What the World Was Watching: WCW Main Event – April 16, 1995

(Check back tomorrow night for Doomie Award results!)

Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan are doing studio duties for today’s broadcast.  They briefly discuss Ric Flair’s reinstatement.

Bischoff hypes WCW’s rubber action figures.  Heenan uses the Vader figure to knock the Hulk Hogan figure off his desk.

Read moreWhat the World Was Watching: WCW Main Event – April 16, 1995

Waiting for the Trade = Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

 
Amazing Spider-man:
Flying Blind
Written by Dan Slott
& Mark Waid

Illustrated by
Humberto Ramos, Emma Rios, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Kano

Collects Amazing
Spiderman 674-677 and Daredevil 8

 

Why I Bought This: It
features Black Cat, who is my favorite character in the Spider-verse. Interestingly
it took me two years to track this thing down. Twice I went to several stores
on Free Comic Book Day and none of them carried this trade. I finally bought it
on Amazon a few weeks ago for about $7.

 

The Plot: The
Black Cat story sees her accused of a crime and Spidey getting DD to defend
her. There are also stories involving the Vulture running a teen gang and the
Sinister Six battling the Intelligentsia.

 (spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – A dude in wings falls from the sky to his death.
We find there have been a rash of falling deaths of late, which police chalk up
to the recently concluded “Spider-Island” arc: the theory is people who got
spider-powers in that story are web slinging when their powers cut out and they
die. Meanwhile Kingpin is sad that his spider powers cut out but cheers up when
a Horizon employee offers to sell him spider-sense jammers. Meanwhile Spidey
wins a fight with some robot cops. Meanwhile we see a teen runaway recruited
into the flying gang. Meanwhile MJ and Glory Grant go clubbing. Meanwhile Peter
and Carlie Cooper bump into each other for the first time since breaking up.
They realize they are both working on the same case and agree to work together.
Meanwhile teen recruit boy learns this gang is being run by the Vulture.

Chapter 2 – Spidey and Carlie do some CSI stuff at the
police lab. Vulture tells the new kid for being in his gang: they get to fly
around and steal stuff for him then at the end of the day they get to keep a
little bit for themselves. Then for some inexplicable reason we see Vulture’s head
out is above the club MJ and Gloria are at. The gang kids exit through the club
and pick a fight with Glory’s boyfriend. This prompts MJ to call Peter just as
he and Carlie had deduced Vulture’s scheme so Spidey heads off to the club
(without Carlie). The Vulture boys execute a mid-air heist but new kid has too
much conscience for Tooms’ liking so he cuts the power to his wings. Spidey
saves him in the nick of time. Spidey then fights the kids (who have laser
scythes) as Carlie arrives. She deduces the Vulture operates all their wings on
remote and tells Spidey so he can use magnetic webbing to jam the single.
Vulture retaliates by throwing a car at Carlie but Spidey saves her. Vulture
escapes. Carlie decides she can trust Spidey enough to work with him, though
she is still upset he kept his identity from her when they were dating. The
book ends with Carlie going to see MJ to talk about Peter.

Chapter 3 – Doc Ock’s debuts a bulky exoskeleton look as his
call to his together his latest Sinister Six of Sandman, Chameleon, Rhino,
Electro and Mysterio for one final big plan (Ock is terminally ill as of ASM
600). Chameleon has infiltrated the Intelligentsia (a group of super smart Hulk
and FF villains originally led by the Leader but now led by Modok). The
Intelligentsia takes down some Russian superheroes with a teleporter ray that
sends its target into orbit. Ock wants their weapon so the Sinister Six attack
them. The rest of the issue is a big fight that Ock’s team ultimately wins
allowing them to take possession of Modok’s tech.

Chapter 4 – Pete is down in the dumps about Carlie dumping
him and decides to take out his frustrations on some muggers when low and
behold the Black Cat crosses his path. He perks up and hits on her but Felicia
refuses to be the rebound girl. When she gets to her apartment she finds a
spider tracer on her costume and then police bust in and arrest her. The next
morning Pete goes to Horizon to learn that Felicia was arrested for stealing
from the lab. He knows she is innocent since he was fighting the crooks with
her when this went down. Pete tracks down Daredevil and asks him to help clear
Felicia. Felicia meanwhile has already broken out of police custody. Spidey and
DD come across a hostage situation but when DD doesn’t register it Pete
realizes it is all an illusion as it was a hologram projector stolen from
Horizon. They make their way into a tunnel which then collapses and as Pete
tries to crawl out he has the bad luck to grab a livewire as we see Felicia
standing over the heroes.

