.Y.D.R.A. base (which is actually Fortunato’s mansion in Staten Island) and begin taking out the guards, saving Peter from Morbius and knocking them both out. This same group infiltrate Jansen’s lab and kill her before releasing Shoc. Fortunato asks Crown to make them pay for invading his home and taking Shoc, which Crown promises to do as retribution for killing Andrea Jansen.

Peter awakes to find Hammerhead holding him, Morbius and Shoc hostage. Hammerhead threatens Peter in order to learn why he’s there but Shoc frees himself only to stop when he sees how many guns are trained on him. Hammerhead tells them he wants to bring down Fortunato for poisoning the city and muscling in on his action and that he wants Shoc to help him; to which Shoc agrees. Later, Hammerhead tells Shoc anyone who uses the powers that he and Crown possess eventually dies. He elaborates that H.Y.D.R.A. hired Dr. Fields to unwittingly create the black energy which gave birth to Crown. He tried to run when he discovered the truth but Crown killed him, now H.Y.D.R.A. want to understand the energy and use it to take over the world. When Shoc signs on with Hammerhead, Peter is outraged but Hammerhead says if he’s a family man then he’ll understand why Hammerhead and his gang (who have their families in the building they’re all in right now) want to stop H.Y.D.R.A. Peter is escorted out and tossed off a roof, but of course he survives and changes into Spider-Man.

Crown and his goons invade the building, allowing Morbius to free himself. As a fire fight breaks out on the roof, Spidey swings into action to save an ungrateful kid, whilst Shoc goes for Crown and Morbius attacks the H.Y.D.R.A. goons. Spider-Man fights off some goons himself before going at Crown. Crown rants about how with his life forfeit, he will destroy the entire city block they’re on. Hammerhead starts to also attack Crown (saying he’s no hero but won’t let innocent people randomly die, which was one of his best moments here). Morbius also attacks Crown for similar reasons.

Shoc tells Spider-Man that for reasons he (nor the writer apparently) can’t explain he just knows that Morbius is somehow making Crown overload and now he’s gonna destroy everything in a TEN block radius instead. Shoc uses his powers to make Spider-Man’s webbing “something far more than it’s ever been” (okay, why not) and this covers the city block (or maybe the ten blocks, I have no idea) and then a lot of energy is released from somewhere (Crown?) and somehow this feeds back into the H.Y.D.R.A. ship and causes a big explosion.

Spider-Man is alive, Shoc is alive (for the moment), Hammerhead is alive and content that he sent a message to Fortunato (sparing Spidey’s life due to the help he provided) and Morbius is who knows where. The story ends with Shoc saying he will make the most of the time he has left (we never see Shoc ever again by the way outside of being killed by Wolverine and resurrected by the Hand).

Jesus Christ this story.

So let’s start with the very first page shall we. The male chauvinist in me appreciated the sexy scientist doing sexy science in her underwear, glasses and lab coat (wow). The more rational part of me said this was fucking stupid and unnecessary cheesecake. And on the topic of the ladies of this story, Betty Brant kisses Peter on the cheek and lightly flirts with him in front of Mary Jane, because Betty’s a horrible person like that (check her history, she really is).

Now let us move onto the main meat of this story. The new villain, Crown, doesn’t look as good in this issue as he did in his last outing, although Morbius is as bad ass as ever. This story isn’t bad but the big problem is that part 1 isn’t a Spider-Man story it’s Peter Parker’s daily life with Betty Brant being bitchy and the new hero Shoc (whose identity is revealed to be Neil to the surprise of no one) as the actual hero of the book; oh and Paul continues to be a d***.

Looking at the art of part 1, Romita’s Spider-Man continues to look gorgeous, especially with the red and black costume as opposed to the regular red and blue look. Additionally Fortunato still looks evil (I’ve realised Romita Jr. really likes drawing people with wrinkles).

Overall this first part was another okay set up issue but I was looking for more. The most egregious thing about part 1 though was that Jansen was introduced in earlier issues out of the blue with little characterisation but she seemed like a good person, and then suddenly she is a bad guy, who by the way is in love with Crown.

‘Out of the blue’ pretty much sums up part 2 as well. It had promise (Spider-Man, Morbius, Hammerhead and Shoc vs. Crown and H.Y.D.R.A., that’s a decent premise on its own) but really under delivered. Mackie writes a decent Hammerhead, he is a villain, but you get the same vibe off him as you do off of Marlon Brando’s fellow gangsters in the Godfather. Criminal he might be, but he isn’t an evil monster and he has a code. Romita’s simple addition of a beard for Hammerhead somehow humanises him and makes him more realistic and threatening (that and he doesn’t use his trademark stupid power of an adamantium flat top).

