Thursday, March 27, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ‘97 - September 1997

Before the Dawn
Credits:  Roger Stern (writer), Kurt Busiek (story assist), Tom Lyle (penciler), Robert Jones (inks), Matt Webb (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Sundown is released from prison after serving his full sentence.  Due to his refusal to return to Osborn Chemical, he’s unable to find steady work.  Mobster Lucky Lobo singles Sundown out as a potential enforcer, but he refuses to return to crime.  Lobo eventually threatens the life of Mary Kelleher, a girl that Sundown accidentally harmed years earlier after gaining his powers.  He agrees to kill Spider-Man for Lobo in exchange for Mary’s life.  Unbeknownst to Lobo, Spider-Man makes a deal with Sundown to save Mary from Lobo’s men.  Sundown physically threatens Lobo to stay away from Mary, then watches as Lobo is taken by the authorities.  Spider-Man suggests Sundown become a hero, but he decides he’d rather be forgotten.

The Subplots:  Peter reflects on his past while thinking about the years that have passed since Sundown’s first appearance.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Sundown debuted in the Untold Tales of Spider-Man ’97 annual.  
  • The amount of time Sundown spent in prison is referred to as “the last decade” and “nearly ten years” on separate occasions.  A year or so after this comic was published, Roger Stern would co-write the Lost Generation miniseries, which was based on the premise that the modern Marvel Universe began only seven years ago.  Irate fans often used the time references in this very issue to refute the “Seven Year Rule.”

*See _________ For Details:  Lucky Lobo was sent to prison all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #23.  We discover this issue that Lobo met Sundown in prison, and was impressed by his reluctance to use his powers.

"Huh?" Moment:  Tombstone is on the back cover, even though he’s never even mentioned in the issue.  He’s presumably there to represent one of New York’s crimelords.

Review:  It was only a matter of time before one of the new villains created for Untold Tales of Spider-Man showed up in the modern continuity titles.  I’m not sure if anyone thought it would be Sundown, though.  Untold Tales of Spider-Man ’97 is probably remembered as the UTOS annual that didn’t have the Mike Allred Fantastic Four story, and for not much else.  It wasn’t a bad comic necessarily, but I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the weakest UTOS story.

The sequel, thankfully, is an improvement.  Tom Lyle is back as artist, and while I wish he could be paired with a more polished inker, he’s able to straddle the modern and retro styles the story requires.  Sundown himself works much better this time, as his rather generic origin is now out of the way and the story’s free to delve into his psyche a bit.  Portraying Sundown as one of the few truly repentant villains in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery is a nice angle to explore.  Stern points out more than once that Sundown never attempted to have his sentence reduced, and he could’ve escaped prison at any time, anyway.  He stayed to pay his penance; he accidentally harmed young Mary and was compelled to pay the price.  This is of course a convenient way to explain why this retconned character never appeared in any comic over the years, but it also works to humanize Sundown.  It’s a sober story about the passage of time and the consequences of paying for your mistakes, told as a competent superhero adventure.  I don’t know if he was willing, but Stern should’ve been called to do more of these done-in-one Spidey stories.  


dschonbe said...

I notice that both the Untold Tales annual and the Amazing annual were for 1997. How long apart were they published? If they were published the same week, or a week or two apart, I can get more on board with the idea. Sort of a retro/modern crossover idea.


Matt said...

I don't remember for certain, but I think the two annuals were published only a month or so apart. The stunt was advertised on the Bullpen page too, if I recall correctly.

"Roger Stern would co-write the Lost Generation miniseries, which was based on the premise that the modern Marvel Universe began only seven years ago."

I think Byrne was responsible for a lot of the plotting on Lost Generation, and he is a huge proponent of the "seven year rule", so Stern may have just gone along with it to avoid ruffling his feathers. Personally I like ten years a lot better. It's such a nice round number.

hueysheridan said...

Yeah the two annuals were definitely published close together and were supposed to be complimentary.

Lyle is the artist on both and Stern was a frequent collaborator with Busiek during this period, even scripting the final issues of UTOSM over KDB's scripts.

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