Chapter 5 – Foggy Nelson discovers the grave of Matt’s
father has been dug up. DD recovers and takes out the fuse box before Spidey
dies. He grabs Felicia and she says wasn’t trying to kill Spidey just hurt him
for leading the police to her apartment with his tracer. Spidey denies that and
everyone agrees to work together. They search for clues and find a guy locked
in a closet. He’s the one who sold Horizon out. DD detects the dude is poisoned
and has Spidey rush him to the hospital. While Spidey is gone DD asks Felicia
to steal something for him based on some conspiracy going on his own title with
a group called Black Spectre. They take out some generic thugs and disable an
elaborate security system. The last safeguard are the holograms which DD
ignores. DD and Felicia share a kiss after they complete the theft. Then a
flashback is actually working for these Spectre people and the whole frame-up
of her was a ruse to let her get close to DD. Meanwhile Pete sees them making
out and leaves (with the funny line “I think this is my super villain origin”).
DD takes Felicia home but before they can do the deed Matt gets the phone call
from Foggy about his father’s grave. 

 

Critical Thoughts: I’ll
take these on in order. I found the Vulture story to be a perfectly acceptable
comic book story. It’s not reinventing the wheel but it’s a fine use of one of
Spidey’s classic second tier rogues. I also found the personal life stuff with
Peter and Carlie to be well written and serve the purpose of setting a new
status quo for them. I never hated Carlie like so many other fans did. I
certainly get the general hate for the ending of Peter’s marriage to MJ,
particularly the way it was done; but I don’t think that should prejudice us
against every new love interest that comes down the pike in this title. I think
Carlie is a fine supporting character: she’s not great but she’s not terrible.
More importantly whether Peter dates her or not she can serve a role in the
title as his contact on the police force, something the titles have been
missing since the death of Jean DeWolf and that fits a good niche in
Spider-man’s street crime milieu. I suppose the only real flaw with the story
is the ridiculousness of Vulture (who is a senior citizen) keeping his
headquarters over a nightclub and that MJ happens to go that same nightclub at
just the right time to lead Peter there, but it’s not like Stan Lee and Gerry
Conway didn’t use the same type of coincidences all the time in their Spidey
stories.

I was not over fond of the Sinister Six vs. Intelligentsia
battle. Slott really upped the Six’s threat level his run on the title (they
would go on to take out the Avengers in a subsequent story arc). While I’m not
one to complain about taking villains seriously, I think this reads more like a
downgrade of the Intelligentsia than an upgrade for the Six; which is a real
shame since the team was just debuted a year earlier to be major Hulk villains
so why ruin that credibility so soon? I suppose you could say without the
Leader they are not at their full strength but it still strikes me as an
unnecessary choice.

Onto the main event, I enjoyed the Black Cat story quite a
bit. Admittedly I am prone to liking Black Cat stories anyway but I thought
this one was a fun use of her ambiguous relationship with the law and keeping
the reader guessing which side she is really on. I can’t say I love the idea of
Felicia hooking up with DD but since it is ultimately revealed she’s playing
him I’m okay with it. So much so that I went out and bought the DD trade that
follows this arc up, and I almost never buy DD trades. Again much like the
Vulture story it’s not going to go down in the annals of great Spidey stories
but it uses conventional story-telling and familiar characters well.

 
Grade: B. I
wouldn’t want to pay full price for this but for what Amazon sells it for it is
a rather entertaining collection of Spidey stories.

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade: X-Factor

Waiting for the Trade

X-Factor: Scar Tissue

By Peter David, art by
Valentine DeLandro and Emanuela Lupacchino

Collects X-Factor
213-219

 

Why I Bought This: It
guest stars the Black Cat who is perhaps my favorite Marvel character. It is also
written by Peter David, who is one of the all-time great Spider-man writers and
who wrote Felicia particularly well back in the day.

