Wednesday, June 9, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #20 - #22, November 1986 - January 1987

Little Wars!

Credits: David Michelinie (writer), Marc Silvestri (penciler), Rick Parker (letterer), (inker and colorist are unknown)

The Plot: Peter and Joy arrive in England to cover Margaret Thatcher’s speech on terrorism. At the airport, IRA Provos stage a terrorist attack. After Peter helps the police capture the terrorists, he investigates IRA activities in London. Spider-Man rounds up another group of terrorists and stops an attack at Thatcher’s speech. Peter and Joy decide to travel to Ireland to investigate more IRA activity.

The Subplots: Joy shows some romantic interest in Peter, but pulls away. Her actions hint that she still suspects he’s Spider-Man. Both Peter and Joy uncover the phrase “Red Hand” while investigating the IRA. Joy is also looking into Roxxon’s practices in the UK.

Production Note: There are no credits listed in this issue. doesn't know the full credits, either.

I Love the ‘80s: Well, the IRA…Margaret Thatcher…

Creative Differences: The IRA, or at least someone claiming to represent them, didn’t take kindly to this story. Christopher Priest says on his website that someone called in a bomb threat to Marvel’s offices after this story ran, which he thinks might’ve contributed to his removal as Spider-editor.

Review: It’s more of the “gritty realism” that showed up in many of the Spidey titles in the mid-eighties (although I think Tom DeFalco mostly stayed away from it in the main book). If seeing Spider-Man take on a real-life terrorist group isn’t enough for you, the story ends with the revelation that a little girl injured in the bombings has just died. See, Web is different from the other books because Spidey fights fewer supervillains and there’s always the chance that a kid will die. In hindsight, this is perhaps trying a little too hard to be serious and important, but it’s still a well-crafted action tale. Michelinie throws in a few “Spidey moments,” such as his guilt over worrying about his secret identity while civilians are dying, and his growing relationship with Joy Mercado. It seems like Michelinie was going with the angle that Joy knows Peter’s Spider-Man, respects him for it and is perhaps attracted to him because of his selflessness, but is reluctant to get involved with a superhero. Of course, it’s hard to discern where any of this was going, since virtually all of these storylines are either dropped or carried over much later into Amazing Spider-Man.

The Enemy Unknown!

Credits: Larry Lieber (script/pencils), Vince Colletta (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: While on the boat ride to Ireland, Peter reflects on a previous adventure. Gymnast Ron Corbett blamed Spider-Man for his father’s death, after he was killed by robbers fleeing from Spider-Man. Ron and his brother decided to ruin Spider-Man’s reputation by having Ron impersonate him and commit crimes. Spider-Man tracked the brothers to the Roosevelt Island Tram, where he publically defeated Ron and restored his reputation. After Spider-Man saved Ron’s brother from falling, Ron forgave him.

The Subplots: None.

I Love the ‘80s: The mayor of New York, Ed Koch, makes a cameo.

Review: Are you kidding me? In the middle of an “important” terrorism storyline, we get an inventory story by Stan Lee’s brother? The feeble setup has Peter sneezing on the boat, then reflecting on the last time he had a cold. Coincidentally, a new Spider-Man emerged that week and began a crime spree. It’s not as hokey as the cover would have you believe, but this is clearly a reminder of the days when shipping late wasn’t an option and something had to go in-between those pages, even if it had been sitting in a drawer for a while.

Profit of Doom

Credits: Jim Shooter (plot), Len Kaminski (script), Marc Silvestri (penciler), Art Nichols (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Peter and Joy arrive in Belfast and are shocked to discover the city in ruins. After evading another terrorist attack, they meet a local named Liam. He reveals that terrorists with no discernable agenda, the Black Hoods, have arrived in Belfast. Liam suspects they’re connected to his brother Rory’s disappearance. Soon, Peter and Joy are kidnapped by the Black Hoods. They learn that Roxxon created the group to foment fear in the populace, which will help the corporation sell a new weapon to the British government. Liam helps Peter and Joy escape, but is shocked to discover the Black Hood he killed in battle was his brother. After Roxxon’s plot is exposed, Roxxon kills the executive in charge of the project.

The Subplots: Aunt May is afraid her boarders are abandoning her. I don’t think this goes anywhere, since the boarders stick around until 1990, when she asks them to move out.

Production Note: For the second time in three issues, the credits are missing. There actually is a significant change in the credits this month, as this would’ve been Jim Salicrup’s first credited issue as editor. The regular writer is also gone this month. A future issue reveals the credits for this issue in the letters page.

Review: Wow, this storyline started with a “ripped from the headlines” IRA plot, diverged for an inventory issue, then concluded with a new, fictional terrorist group sponsored by the all-purpose evil corporation, Roxxon. And what of the mysterious “Red Hand” that was teased in the first chapter? It’s been forgotten, except for a brief mention as Peter remarks that he’s heard of a “Red Hand” but not the Black Hoods. Plus, that teaser scene with Solo was never resolved. Obviously, something happened behind-the-scenes over the course of this arc. I don’t know if it was the phony bomb threat that inspired Marvel to backtrack, but this is clearly not where this storyline was supposed to go.

Last issue’s inventory story was probably needed to cover more than just a blown deadline; it reads as if Big Jim Shooter stepped in to show the incompetents how to write a story that doesn't inspire death threats. The first chapter did have Joy investigating Roxxon, so maybe they were always supposed to work with this story, but I can’t imagine this was the conclusion Michelinie had in mind. Because everything has to be resolved in twenty-three pages, the plot is rushed and the conclusion feels anti-climatic. Peter and Joy barely even do any investigative reporting, as Roxxon conveniently kidnaps them and their helpful executive spells out their sinister plot in fine detail. Shooter doesn’t have a lot of options if he wants to work all of this into one issue, but the scene is rather ridiculous. And, c’mon, this is clearly a copout. We start with the IRA, and end up with made-up villains and their giant death ray? That’s lame.


Jeff said...

I never realized how much Michelinie's run on Amazing was really just a continuation of the first 20 issues of Web. Thanks for the reviews!

Matt said...

"It’s not as hokey as the cover would have you believe..."

Hey, I bought Web #21 on the strength of the cover alone! Spidey vs. Spidey? I was totally in! But then again, I was apparently seven years old at the time.

And through the haze of childhood memories, I seem to recall that even seven-year old me was kinda disappointed by the issue's interior. I still like the cover, though, for nostalgic reasons!

Mr. Fantastic said...

I am in complete agreement with Matt. There is something charming about ridiculously over the top covers that date the comics to a certain period. I am thinking specifically of Amazing Spidey no. 123, Machine Man vol. 1, no. 2, etc. I enjoy them on the same level I enjoy ridiculous 80s B-movies, or better yet, 80s B-movie soundtracks.

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