One of the text pieces in the original “Kraven’s Last Hunt” trade acknowledges the negative reaction some fans had to the crossover. Some vendors didn’t carry all of the Spidey books, which meant readers in those towns missed out on important chapters in the storyline. The spider-office of this era responded accordingly, and used a different approach for future crossovers (basically, each individual chapter of an event was a somewhat complete story that didn’t end with a cliffhanger). The Mad Dog Ward storyline, however, ran immediately after “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” before editorial had a chance to respond to the complaints. Since Web was still without a regular creative team, and Peter David had left Spectacular by this point, I imagine running another crossover was at least partially motivated by the need to give the spinoffs material for another month.
I’ve only read one chapter of this crossover, and one issue of the sequel that ran in Spider-Man in the early ‘90s, so I can’t attest to its overall quality. This individual chapter has Ann Nocenti penning an even more anxiety-ridden Peter Parker than usual. He worries about everything…if he’s disappointing Aunt May, if he does any good as Spider-Man, if he’s secretly angry with Mary Jane for leaving for a modeling assignment, if he’s subconsciously sabotaging himself by selling Spider-Man photos to the Bugle, etc. He runs into two kids on the street whose mother has just been institutionalized. He can’t stop worrying about them either, so he investigates “what’s the matter with mommy?” It turns out the woman is married to one of the Kingpin’s men, and that she’s been institutionalized in the Mad Dog Ward, a ward secretly controlled by the Kingpin. It’s a suitable opening for the storyline, one that combines Nocenti’s interest in a twisted domestic life with traditional Spider-Man action. Of course, another downside of crossover arcs are the issues you miss when you win a series’ lot on eBay, so I don’t know how this turned out. They really should’ve considered this back in 1987.
Fourth and Eternity
And, now we’re back to lame inventory stories. Jim Shooter was out as editor-in-chief by this point, so I wonder just how long this story sat around collecting dust before publication. This is a ridiculous story that has Spider-Man playing a game of football that saves the entire universe. The setup has an alien obsessed with gambling intruding on the Watcher’s home with a weapon he stole from Galactus. The Watcher offers to let him go if he hands over the dangerous weapon, and the alien promises to go along if he loses a bet. They decide to bet on a football game Spidey is playing with a group of inner-city kids. If you think the universe is saved, and that Spider-Man teaches the kids life lessons through sports, you get no points whatsoever because of course that’s what happened in this stupid comic book. The various conditions the kids place on Spider-Man, including tying one arm behind his back, before he can play with them are cute, though. Two “sophisticated” storylines in a row, and then an issue devoted to Spider-Man playing a game of football that settles a cosmic bet. The ‘80s were a crazy time for comics.