 

The Plot: The
main arc is about an assassination attempt on J. Jonah Jameson. He hires both
Black Cat and X-Factor for protection. There are also a few single issue
character studies on some of the regular cast.

 

(spoilers below)

Chapter 1 – Some dude is gambling in Vegas and when he takes
off his sunglasses people see death and freak out. Madrox later approaches this
dude, whom we learn is Darwin
(of X-Men First Class fame). Darwin
apparently had to fight (Asgardian death goddess) Hela in a prior trade and thus
evolved beyond death but now feels without a place in the world so he quits the
team to go find himself. We then get a lot of personal drama with the team
whose members are Siryn, Strong Guy, Pip the Troll, Longshot, Shatterstar,
Rictor, Wolfsbane, Layla Miller, and some other chick whose real name is Monet.
The big personal drama is Rictor learns he is not the father of Wolfsbane’s
pregnancy. She lied because she’s catholic and wanted to save his soul from
being gay. They part as friends and he goes back to Shatterstar.

Chapter 2 – Darwin
is wandering around the desert when he comes across a chick being chased by a
dragon. Darwin
kills the dragon. He takes her to the nearest town which ends up being a ghost
town out of the Wild West. All the residents are trapped in the town by a
sheriff, who then blows a hole in Darwin
when they meet. Even when his head gets blown off Darwin keeps coming. When sheriff dude sees Darwin’s eyes he stops
fighting and explains this town is in a kind of timeless limbo waiting for the
apocalypse. The sheriff throws down some foreshadowing about an impending Hell
on Earth deal and gives Darwin
three magic six-shooters. He calls for the High Noon shootout before he will
let Darwin
leave. Sheriff dude reveals he is Wolfsbane’s son and shoots Darwin dead. The town the fades back into
Limbo. Darwin
wakes up in the desert thinking it was a dream but he has one of the magic guns
with him.

Chapter 3 – Some chick from Ethiopia hires Madrox and Layla to
investigate her father’s death as she believes he was murdered by her
stepmother. The police believe her father was killed by a vampire as part of
that X-men vs. vampires crossover I never bothered to read as his body had fang
marks and was drained of blood. Layla and Madrox investigate and ultimately discover
the chick that hired them is an African vampire, which has different rules than
the traditional European vampire. This vampire projects out of her body when
she sleeps and her conscious mind has no idea what its doing. The vampire tries
to kill the stepmom and Madrox and Layla stop her when Layla performs an
exorcism, which she says should cure their client for good. Madrox then
proposes to Layla and she turns him down.

Chapter 4 – J. Jonah Jameson hires X-Factor to investigate
the murder of some military dude who once saved Jonah’s life. Spidey happens to
be spying on JJJ and warns X-factor about working with him but they just make
snarky comments so he leaves. Also some blond chick asks some black chick if
she remembers her. She doesn’t so blonde chick sets her on fire and the black
chick regenerates into a spandex costume and recovers her memories.

Chapter 5 – Apparently Felicia (the Black Cat) works for
Jonah now as a salaried employee so she wonders why he’s hired X-Factor when
she is a licensed PI. Jonah explains she works for the Mayor’s Office and this
is a personal investigation. Meanwhile three chicks (two of whom we saw last
issue) are listening in on Jonah and are planning to kill him. Most of X-Factor
is chasing down leads. Meanwhile there is a protest in New York about mutants and Muslims. This
irks Monet since she is both. Monet and Guido are watching over the protest
while Siryn is riding with Jonah in his car. Jonah gives a nice speech on equal
rights in an attempt to disband the protesters. Felicia is on nearby rooftop
watching as well when the black chick from last chapter wants to use the same
roof to set up a sniper rifle. They fight and the black chick has super
strength which gives her the victory. Meanwhile the blonde chick is in the
crowd of protesters. Siryn recognizes her from a lead Longshot found earlier
and goes on the attack but the police think she is attacking the mayor and nightstick
her. Blonde chick then blows a hole in Guido’s chest with her finger-gun
superpower.

