Friday, November 26, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN Annual #5 - October 1989

Warzone: New York

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Javier Saltares (penciler), Randy Emberlin (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four team up to fight the Atlantean invasion of New York. During the battle, the Deviants’ leader Ghuar kidnaps the Invisible Woman. As the Atlantean army gains ground, Atlantis is bombed by its former ally, the Lemurians. When Attuma receives the news, he ceases fire. The shocked Atlanteans are placed into custody, as Mr. Fantastic vows to find his wife.

The Subplots: None.

Web of Continuity: This is a chapter of the “Atlantis Attacks” crossover, which ran through the 1989 Marvel annuals. The Fantastic Four of this era actually consists of five members, as Sharon Ventura joins the team as a female Thing.

*See _________ For Details: This story is continued in West Coast Avengers Annual #4.

I Love the ‘80s: Spider-Man says he’d give up his Pee Wee Herman doll to see Mr. Fantastic turn violent.

Review: Following a team-up with She-Hulk against the Abomination in the Amazing annual, and a team-up with Cloak and Dagger that stopped one of Ghuar’s schemes in the Spectacular annual, Spider-Man makes another starring appearance in the “Atlantis Attacks” crossover. This is one of the consequences of doing a crossover that involves virtually every title in the line; not only do you have to find a story that can comfortably fit the Silver Surfer, Punisher, Thor, and the X-Men, but popular franchise characters like Spider-Man end up with a disproportionate number of appearances during the storyline. This year’s Amazing annual was just lighthearted action (featuring early art by Rob Liefeld, who got the job on Todd McFarlane’s recommendation), while the Spectacular annual had Spidey teaming up with Cloak and Dagger to stop an alleged rehab clinic that was turning patients into snake-people. Plus, Gerry Conway penned the “Atlantis Attacks” Daredevil annual, which guest starred Spider-Man and featured more victims of the phony rehab clinics.

Now, Spider-Man shows up yet again to stop the Atlantic invasion; this time teaming up with the late ‘80s, improperly named, incarnation of the Fantastic Four. The invasion turns out to be a dud, as the Atlanteans are distracted by the annihilation of Atlantis, which presumably sets up a future event in the crossover. The Invisible Woman is also kidnapped as a potential Bride of Set, which is followed up in the Avengers and West Coast Avengers annuals (Jean Grey is also kidnapped as a would-be bride in the 1989 X-Factor annual, which features a John Byrne lead story inked by Walt Simonson). And, yes, none of this has anything to do with Spider-Man. Conway still gives Spidey a firm personality and allows him to perform a few heroic deeds, but the crossover is so deep into its storyline by now that Spider-Man barely has a role to play. I imagine Conway knew the extended fight scene could get dull, so it’s broken up with constant bickering between two sparring newscasters. The reporter in the field is risking her life to document the invasion of Manhattan, while the idiotic anchor is obsessed with trivial facts and celebrity gossip. These exchanges are actually the highlight of the story, which is unfortunately the weakest Spidey chapter of “Atlantis Attacks.”

A Random Miracle

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Steve Ditko (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: ESU professor Evan Swann is endowed with the powers of Captain Universe, which he uses to fight the Quantum Mechanic. After the Mechanic disappears in a flash of light, the Unipower leaves Dr. Swann.

Web of Continuity: The Unipower bestows the cosmic powers of Captain Universe to people in the right place and the right time. After the specific disaster is averted, the power leaves its host.

*See _________ For Details: After gaining the power, Dr. Swann instantly remembers Captain Universe’s previous appearances in Micronauts #8 & #35, Marvel Spotlight#9-#11, and Incredible Hulk Annual #10.

Review: Steve Ditko might refuse to draw Spider-Man again, but he was still willing to pencil these annual back-ups. Aside from technically getting Ditko stories between the covers of a Spider-Man comic, these back-ups also granted us the odd experience of seeing Ditko draw characters like Captain Universe and Solo. This is filler material that’s supposed to be a quick read, but Conway does add some depth to the story by centering it on sub-atomic physics and the Uncertainty Principle (the Quantum Mechanic is ordered to strip the universe down to its basic components and fix its basic “relativity displacement”). And why is a Captain Universe story showing up in a Web of Spider-Man annual? The answer is coming, but not until the conclusion of Marvel’s next line-wide crossover…

A Mute Prayer for Deaf Ears

Credits: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Mark Propst (penciler), Andy Mushynsky (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Wild Pack operative Kuryova is killed in battle, yet Silver Sable refuses to grant his widow his pension due to Kuryova’s cowardice and insubordination. Sable reflects on her cruel father, and the impact he’s had on her life.

I Love the ‘80s: The story is told against the backdrop of the Iran/Iraq war. Iraqis are also spelled “Iraquis,” which I’ve never seen before.

Review: This is another early Fabian Nicieza job, which tries to humanize Silver Sable while also emphasizing how heartless she can be. Revealing that she has daddy issues isn’t the most original take in the world, but I’m assuming this was already an established aspect of the character, and Nicieza gets enough out of the idea to justify ten pages. The rest of the issue consists of another “Saga of the Serpent Crown” back-up, which ran in all of the 1989 annuals, and a few Fred Hembeck pages. Hembeck counts down some of Spider-Man’s more “dubious” friends, foes, situations, and accessories. “Dubious” used to mean teaming up with Howard the Duck, and not having his eye ripped out and eaten in front of him, learning Gwen Stacy had an affair with Norman Osborn and gave birth to his children, or making a you-know-what with you-know-who. Oh yeah, he was also supposed to be a clone for a few years there, too, wasn't he? Anyone out there interested in a Fred Hembeck Destroys the Past Twenty Years of Spider-Man Continuity miniseries?

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