Credits: J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Luke Ross (penciler), John Stanisci (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letters)
The Plot: A dart knocks Spider-Man unconscious, allowing Chameleon to place him in a cage with Dr. Kafka and John Jameson. Chameleon departs for the Parkers’ home, leading Spider-Man to push himself and break free of the electrified cage. At home, MJ quickly discerns that “Peter” is an imposter. When Spider-Man enters, he discovers MJ pummeling Chameleon with a baseball bat. Chameleon escapes in the confusion, but is soon confronted by Kraven outside. Kraven boasts that he hit Spider-Man with the dart, proving to Chameleon that he isn’t a hallucination. Proclaiming that there can only be one Kravinov, Kraven shoots Chameleon with a shotgun.
The Subplots: Mad Jack is spying on MJ in the issue’s opening. Flash, meanwhile, is thrown out of a bar for being a belligerent drunk. Elsewhere, the Kangaroo is asked to join a group that includes the Grizzly, the Gibbon, and the Spot.
Web of Continuity: I’ve read that Spider-Man/Daredevil miniseries that was supposed to reveal Mad Jack’s true identity two or three times, yet I can’t recall an explanation for why he’s spying on MJ this issue. Was this ever resolved?
We Get Letters: Someone accidentally runs the same letter column as last issue’s.
Review: Considering the lengthy setup, this doesn’t feel like much of a conclusion. It’s not the kind of pathetic anti-climax that the X-office would occasionally bring us back in the ‘90s, it just doesn’t feel as if the story lived up to its potential. There are some decent scenes, such as MJ truly contemplating the repercussions of yet another lunatic learning Peter’s ID*, and the revelation that Kraven is not a hallucination is appropriately dramatic, but I don’t feel as if this is a truly satisfying conclusion to a five-month arc. I also think giving the Chameleon a rushed, vague death scene just feels like a cheap out; the kind of quickie death you would expect after a villain learns the hero’s secret ID. MJ beating up Chameleon with a baseball bat is a classic moment, though. More people would probably remember it if a) the Spider-titles ever gained momentum following the Clone Saga, and b) Marvel wasn’t pumping out so much Spider-product during the era.
After looking back on these issues, I think the major hindrance to the story would be the art. Not that Luke Ross is terrible, even at this point you can see he’s got talent, but his cartoony nature just doesn’t suit the story. The subplots, yes. (Ross is having fun with the “loser” villains, and he draws an amazing Mad Jack.) But the psychological drama just doesn’t connect, nor do you get a real sense of horror at the prospect of Chameleon invading the Parkers’ home and doing who-knows-what to MJ. I can picture Sal Buscema or Mark Bagley really selling this arc back during their collaborations with DeMatteis, but Luke Ross just isn’t on that level yet.
*A charitable soul might even use MJ’s monologue as a justification for Peter’s actions in Civil War years later, since she considers holding a press conference and just getting the info out there…I would say she’s being intentionally absurd, but I discovered long ago that some fans on the internet could rationalize any inane story published by a major comics company.