Chapter 6 – Felicia recovers and takes on the black chick
before she can fire her gun. Finger gun chick is firing on Jonah but misses.
She attempts to attack Monet but Monet is apparently telekinetic and redirects the
bullet into the blonde chick’s skull. Monet wants to get Guido to the hospital
but blonde chick heals. She goes to fire on them but Siryn is able to make the
save. Felicia tries to taser black chick but it has no effect and she throws
Felicia off the roof. Jonah calls in a pair of mandroids but the third chick
fires off an EMP knocking the mandroids from the sky. Guido is going into
cardiac arrest and Monet flies him to the hospital. He tells her he loves her
as he passes out. Felicia tagged the chick she fought with a tracer and begins
to track them as the villains cut and run. EMP chick powers make her aware of
the tracer as soon as black chick gets in the car and the villains decide they
can use it to set a trap. At the hospital Guido dies but then he miraculously
recovers.

 

Chapter 7 – Felicia falls into the villains’ ambush and is
captured. Monet grabs Jonah in a fury and asks for the rest of the story. Apparently
JJJ funded dead military dude’s attempt to revive the super soldier program and
these three chicks are the result. At the hospital Layla tearfully leaves
Guido’s bed implying she did something bad to resurrect him. Monet,
Shatterstar, Wolfsbane and Longshot follow a lead on the villains. The super
soldiers have captured a scientist from the program and intend to kill both him
and Felicia and make it look like murder-suicide crime of passion as we get
their back-story: they went psycho on some missions, general dude wanted to
kill them but scientist dude argued for mind wiping them and giving them a
normal life instead. At this point the four X-factor members arrive for the big
fight. Finger-gun shoots Wolfsbane but she proves immune because her apparently
child has an Asgardian protection spell cast on it. Monet uses telepathy to put
Fingergun into a coma. Longshot and Black Cat learn their powers cancel out
which gives the other two a chance to escape. 

 

Critical Thoughts:
Not much here to be honest. Truthfully I don’t think I’ve ever read an issue of
Peter David’s X-factor before this. Like when he took over 20 years ago and
made the book about Havok, Polaris & Strong Guy as government agents I was
like I don’t care about any of these characters and that hasn’t changed through
any of the eras since then. Reading this I don’t feel like I’m missing much.
This whole cast is a group of uninteresting people with uninteresting powers.
They’re third stringers for a reason. The only subplot in this that I would be
remotely interested in the conclusion to is David seems to be on the verge of
answering the question of whether Shatterstar is Longshot and Dazzler’s son,
which has lingered for two decades.

As for the Felicia story I bought this trade to read it’s
hurt by lame villains. These chicks are so-non descript they don’t even seem to
have codenames. David writes Felicia herself as fairly capable if under-powered
in this fight. And I liked the little bit with her and Longshot’s powers
cancelling out. But I felt like there was more potential here. Felicia to my
knowledge has never been in an X-men story before (she’s had a pair on
mini-series with Wolverine and met Gambit once since they are both thieves but
that’s it) and so there could be some intriguing possibilities if they were
actually teaming up and investigating together but instead they are more or
less working parallel to each other.

I will say David still writes Jonah better than any other Spider-man
writer ever. Jonah’s equal rights speech is a great tool for showing why Jonah
is a respected leader despite his over the top Spider-man ranting. I know some
don’t like politics in their comics but I’ll point out Jonah has been shown to
be for civil rights since the Silver Age in stories with both Randi and Robbie
Robertson including a famous incident where he kicks a political candidate out
of his office when he learns the man is racist. I buy everything Jonah does
here and why he does it. I buy he would fund a super soldier program as a favor
to a man who saved his life; and in the past Jonah has been shown to admire
Captain America. I buy Jonah would work with X-factor because unlike Spider-man
they are not masked vigilantes. They are licensed private investigators working
within law—none of them wear masks and more than half the team uses their real
name instead of a codename. I’m not sure he would work with Felicia but that
seems to be happening in Spidey’s book and not here so that’s out of David’s
hands; but even so I like he won’t use government money to pay Felicia for a
personal investigation. So on that front the big highlight is seeing David
write Jonah again because as always he does it very well.

