The Vampire’s Kiss
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), Claudio Castellini (penciler), Cam Smith, Bud LaRosa, Harry Candelario, Ralph Cabrera (inks), Kevin Tinsley (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)
The Plot: Morbius preys on ESU employee Otis Wepner, a crime the ESU chapter of the Friends of Humanity blames on mutants. The Friends target Peter when he stands up to them in a café, but they’re unable to find him after he ducks into an alley. As Spider-Man, he tracks down Morbius, who is harassing Dr. Andrea Janson. Spider-Man gives her an opportunity to escape, but is bitten by Morbius.
The Subplots: Arthur Stacy invites Peter and MJ to have dinner with him and Jill. Peter reluctantly agrees, but meets with Betty in a café first. After brushing Betty off to face Morbius, Peter is disoriented when he arrives for dinner, and passes out at the table.
Web of Continuity:
The opening scene, featuring Morbius killing ESU maintenance guy Otis Wepner, is set on the day after Christmas.
This is Peter and MJ’s first meeting with Arthur Stacy.
Morbius is on the loose following the events of X-Man #24.
Betty wants to know how Peter feels about Flash’s problems. This is a reference to a Spectacular Spider-Man subplot that hasn’t been touched on yet, because the extended Spectacular Spider-Man arc featuring that storyline is supposed to take place after Spider-Man’s encounter with Morbius.
I Love the ‘90s: When MJ gets angry at Peter for trying to get out of dinner with the Stacys, he thinks to himself: “That went well…NOT!”
Miscellaneous Note: Claudio Castellini’s name is misspelled as “Castillini” on the title page.
Review: I guess the outright terrible fill-in art from this era hasn’t begun yet, because Claudio Castellini isn’t a bad fit for Spider-Man at all. The issue suffers from inconsistent inking (four inkers tend to do that), but some of the pages evoke a Buscema/Palmer style, which perfectly fits the conversation scenes with Peter, MJ, and Jill. And Castellini’s Spider-Man seems to be from the Romita/Kane school, so thankfully we’re not getting another bad McFarlane impression.
The Morbius storyline this issue is setting up flames out very quickly, but this isn’t a bad introductory chapter. Mackie’s dialogue is much more tolerable this issue, and while the “tension” between Peter and MJ feels forced, it’s at least a break from MJ biting her nails while Peter is off playing Spider-Man. The idea that MJ would want to get close to the Stacys while Peter just wants to avoid them is at least somewhat plausible, even if Peter comes across as kind of petulant about the whole thing. I also have to give Mackie credit for using the Friends of Humanity pretty well at this point. The anti-mutant forces rarely appear outside of the X-titles, so sticking a FoH chapter on the ESU campus is a respectable way to make the Marvel Universe feel more cohesive. And, realistically, there’s no reason why the FoH wouldn’t blame the random weirdness at ESU on mutants. The later issues I’ve read of the FoH storyline aren’t particularly good, but the concept is used well this issue.