Whilst Hammerhead’s overall presentation here is good, so much of the rest of the issue is fail. Not Romita’s art though, that is always great but…God where to start.

Don’t get me wrong, neither of these issues are in the same league of bad as the worst of the Clone Saga but they’re still poor. You don’t even have an overly gratuitous 1990s fight sequence; it’s just lackluster I am afraid to say. Morbius is presented as heroic, which is cool but the fundamental problem with this storyline is the lack of development of it. This whole Crown ‘Saga’ lasted 5 issues, which might see a decent amount of time but when you consider that there was no development for Crown, Shoc, Crown’s girlfriend, Crown’s out of the blue short life span or what the Hell Shoc and Crown’s powers actually ARE, or how they work (literally there is a line from Shoc which goes “I don’t know how I know this but Morbius is somehow making Crown blow up more than this one city block he planned on blowing up”) this is a big pile of wasted time.

Worst of all, it isn’t really a Spider-Man story. I’m not saying that in the context of “this is magic/cosmic stuff and that isn’t Spider-Man” I mean this is about the new super hero Shoc more than it is about Spider-Man himself. Morbius is at least a Spider-Man villain, but Shoc is the new hero, H.Y.D.R.A. and Crown are HIS bad guys, Hammerhead is HIS ally and Spider-Man is along for the ride. Were Romita and/or Mackie trying to spin off a new character?

There was however, a cool moment where Spider-Man uses his webbing to encase a whole city block but it’s spoiled by the fact that you (a) don’t really see this, the narration tells us (b) this is used in a convoluted, almost dues ex machina to solve the plot and (c) this only happens with Shoc’s help but again, HOW he is doing this is dumb because we’ve never been given an explanation on how his powers work beyond “it’s SHOC technology”. What does that mean Mackie?

There was also an annoying little brat thrown in with little development or follow up; he was just there so Spidey could save him.

Similarly, Mackie artificially raised the stakes of this story by having the battle take place in a building where all of Hammerhead’s goons had their families living. Why in God’s name would you even HAVE all of your families living in one place, let alone why you’d use that place as the HQ of your gang. Especially when your gang is challenging the WORLD’S BIGGEST TERRORIST ORGANISATION!

I like this run by Howard Mackie before the reboot overall, but I am sorry, this two parter is a D+ and the only reason it isn’t a D- is because (a) it isn’t Clone Saga bad (which is the low bar for giving out Fs), (b) Romita’s art still rocks (that’s one letter grade unto itself) and (c) there are tiny pieces of good characterisation and moments which all add up to one letter grade.

