Friday, June 1, 2012


Written by Christopher Golden & José R. Nieto

The Plot
: Peter Parker is assigned to take photos of the Human Torch’s date with actress Heather Fox. Sandman is also on a date in the restaurant with Candace, a jewelry store clerk he has a crush on. When Candace expresses her attraction to the Human Torch, Sandman snaps into a rage and attacks the hero. Spider-Man and Torch battle Sandman until he is scared away by the Fantastic Four. Heather, bored by the Torch, approaches Spider-Man after the fight and asks if he knows Sandman’s phone number.

Web of Continuity: This story takes place shortly before Amazing Spider-Man annual #1. Sandman is also referred to by the narrator as William Baker throughout the story, further complicating the later retcon that claimed his true name really is Flint Marko.

Review: This is yet another Silver Age-era Spider-Man/Human Torch team-up. I can’t say it really adds anything to the genre. Selecting Sandman as the villain does work to the story’s advantage, though, since at this point the audience knows he’s destined to reform (and doesn’t know yet about John Byrne’s ridiculous retcon), but also knows how nasty he was during this era. Golden and Nieto reconcile the two portrayals by presenting Sandman as a hard luck loser with a bad temper. He wants to do right, but once his ego is bruised, he irrationally acts out and turns on the society he feels has rejected him. This gives Sandman a more nuanced portrayal than he received in the Silver Age, but also avoids any direct contradictions. I also enjoyed the twist that Heather and Candace are on dates with the wrong guys; it’s probably the best moment of the story. But as a Spider-Man/Human Torch story…they’re the dullest elements of the story, which is a problem.

Better Looting Through Modern Chemistry
Written by John Garcia & Pierce Askegren

The Plot
: Out on bail, the Looter immediately begins a new crime spree. Spider-Man follows him to a science exhibit where he hopes to rejuvenate his powers with a recently discovered meteor. When the Looter runs out of helium, Spider-Man recognizes him from hours earlier -- he couldn’t afford two helium cartridges at the Chemco supply store. Spider-Man races to the closed store and ambushes the Looter there.

The Subplots
: Peter is buying supplies for his webbing at Chemco but doesn’t have enough cash. He gets an advance from Jonah Jameson, but can’t make it to the store before it closes. On his way there, he accidentally offends Gwen Stacy. Later, he’s invited to lunch with another classmate, Sally Green. He annoys her by leaving early when he sees a report on the Looter’s crime spree.

Web of Continuity
: This story is set a few days after Amazing Spider-Man #36.

: The major flaw in this story is the assumption that page after page of the Looter rigging up his devices and causing chaos is inherently entertaining. The Looter’s gimmicks are a visual gag, and with no one to bounce off of for much of the story (and very little internal narration), his trademark nuttiness isn’t exploited very well, either. Garcia and Askegren do have a decent handle on Spider-Man and his supporting cast, though, and his run of misfortune throughout the story doesn’t feel tired or hackneyed, which is often the case when writers feel as if they have to go out of their way to insert problems for the hero.

The hook of the story is that Spider-Man’s forced to go without his webbing for the entire adventure, as opposed to the standard last-panel cliffhanger. His solution for moving across town is to hitch a ride on a television news helicopter, which has of course abandoned him by the end of the story. Without the webbing, he also needs something to keep his automatic camera in place. The best solution he can come up with is a roll of duct tape. The deceivingly simple journey of purchasing the chemicals he needs for the webbing is also a series of archetypal bad luck moments that allow the writers to use the supporting cast in a way we haven’t seen in the novel so far. This feels the most like a Spider-Man comic so far, assuming someone would’ve commissioned an extra-length Looter issue.

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