Monday, October 4, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #50-#51, May-June 1989

1,000 Words

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Tabloid photographer Nick Katzenberg catches Spider-Man robbing millionaire Winston Walker’s home. His photos land Katzenberg a staff position at the Daily Bugle, while former associates of Spider-Man are disturbed by the story. Spider-Man tails Walker to a hidden vault, where he’s kept secret documents. Spider-Man takes the papers to Ellis Island, where Silver Sable and her employee Sandman are waiting. Puma, Rocket Racer, Will O’ The Wisp, and Prowler individually track Spider-Man to Ellis Island, still believing him to be a thief. They try to apprehend him, but he stops the fight by unveiling the secret documents that prove Walker is laundering money for the mob. Silver Sable explains that robbing Walker’s home was a ruse, designed to lure him to his secret vault.

The Subplots: After hiring Nick Katzenberg, Jonah Jameson returns to his empty apartment (his wife is away on a research sabbatical). He’s kidnapped by the Chameleon, who assumes his identity. Elsewhere, Robbie Robertson’s trial carries on, as the Lobos Brothers continue attacking the Kingpin’s interests.

Web of Continuity: This is the first appearance of Nick Katzenberg, who becomes a recurring supporting cast member during this era. Robbie Robertson is on trial for “misprision of a felony” because he stayed quiet about one of Tombstone’s murders for years. Peter and MJ are now living in Aunt May’s boarding home, following their eviction from the Bedford Condos (orchestrated by MJ’s obsessed fan Jonathan Caesar).

I Love the ‘80s: Silver Sable gives Spidey a beeper to use during the mission. Peter’s fellow grad student Anne-Marie wonders why a college student would need a beeper.

Miscellaneous Note: The Statement of Ownership has the yearly sales average as 238,115 with the most recent issue selling 197,700 copies.

Review: Aside from the introduction of Nick Katzenberg, this issue leads to quite a few storylines during Gerry Conway’s tenure. Chameleon will go on to impersonate Jameson for months, which ties in with the ongoing Lobo Brothers arc. The Puma feels that he’s disgraced Spider-Man, which leads into the next Daily Bugle subplot. Prowler and Rocket Racer take Silver Sable up on her offer of employment, which gives the characters something to do for the next few years (Will O’ The Wisp is also offered a job, but he just disappears after this issue for some reason). Rocket Racer also plays a large role in an upcoming two-parter, in addition to starring in several back-up stories in Marvel Tales and the various Spidey annuals. Judging by his comments in this issue, this is his first appearance in years. I don’t know if Conway had all of this mapped out when writing this story, but it’s nice to see an anniversary issue that works as a fun story, but also has a larger impact later on.

Along with the revival of several forgotten and nearly-forgotten enemies-turned-allies, Peter and MJ’s new living arrangement is acknowledged in Web for the first time. This is one of my favorite status quos for the character -- living in his childhood bedroom with his wife, with no prospects for a new apartment, and a house packed with elderly couples he has to hide his secret identity from. It’s pathetic, but not comically pathetic, which is where I think modern writers go too far. Peter’s been hit hard by life, but the situation isn’t so over-the-top that it’s implausible, and it’s not screamingly obvious that an outside force is trying to impose “hardship” on the character. There’s also a certain irony to Peter and MJ living in Aunt May’s home, just a few weeks after they pawned Kristy off to the same location. I’ve heard people complain about this kind of “domestic” setup in the Spider-books, but as a kid this is one of the situations that made me realize Spider-Man wasn’t like all of the other superheroes.

The Crimelord of New York!

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: After hearing rumors of a gang war, Spider-Man searches for the Arranger. He arrives in time to stop Eduardo Lobo from killing the Arranger, but isn’t able to apprehend him. Arranger proposes Spider-Man pool resources with the Kingpin’s side in order to prevent the gang war. Meanwhile, Chameleon reveals his intention to become New York’s new crimelord. Under the Maggia’s direction, he forms a partnership with Hammerhead, aimed at taking down the Kingpin.

The Subplots: Peter overhears Kristy throwing up in the bathroom. The stress of losing her condo and life savings to Jonathan Caesar causes MJ to snap at Peter. Later, they visit Lorraine in the hospital together, only to learn she isn’t making progress. As Jonah Jameson, Chameleon searches for a confidential file on the Kingpin, but Glory Grant has already given it to Eduardo Lobo.

