Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Jimmy Palmotti (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist)
The Plot: Spider-Man follows Betty to the Foreigner’s dummy corporation in New Jersey. They’re attacked by the Death Squad, which includes Swift, Warfare, and Silence and Pulse, who have been replaced by new agents. Their suicidal programming allows Spider-Man a quick victory. After receiving a video message from the Foreigner, Spider-Man and Betty escape the building before it explodes.
The Subplots: Betty overhears the Foreigner mention Ned Leeds’ identity as the Hobgoblin. She later asks Spider-Man for confirmation and he doesn’t know how to respond.
Web of Continuity: Whisper is now called Silence, for no apparent reason.
*See _________ For Details: Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, the death of Ned Leeds, gets a footnote.
I Love the ‘90s: Spider-Man calls Betty “Ms. Rambo 1992” after she dons a black outfit, headband, and machine gun.
Review: So, the most ridiculous aspect of the previous issue, Betty Brant’s macho makeover, somehow manages to get even dumber with this installment. She’s not content merely wielding a gun or using her overnight karate skills; now she has to dress like the Punisher, circa the Jim Lee headband era. That “Ms. Rambo” joke doesn’t excuse how ridiculous this is…it’s just embarrassing. I can almost see where Mackie was going with this -- Betty’s been in the background for a while and no one’s addressed what exactly she does or doesn’t know about Ned’s death -- but how did that idea lead to Betty pulling an inane Brigitte Nielson impersonation (or is this supposed to be Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2)?
Mackie does a slightly better job on the Death Squad, the Foreigner’s new team of super-powered mercenaries who inherit the identities of their slain predecessors. The hook is that they’ve undergone “mental conditioning” to do their job and transfer whatever information the Foreigner needs, while not concerning themselves with little things like living or dying. It’s a decent way to introduce a new squad of disposable villains, although you’ve got to figure that Foreigner’s men would eventually begin to question why so many of the volunteers are never heard from again. Instead, his agents are shown as eager participants in the Death Squad program. “Why does the boss need a few dozen guys to fill four slots, I wonder…?” “Who cares?! I’m getting time an’ a half fer this! Drinks are on me tonight!”
Finally, I have to mention that the Killer Shrike subplot from the previous issue has been ignored. Who’s after him? Who cares about Killer Shrike enough to want to kill him? Is Spider-Man concerned? Is he going to investigate? Was this supposed to be tied to the Foreigner storyline, somehow? Sadly, no answers are to be found. If Howard Mackie keeps this up, I might start to wonder if he has a problem with dropped storylines…