Friday, April 5, 2013

SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #11 - December 1996

Revelations Part Two - Deadly Diversions
  Todd Dezago (writer), Mike Wieringo (penciler), Richard Chase (inks), Gregory Wright w/GCW (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Ben and Peter discover a group of kids playing in debris left behind by Onslaught’s attack.  Suddenly, they’re ambushed by Gaunt.  Peter tries to get the kids to safety as Ben changes into Spider-Man.  Ben soon learns that Gaunt is actually Mendel Stromm, the Robot Master.  Simultaneously, the kids reveal themselves as robots and turn on Peter.

The Subplots:  A mystery man is sending various associates of Peter invitations to appear at the Daily Bugle on Halloween.  Meanwhile, MJ unexpectedly goes into labor after a new waitress at the Daily Grind pours a mysterious powder into her drink.

Web of Continuity: 
  • Arthur Stacy has a one-page scene, announcing his return to New York.  Arthur is George Stacy’s brother, and Gwen’s uncle.  He briefly appeared back in the early 1970s and was quickly forgotten.  Arthur and his children are returning to the books on the edict of editor-in-chief Bob Harras, who wanted to keep Gwen’s legacy alive and introduce more supporting cast members to interact with Peter.
  • The evil waitress is Alison Mongrain, a minor character that will occasionally appear over the next few years as Marvel deals with even more threads from the Clone Saga.  The mysterious employer of Alison and Gaunt, and the person behind the invitations, will soon be revealed as Norman Osborn.

*See _________ For Details:  Seward Trainer was murdered by Gaunt in Spectacular Spider-Man #240.  Mendel Stromm first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #36.  This story continues in Amazing Spider-Man #418.

Forever Young:  Ben encourages Peter to discipline the kids because he’s the father now.

I Love the ‘90s:  Peter is keeping a beeper to stay in contact with MJ during the final days of her pregnancy.  Later, he tells Ben that he’d better be ready to “do the Macarana” during their fight with Gaunt.

Creative Differences:  According to “Life of Reilly,” this storyline was originally going to be called “The Book of Revelations” and would prominently feature Norman Osborn’s journal.

Review:  Finally, after two years of constant second-guessing and ridiculously circular storylines, the Clone Saga is coming to an end.  And what a horrific end it turns out to be.  Spoiler Alert:  Norman Osborn was behind everything and Ben’s death will prove that he’s the clone.  The end.  P.S.  No baby for MJ.  It’s hard to imagine who exactly the creators thought this would please.  I can understand the desire to kill Ben if only to draw a clear red line to indicate this storyline is over, but giving him a quickie death scene and having him turn into goo just reeks of laziness.  And the resurrection of Norman Osborn wasn’t even popular within Marvel’s offices.  It only happened because of an edict by Bob Harras, who seemed to have a fuzzy understanding of Spider-Man continuity in the first place. 

Reviving Norman Osborn made many readers absolutely furious at the time, and I'm certainly in that camp (it’s actually a major reason why I stayed away from the Spider-Man titles even after the clone insanity ended).  Much to my surprise, however, as the months went on, more and more people warmed up to the idea.  Since he was killed off before much of the audience was born, many fans were actually eager to read modern-day Spider-Man stories featuring the original Green Goblin.  And, somehow, he was even adopted by the next administration, becoming a prominent figure throughout the entire Marvel Universe.  Now, you rarely hear anyone complain about Norman’s resurrection.  My opinion on this has never wavered -- Norman’s death was a definitive moment in the history of Spider-Man.  Far too many stories following his death hinge on Norman being truly dead, not “recovering” in Europe.  And essentially everyone working at Marvel, for over two decades, viewed him as dead (he even showed up as a zombie once.)  Reviving Norman just made the Marvel Universe feel less “real” in a way, and that sense of unreality, that anything can happen in the most ham-fisted or illogical manner possible, eventually turned me away from Marvel Comics in general.

Regarding this specific issue, it’s actually one of the better chapters of “Revelations.”  Wieringo’s getting a solid grasp on the supporting cast, and the action scene looks great.  It’s fun to see Peter and Ben team up against a villain, and the fake-out with the robot kids is a very clever move on Dezago’s part.  And as much as I complained about resurrecting a long-dead character earlier, reviving Mendel Stromm never bothered me, probably because I had no idea who he was.  (As revealed in “Life of Reilly,” none of the regular Spider-writers remembered Stromm.  The suggestion came from Ralph Macchio’s assistant editor, and occasional X-Man fill-in writer, Mark Bernardo.)  Knowing now that Gaunt was supposed to be Harry Osborn and that the creators had to come up with a last-minute switch after Bob Harras shot them down, I can’t fault them with choosing Stromm as the true identity.  His death never had any lasting importance on the Spider-Man mythos, and due to his past with Norman Osborn, it’s not a bad hint for who the mystery villain will turn out to be.  So, even if I disagree with the general direction, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this specific chapter.  It’s what’s coming next that I can’t stand…


Steven said...

I was hoping you'd bring this up, but maybe you weren't aware. This issue also came with a polybagged version. That's the version I have, and I pulled it out just now to get the details right.

The front of the polybag exclaims "Double bonus inside!" It came with a Fleer/Skybox 'Marvel Motion Card' (which has the animated series version of the Hobgoblin on mine. Not sure if there were different cards) and a Revelations checklist. The idea was that the purchase of this issue entitled you to redeem the checklist each week for the next 3 issues (Amazing #418, Spider-Man #75, and Spectacular #241). It says "Present this card to your comics shop (where you purchased Sensational Spider-Man #11) each week, to receive your prepaid Spider-Man "Revelations" issues. Retain this card in a safe place."

