Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #88 - May 1992

The King Makers

Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Sam De La Rosa (inker), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)

The Plot: Richard Fisk travels with Hobgoblin, the Praetorian Guard, and their captive, Spider-Man to the remains of the Kingpin’s office. The Rose’s men attack in a helicopter and rescue Spider-Man. The Rose offers to help Spider-Man defend Peter Parker’s family from Fisk. They travel to the Catskills and rescue Mary Jane and Aunt May. Richard Fisk arrives and kills the Rose while Spider-Man is incapacitated. Fisk returns home, shaves his head, and declares himself the new Kingpin.

The Subplots: Before the battle in the Catskills, Sgt. Blume interviews Robbie Robertson about the photo. Robbie informs him that the photo was actually taken by Nick Katzenberg, who fears for his life now that his secret has been exposed. Later, after Fisk defends Rebecca from mercenaries hired to kill the Kingpin’s son, he heads to the Catskills. He kills the Rose, who is unmasked as Sgt. Blume. Another mystery figure picks up the mask behind Spider-Man’s back and assumes the identity.

Web of Continuity: Sgt. Blume blames the Kingpin for his brother’s death, saying that “Billy was a good cop” who wouldn’t take a bribe. He teamed up with Richard Fisk to end the Kingpin’s empire.

*See _________ For Details: This issue follows Hydra’s attack on the Kingpin in Daredevil #300. Now that the Kingpin is out of power, various forces are fighting for control of the underworld. The goons sent after Richard Fisk and Rebecca are apparently working for aspiring crimelords that want the Kingpin's son out of the way.

“Huh?” Moment: Richard Fisk has gained what appears to be a hundred pounds in-between issues, even though this story takes place right after the previous issue.

Review: And this is where “The Name of the Rose” goes in a baaad direction. I’m normally willing to forgive the awkward examples of subtext from this era, as the stories were aimed at a younger audience that couldn’t be expected to pick up on too many subtleties. But…wow. What could even be said about this? Mackie has decided to illustrate Richard Fisk’s descent into his father’s shadow by literally turning him into his father. Not only does he feel compelled to shave his head after a bullet grazes his temple and gives him a bald spot, but he somehow becomes morbidly obese in-between issues. Plus, his girlfriend even has white streaks in her hair, just like Richard’s mother! It’s like, he’s destined to turn into his father, you guys! (Or, you know, he has certain…issues with his mommy.) I don’t care if you are assuming your audience consists of ten year olds, this is just inexcusable.

Aside from the preposterous treatment of Richard Fisk, the rest of the plot isn’t holding up so well. Sgt. Blume has been such a minor character in this story, his unveiling as the Rose doesn’t have a lot of impact. Also, the visual shorthand used in his previous appearance suggested he was up to something sinister, but this issue emphasizes his pure motives in becoming the Rose. He also claims that he never sent armed men after Peter Parker, which is a blatant contradiction of the first chapter of this storyline. If you take his appearance in the last issue at face value, then he’s probably the one responsible for letting Fisk know where to find MJ and Aunt May, as well. It’s certainly possible that Mackie intends for him to be a liar, but he hasn’t given Blume any ominous motives for becoming the Rose. The only information given on him in this issue makes him out to be a hero.

There’s also the continuing Nick Katzenberg subplot, which logically should've ended by now. As established in this arc, Katzenberg has some connections to the mob, which makes him more corrupt than Gerry Conway ever portrayed him as, but it’s within the realm of possibility. What we don’t know is why the photo was taken, how it ended up in the Bugle, and why Katzenberg is so afraid. Fisk doesn’t have any real reason to want the photographer dead since his alliance with the Rose is over and the Kingpin has been dethroned anyway. And yet, Katzenberg must have some form of psychic powers, because the story ends with Fisk still demanding the photographer’s death. On top of all of this, we also have the mystery of the second new Rose, hastily introduced this issue. I’m sure his identity, along with a logical explanation for all of the storyline’s plot holes, will be revealed next issue, right?

1 comment:

Matt said...

"Sgt. Blume has been such a minor character in this story, his unveiling as the Rose doesn’t have a lot of impact."

I agree with this, but I seem to recall reading some interview with Tom DeFalco years ago where he said that the identity of the Rose was originally intended to be nothing more than a "mask" for anyone who wanted it, and Mackie continues that idea in this story, effectively or not.

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