Written by Lawrence Watt-Evans
The Plot: Spider-Man pursues a young thief who can leap large distances with mechanical shoes. He’s forgotten to refill his web cartridges and is unwilling to hurt the teen, so Spider-Man spends much of their confrontation leaping out of his way. A young Spider-Man fan, Stuart, watches from his nearby window. Thinking that Spider-Man is in trouble, he grabs his father’s rifle and shoots the thief. After Spider-Man makes sure the thief receives medical attention, he tracks down Stuart and forcibly brings him down to face the police. Stuart curses Spider-Man as he’s brought into custody.
Review: Wow, this is surprisingly dark. (Not so dark that the thief dies, but still…) The narrative opens with the story of nine-year-old Stuart seeing Spider-Man for the first time, which opens the door for an obsession that’s played as sweet instead of creepy until you reach the final pages. In fact, this has all the hallmarks of a “sick kid meets his hero” story, right down to Spider-Man allowing Stuart to swing through the city with him during one of their earlier encounters. Despite his hero worship, Stuart never seems to develop Spider-Man’s moral code, which leads to him committing a pretty horrific act by the story’s end. I can’t help but to be reminded of what superhero comics look like today when reading this story -- it’s as if the entire industry was taken over by Stuarts who just liked the action and violence of comics but never had a deeper understanding of heroic fiction.
Even though most superheroes could be plugged into Spider-Man’s place in the basic plot, Watt-Evans handles Spider-Man’s character very well, right down to Peter blaming himself for the shooting because he’s the one who showed off for Stuart in the first place, and was irresponsible enough to leave with empty web cartridges that morning. He’s also sympathetic towards Stuart instead of angry with him, which shows a great understanding of the character. (I can’t imagine Batman showing the kid any empathy.)
Written by Ann Nocenti
The Plot: Spider-Man rescues a young woman, Sonja, and her father, Gig, from two muggers. He’s soon drawn into Sonja’s web of lies, as she tells stories about her past as a geneticist and an animal rights activist, and her current mission to stop a ring of black market organ farmers. Sonja also creates stories about her father’s past as a football hero, and a literal superhero. Meanwhile, a genetically modified dog roams the city. Spider-Man follows Sonja to the home of a blind man who’s selling his eyes when the dog suddenly appears. Spider-Man attempts to capture the creature, but Gig abruptly enters and convinces him to leave the dog with the blind man, who’s happy to take it in.
Creative Differences: The illustration for this story by James Fry has Spider-Man fighting a gigantic humanoid monster; its only connection to the creature described in this story being the wires attached to its head.
Review: This is a muddled story that apparently wants to cover genetic splicing, animal rights, the plight of the elderly, mortality, underground human organ sales, self-delusion, and the nature of heroism. Some of these are pet themes that Nocenti has used before (the example of genetically modified pigs without legs showed up during her Daredevil run), so it’s not hard to guess where she stands on these issues. Unlike many of her Daredevil stories, however, this is less preachy than it is simply weird. Sonja ceases to be a sympathetic figure just a few pages into the story, around the time we discover she’s buying black market body parts. Her claim that she’s buying them as a part of an investigation is never confirmed, nor does Spider-Man actually get around to stopping the operation. Instead, he’s taught a lesson about when not to fight by Sonja’s drunken father, as he magically senses that the mutated dog creature needs to be with the man who sold his own eyeballs. Yup. None of this comes together too well, but you can’t claim it’s boring.