Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #8 - September 1996

The Usual Suspects
Credits:  Todd Dezago (writer), Mike Wieringo (penciler), Richard Chase (inks), Gregory Wright w/Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters)
The Plot:  Spider-Man investigates a series of robberies by Shocker, Stilt-Man, the Ringer and others.  He soon discovers the Looter committing a robbery wearing the Unicorn’s gear.  Looter kidnaps Spider-Man and brags about the previous robberies he’s pinned on various supervillains.  Spider-Man breaks free and makes his way to the meteor the Looter is studying.  Suddenly, SHIELD agents enter, arresting Looter and taking the meteor for their own research.  Later, Spider-Man’s shocked when an army of Sentinels flies into Manhattan.
The Subplots:  Peter Parker is still in the hospital.  Mary Jane is adamant that he not aid Ben until the doctors release him.

Web of Continuity:  The Looter stole the other supervillains’ equipment from the Iron Rock facility, which apparently makes its first full appearance here.  And the cliffhanger with the Sentinels is a tie-in with the “Onslaught” crossover.

*See _________ For Details:  Spider-Man opens the issue looking for the Lizard, following the events of Spectacular Spider-Man #237.  The Looter first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #36, raided the Iron Rock facility in Spectacular Spider-Man #236, and previously worked as a goon for the female Dr. Octopus in Scarlet Spider #1.  The Sentinel storyline is resolved (as much as anything was “resolved” during “Onslaught”) in Amazing Spider-Man #415. 
I Love the ‘90s:  Spider-Man wonders what it would be like to be David Copperfield, and manages to work in a reference to his then-relationship with Claudia Schifer.
Review:  This is the official debut of the Todd Dezago/Mike Wieringo team on Sensational Spider-Man.  This run has accumulated something of a cult following over the years, but at the time, this seemed like a pretty low-profile creative team to place on the new Spider-Man title.  Marvel launched this book as something of a vanity project for Dan Jurgens, and within a few months, you had two relatively obscure creators best known (to Marvel fans) for occasional X-office fill-ins taking over.  Reuniting Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo after their Flash run might’ve been almost on the level as getting Jurgens (and I believe this actually was going to be the creative team at one point until Waid dropped out), but if Marvel really wanted to keep the spotlight on this book, they could’ve moved Scott Lobdell and Joe Madureira over from Uncanny X-Men.  Clone fatigued or not, people would’ve paid attention to a move like that.

Anyway, this is our creative team, and even if Wizard usually ignored them, they’re clearly passionate about doing Spider-Man comics.  Wieringo’s Spider-Man is just pure fun, bouncing across the page like a hyperactive child, not burdened by pointless detail lines or senseless rendering.  Wieringo doesn’t nail it on every page (he can’t seem to keep the shape of Spidey’s head or the eye design consist for long), but this is the freshest interpretation of the character in a long time.  Out of all the artists of this era, I think Wieringo does the best rendition of the Ben Reilly costume.  I never had strong feelings either way about that outfit, but Wieringo just makes it look cool.  And, thankfully, inker Richard Case puts the appropriate amount of effort required to make the black parts black and not blue, which helps the design immensely.

The story is a nice fit with the art, as Todd Dezago creates a Looter story that’s light-hearted without crossing over into camp.  Looter’s plan in this issue makes perfect sense in a world populated with dozens of low-level supervillains with specific gimmicks.  I could see Marvel villains framing each other for their crimes all of the time, actually.  If you’re smart enough to steal everyone else’s gimmick, why not use it when you’re on a crime spree?  The ending of the issue, which reveals that the Looter isn’t totally nuts because SHIELD also wants to study the meteors he’s always obsessed with (when written in-character) is also a clever way to redeem the character a bit.  However, I do have to wonder about Dezago’s choice to have Looter kidnap Spider-Man and drag his unconscious body to his lair.  I get that this sets up Looter stealing Spider-Man’s web-shooters, but a) the stolen web-shooters barely play a role in the story, and b) not once does Spider-Man wonder if Looter looked under his mask during the hour he was unconscious.  That’s a pretty glaring omission in an otherwise sharp issue.


evanmcb said...

I think the Waid/Wieringo pairing was going to be on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man when that title launched, but it could be that Waid dropped out both times.

Matt said...

Prior to this issue, I only knew Wieringo from the Rogue limited series, and I'm not sure I'd ever heard of DeZago. But they won me over in short order. Of all the creative teams on Spider-Man around this time, they were usually my favorite. As I understand it, they were best friends in real life, and you can almost see that on the page, as their work together really clicked.

I haven't read any of these issues since they first came out, so I really look forward to revisiting them here!

Also, regarding Lobdell and Madureira -- that would indeed have been an interesting move, considering they produced one of the best single-issue Spidey comics of the era in Uncanny during "Zero Tolerance". I would've loved to have seen them tackle Spidey on an ongoing basis.

Anonymous said...

I know Joe loves Spidey and cites him as what first got him into comics; I guess that issue from Uncanny that he did was Scott throwing him a bone and finally letting him draw Spidey before he left to form Cliffhanger, and giving him his own Spidey book (albeit for 3 issues) was how Marvel enticed him back to comics. I think Scott and Joe would have been better on Spidey since I think Joe would have had more incentive to meet deadlines and Spidey lends itself more to the smaller, character driven issues that Scott is best at.

As to Wieringo - I recently got into this run because a) I love his art and b) I love Ben Reilly so this was a win-win for me. While I am a big fan of Ben's Spidey costume overall, I have to agree that Wieringo does the best job of selling it.

Anonymous said...

The Dezago/Wieringo run was just plain fun.
I liked it far better than what the other Spider-titles were doing at this point.

Dezago had just left Spectacular before this point, I believe. It wasn't a very long stint.
I enjoyed it, though, due to Dezago seeming to bring back forgotten 1970s characters.
So, I followed him to Sensational.

It wasn't until DeMatteis returned to Spectacular that I had interest in any other Spider books.

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