Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Sam De La Rosa (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)
The Plot: Spider-Man finds himself living the life of an actor, battling various foes on a movie set. Max Shiffman, his agent, tries to help Spider-Man adjust to reality after he’s injured during a stunt. Suddenly, Spider-Man’s attacked by numerous villains. They continue to morph into various forms until they become a Venom-Galactus hybrid. Spider-Man realizes that Mysterio is behind the illusion and defeats him in battle. Max, the real person used to add authenticity to the illusion, is saddened that Mysterio’s illusion of his late wife can no longer exist.
The Subplots: None.
Web of Continuity: Max Shiffman is Spider-Man’s agent from Amazing Fantasy #15. A flashback scene reveals that Max watched Spider-Man apprehend Uncle Ben’s murderer and, apparently as a publicity stunt, called the Daily Bugle to give them the details. By drawing the Bugle’s attention to Spider-Man, Max inadvertently ruined his show business career. Another retcon, from the prestige format Amazing Fantasy series written by Kurt Busiek, had John Jameson bumped from a talk show for Spider-Man, which set the stage for his father’s bad blood.
Gimmicks: This is a double-sized issue with a cardstock cover and hologram, which allegedly shows Spider-Man’s wrist moving back and forth. The cover price is $2.95, more than double Web’s standard $1.25 price. A poster by Rick Leonardi pairing Spider-Man with Spider-Man 2099 is also included.
Review: This is one of the four “enhanced” Spider-Man anniversary comics published in 1992. Most of them aren’t particularly good, and I would say all of them were overpriced. The most famous one is likely Amazing Spider-Man #365, which reintroduced Peter Parker’s parents. Yes, we’re entering that era of Spidey continuity.
In this installment, Howard Mackie goes all the way back to Spider-Man’s first appearance, reviving the long-forgotten agent from his brief show biz career. Since most of the story is an illusion, it’s hard to say how much of Max’s story is true. Max claims that his association with Spider-Man opened the door for a lucrative career in Hollywood, but this is likely a part of Mysterio’s fantasy. Other scenes suggest Max views Spider-Man as the golden ticket that he regrets losing. What is established fairly well is Max’s love for his wife, Trudy, which does give the ending some resonance when we learn she died last year.
What isn’t conveyed very well is the idea that Mysterio now has a philosophy based on disregarding reality and embracing fantasy. Spider-Man seems to think it’s significant that Mysterio needed Max, an actual person, to make the illusion work, so Mysterio’s philosophy is invalidated. Yeah, that’s why Mysterio is crazy. Trying to give Mysterio a deep motivation for creating a symbiote-infected Galactus is pointless anyway. If Mackie wanted to use this story as a vehicle for a philosophical debate, he probably shouldn’t have wasted so many pages on cartoonish action sequences.