Tuesday, December 27, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #120 - January 1995

Web of Life Part One - Lure of the Spider
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Steven Butler (breakdowns), Randy Emberlin & Don Hudson (finishes), Kevin Tinsley (colorist), Krol, Powell, & Crespi (letterers)

The Plot: Ben Reilly fills in for the missing Spider-Man, defeating Tombstone and the terrorist group A.R.E.S. on the same night. After spotting Ken Ellis and Betty Brant during one of his fights, Ben visits Betty and considers offering her his story. Instead, he changes his mind and leaves. Meanwhile, the Grim Hunter follows Ben’s path.

The Subplots: Kaine keeps a vigil near Aunt May’s hospital room. He suddenly has a vision of MJ’s death. In Pittsburgh, MJ says goodbye to her sister Gayle.

Web of Continuity: Gayle comments that MJ is “positively glowing,” a subtle hint that she’s pregnant (which is apparently no longer in continuity, regardless of Marvel’s claims that all of your old Spider-Man comics still happened with a shacked-up Peter and MJ). MJ traveled to Pittsburgh to reconcile with her family a few issues earlier in Amazing Spider-Man.

*See _________ For Details: Tombstone’s previous attempts to become a crimelord occurred in Spectacular Spider-Man #204-206. A footnote corrects a narrative caption’s claim that Kraven’s mansion has been abandoned since his death with a reference to the “Pursuit” storyline. A brief shot of Peter Parker near death is accompanied with a plug for the Amazing/Spectacular crossover “Web of Death.” Finally, this story is continued in Spider-Man #54, and a very special announcement will be made in Spectacular Spider-Man #220.

Gimmicks: This is a forty-eight page flipbook. The other side of the comic is a reprint of “Cold Blood” by Greg Cox, a Spider-Man vs. Morbius prose story from the Ultimate Spider-Man collection.

Miscellaneous Note: Ben’s rooftop meeting with Betty is a pretty obvious homage to the Superman/Lois Lane interview scene in the original Superman movie.

Review: Well, if nothing else, there’s a lot going on here. Defenders of the clone saga will always point to the increased sales of the storyline’s opening issues, which is a fair enough argument. After years of lackluster spinoffs and an occasionally bland lead title, the return of the clone (prefaced by the degeneration of Peter Parker into an irrational lunatic) absolutely kicked some excitement back into the titles. That doesn’t mean the idea itself was particularly good, but it was ostentatious enough to make anyone pay attention.

When Mike Sterling says that he sells more clone saga back issues to kids than current Amazing issues at his shop, I’m not surprised. These issues are filled with crazy events -- new mystery characters, death prophesies, numerous villains, a potential replacement for Peter Parker…and somehow, the supporting cast is actually receiving a little more attention as well. (Setting Betty up as a potential love interest for Ben is a far better use of the character than abruptly turning her into a tough-as-nails butch reporter.) A few issues prior, the big drama was whether or not Peter would accept a job taking publicity photos for MJ’s soap opera. Now, he’s undergoing an emotional breakdown while his clone (who might not be a clone) has come out of retirement to fulfill his responsibilities. Even if you think this is a train wreck, it’s hard to ignore.

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