 

Grade D+ : Those
first three chapters are filled with things I don’t care about and frankly are not
particularly interesting; while even the chapters I care about are mostly
underwhelming.

Waiting for the Trade – Spider-man & Black Cat

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

 
Spider-man: Invasion
of the Spider-Slayers

By David Micheline
& Mark Bagley

Collects Amazing
Spider-man 368-373

 

Why I Bought This: Black
Cat is my favorite character in Spider-man’s corner of the Marvel Universe and she
features prominently in this story. Plus it is from the Mark Bagley era, who is
probably my all-time favorite Spider-man artist, so while I probably read this
back in the day I didn’t recall much of it and grabbed it cheap off Amazon.

 

The Plot: Spider-man
finds himself under attack from a variety of robots while engaging in otherwise
routine crime-fighting missions against foes like Electro and Scorpion.

 

Chapter 1 – Spidey is attacked by a robot with a lot of
claws. He eventually decapitates it. Black Cat stops by to check on Pete, whose
parents recently turned up alive. Speaking of which Pete and MJ join them for
dinner at Aunt May’s house then afterwards Pete stumbles across an FBI agent
watching them. Later Spidey is chasing down a purse snatcher when he gets
attacked by bat-like robot. He defeats this one too but begins to realize he has
a problem on his hands. We are shown the face of the unnamed villain behind the
attacks.

Chapter 2 – Pete confides in Flash that he’s not sure his
parents are on the level. A news report interrupts that Electro is on the loose
so Spidey heads into action, while Felicia wishes she could join him. While
Spidey fights Electro an Iron Man looking robot attacks him. In fact Pete
assumes this is some new super villain in a suit. He only discovers it’s a
robot when Electro accidentally blows it up. Electro escapes, while Spidey
suspects the Tinkerer is behind the recent robot attacks. We cut to the Tinker,
who is secretly meeting with Felicia.

Chapter 3 – Scorpion also visits the Tinkerer and gets
upgrades to his suit including a stinger on his tail and an electric attack. (Due
to Bagley’s art it is probably Scorpion’s best look: very sleek and dangerous
looking). Meanwhile Peter’s parents are finding the modern world hard to adjust
to (they were in a Russian prison camp all the years they were presumed dead)
before they run into FBI dude from last issue. They don’t recognize him causing
him to ponder if his secret is safe. Spidey finds Felicia hanging out at the
Tinker’s headquarters and wonders if she’s behind the robot menace, but instead
she was there purchasing  some crime
fighting gear to simulate the cat-like super powers she had lost about a year
(real time) prior to this. Scorpion spots Spidey and attacks him. His new
weapons have Spidey on the defensive and then an amoeba robot attacks too.
Felicia jumps into the fray to save the day and together she and Spidey get
Scorpion and the robot to take each other out. Spidey meanwhile recognizes this
robot design as belonging to Mendel Stromm, who’s been dead since the early
Stan Lee days on the title.

Chapter 4 – Felicia shows off her new costume and weapons to
Pete and MJ. When Pete and MJ have an afternoon at the park with his parents,
Pete freaks out when his parents don’t remember the name of the dog he had as a
child. His parents claim spotty memories due to their years in prison camp and
wonder if they should track down FBI dude since he seemed to know them. Pete
and Felicia in their civilian identities visit an insane asylum where Stromm’s former
assistant recently escaped along with several other inmates. Once outside
Felicia is able to spot a tiny spider-like robot that functions as a camera.
Spidey realizes this how the various robots find him whenever he dons his costume.
Sure enough another robot arrives: this one a large humanoid with a
three-headed faceplate. The two heroes fight it for a bit until Spidey manages
gets the heads to argue with each other and the robot commits suicide. The head
of the sanitarium was in danger during the melee so in gratitude he tells
Spidey the leader of the escape was Spencer Smythe, son of a deceased Stan
Lee-era mad scientist that used to build “Spider Slayer” robots for J. Jonah
Jameson. Meanwhile Peter’s parents find FBI dude and he pulls a gun on them.

