Wednesday, November 13, 2013

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #243 - February 1997

Who Am I?
Credits:  J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Luke Ross (penciler), John Stanisci (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  As Dr. Kafka, Chameleon continues to feed Spider-Man the lie that he’s actually Herbert Fillmore Smith.  Spider-Man fights through the drug haze by focusing on his memories of Mary Jane.  He rips off the mask Chameleon placed on him and fights back.  Chameleon blends into the surrounds and disappears.  Later, he’s berated by Kraven the Hunter.

The Subplots:  John Jameson, recovering from his gunshot wound, is confronted by Mad Jack.  Mad Jack pours wax from his candle on Jameson’s body and then flies away.  When Dr. Kafka finally finds him, they share their first romantic embrace.  Meanwhile, Flash calls Betty when he’s tempted to have another drink.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Chameleon now knows for certain that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.  When he threatens to expose Peter’s identity, an enraged Peter screams that he doesn’t care.
  • The Kraven who appears at the issue’s end will turn out to be another one of his sons.  Marvel would only revive Kraven if they were completely and utterly creatively bankrupt, right?
  • Flash declares that he won’t be a loser like his “old man.”  I’m assuming this is the first reference to Flash’s father being an alcoholic, since that’s an invention of DeMatteis’ that didn’t fit existing continuity.
  • Mad Jack actually refers to himself as “Jack O'Lantern” when introducing himself to John Jameson.  He also remarks "little Johnny Jameson's OURS now, isn't he, Maguire?" after pouring his candle wax on John, although this isn't paid off for several more issues.  (Also, Maguire is the name of the cat that’s usually on Mad Jack’s shoulder.)

Review:  I’ve never really cared for the “Herbert Fillmore Smith” scheme, probably because it just doesn’t seem like that much of a villainous plot.  Chameleon claims that he’s doing this in order to repay Spider-Man for somehow stripping him of his own identity, which I suppose works as a motivation, but it doesn’t lend itself to an engaging story.  Aside from Peter and the fictional Herbert both losing a daughter recently, an idea DeMatteis is entirely free to explore, there isn’t a lot here to make you care about this fantasy life the Chameleon’s created.  The Herbert material actually feels like a distraction from what should be the major drama in the story -- Chameleon knows Spider-Man’s secret identity now.  The new wrinkle in the Spider-Man/Chameleon dynamic, plus the Kraven teaser and the ongoing Mad Jack subplot leads you to believe that the subplots are more engaging than the main plot.  Actually, in retrospect, Mad Jack kind of steals the issue, which makes the lame resolution to his mystery even more disappointing.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I remember reading The Mysterio Manifesto and hoping for something as compelling (to me, at least) as Hobgoblin Lives!, but I was severely disappointed. DeMatteis had set up a really spooky sub-plot with Mad Jack, and it was unfortunate to see it end the way it did.

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