Exposed Wiring
Amazing Spider-Man #422
Synopsis: Max Dillon, Electro, is being strapped into an electric chair and thinks back on his life. He remembers how his family moved around a lot due to his father being fired frequently and as a result, smacking his mother around. He recalls that when his father walked out on them, his mother took it hard and became overprotective of Max, whilst at the same time putting down his intellect, dissuading him from further education. When she died Max met and married the secretary of the electric company he worked for. Due to his mother’s discouraging words Electro settled for being a lineman when he could have had a more upwardly mobile job. His wife left him shortly afterwards and then came the fateful day Max acquired his super powers from a freak accident and began a career of crime, resulting in numerous defeats by Spider-Man.
While all this is going on Don Fortunato has a terse exchange with Detective Lewis and arranges a meeting with the Rose. At this meeting Fortunato offers his help in defeating the Black Tarantula to avoid another gang war. The Rose declines stating he’s taken steps to combat the Tarantula. Fortunato says he wishes him the best, commenting that he is one of the few to know the Rose’s real identity. For his part, Peter Parker is having trouble keeping up in class, partially because the bite from Morbius has him popping aspirin all the time. His Professor directs him to Paul Stacy who will be his new tutor, a prospect Peter isn’t thrilled about. He gets a little payback when he allows Paul to bump into another student, who happens to be Phil Urich (the former heroic Green Goblin).
Elsewhere Dragonfly grows weary of Madam Qwa’s tests and hungers for a real target. Mary Jane meanwhile is at her therapist discussing her feelings of guilt over losing the baby, saying she feels she lost the baby because she wasn’t good enough for her, whilst somewhere in the Aegean sea, Alison Mongrain (employee of Norman Osborn, who slipped Mary Jane the drug which induced her labour in the first place) is reporting in to Norman Osborn and informing him that their project is progressing nicely. Back at the Bugle, Peter overhears an argument between Robbie and his wife before leaving the Bugle, disappointed to learn the Bugle are cutting back on freelance photographers.
Back with Max Dillon, Max recalls a more recent incident wherein he became one with the ‘electrical field’ but couldn’t control it, thus forcing Spidey to save him which was humiliating. Now though he’s decided to try the same stunt again and, with Delilah’s help, has hooked himself into the city’s electrical grid; she throws the switch. Later the Rose meets up with Delilah who reveals the new and improved ELECTRO!
This issue was just kind of there. It didn’t leave much of an impression although it was not bad (unlike the Asian stereotypes, worse, the BORING Asian stereotypes, from ASM #421). It is a set up issue with…questionable art. Joe Bennett did the pencils and my God I’ve never seen Bennett art I’ve liked except on ASM Annual 2001, a story so God awful John Romita Senior himself could’ve drawn it and it wouldn’t have saved it (plus Bennett’s art in that story was a bit over sexualised, which might have been a compliment to the offensive sub-plot of that issue which I won’t go into here).  I will say though that his depiction of Delilah makes her look very attractive, she is probably the best drawn person in this book.
Paul Stacy is a douchebag and really unlikable but his presence as Peter’s tutor exemplifies how Peter doesn’t need to be single to have problems (although this is one problem I’d rather not see play out). It was satisfying seeing Peter allow Paul to crash into someone to shut his arrogant mouth but even more satisfying seeing that the person he bumped into was Phil Urich, the fourth (and only heroic) Green Goblin from DeFalco’s sadly cancelled series. Phil is a good character and seeing him have a life beyond his solo book was nice. Heck he’d even make a cool supporting character for Spider-Man as well as bring a YOUTHFUL aspect to the series, which apparently the book lives or dies by according to Tom Brevoort. Phil of course will have an even better run in Spider-Girl as a regular character and its cool seeing him here as kind of unintentional set up for that.
I really enjoy crime stories in Spider-Man, so whilst others might get bored with the Black Tarantula/Rose stuff I really haven’t at this point I like seeing the crime lords play off each other and happen to like Fortunato and Rose quite a bit, likely because they were there when I began reading.
In this issue we also see a subplot which will play out later on with Robbie’s strained marriage, so if you are reading along pay attention to that. Robbie is one of my favourite Spidey characters so I like him becoming more involved in the plot. I’m genuinely worried about BT targeting him, and I know he’ll be alright because I’ve read modern books.
The highlight of this book though is Electro. DeFalco obviously likes this character and did some unspectacular, but nonetheless modest fleshing out of him here. It’s weird you know, my favourite writer on Spider-Man is DeMatteis and a oft repeated trope of his is to give villain abusive dads as part of their origins whilst DeFalco (my second favourite Spider-Man writer) between this story and his Doc Ock origin tale in Unlim #3 is beginning to develop the trope of giving villains overbearing mothers as part of THEIR origins. Electro’s mom is almost a mirror of Peter and Aunt May’s relationship, as her overprotection of Max Dillon goes beyond what Aunt May ever did and as a result caused Electro to subtly go down the path of a criminal.
The thing is he is just a thug with powers, he isn’t malevolent like say Norman Osborn, or outright crazy like Venom (although you’d have to be nuts to think that that yellow and green suit looks cool). What is interesting is learning that Electro did in fact have a wife at one point and if you do what I am doing, and plan on reading Spider-Girl right after this era of Spider-Man, that becomes important down the line when we meet Electro’s daughter and have Electro resurface in one of the all time great issues of Spider-Girl. Overall it is an appreciative effort to develop Electro, a villain DeFalco clearly likes and although I never listed him in my top 15 favourite characters, he is one of my favourite villains as well.
Now onto the touchy subject: the baby. This is technically the second hint DeFalco has dropped about the baby surviving (unless you count ASM #418 in Revelations). His first hint was X-Man’s telepathic Christmas dream, where Aunt May said the baby was happy and Peter would see her again someday. Obviously the line could’ve been read as the baby is in Heaven or that the baby is alive. Here we get more of that with Mongrain (who possibly abducted the baby) showing back up and leaving a message for Norman Osborn himself, all but confirming Norman is alive somewhere (although that fact was more than likely if you read PPSM #75 and was made blatant in the extra pages from that issue printed in trade paperbacks).
Since I am reading this with a view of it leading into Spider-Girl in my own mind the crib and the person Mongrain refers to as ‘precious’ is 100% the baby (which makes the reveal that it was Aunt May all along make even less sense). There is also a scene where Mary Jane talks to a therapist about losing the baby and says sometimes she blames herself for losing the baby because she thought she wasn’t good enough for her. It made you feel so sorry for MJ and made Norman’s evil actions stand out even more, although it does raise a question: why would MJ blame herself if she knows Norman was responsible. I suppose one could argue Peter never told her that though I think that would be out of character for him and arguably immoral to lie to her about that. Personally I just think of it as Mary Jane, through grieving the baby, irrationally blaming herself SOMETIMES and when she’s cleared her head, more clearly blaming Norman. It’s possibly it’s just a consequence of the grief she’s going through.
Overall this is a C I think.
P.S. Just realised the cop who visted Don Fortunato is Garon Lewis, father of Devon and ex-husband of Shirley, owner of the Daily Grind (where Ben Reilly used to work).
P.P.S. MJ’s conversation with her therapist is (by accident or design) amusing since it comments upon the state of Spider-Man (and various comic books) in regards to progression of the characters. MJ says she isn’t certain where she and peter are going and wonders if they’re just spinning their wheels. There is indeed a school of thought which sadly dominates comic books today that characters must be stuck in second gear and must never truly progress forward. When this story was being written DeFalco might have felt the then current status quo of Spider-Man itself might have simply been spinning it’s wheels, either indefinitely or as a way of buying time until the uncertain future came about, when editorial could find another way to ‘fix’ Spider-Man. 

