After the Fall
Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Scott Hanna (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft (letters)
The Plot: Dr. Andrea Janson betrays Morbius, allowing Crown to take him to a Hydra hideout. Crown tells Fortunato that an element in Morbius’ blood could aid Hydra in the future. Fortunato sends Crown to retrieve Neal Aiken, who is currently on the ESU campus. Peter Parker and old classmate Abby Levin are caught in Hydra’s attack. Neal transforms into SHOC and rescues them. In order to stop the violence, SHOC agrees to go with Crown. Later, Peter wakes inside a cell. His cellmate is Morbius.
The Subplots: SHOC rescues Spider-Man in the issue’s opening after Spider-Man succumbs to vertigo while in midair. Betty Brant, meanwhile, is given an overseas assignment.
Web of Continuity:
More vague talk from Crown…He intimates to SHOC that he’s already dead, then two pages later, responds to SHOC’s taunt that he’s going to die soon with “sooner than you think.” Crown also questions SHOC’s claim that he killed his father. Crown and Dr. Andrea Janson have also been lovers for a while, apparently.
Fortunato has a smaller font than the rest of the characters. I can only assume that this is done to emphasis that his voice is now weak.
A mystery man in a trenchcoat warns Fortunato that Crown had better succeed for the “glory” of Hyrda, and “the sake of your family.”
Abby Levin is, as far as I can tell, a new character created in order to be an “old” classmate.
Peter runs into the abrasive Paul Stacy again at ESU. Peter comments that Paul’s still growing out his goatee, and a footnote helpfully points us to Amazing Spider-Man #422. The cross-title continuity during this era is often inexcusably sloppy, but amazingly, this is a detail the creators really wanted to keep consistent.
*See _________ For Details: Betty’s story is picked up in Spider-Man Unlimited #16.
How Did This Get Published?: There are so many heinous lines of dialogue this issue, especially when Crown or Dr. Janson is speaking, that I won’t try to list all of them. I’ll merely repost a portion of Dr. Janson’s conversation with Morbius: “You want me to find the key to the mysterious blood disorder that has you prowling the night in search of human blood like something out of an Ann (sic) Rice novel. You want me to do what even the great Dr. Michael Morbius could not do for himself. You know…there was a time in which I admired you. Then, after you turned yourself into this…this…nocturnal creature I began having nightmares in which you played a big role. My shrink bought a summer home on that one.”
"Huh?" Moments: Betty is able to look at the cover of the file folder handed to her by Jonah Jameson, one with no writing, and automatically discern what the story is supposed to be. Later, Neal Aiken shows his fantastic potential as a superhero as he leaps into battle in his civilian identity…before turning into SHOC in the very next panel. Why would this dullard reveal his secret identity like that when he clearly didn’t have to?
Miscellaneous Note: Klaus Janson was originally listed as the inker of this run when Marvel began its early hype for the post-clone issues. I’m assuming Dr. Janson was named in his honor.
Review: Perhaps the weakest post-clone PPSM issue yet, as we’re forced to wade through a combination of pseudo-scientific dialogue and needlessly cryptic dialogue while the Crown/SHOC storyline muddles along. And, for no immediately obvious reason, Hydra and Morbius are here to clutter things up. The ESU scenes with Peter, MJ, and Betty should theoretically add some humanity to the story, but none of them exhibits much of a personality during the issue. Betty taunts Peter about having to take care of her cat while she’s away, but I defy anyone to find an actual joke during the exchange. The revelation that Dr. Janson is a not the innocent scientist we were originally lead to believe is a decent twist, however. And Romita obviously brings us a solid interpretation of Spider-Man, even though he’s only in costume during the issue’s opening. An opening that mainly exists to hype SHOC, of course. Romita also does an impressive job on all of the Kirby tech we see throughout the issue, and his Morbius is one of the few interpretations that really sells the character. Okay, credit where credit’s due, that cliffhanger with Peter sharing a cell with a hungry Morbius isn’t bad, either. I'm just not sure if it's enough to bring you back for the next issue, assuming you're not a completist.