Friday, June 21, 2013

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #420 - February 1997

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen and GCW (colors), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Peter arrives in Central Park to photograph a street prophet, not realizing he’s the mutant X-Man.  X-Man recognizes Peter’s secret identity and asks to speak to Peter privately.  The two bond over stories about their past.  Meanwhile, El Uno escapes from the hospital.  He’s stalked by Delilah, who eventually kills him by slamming his body into a gasoline tanker.  Later, El Uno’s head is mailed to the Black Tarantula.

The Subplots:  Peter wants to buy an expensive pair of boots for MJ’s Christmas present, but can’t afford them.  Luckily, he makes enough money photographing the hole El Uno left in the hospital to buy the boots.  Later, after X-Man joins Peter for the Parkers’ Christmas dinner, he gives Peter a psychic conversation with Aunt May in his dreams.  She absolves him for any guilt he feels over losing the baby.

I Love the ‘90s:  The Daily Bugle contacts Peter through a beeper.

Review:  Ah, yes.  Peter Parker and X-Man were supposed to be great friends in the late ‘90s.  I have absolutely no idea what the thinking behind this move was.  Okay, I understand that Bob Harras wanted to make the Marvel Universe more cohesive and have the various corners of the MU interact more often, and it’s possible that someone felt the need to have Steve Skroce draw X-Man again.  But, seriously, who would want to be friends with an infamous snot like X-Man?  The only way DeFalco can make it work is by virtually ignoring all of Nate Grey’s established characterization (X-Man is the one who actually suggests skipping the gratuitous fight!) and just presenting him as a slightly naive teenager who doesn’t know how to responsibly use his power.  I wonder if Spider-Man has any words than can help him out?

DeFalco’s making the best of what he’s been given, and the result works out okay.  Ignoring Peter’s odd decision to cover a psychic in the first place (even if he were skeptical, I imagine Peter’s protective enough of his secret identity to just avoid telepaths), the Spider-Man/X-Man scenes are decent enough.  Since this is a Christmas story, DeFalco’s stuck in the odd position of writing the Parkers’ first Christmas since the miscarriage, and presumably losing Aunt May, yet adhering to Marvel’s decision not to dwell on the events of the past few years of continuity.  The story doesn’t get into any serious exploration of what Peter must be feeling, but instead works in a few references to him seeing a therapist and still feeling guilty.  Guilt that’s apparently magically relieved by this issue’s guest star.  I can see why many readers would view this as a cheat, but I think DeFalco narrowly walks the line.  We’re not getting the pages of psychological torment that J. M. DeMatteis might’ve provided during his first Spectacular Spider-Man stint, but DeFalco is working in hints of what Peter’s experiencing along the edges of the very mainstream superhero story he’s telling.  

Speaking of which, there isn’t much to say about the Black Tarantula storyline.  Two underworld characters we barely know anything about try to kill each other.  One succeeds.  Steve Skroce gets to draw another giant explosion.  It’s not great, but it’s obviously there to just nudge that plot forward and give the main story something to cut away to.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Ugh, I didn't understand the rationale behind X-Man and Peter becoming best pals. I'm really curious whose idea it was in the first place. I wouldn't be surprised if Terry Kavanagh pitched it so he could write Spidey some more in the pages of X-Man (which he did -- I'm pretty sure Kavanagh used Spider-Man a lot more than any of the Spider-writers used X-Man).

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