Tuesday, November 19, 2013

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #421 - March 1997


And Death Shall Fly Like a Dragon!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Steve Skroce (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Angela Yin’s cousin Meiko is ambushed by a group of ninjas called the True Believers at a charity carnival.  Spider-Man intervenes, but Meiko refuses his help.  Soon after, Meiko explains to Angela that her former fiancée Karsano is now a True Believer.  Under the tutelage of Madam Qwa, he’s been ordered to kill Meiko in order to earn the title of Dragonfly.  Spider-Man spots the True Believers while spying on Angela’s apartment.  A battle soon erupts, and Spider-Man destroys Karsano’s family sword.  Karsano wills himself to disintegrate as penance.  Later, Meiko meets in secret with Madam Qwa, who labels Meiko the Dragonfly.

The Subplots:  Madam Qwa says that their “current employer” wants Spider-Man dead.  We’ll discover in the backup story this is a reference to the Black Tarantula subplot.

Web of Continuity:  The True Believers are said to be an offshoot of the Hand.  As many fans will mock for years, the True Believers wear green uniforms, earning them the nickname of “Green Ninjas.”

I Love the ‘90s:  Within the first few pages of the story, we have references to Mortal Kombat, “Hammer Time,” and Hard Copy.  Spider-Man also blames the resurgence of ninjas on Jackie Chan’s popularity in America.

Review:  And, once again, we see that Asian Supporting Cast Member = Ninjas.  I don’t know if any effort was placed into developing Angela Yin as a character by this point, but I have read a lot of Amazing Spider-Man from this era, and she’s still a blank slate to me.  Using her as an excuse to introduce a hackneyed ninja storyline doesn’t do a lot to make her endearing.  At least when Opal was used to as a means for some cyber-ninja insanity in X-Factor, she was already a fleshed out character that had been established for a few years in the book.  Angela Yin’s just a cipher introducing more ciphers, so it’s impossible to care about any of this.  Also, I’ve always hated the name “True Believers.”  It’s pretty inexcusable for any non-comedy story, but attaching it to band of ninjas from the Orient is even worse.

Hidden Agendas
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Geof Isherwood (art), Paul Becton (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Peter arrives at ESU in time to make his tuition payments with MJ.  They begin their first day of school, and run into Paul and Jill Stacy.  Peter’s professor, Dr. Howard, warns Peter to drop his class if he has any doubts about doing the work.  Meanwhile, the True Believers follow the Black Tarantula’s orders and attack the Rose’s operation.

The Subplots:  Peter runs into Jacob Connover, who is teaching Journalism at ESU after being laid off from the Daily Bugle.  The story emphasizes his grudge against Robbie Robertson, but I don’t think anything comes of it.

Web of Continuity:  For the record, Peter says he’s going to school to complete his graduate studies in Bio-Physics.  

Review:  Apparently Steve Skroce was already having deadline problems, leaving Tom DeFalco to tell the story of Peter and MJ’s first day back at school as a separate backup story.  It’s a sad forecast for what’s to come -- I don’t think anything memorable ever emerges from the Parkers’ return to college.  I can understand why the creators assumed that reviving the ESU setting could introduce some new story possibilities, and provide an easy way for the Parkers to interact with the editorially mandated return of the Stacy family, but no one writing the books during this time seems too invested in the idea.  I do like the art, though.  This is the most stylized I’ve ever seen Geof Isherwood, as he pulls off a strange cross between Mark Texeira and Gene Colan.  I wish he could’ve done more work on the books during this era.


wwk5d said...

"Spider-Man also blames the resurgence of ninjas on Jackie Chan’s popularity in America."

Never mind that ninjas are from Japan and Jackie Chan is Chinese...of course, Angela Yin was probably also Chinese, so of course ninjas were involved...I guess having the Triad show up wouldn't have been enough of a stereotype?

Unknown said...

The Jacob Conover storyline remains the most bizarre comic sub-plot I've ever read. At first I thought they were reintroducing him for Hobgoblin Lives. There'd been a lot of talk in the trade magazines about the Spider-Man writers trying to reintroduce Roger Stern's original suspects so their reappearance in Hobgoblin Lives wouldn't seem out of left field.

Then he stuck around for the "Norman Osborn takes over the Bugle storyline". At that point I thought his Robbie/JJJ hatred was going to be a change of heart story. He gets hired back by Osborn, loves his new boss at first but eventually is faced with how horrible Osborn is and turns back to Robbie with a humble heart.

Then they revealed him to be the Rose and I flipped. I mean, why wouldn't he just have Robbie killed? It isn't like the Rose had been shy about killing other people. And why exactly would he teach at ESU or take a job at the Bugle?

Just Bizarre...

Matt said...

I agree with Unknown; Conover as the Rose made no sense. For one thing, how did an unemployed former reporter even have the resources to be a crime lord in New York?? I smell a red herring. Isn't it about time for Spider-Man: The Rose Lives! by Tom DeFalco?

...Yeah, maybe not.

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