Wednesday, May 11, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #84 - January 1992

Family Ties

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: While Peter and MJ dine at Aunt May’s, armed men arrive, looking for Peter. He changes into Spider-Man and defeats them, but doesn’t get any answers. MJ shows Peter a photo in the Daily Bugle incorrectly credited to him. It features two shadowy men meeting, and promises to be the start of an exposè into New York’s underworld. The photo was actually taken by Nick Katzenberg, who never intended for it to be printed.

The Subplots: Richard Fisk watches his father, the Kingpin, train with martial artists. Richard’s engaged in secret activities and is upset about the picture in the paper. His shadowy partner is revealed as the Rose. Mystery men ransack the Parkers’ home. When one of them calls their boss, another agent is then ordered to kill him. After the men are gone, Peter’s Spider-Man costume is left on his bed. Elsewhere, a deranged Hobgoblin is kept in custody.

Web of Continuity: The original Rose was Richard Fisk, who worked undercover as a crimeboss in order to harm his father’s empire. Back in Web#30, a dejected Fisk abandoned the Rose identity and went into his father’s employ. This is his first appearance in years.

The murdered agent, Michael, is killed for making a call on an unsecured line. He was excited over an unexpected discovery in the Parkers’ home. This is presumably the Spider-Man costume. Since Michael’s killed before he can talk to anyone, this may be the story’s rationalization for how Peter’s secret identity is maintained (this assumes that no one else entered Peter and MJ’s bedroom, though).

It's worth noting that Terry Kavanagh inserts a massive retcon into this storyline during his eventual run. Since it seems obvious that Howard Mackie was working under the assumption that Richard Fisk really is Richard Fisk, I'm not going to take the retcon into account when reviewing this arc.

*See _________ For Details: A footnote informs us that this story predates Daredevil #300, which was the “Fall of the Kingpin” issue.

Review: After a solid year of fill-ins, Web once again has a regular writer. Both Tony Isabella and Kurt Busiek performed admirably as interim writers, but the job’s gone to the writer of Marvel’s latest hit, Ghost Rider. I believe this is Howard Mackie’s Spider-Man debut, and while he’ll go on to have perhaps the most maligned run in the franchise’s history, this isn’t a bad start at all. “The Name of the Rose” is the latest storyline to get a serialized cover countdown, and it’s also the longest extended arc in Web’s history. A six-part storyline was quite rare in these days, so like many fans I assumed that something big was going on. As it turns out, the story arc barely makes a dint in continuity, unless you count the reintroduction of the Rose and the birth of Demogoblin as watershed moments.

Judging this issue on its own merits, however, it’s hard to deny that this is an intriguing launch for the story. Richard Fisk returns after several years away, and instead of immediately giving him back his previous identity, Mackie teases the debut of a new Rose. Peter Parker is apparently framed for one of Nick Katzenberg’s photos, a photo that Nick was actually using for blackmail and didn’t intend to be published. Armed men attack Aunt May’s home. The Parkers’ apartment is ransacked, leaving behind an uncovered Spider-Man costume. A dead body is left in their living room. Having an armed helicopter attack Aunt May’s house might be a little much, but aside from this scene, the issue is filled with captivating little moments. As the first chapter of the storyline, it’s certainly successful in drawing the reader in.

4 comments:

Matt said...

Okay, it was this run on Web of Spider-Man that made me the Howard Mackie apologist that I am today. I was about 13 years old when this issue came out, and at the time, Mackie's Web was my favorite of the four Spider-titles.

I'll be very interested to see how this stuff holds up now, since I haven't read any of it in many years.

J said...

I never thought Howard Mackie was that bad of a writer, I just think he got caught up in the 90s Spider-Man vortex that could make anyone bad. He had quite a few issues that showed he understood the character and how to put together a story (the one with Peter and Norman in the elevator stands out).

Terry Kavanagh on the other hand, really was terrible.

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

Yeah, this run was pretty brilliant at the time. Web was such a sad-sack book - even with good fill-ins, it was obviously a book in limbo - that a new writer with a strong new direction felt really revelatory. It helped that Mackie's new direction was clearly distinctive from the other Spider-books at the time - the multiple-titles schtick worked best when all three books had very distinctive personalities.

At the time, Amazing was the traditional superhero stuff, Spectacular was slightly darker in terms of psychodrama and an extensive use of traditional supporting characters, and during Mackie's run Web was devoted to more hard-boiled crime and espionage oriented stories. It was a good time to be a Spider-Man fan.

G. Kendall said...

Wow, Blogger ate these replies, too. For posterity, I'll try to repost them:

Matt :
Okay, it was this run on Web of Spider-Man that made me the Howard Mackie apologist that I am today. I was about 13 years old when this issue came out, and at the time, Mackie's Web was my favorite of the four Spider-titles.

I'll be very interested to see how this stuff holds up now, since I haven't read any of it in many years.

J :
I never thought Howard Mackie was that bad of a writer, I just think he got caught up in the 90s Spider-Man vortex that could make anyone bad. He had quite a few issues that showed he understood the character and how to put together a story (the one with Peter and Norman in the elevator stands out).

Terry Kavanagh on the other hand, really was terrible.

The Estate of Tim O'Neil :
Yeah, this run was pretty brilliant at the time. Web was such a sad-sack book - even with good fill-ins, it was obviously a book in limbo - that a new writer with a strong new direction felt really revelatory. It helped that Mackie's new direction was clearly distinctive from the other Spider-books at the time - the multiple-titles schtick worked best when all three books had very distinctive personalities.

At the time, Amazing was the traditional superhero stuff, Spectacular was slightly darker in terms of psychodrama and an extensive use of traditional supporting characters, and during Mackie's run Web was devoted to more hard-boiled crime and espionage oriented stories. It was a good time to be a Spider-Man fan.

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