Monday, January 17, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #63 - April 1990

Clouds from a Distant Storm

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

The Plot: At a cemetery, Mr. Fear overhears Betty Brant blaming Spider-Man for the deaths of her brother and husband. He uses his fear gas to manipulate Betty into contacting Peter, who she knows will send Spider-Man after her. Soon, Mr. Fear ambushes Spider-Man. Under Mr. Fear’s influence, Betty points a gun at Spider-Man, but Spider-Man encourages her to face her fears. She instead turns it on Mr. Fear, forcing him to fall in the nearby river.

The Subplots: Peter and MJ stage a Spider-Man public service announcement for the Daily Bugle in their home. Nick Katzenberg is spying from the skylight, taking photos of Spider-Man unmasking as Peter.

*See _________ For Details: Mr. Fear wants revenge on Spider-Man following his defeat in Marvel Team-Up #92.

I Love the (Early) ‘90s: Nick Katzenberg comments that he spent years avoiding Sean Penn’s fists, a reference to the actor’s reputation for punching the paparazzi while married to Madonna.

We Get Letters: A letter writer defends Skinheads following the neo-Nazi storyline, stating that white supremacists only account for fifteen percent of Skinheads.

Review: A future letter column has a few complaints about this cover, saying it unfairly implies that Venom and/or the Punisher would be guest-starring. That might be valid, but I still think this is a great cover. Gerry Conway is an avowed fan of the earliest Amazing Spider-Man issues, and I believe he was the first writer to revive Betty during his original run on ASM (unless I’m misremembering, Gwen Stacy debuted after he quit reading the book and he wondered why Peter was with this girl instead of Betty). A year earlier he did an excellent issue of Spectacular Spider-Man that detailed Flash and Betty’s experiences during “Inferno,” so I’m not surprised to see Betty show up in Web also.

The story continues a theme that appears often during Conway’s run, overcoming your own self-doubts and finding the courage to face your fears. Using Mr. Fear is a bit “on the nose,” but it would almost be a disservice to use this character and not tie him into that theme. The brief sequence that has Spider-Man facing his own hallucinogenic fears doesn’t exactly work, but Conway’s portrayal of Betty is commendable, and I like his interpretation of Mr. Fear. Mr. Fear II has inherited the role from his uncle; he considers himself a businessman and doesn’t know the first thing about villainy. He’s had to hire someone who actually understands chemistry to develop his fear gases, and he’s not sure if he’s even used them right. As he dangles from a ledge, facing defeat, he wonders if there are classes he can take to improve his villain skills.

Meanwhile, the subplot pages bring us the biggest goof from Conway’s second stint on Spidey. As numerous letters will vocally protest, there’s no way Nick Katzenberg would’ve been able to take a photo of Spider-Man removing his mask. As detailed in countless comics, including one of the “Spidey’s Spectacular Powers!” annual back-ups that ran not long before this comic was published, Peter’s spider-sense would’ve warned him of Katzenberg’s presence. It’s a giant mistake, but the editorial team at least acknowledges it in the letter column. The only No-Prize explanation that could be offered is that Peter’s identity is still maintained when the affair is over, so his spider-sense instinctively knew that everything would turn out okay. And, yes, that is lame.


Jeff said...

I actually think that the complaint about the Punisher not being in this issue is pretty valid. That skull on the cover is awfully close...

Anonymous said...

Not only the skull, isn't the "Punishment" on the right written in the same font as the Punisher's logo?

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