Chapter 5 – Smythe kills one his fellow escapees. Pete sees
his parents getting into a limo with FBI dude and spider-tracers the car.
Spidey and Black Cat then fight a Black Widow shaped robot, followed by a
scorpion and ant robot. The bug robots morph together Voltron style but Spidey
takes it out using a live electric wire; however Felicia gets jolted as well
and needs a breather. Spidey follows his parents alone and switches into Peter.
He overhears FBI dude planning to kill them because he was double agent for the
Red Skull when they died the first time. Pete goes to intervene but falls from
the rafters having temporarily lost his powers due to some gas in the
warehouse. FBI dude then throws Pete on a conveyor belt leading towards a fiery
demise.

Chapter 6 – Pete’s dad makes a move but gets taken hostage
but it gives Pete time to get off the conveyor belt and use his web shooter to
trip FBI dude up. He then KO’s him with a punch as his powers return. The
incident also makes Pete believe his parents are who they say they are. Spidey
then tracks Smythe down to his headquarters but is electrocuted by trick
wheelchairs that the other mental inmates are chained to. Smythe then reveals
he has made himself into a cyborg and dubs himself the Ultimate Spider Slayer.
He now has super strength, spikes and webbing as he pounds Peter pretty
one-sidedly. One of the inmates tries to help and gets murdered for it. This
causes Pete to lose his temper and three punches later the fight is over.

 

Critical Thoughts:
This is a fairly simple straight-forward story. It’s not great, but it is also not
terrible. In a lot of ways it’s just good clean comic-book fun with a couple
classic villains, some robots and a few old school cliffhangers. Plus it really
looks excellent thanks to Bagley’s art.

As a Felicia fan there is a nice symmetry in her first fight
back being against Scorpion because she lost her powers fighting him. This was
a weird era for Felicia since they couldn’t play up the characters’ usual
romantic tension with Peter being married to MJ. Their first attempt to remake
her character and keep her in the book was to take her powers away and have her
date Flash Thompson, which was a terrible character choice I never bought into.
Here she artificial super powers so she isn’t as strong or all that helpful to
Spidey but is competent enough that she can go on the occasional adventure with
him; the main goal of which was to transition her into Spider-man’s one super
hero friend he could confide in, which as one of only two superheroes that knew
Spidey’s secret identity in this era was a role she was somewhat suited for.

 

Grade: Story is
probably a standard C but the art bumps it to C+ 

Waiting for the Trade #3

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Sensation Spider-man: Feral
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Angel Medina and Clayton Crain
Collects Sensational Spider-man 23 – 27.
Why I bought this: It is exactly the kind of timeless high concept super hero story that appeals to me; in this case a meteor affects several characters with animal-based powers causing them to run amok in New York. Also among those characters are both Black Cat and Lizard, who are two of my favorites.

