Credits: Tom DeFalco (plot), Todd Dezago (script), Tom Morgan (breakdowns), Randy Emberlin, Hector Collazo, & Don Hudson (finishers), Steve Dutro (letterer), Tinsley & Chi w/Malibu (colorists)
The Plot: Tso’s gang war with Dr. Octopus has destroyed his Noir club, forcing him to align with Alistair Smythe. Smythe uses his Cyber-Slayers to attack Dr. Octopus’ henchmen (Looter, Aura, and Override) at a children’s zoo during an alleged peace conference. Scarlet Spider faces both sides of the battle until the authorities arrive. Dr. Octopus’ henchmen are arrested and the Cyber-Slayers fly away.
The Subplots: Seward Trainer is trapped in the internet. When Tso’s lackey Orlando is suspicious of his new bodyguard Ben Reilly, he searches for information on him online. Seward Trainer senses the search and mentally creates a fictitious backstory for Ben Reilly.
Web of Continuity: Since the previous issue, Trainer has somehow been trapped in cyberspace, and Ben Reilly has gone from waiter to bodyguard in the Tso empire. According to the narrative captions, Trainer creates an elaborate history for Ben using computer records, including a Social Security number, driver’s license number, and high school and college records. Presumably, this was done to make Ben’s transition into a “real” life easier for the writers.
*See _________ For Details: Seward Trainer was “spirited away to the realm of cyberspace” in Amazing Scarlet Spider #1. Ben Reilly cancelled a date with a woman named Carrie in Spectacular Scarlet Spider #1, which also featured a failed attempt by Dr. Octopus’ team to retrieve the stolen computer chips from the previous issue. Alistair Smythe altered his own body to fight Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #368-373. He’s currently selling out the services of his Cyber-Slayers to fund more anti-Spidey operations.
Creative Differences: An added word balloon clarifies that Tso is waiting for Smythe in his lobby when they’re communicating via video-chat. Later, another added balloon has Scarlet Spider speculating that the Cyber-Slayers are leaving the fight because Tso remembers Scarlet Spider “saving his butt recently!”
Review: So, since the previous issue, Dr. Octopus and Jason Tso have continued their epic battle over computer chips, Alistair Smythe has gotten involved, Seward Trainer is trapped inside a free AOL trial disc, Ben’s somehow become a mobster’s bodyguard, and he’s grown out his hair and beard stubble in a tribute to ‘90s syndicated TV star Lorenzo Lamas. (I was never a fan of the bleached blond look, but this is even worse. Ben looks like one of the “manlier” glam metal lead singers; the ones that were too masculine to dye their hair but still wanted the ladies to know about their sensitive side.) We’ve also been introduced to Dr. Octopus’ goon squad in-between issues, and they certainly seem to be a sorry lot. Nothing in this issue makes it clear what any of their powers are supposed to be, and unfortunately, the Looter’s distinctive Ditko design has been replaced with generic ‘90s “cyber-armor.”
It’s honestly hard to find anything to like about the issue. I’ve enjoyed Tom Morgan’s work in the past, but this issue he’s only doing what are likely very loose breakdowns. Some of the anatomy and facial expressions in this issue are atrocious. Only in the final few pages (presumably Don Hudson’s section) does the art not look like a rushed mess.