Facing the Void
Credits: Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Tim Dzon (inks), Ian Loughlin w/Digital Chameleon (colors), Jack Morelli (letters)
The Plot: A seemingly cosmic entity called Raptar kidnaps Puma’s uncle in New Mexico and targets Spider-Man in New York. His presence also draws the attention of Dr. Strange. Puma and Spider-Man meet in Central Park, and are unexpectedly teleported to another dimension. There, they meet a tribe that worships pumas. Dr. Strange, meanwhile, frees Puma’s uncle from Raptar’s ship. After Puma decisively defeats Raptar, the heroes return home.
The Subplots: The story is set during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Although unseen, we’re told that MJ and Aunt Anna are visiting their family in Pittsburg.
I Love the ‘90s: Puma’s uncle tells him he’s taping Babylon 5 and X-Files for him while he meditates, but he doesn’t know if Puma wants to see Xena. Later, Raptar tells Spider-Man that mindless raging went out with Texas line-dancing. Finally, Spider-Man claims that he’s playing Bill Nye, the Science Guy as he tries to figure out the ship’s teleporter.
"Huh?" Moment: Puma declares that he’s now the other-dimensional tribe’s new defender, although he never elaborates on how he’s going to see them again.
Review: I believe this issue marks Joe Bennett’s Spider-Man debut, even though he’s still a fill-in artist working on a few of the tittles at this time. After Steve Skroce disappears from Amazing Spider-Man, Bennett will become the regular artist as the title kills time awaiting the John Byrne revamp. I never cared for Bennett’s rendition of Spider-Man, although his work in this issue is more tolerable than what I remember from Amazing Spider-Man. His Spider-Man at this point is heavily influenced by Erik Larsen, with a bit of Ron Lim’s look from the early Unlimited issues thrown in. It’s not great, but it doesn’t distract from the story. His Puma is surprisingly effective, making him seem truly feral for the first time in ages. Not that we’re seeing too much of the Puma’s mystic form in this issue. Tom DeFalco has decided to have Thomas Fireheart abstain from his other identity, trying to build tension for the inevitable moment when he gives in and becomes a beast. Like most of the ideas in this issue, the execution is just flat. There’s also talk of the opposing forces that created the universe, letting go of the past, new beginnings, and personal responsibility. And the idea’s tossed in that Raptar might just be Puma’s uncle in disguise, making the entire story an elaborate hoax. Honestly, none of this is fleshed out properly. The deeper themes feel tacked on, and teasing the reader with the prospect that everyone (even Dr. Strange) was fooled by Puma’s uncle just makes the entire affair feel like a cheat.