Wednesday, June 19, 2013

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #419 - January 1997



Beware the Black Tarantula!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Ben Urich learns of an emerald deal between the Rose and an unknown crimelord known as the Black Tarantula.  During the meeting, Black Tarantula’s emissary ambushes Rose’s representative, Delilah.  The bomb Delilah brought for protection goes off, forcing Spider-Man to flee with Ben Urich, and leave his camera behind.  

The Subplots:  MJ paints over baby May’s room.  Aunt Anna tells MJ that she’s taking college night courses, which inspires her to consider college.  Peter also mentions his desire to finish his Master’s Degree.  

Web of Continuity:  

  • According to the Chronology Project, this issue (and around a dozen other comics featuring Spider-Man) takes place in-between the pages of Sensational Spider-Man #13.  Presumably, they’re saying Spider-Man had numerous adventures right before he left on his flight to the Savage Land.  Since Sensational Spider-Man #12 ends with Peter getting his assignment to go to the Savage Land, I consider SSM #12-14 to be one complete arc, so I’m not going to be inserting other issues in-between this storyline when writing the reviews.
  • Black Tarantula appears in shadow at the issue’s opening, speaking to his diminutive assistant Chesbro.
  • The large man representing Black Tarantula, who Spider-Man initially assumes is Black Tarantula, is El Uno.
  • Rose's top assassin, Delilah, is given unusually flamboyant fonts by Comicraft on seemingly arbitrary words.
  • One of Ben Urich’s informants tells him that Black Tarantula is a cold-blooded killer, and that he’s recently come out of hiding after something happened to his wife and children.
  • Peter complains that Aunt May’s old home only has one bathroom.  That seems highly unlikely given that it’s a two-story house.  And how did all of May’s boarders share one bathroom?

*See _________ For Details:  Fortunato consolidated much of the New York underworld in Spider-Man #74.  Robbie Robertson mentions Graydon Creed’s assassination, which occurred in the truly classic X-Factor #130.  Spectacular Spider-Man #241 (not Sensational, as the footnote reads) featured MJ’s return to baby May’s room.

I Love the ‘90s:  Spider-Man lets out a “Happy!  Happy!  Joy!  Joy!” while web-slinging.  He also mentions coming home in time to watch ER, but says MJ’s lost her crush on George Clooney since he signed on to play a “big bat in his next movie.”

Review:  Tom DeFalco has stated that he isn’t too thrilled with his late ‘90s return to Amazing Spider-Man.  I read this run once after the 40th anniversary Amazing Spider-Man CD-ROM collection was released, and have to admit that the bulk of the issues are underwhelming.  The quality probably would’ve been helped if Steve Skroce had remained as artist, but he’s fated to become the least “regular” artist in the history of this book.

This specific issue, however, doesn’t foreshadow the mediocrity to come.  It’s actually a nice little setup story that efficiently puts the pieces in place for DeFalco’s new direction.  I’m not sure if all of these hints are paid off (like the unusual amount of emphasis placed on a photo of MJ’s maternity doctor when Peter walks through the Daily Bugle), but it reads as a promising start.  And for fans of this era of Spider-Man, who had to suffer through one ridiculous plot twist and strained status quo after another for over two years, it was probably comforting to read a simple story about Peter and MJ dealing with real life issues, Spider-Man taking photos for the Daily Bugle, and new mob bosses invading New York.  

It’s also a decent looking comic, although I recognize that some fans have issues with Steve Skroce’s faces.  For some reason he can’t seem to give MJ a facial expression outside of “annoyed cheerleader,” which doesn’t match DeFalco’s dialogue at all, but I have no problem with the rest of the civilian cast.  And his Spider-Man is very good.  I think Mike Wieringo will go on to develop the best Spider-Man from this era, but Skroce’s is already very consistent and appropriately Ditko and McFarlane influenced.  The very dark shade of red Bob Sharen is using on the costume also works well; I think we’re only now getting to the point where colorists are free to do more than just basic colors on the costume.  Skroce and LaRosa are emphasizing the dark areas of Spider-Man’s costume, so going for a darker red works perfectly.  Honestly, in retrospect, this reads as if it should’ve been the start of a solid run.

2 comments:

Matt said...

Agreed that DeFalco's run here started relatively strong but kind of ran out of gas later on. I was a fan of Black Tarantula though, and I liked that DeFalco brought back the Rose, though the ultimate reveal of his true identity was a bit odd. Just how many Bugle employees need to become criminals before it strains credibility? I would say no more than one or two at the absolute most, but Marvel apparently disagreed.

Skroce had been able to keep a mostly monthly schedule previously on X-Man, but apparently not so much on Spider-Man. Still, I actually enjoyed the fill-ins by Joe Bennett at the time. Not sure if that would still be the case today, though.

Teebore said...

@Matt: Just how many Bugle employees need to become criminals before it strains credibility?

Or conversely, how many new villains need to debut before Spider-Man just automatically vets the existing Bugle staff before suspecting anyone else? :)

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