For whatever reasons, I never did redeem the card, probably because I didn't open the bag until months later when I determined that I wasn't going to make any money off of polybagged comics and just wanted to read them. I'm not even sure if my local store would have even honoured the list.

All this was for the low, low price of 6.99, or $9.79 for us Canadians. To this day, it's still the highest cover price I've ever seen on a comic that is just bound with stables. (Even more than Amazing #700, at 7.99!)

Matt said...


I seem to recall this storyline was actually solicited as "Book of Revelations" as well. At least, somehow at the time, I thought that was what it was to be called, and was surprised when I saw simply, "Revelations" atop every chapter.

A few quick thoughts on "Revelations" as a whole, since this is the only chapter you'll cover:

I was very disappointed with Ben's death. I had learned to really like the character and I thought -- and still think -- that Peter could've been the Spider-Man with a wife and kid, while Ben could've continued his career as the Scarlet Spider and as the swingin' single spider-character. I would've loved an ongoing series along the lines of the first "Lost Years" mini, in which Ben (the real clone after all) traveled the country as a nomad, righting wrongs as the Scarlet Spider and never staying in one spot for too long. DeFalco & Mackie's Clone Saga limited series ended with that premise, and it seems Marvel's current Scarlet Spider ongoing, starring Kaine as the title character, follows the same concept (though why we need him now when we have a single Peter is beyond me).

I was also dismayed with Seward Trainer's ret-con as a stooge of Norman Osborn. Obviously in order for the clone test results to be wrong, they had to do something along these lines, but Seward was pretty much Ben's one real friend from all his years as a clone, and it was wrong to take that away from him.

I was okay with Ben turning out to be the clone. But I was also apparently the only reader (?) who didn't mind that Peter was a clone, either. I really didn't care which was which. I've never understood the oft-cited complaint that all Peter's adventures after ASM #150 somehow "didn't count" since he was a clone. Yes, the guy I had been reading about for my entire life turned out to be a clone, but that didn't somehow invalidate his life or cancel out the stories I'd been reading. Replacing Peter with Ben as Spider-Man was a mistake, but revealing Peter as a clone, though a cheap shock, did nothing to change my opinion of Peter as a character. He was a clone, but he was still the Peter Parker I'd been reading for as long as I could remember, so what did it matter?

(Some of his actions after learning he was a clone were over the top and indefensible, but the revelation all by itself did nothing to change my opinion of the character.)

I'll talk about my thoughts on Norman's return below, but in the end, although I was ultimately okay with it and indifferent to him, I wish they'd found another way out of this. I wouldn't have wanted Harry back either after his heart-wrenching death scene in Spectacular 200 (and I didn't want Aunt May back for the same reason), so I'm glad at least that Gaunt turned out not to be him.

I will say, though, that I agree partially with you that Norman's return sucks some of the "reality" out of the Marvel Universe, but really only out of Spider-Man's corner. This sort of stuff had been happening for years in the X-Men comics by now. I guess in a way it makes sense that such an occurrence reached Spidey's titles once the X-editor became the editor-in-chief (though I still like a lot of what Bob Harras did at Marvel).

Matt said...


"Arthur Stacy has a one-page scene, announcing his return to New York."

I thought Arthur, Jill, and Paul were a great addition to the Spider-Man cast. Arthur in particular brought back the Spidey/Peter/Captain Stacy dynamic which had been gone for a very long time, and which I really liked. I think they stuck around for the next couple years, and even into the Mackie/Byrne reboot, unless I'm mistaken. Mackie in particular seemed to use them the most, but I think all the writers handled them to some extent. They were about as regular as supporting characters can get up until their sudden unexplained disappearance. I've never been sure whey they were swept under the rug when Quesada took over, other than that pretty much the entire supporting cast vanished around that time. I'm surprised Dan Slott hasn't brought them back (at least, not that I've heard about -- I stopped reading Spidey regularly a while back).

"Reviving Norman Osborn made many readers absolutely furious at the time..."

I was also one of those readers, but then I became one of the ones you mention, who warmed up to it a little later. Part of it was the way Romita Jr. drew the character (Norman, not the Goblin). I was dismayed with his return in "Revelations", but when he showed up later, functioning as Norman Osborn, Spider-Man's Lex Luthor, I began to appreciate him more. The Kingpin was in a state of limbo at the time, and Norman filled that void as the guy who Spider-Man had to fight, but was unable to physically assault. They could've come up with a new character to use in that capacity, but what was done was done.

Beyond that, I was at a con not long after this happened, and someone asked a writer -- Kurt Busiek, I think -- what he thought about it, and he bascially said that while he wouldn't have done it himself, there was now a terrific villain out there in the Marvel Universe who anyone could use.

Unfortunately I think Marvel went a bit too far with that idea, as Osborn has somehow become the Lex Luthor of the entire Marvel Universe, a villain along the lines of Dr. Doom, which seems an unnatural growth from his original character.

So overall, I would prefer if he was still dead (I was rased with the Hobgoblin, after all, whose whole reason for being as a character was that Norman was deceased), but although I didn't mind all that much that he came back, I feel he's been misused since around the time of the "Gathering of Five" storyline.

Anonymous said...

I always cite this issue as to how Marvel could have ended the Clone Saga and made everyone happy, specifically pointing to the wonderful dynamic Todd DeZago creates in this issue between Ben and Pete, which feels like it's been around for years.

Have them act like brothers basically sharing the title of Spidey, and even have a book that focuses on them teaming up. Give each of them their own solo title with unique supporting casts, and then have Ben be the single one with more action-heavy stories while Peter can be the married dad with more subplot and supporting cast heavy stories. have them both state how they don't care who the "real" peter is since they're now happy with where they are in their lives. Boom, everybody's happy.

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