Exposed Wiring

Amazing Spider-Man #422

Synopsis: Max Dillon, Electro, is being strapped into an electric chair and thinks back on his life. He remembers how his family moved around a lot due to his father being fired frequently and as a result, smacking his mother around. He recalls that when his father walked out on them, his mother took it hard and became overprotective of Max, whilst at the same time putting down his intellect, dissuading him from further education. When she died Max met and married the secretary of the electric company he worked for. Due to his mother’s discouraging words Electro settled for being a lineman when he could have had a more upwardly mobile job. His wife left him shortly afterwards and then came the fateful day Max acquired his super powers from a freak accident and began a career of crime, resulting in numerous defeats by Spider-Man.

While all this is going on Don Fortunato has a terse exchange with Detective Lewis and arranges a meeting with the Rose. At this meeting Fortunato offers his help in defeating the Black Tarantula to avoid another gang war. The Rose declines stating he’s taken steps to combat the Tarantula. Fortunato says he wishes him the best, commenting that he is one of the few to know the Rose’s real identity. For his part, Peter Parker is having trouble keeping up in class, partially because the bite from Morbius has him popping aspirin all the time. His Professor directs him to Paul Stacy who will be his new tutor, a prospect Peter isn’t thrilled about. He gets a little payback when he allows Paul to bump into another student, who happens to be Phil Urich (the former heroic Green Goblin).

Elsewhere Dragonfly grows weary of Madam Qwa’s tests and hungers for a real target. Mary Jane meanwhile is at her therapist discussing her feelings of guilt over losing the baby, saying she feels she lost the baby because she wasn’t good enough for her, whilst somewhere in the Aegean sea, Alison Mongrain (employee of Norman Osborn, who slipped Mary Jane the drug which induced her labour in the first place) is reporting in to Norman Osborn and informing him that their project is progressing nicely. Back at the Bugle, Peter overhears an argument between Robbie and his wife before leaving the Bugle, disappointed to learn the Bugle are cutting back on freelance photographers.

Back with Max Dillon, Max recalls a more recent incident wherein he became one with the ‘electrical field’ but couldn’t control it, thus forcing Spidey to save him which was humiliating. Now though he’s decided to try the same stunt again and, with Delilah’s help, has hooked himself into the city’s electrical grid; she throws the switch. Later the Rose meets up with Delilah who reveals the new and improved ELECTRO!

This issue was just kind of there. It didn’t leave much of an impression although it was not bad (unlike the Asian stereotypes, worse, the BORING Asian stereotypes, from ASM #421). It is a set up issue with…questionable art. Joe Bennett did the pencils and my God I’ve never seen Bennett art I’ve liked except on ASM Annual 2001, a story so God awful John Romita Senior himself could’ve drawn it and it wouldn’t have saved it (plus Bennett’s art in that story was a bit over sexualised, which might have been a compliment to the offensive sub-plot of that issue which I won’t go into here).  I will say though that his depiction of Delilah makes her look very attractive, she is probably the best drawn person in this book.

Paul Stacy is a douchebag and really unlikable but his presence as Peter’s tutor exemplifies how Peter doesn’t need to be single to have problems (although this is one problem I’d rather not see play out). It was satisfying seeing Peter allow Paul to crash into someone to shut his arrogant mouth but even more satisfying seeing that the person he bumped into was Phil Urich, the fourth (and only heroic) Green Goblin from DeFalco’s sadly cancelled series. Phil is a good character and seeing him have a life beyond his solo book was nice. Heck he’d even make a cool supporting character for Spider-Man as well as bring a YOUTHFUL aspect to the series, which apparently the book lives or dies by according to Tom Brevoort. Phil of course will have an even better run in Spider-Girl as a regular character and its cool seeing him here as kind of unintentional set up for that.

I really enjoy crime stories in Spider-Man, so whilst others might get bored with the Black Tarantula/Rose stuff I really haven’t at this point I like seeing the crime lords play off each other and happen to like Fortunato and Rose quite a bit, likely because they were there when I began reading.

In this issue we also see a subplot which will play out later on with Robbie’s strained marriage, so if you are reading along pay attention to that. Robbie is one of my favourite Spidey characters so I like him becoming more involved in the plot. I’m genuinely worried about BT targeting him, and I know he’ll be alright because I’ve read modern books.

The highlight of this book though is Electro. DeFalco obviously likes this character and did some unspectacular, but nonetheless modest fleshing out of him here. It’s weird you know, my favourite writer on Spider-Man is DeMatteis and a oft repeated trope of his is to give villain abusive dads as part of their origins whilst DeFalco (my second favourite Spider-Man writer) between this story and his Doc Ock origin tale in Unlim #3 is beginning to develop the trope of giving villains overbearing mothers as part of THEIR origins. Electro’s mom is almost a mirror of Peter and Aunt May’s relationship, as her overprotection of Max Dillon goes beyond what Aunt May ever did and as a result caused Electro to subtly go down the path of a criminal.

The thing is he is just a thug with powers, he isn’t malevolent like say Norman Osborn, or outright crazy like Venom (although you’d have to be nuts to think that that yellow and green suit looks cool). What is interesting is learning that Electro did in fact have a wife at one point and if you do what I am doing, and plan on reading Spider-Girl right after this era of Spider-Man, that becomes important down the line when we meet Electro’s daughter and have Electro resurface in one of the all time great issues of Spider-Girl. Overall it is an appreciative effort to develop Electro, a villain DeFalco clearly likes and although I never listed him in my top 15 favourite characters, he is one of my favourite villains as well.

Now onto the touchy subject: the baby. This is technically the second hint DeFalco has dropped about the baby surviving (unless you count ASM #418 in Revelations). His first hint was X-Man’s telepathic Christmas dream, where Aunt May said the baby was happy and Peter would see her again someday. Obviously the line could’ve been read as the baby is in Heaven or that the baby is alive. Here we get more of that with Mongrain (who possibly abducted the baby) showing back up and leaving a message for Norman Osborn himself, all but confirming Norman is alive somewhere (although that fact was more than likely if you read PPSM #75 and was made blatant in the extra pages from that issue printed in trade paperbacks).

Since I am reading this with a view of it leading into Spider-Girl in my own mind the crib and the person Mongrain refers to as ‘precious’ is 100% the baby (which makes the reveal that it was Aunt May all along make even less sense). There is also a scene where Mary Jane talks to a therapist about losing the baby and says sometimes she blames herself for losing the baby because she thought she wasn’t good enough for her. It made you feel so sorry for MJ and made Norman’s evil actions stand out even more, although it does raise a question: why would MJ blame herself if she knows Norman was responsible. I suppose one could argue Peter never told her that though I think that would be out of character for him and arguably immoral to lie to her about that. Personally I just think of it as Mary Jane, through grieving the baby, irrationally blaming herself SOMETIMES and when she’s cleared her head, more clearly blaming Norman. It’s possibly it’s just a consequence of the grief she’s going through.

Overall this is a C I think.

P.S. Just realised the cop who visted Don Fortunato is Garon Lewis, father of Devon and ex-husband of Shirley, owner of the Daily Grind (where Ben Reilly used to work).

P.P.S. MJ’s conversation with her therapist is (by accident or design) amusing since it comments upon the state of Spider-Man (and various comic books) in regards to progression of the characters. MJ says she isn’t certain where she and peter are going and wonders if they’re just spinning their wheels. There is indeed a school of thought which sadly dominates comic books today that characters must be stuck in second gear and must never truly progress forward. When this story was being written DeFalco might have felt the then current status quo of Spider-Man itself might have simply been spinning it’s wheels, either indefinitely or as a way of buying time until the uncertain future came about, when editorial could find another way to ‘fix’ Spider-Man.