The Plot: The non-spoiler version is a meteor that emits a strange radiation is brought to New York. While it slowly making everyone in the city devolve into a more angry (or feral) state, it is having a more immediate and profound effect on heroes and villains with animal-based super powers–this includes the Lizard, Vermin, Black Cat, Puma, Man-Wolf and Spider-man.
The more detailed play by play by chapter is as follows (warning lots of spoilers ahead):
Chapter 1 – Mary Jane wakes up in the middle of the night to find Peter lurking on the balcony. He feels something is “wrong” with the city, puts on his mask and jumps into the night. He is soon attacked by the Vulture, whom he defeats with relative ease. The Vulture had murdered several civilians off-panel by dropping them from buildings; under interrogation he admits he did this because he was hungry and vultures eat the dead. Peter is quite shocked since Vulture’s usual m.o. is much more rational-based (for those who don’t know Vulture has no powers, he’s a scientist who invented a winged flight suit). The next day Curt Connors (a.k.a. the Lizard) receives a phone call to examine a mysterious meteor in his role as scientist. Peter meanwhile is assigned to a news story at the Bronx Zoo where the night before some animals killed themselves and others tore each other apart in an unexplained frenzy. MJ goes to the Bugle and bumps into John Jameson. She drops a scarf and after she leaves he sniffs it, foreshadowing the Man-Wolf, whom he hasn’t become in over two decades (John is an astronaut, on the moon he found a magic rock that began turning him into a werewolf minus the magic stuff like contagious bites and silver until Spidey smashed the amulet and cured him in the 70s). That night while on patrol Spider-man discovers his spider sense is on the fritz. He then gets a phone call from Connors, who fears he is once again transforming into the Lizard, and we see him transform on the final page before Spidey can make it across town.
Chapter 2 – Spider-man arrives at Connors home and is attacked by not one but two Lizards, the second of who is much smaller. Lizard wounds Spider-man by biting his shoulder and their fight spills into the hall where it is witnessed by neighbors. Spidey flees up the side of the building and encounters ex-flame the Black Cat, who goes into a berserker rage when she sees the Lizard. Meanwhile John Jameson goes to Avengers Tower (where the Parkers are living) to return MJ’s scarf. Aunt May buzzes him in and he strangles the doorman, while we learn all the Avengers and Jarvis are out dealing with problems in the city. Cut again and Vermin (half-human, half-rat that eats people and fought Spidey a lot in the 90s, most prominently in Kraven’s Last Hunt) has returned and he eats a corrupt cop. Back to Spidey and he’s shocked by Felicia’s uncharacteristic ferocity but before he can intervene he is attacked by the Little Lizard. The aforementioned neighbor comes up stairs with a shot gun and shoots the Little Lizard to help Spidey. This distracts original Lizard who is thrown off the building by Felicia and breaks his arm. Little Lizard meanwhile reverts to Billy Connors, age 13, who is now bleeding to death from a gunshot wound.
Chapter 3 – Spidey and Felica rush Billy to Fantastic Four headquarters so Reed Richards can treat him super science. Once the kid is stabilized, Spidey and Cat ask Reed to examine them to determine what is affecting them. Meanwhile MJ is ready to greet John but when the elevator doors open Man-Wolf pounces out and attacks. He corners her, but Aunt May hits him with a scalding tea pot and the two women flee. At that moment Peter gets a massive spider-sense burst that MJ is in danger and quickly heads home. By now May and MJ have made it to a safe room and a panic button brings some iron-man like robots who tranquilize Man-Wolf. We cut to Lizard, who has retreated to the sewers where he has a flashback on injecting Billy with Lizard serum as Connors after he came home from examining the meteor; Vermin is also in the sewers and he senses and begins to hunt the Lizard. Cut to Felicia who decides she’s had enough being cooped up inside and leaves the FF’s before the tests are in. After making sure MJ is okay, Peter dons his Iron Spider costume to both protect his wound and give him some extra-power given the ongoing craziness and then seeks out Madame Web for answers.
Chapter 4 – Madame Web (a blind old-lady with mystically derived psychic powers who occasionally helps Spidey out) babbles about the Web of Life as she always does and recaps what we already know before directing Peter to Central Park to find the source of the trouble. Felicia meanwhile encounters the Puma (a Native American with mystic cat powers who is usually a hero but was originally a mercenary; basically a c-list Sabretooth clone) and they compare notes and decide to team up. Vermin finds the Lizard in Central Park and they begin to tear each other apart until Spidey arrives we get a three-way fight. Spidey dumps them both in a lake and then turns to find Stegron (a.k.a. the Dinosaur Man, a Stegosaurus version of the Lizard that’s appeared infrequently since the Silver Age) and a posse of prehistoric beasts has taken up residence in what looks to be a castle in the park.
Chapter 5 – A flashback shows Stegron discovered the meteor, which he calls the Rock of Life and brought it to New York to fulfill his usual plan of devolving the world and putting dinosaurs back in charge. Stegron and Spidey fight for a couple pages, while Puma and Cat arrive at the park to take on Lizard and Vermin and we stay with that fight until the heroes win. Back at the Spidey-Stegron fight, Spidey is having trouble without his spider sense and uses his new costume to camouflage and take a breather. Richards radios into his suit and directs him to the meteor, which Spidey then covers with liquid metal from his suit to end the radiation output, at which point Stegron bursts in through a wall, sees his rock is covered with metal and starts crying and is taken out with one punch. The story ends with life retuning to normal across the city and Madame Web making her usual cryptic comments about some unnamed danger in the future.
Critical Thoughts – There is a lot to cover here. I liked the pacing of this story. The first chapter does a nice job foreshadowing what is to come, building up the tension as we get more clues of how widespread the effects are. The second chapter is excellent, the fight scene is dynamic and it involves some of my favorite characters. Lizard’s reaction to Billy getting shot and his reversion to human form is given the seriousness it deserves. Chapter three is Spidey at his best: taking responsibility by first trying to save Billy and then MJ. The initial scenes with MJ and Man-Wolf are great as she is trying to flee for her life from the beast; however I don’t see why we need Stark security to save MJ and May when we already have Pete racing across town. This is a Spider-man book; he should be the hero that saves his wife. It would have been much more dramatic and possibly given us a chance to Spidey pushed over-the-edge too from the combination of the meteor effects and concern for his family.
Chapter Four is really filler: we have a lot of recaps from Madame Web followed by Puma and Felicia comparing notes and Reed and Sue doing the science thing. The change in art style (more on this in a bit) also makes the fight scene in this issue much less satisfying, although the Stegron reveal at the end is gorgeous. There’s also no reason for Madame Web to even be in this story. She tells Peter to go to the Park, but since Reed also pinpoints the radiation there on his own and the other four characters make it to the park because the meteor is calling to them: that makes two different ways to get Spidey there without wasting our time with her.
And then we have Chapter Five. It starts so well. The concurrent fights are well drawn and exciting, Spidey’s fight has the stakes getting upped as dinosaurs and cavemen get involved on Stegron’s behalf and the story is engaging until we get to the ending sequence which has two  problems. The first and lesser problem is Spidey’s suit developing whatever random science fiction powers are needed for the moment: I mean first camoflauge and then liquid metal, why not just throw in some acid blood and hit the trifecta of 80s science fiction franchises. The second far worse misstep is our primary antagonist bursting into tears for no discernable reason either in or out of story. What the Hell is that about? And why would the writer think that is more satisfying than having Stegron enraged that Spidey neutralized his meteor and then try to kill him—maybe even say that Stegron is more powerful then ever since he’s been exposed to this rock for however many weeks it takes him to get from Antarctica to New York and thus make Spidey and the other heroes (who had already won their fights and were available to help) work for their victory. This to me cuts to the heart of a bigger problem in modern Marvel: it seems if a villain isn’t A-list then he’s a joke. There’s no middle ground anymore. Look I’m not saying Stegron should be treated like he’s Venom, but we can at least not have our devolved dinosaur men bursting into tears when they suffer a small setback? And that’s all it was because his rock isn’t permanently neutralized, it’s just wrapped in metal. All he has to do is kill Spidey and rip open the metal and he’s back in business, which brings me back to my main point, the climax of this (and pretty much any super hero story) should be an epic fight scene.
On the positive side I want say the art by Angel Medina is excellent. He has a great splash page of the Lizard to end chapter one, and all of chapter two is superbly drawn. His art in chapters two and three really increases the tension as the action jumps off the page—even the non-fight scene action like Billy being shot or Spidey sensing MJ is in danger conveys real urgency. More jarringly is that chapter four is painted by Crain. The painting itself is good, especially the new Spidey suit and the Stegron reveal but it doesn’t fit the rest of the story at all. I wouldn’t mind a separate Spidey story painted by Crain throughout, but it doesn’t fit the tone of this story as well as Medina’s pencils.
Overall Grade: This is hard because on the one hand the first three chapters of the story are compelling from beginning to end, and I like the overall concept of this story. Also the characters I like best in the story are portrayed strongly and more importantly properly: from Spidey to Felicia to Lizard/Connors. Sacasa also has a good grasp of the supporting cast something he showed throughout his run on this title–although I think John Jameson should be much more distraught over having killed someone when he recovers since he been shown to be a fundamentally good man over the years–including a lengthy stint as Captain America’s personal pilot, which he resigned from directly because of the one time he relapsed into the Man-Wolf in that title. Plus Medina’s art is so good so often in this story. But then on the other hand we have a bad anti-climactic ending. Overall I’m a glass is half-full guy so I’m giving this a B- because there is a lot to enjoy here and I don’t think it should all be discounted by three pages of missteps.