Sunday, January 27, 2008

SM:FBFW ASM 114-120

Spider-Man: For Better or For Worse?

This Week's Reading List: Amazing Spider-Man 114-120

Hello, and welcome to our special “hodge-podge of mediocrity” week here at the Spidey-blog. Hammerhead and Doc Ock fight it out in a gang war. The original Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1 gets massacred in its transformation into a three-part Amazing storyline, and then Peter Parker fights the Hulk because he can. Sigh.

First, “Gang War.” On one hand, I like seeing Gwen defend Peter as she does here when Flash starts bad-mouthing him. I, as a reader, identify strongly with Peter, and I've always shared his feelings for Gwen. On the other hand, haven't we sat through this scene about three times already? I can see why the writers, who clearly lacked the imagination or the gumption to do something different with Gwen, felt the need to... oh, but we'll get to that next week.

As for the Gang War itself, it's basically a guy with a metal skull thinking that he can take on Doctor Octopus. Meanwhile, Doc Ock's chief supporter and, apparently, cleaning woman is Aunt May, who believes him to be so good that she's willing to try to shoot Spider-Man with a pistol. If you actually need me to comment on any of that to understand how idiotic it is, then... Oh, forget it.

Then we've got a three-part story featuring the same basic plot (and a vast amount of recycled art) of Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1, except that the suit-wearing Richard Raleigh, who was the mastermind villain behind it all last time, has been sort-of replaced by “The Disruptor” in many shots. The Disruptor is Raleigh in a dorky-looking costume. Why anyone needs a secret identity when one doesn't present himself to the world as a criminal I'll never know. Anyway, Peter and Gwen make up and seem to finally clear the air about her merely being good friends with Flash. Honestly, this story worked much, much better as a “novel-length thriller” and without the idiotic “Disruptor” identity. The changes here make no sense.

And then... Sigh. There's a telegram for Aunt May. It's a mystery. Peter needs to go to Montreal to see the guy who sent it. (Why he can't use a phone like a normal person is a mystery to me.) And... the Hulk is in Montreal, so JJJ agrees to send Peter to get some shots for the Bugle. And... Spider-Man and the Hulk fight, and it's basically Spider-Man dodging for two issues. And when he finally finds Mssr. Rimbaud, who sent the telegram... Rimbaud is shot by a mystery man.

I'm not sure what kind of comment is necessary here. It's a completely ridiculous story designed to give the writer an excuse to match up Spidey and the Hulk without tearing up NYC. Personally, I don't see the fight as anything particularly entertaining or imaginative. Ugh.

Anyway, let's check my Spidey-Standards against this week's reading list:

1) Spider-Man stories were better then than they are now. Nope. Worse. These have too many elements that make zero sense. I'd honestly rather read Brand New Day than these issues again.

2) Spider-Man's supporting cast is essential to good Spidey stories. They might be, but you'd never know it from these issues.

3) Peter Parker is not just a secret identity. Oh, for crying out loud. Aunt May is Doc Ock's housekeeper. I hate Peter just for being related to her.

All right, that's it for this week. Up next week will be Amazing Spider-Man 121-122! Until Spider-Man actually believes he could beat the Hulk, Make Mine Marvel!



Jared said...

When I read this story in the Essentials volume, I was struck right away by one question, that I don't think has ever really been touched on:

Just how wealthy is the Reilly family, anyway? I mean, they own not only their own private island, but one with a NUCLEAR REACTOR.

How the hell did they even get that island and its reactor in the first place? I guess Aunt May's side of the family has never really been explored...who knows, it might make for an interesting future storyline, especially when you consider that May must have turned her back on the family fortune to marry a blue-collar guy like Ben Parker.

In other subjects...

Spidey versus the Hulk is, on one level, no fun to read, for the simple fact that the Big Green Machine is, quite simply, out of our hero's league. The Hulk would barely feel Spidey's punches, and he could rip even Spidey's strongest webbing with ease. Wolverine's razor-sharp claws at least have a better chance of piercing the Hulk's hide, and with his healing factor and adamantium skeleton he can fight without the Hulk's punches reducing him to paste.

Then again, the Hulk's power level seems to have been increased to absolutely absurd levels over the years, to the point where I can't see how he could possibly be in any sort of danger in a fight.

There's no way, as JMS has Peter say, that Spider-Man could wear the Hulk down until his reserves of gamma energy ran out, the way he did with the Digger. The Digger was a composite creature held together by a finite supply of gamma radiation. OTOH, the Hulk is a being whose entire cellular structure has been imbued with gamma radiation, and whose strength and healing factor are increased when his system is under stress, whether it be from adrenaline, anger, or what have you. If the Hulk is fighting for his life, with adrenlaine going a mile a minute through his system, that just makes him all the stronger and more able to quickly heal from his injuries.

The Hulk just doesn't run out of juice that way.

As for the gang war...I love a good gang war storyline as much as the next guy, but for one thing Hammerhead is as flat as Wolverine is overhyped, and again Aunt May puts on a display of Alzheimer's at its finest when she seems to forget that this "good, misunderstood man", IIRC, endangered American national security by mucking with America's nuclear facilities and its weapons (remember, the USSR was still considered a threat).

So she trusts a guy who's basically committed high treason over a man who's saved dozens of lives and put all kinds of dangerous criminals behind bars.

Maybe May only stood to inherit the reactor if all her other relatives checked out before she did-if I were writing out my will, I wouldn't want to leave everything to the family idiot.

Eric Teall said...

Ummm... Maybe I really didn't read these stories closely enough, but what private island are you talking about? What nuclear reactor? I'm very confused.

You're absolutely right about the Hulk's power level, BTW. The gray Hulk was much more interesting that way.

Anyway, May is a cartoon buffoon here, to be sure, and once again, I can see why fans wanted her dead.


Jared said...

You know, the reactor that Aunt May inherits, which was the whole reason Doc Ock was after her in the first place, going to the point of marrying her.

How the heck did she end up inheriting something like that, when she clearly isn't wealthy? You think she could have sold the thing and received top-flight medical care for the rest of her life, leaving a comfortable nest egg for Peter if and when she finally kicked off.

But then, I suppose we wouldn't have any more of the tired old Aunt-May-is-sick stories...