Tuesday, August 19, 2014

PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN #84 - October 1997

Nothing Stops the Juggernaut!
Credits:  Howard Mackie (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Scott Hanna (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Spider-Man creates a web-net to stop his fall.  He’s discovered by a group of kids that includes Devon Lewis.  The Juggernaut suddenly walks by with a rare sword he intends to sell.  Assuming Spider-Man wants to fight, he attacks.  Devon steals the sword, thinking he’s helping Spider-Man.  The NYPD soon arrives and deals with Juggernaut while Spider-Man searches for Devon.  After he convinces Devon to give Juggernaut the sword, Juggernaut leaves peacefully.

The Subplots:  Devon’s friend JC tells Spider-Man that his mother is a doctor, and he thinks Spider-Man’s vertigo is caused by an inner-ear infection.  Spider-Man gets medicine from JC’s mom and finds his vertigo is cured.

Web of Continuity:  Devon Lewis is the son of the owner of the Daily Grind, the coffee shop that employed Ben Reilly.

*See _________ For Details:  The Juggernaut says he received this sword from “a bunch of lowlife Welchers in the Middle East.”  The footnote points towards Incredible Hulk ##457.  He claims that he’s selling the sword in order to pay for Black Tom’s hospital bills, following the events of Generation X #25.  Oddly enough, the footnotes cite Marvel Team-Up #150 as an example of Spider-Man and Juggernaut meeting in the past, as opposed to the more famous Amazing Spider-Man #229-230, or the more recent crossover in X-Force #4/Spider-Man #16.

I Love the ‘90s:  Spider-Man tells Devon that this is not like a Xena adventure.

Review:  Wizard had already begun declaring Amazing Spider-Man #229-230 as a modern-day classic during this era, which might’ve influenced the decision to pit Juggernaut against Spider-Man once again this issue.  After all, John Romita, Jr. drew that original story, and it would be fun to see how he handled a rematch in his modern style, right?  And, yes, I have to acknowledge that visually this is a stunning issue.  Any JRjr Spider-Man collection wouldn’t be complete without this story, which exhibits his expressionistic “blocky” style as well as any other comic I can remember.  Both Spider-Man and Juggernaut are large, bold figures that are bigger than life in an appropriately comic-book way, much larger than I can ever imagine Romita getting away with back in the Jim Shooter days.  Which isn’t to say that the gigantic images stand in the way of the storytelling, as Romita maintains Spider-Man’s unique body language throughout the issue, and manages to work those large figures into a multi-panel page when he has to.  Credit also goes to Gregory Wright for doing some of the finest color work at Marvel during these days.

Unfortunately, there’s really no story for Romita to work with here.  Juggernaut stumbles across Spider-Man by pure coincidence, they fight for no real reason, Spider-Man makes sure Juggernaut gets his sword back, and everyone goes home.  Sure, the fight scenes are fun, but what a lame justification for a fight.  And an even lamer ending, with the villain simply walking away for the second issue in a row.  The threadbare plot might’ve been saved if Mackie could create some kind of a dynamic between Spider-Man and Juggernaut, but their tête-à-tête is just a chore to read.  When it isn’t utterly boring, it veers into the vaguely incomprehensible.  

Spider-Man:  You are serious about all this sick friend stuff…aren’t you?

Juggernaut:  Yeah!  What -- I can’t have a friend?  You of all people got nerve name-calling!

Spider-Man:  What are you talking about?

Juggernaut:  Yeah…well…I’ve been havin’ a tough year.

What?  What is this supposed to mean? How is there a connection between Juggernaut telling Spider-Man that he isn’t in a position to name-call (which he clearly wasn’t doing), and then Juggernaut spontaneously declaring that he’s having “a tough year”?  I guess the idea is that Juggernaut is overly-sensitive to criticism because of this alleged “tough year,” but even that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Spider-Man’s obviously not insulting him, he’s been trying to avoid a fight for the entire issue, and suddenly Juggernaut a) thinks Spider-Man is calling him names, and b) decides to blame his non sequitur response on a “tough year.”  I don’t want to harp on this, but Mackie’s dialogue exchanges often have these brief moments that make little-to-no sense.

Following the Juggernaut fight, which essentially amounts to pretty filler, we’re graced with a resolution to the vertigo subplot.  Revealing that it was actually an inner-ear infection and not a vampire’s bite is a respectable twist ending, although I think the vertigo bit has been used so many times by now, in all of the titles, that resolving it with a dose of antibiotics is somewhat anticlimactic.  Also, it gives MJ an invitation to nag Peter once again, since he didn’t go to the doctor when she originally told him to.  Why does MJ nag so much in the titles now?  Was this an editorial edict?


Matt said...

I see what you're getting at, and that exchange certainly is nonsensical, though in Mackie's defense, even Spider-Man is confused by Juggernaut's calling him out for "name-calling", as he immediately replies "What are you talking about?"

I assume the "tough year" is a reference to being punched into a coma and then trapped inside the Cyttorak gem by Onslaught, right?

Regarding Mary Jane nagging: We've already seen that Marvel failed once in getting Spider-Man back to the single life by way of the Clone Saga. Maybe their new plan was simply to make her unbearable until readers wanted her gone?

G. