Friday, April 23, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #16-#17, July - August 1986

Underworld!/The Magma Solution

Credits: David Michelinie (writer), Marc Silvestri (penciler), Kyle Baker/Vinnie Colletta (inkers), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Peter Parker and Joy Mercado are sent to cover labor unrest in rural Virginia for NOW Magazine. After getting harassed by locals, they meet Charla, whose son Seth has been kidnapped by mysterious men. Peter and Joy learn that Seth is an idiot savant, whose math skills enable him to work calculations faster than a computer. He’s being used by Magma and the Roxxon corporation, who have teamed up to explore new energy sources. Spider-Man frees Seth, but his battle with Magma causes the installation to collapse. After an explosion, only scraps of Spider-Man’s costume remain.

The Subplots: Joy suspects Peter is Spider-Man after Spidey emerges to fight Magma.

Web of Continuity: This Magma isn’t the New Mutants member; he’s a villain from Marvel Team-Up. He created his suit to fight environmentalists who stood in the way of his development of cheap energy.

*See _________ For Details: Peter is under the impression Flash Thompson is secretly the Hobgoblin, which is a reference to one of the many red herrings during that storyline in Amazing. Aunt May’s Social Security checks are being delayed and Peter doesn’t know why. There’s no footnote connected to this, but I assume it’s referring to a storyline in one of the titles. Spidey thinks about a civilian’s death during his battle with the Sin-Eater in Peter Parker#108, and Joy Mercado remembers seeing Peter in a fight in Peter Parker Annual #3.

I Love the ‘80s: Peter isn’t able to find any clean clothes, so he’s stuck wearing a Strawberry Shortcake t-shirt. Seth is referred to as “retarded” by Peter, which is a term that probably wouldn’t be used in these more politically correct days.

Review: So, sixteen issues into the book’s run, the original premise of “Peter Parker travels the globe while on assignment for NOW Magazine” finally begins. We’re even helpfully notified that this is the FIRST ISSUE (of a new direction) on #16’s cover. Marc Silvestri and Kyle Baker arrive as the new artistic team, although Vince Colletta is brought in very quickly for a fill-in. Like his previous issue, I don’t really see anything that portrays the rotten reputation he’s garnered over the years, but he’s certainly a comedown after seeing Kyle Baker inks. Silvestri and Baker are a solid team, bringing a combination of fluidity, energy, and grit to the title. There is a sense now that Web is going to be more than fill-ins, although this bold new direction doesn’t last long.

In terms of motivation or gimmicks, Magma isn’t that great of a villain, so it’s not surprising to me that he’s been lost to obscurity. I get the feeling Michelinie knows he’s a bit of a dud, which is why the story has so many other elements, such as the labor unrest, Joy’s suspicions, and the story of Seth thrown in. Magma doesn’t even appear until the final page of the first chapter. He does present a decent challenge during the fight scenes, and Silvestri makes his armor seem less ridiculous than the average artist probably could. The combination of the art and the various distractions from the main story prevent this from becoming a Spider-Man vs. Generic Villain storyline. However, I do think the “traveling photographer” premise is pretty weak, and it’s the type of idea you dream up when you’ve already decided Spider-Man stars in enough books. Even if this is a spin-off, I think there is an expectation that Peter Parker’s supporting cast will play a role in the stories, which requires most of the storylines to take place in New York. Traveling for NOW might be a part of Peter’s job, but it’s not really his life. If you’ve made the series so “different” it doesn’t feel like a Spider-Man book anymore, what was the point?


Matt said...

Wow, there's a lot of blurbs on the cover of #17! It's interesting that they're going so far as to promote "the end of the red suit." I wonder if there was ever an intention to permanently shift him to the black costume? This was about as close as it came, I guess.

I have a fond recollection of the "Missing in Action" storyline that this sets up -- mainly the Amazing issue, where Silver Sable fights Jack O Lantern.

Also, Joy Mercado was one of my favorite supporting cast members when I was a kid. Not sure why, but I always enjoyed her appearances.

That makes me think -- I liked the period (a few years from now) where the Bugle was overflowing with colorful characters: there was Jameson, Robbie, Betty, and Ben Urich, of course, but you also had Joy, Glory Grant, Lance Bannon, Nick Katzenberg, Kate Cushing... probably one or two more that I'm forgetting. I think I probably consider that the best period for the Bugle as far as supporting cast members go. They were used a lot by Gerry Conway during his simultaneous work on Web and Spectacular.

Anonymous said...

I believe the inks were all Colletta in this issue unless Baker did backgrounds.

Nice job though.

G. Kendall said...

Baker inked #16 and Colletta did #17.

I've been rereading Conway's Spec and Web issues recently. He does handle the supporting cast well, especially with the Robbie Robertson storyline.

wwk5d said...

I used to own this issue. I remember re-reading it in then 90s and Silvestri's art still holds up. Lots of energy.

Yeah, the cover is hilarious, with THE END OF THE RED & BLUE COSTUME! Nice touch with the corner box. So I guess Marvel decided to stop flip-flopping on which costume he would wear. I wonder why they decided then to make the black & white one more permanent?

Jeff said...

I have to say, I kind of wish you were reviewing the Amazing issues during this period. This is after the Stern/Romita Jr. era, which is justifiably classic, but the DeFalco/Frenz issues are also really good. I recentlty purchased the whole run of both and it just brings me joy to read them. Also, Michelinie/McFarlane & Larsen are, no pun intended, amazing. Michelinie's work on Amazing is much better than his work on Web. I wish Spider-Man was this fun today. (Outside of Dan Slott, who writes the exact Spider-man I want to read.)

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