Friday, November 15, 2013

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #244 - March 1997

 

Backlash
Credits:  J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Luke Ross (penciler), John Stanisci (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Spider-Man returns home to inform MJ that the Chameleon now knows his secret identity.  She prods him into going out again to find the Chameleon.  Chameleon, meanwhile, is discussing his past with Kraven, who he believes to be a hallucination.  Eventually, they end up at the townhouse where Kraven committed suicide years earlier.  Spider-Man enters shortly after Kraven apparently disappears.  Chameleon reveals his hostages, Dr. Kafka and John Jameson, to Spider-Man.

The Subplots:  Spider-Man defeats Kangaroo in his new cybernetic armor while on the way home.  Grizzly approaches Kangaroo after he’s webbed up for the police.  Later, Betty angrily rejects Flash after he propositions her.  And, finally, Mad Jack (still calling himself “Jack O’Lantern”) continues to stalk John Jameson.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Chameleon’s conversation with Kraven reveals that they’re actually half-brothers, as Chameleon is the son of Kraven’s father and his “servant-girl.”
  • MJ reveals, while musing to herself, that she’s returning to college to study psychology.  
  • We also learn that MJ has a cousin named Celia, and that Aunt Anna is away visiting her now.  I think Anna has been mentioned more times than she’s actually appeared since she allegedly moved in with the Parkers.  I don’t recall Anna showing up at all in any of the issues I’ve reviewed so far.

*See _________ For Details:  We’re reminded again that the original Kangaroo died in Amazing Spider-Man #126.  The current one is an admirer of the original, Frank Oliver.  “Lifetheft” is referenced again, as MJ remarks that it was inevitable that the Chameleon would figure out Peter’s secret ID.  Finally, according to a footnote, Ravencroft was briefly shut down by the feds following the events of a Carnage one-shot.

Review:  Following the “Spidey’s actually a middle-aged fantasy novelist” misfire from the previous issue, J. M. DeMatteis focuses on what really matters, Spider-Man’s reaction to having his secret identity exposed again.  The twist this issue is that MJ isn’t overly concerned; she reasons that if they can survive someone as unstable as Eddie Brock knowing Peter’s ID, then they can survive anything.  Later, an inner monologue will confirm that MJ was mostly putting on a brave face, the same face she practiced for years as a depressed teenager, all to support Peter and help him get through their latest crisis.  It’s the best characterization MJ’s received in a long time, and it’s probably the highlight of the issue.  The Chameleon, however, is reverting back to his low self-esteem/whiny little baby mode, which just annoys me.  Chameleon, for whatever reason, is a villain I just can’t muster a lot of sympathy for, and seeing him fall back into his “fragile” persona while in the middle of a villainous scheme doesn’t do a lot to heighten the stakes.  

Ignoring Chameleon’s characterization, there is a lot to enjoy here.  DeMatteis is making an effort to balance drama and comedy, which helps to make the book feel well-rounded in a way most of the line doesn’t.  He also seems to be able to sneak in references to the Clone Saga that can placate both lovers and haters of the event.  This is the second issue in a row with a joking reference to Peter being another clone (not counting another joke about Peter possibly dyeing his hair blonde), but DeMatteis also acknowledges that Peter and MJ have gone through absolute hell in recent continuity.  It’s a hard balance to strike, but I think he pulls it off.

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