Web of Continuity: This story takes place immediately after Spectacular Spider-Man #150, the issue that confirmed that the Lobo Brothers are in fact werewolves.

Review: And now the gang war storyline that was building in Spectacular Spider-Man moves over to Web. Conway is essentially writing the two titles as one bi-weekly series at this point, yet he tends not to end the individual chapters in cliffhangers, which theoretically means you don’t have to buy the other book. Mark Bagley penciled two of the 1988 Spider-Man annuals (one of them even introduced future New Warrior Speedball), and this issue marks his debut as the rotating fill-in artist for Web and Amazing. If Sal Buscema ever needed fill-ins on Spectacular, I’m sure he would’ve shown up there, too. Bagley’s work isn’t quite recognizable yet, but he does a capable job on an issue that largely consists of subplot scenes.

With this issue, a new wrinkle in the gang war is introduced -- the Chameleon. As he explains to the Maggia in this issue, he’s leaving international espionage behind in order to concentrate on the more lucrative career of organized crime. Aside from using the Daily Bugle to batter Spider-Man’s reputation, he also believes the Bugle’s files will help him topple the Kingpin. Little does he know his secretary is in love with the other mobster seeking to destroy the Kingpin, Eduardo Lobo. The Lobo Brothers are great; I think it’s about time Spider-Man faced Mexican mutant werewolf gangsters. The werewolf fight is only a small portion of the issue, as the story cuts back and forth between the various ongoing storylines. Conway has a solid handle on the Chameleon, and his interpretation of the “new” MJ (she now takes on everyone’s problems to avoid her own, as opposed to just running away like she did in the past) is interesting. The combination of personal drama, superhero drama, and underworld drama gives Conway a lot to work with, and he seems to enjoy juggling the various threads.


Matt said...

I agree with you about Peter and MJ living at Aunt May's house. That was a fun period. Although my own personal favorite living arrangement for the married Parkers was post-Clone Saga after May died, when they lived there with super-nosy Anna Watson, and Peter had to hide his ID from her -- causing her to think he was having an affair or something.

I also really liked Nick Katzenberg (in a love-to-hate way). I thought it was a shame that they pretty much ceased using him after Conway left, and then killed him off a couple years later. The Spider-Books really had a great supporting cast right around this time.

Also, was this the first appearance of the "Outlaws"? I know they had a 2-part team-up in Conway's Spectacular involving the Avengers and the Space Phantom, but I didn't think they worked for Silver Sable yet at the time. I could be wrong, though.

Jeff said...

The worst part about Katzenberg's death was that it was tied into a really dumb anti-smoking PSA storyline.

I also love the periods when Peter moves back into his childhood home.

In an earlier post did you say you have a full run of Web? I ate the Howard Mackie issues up as a kid because I loved the demonic Hobgoblin. I now realize they were all terrible, especially after having just completed and read through Roger Stern's original run. They screwed up the Hobgoblin bad, but I'd love to read some reviews of those Mackie issues.

Matt said...

To be fair, it was also Mackie who wrote the un-demon-ification of Hobgoblin, and turned him back into a pretty bloodthirsty mercenary type, in the two-part "Hobgoblin Reborn" story (which, strangely enough, also involved Hobby trying to kill Nick Katzenberg, as I recall).

Hobgoblin was captured at the end of that story, but not before he wreaked some pretty impressive carnage as just plan ol' Jason Macendale. I believe Mackie also wrote the story where Macendale gains super-strength, and he may even have written the story where he became a cyborg. Say what you will about the guy as a writer, but at least he tried multiple times to make Macendale a credible threat as the Hobgoblin.

Honestly, though I can't defend his work for X-office, I always really liked Howard Mackie on Spider-Man -- up until the reboot when he took over both Amazing and Peter Parker. Until that point, his was usually the "street-level" Spider-book, focusing on organized crime (the Maggia, Hydra, etc.), and he seemed to be a good fit for that type of story.

It was, in my opinion, it was Terry Kavanagh who took this title to some truly awful depths. F.A.C.A.D.E. alone would be enough for such a judgment, but there was more -- so much more! But I guess the opportunity to truly scrutinize both Mackie and Kavanagh here will come soon enough...

G. Kendall said...

This is the first time these characters meet, but they're not called the "Outsiders" yet.
And, yes, I own the entire run of WEB. I've reread up to the Clone issues right now, and to say that the book goes downhill after Conway leaves is quite the understatement.

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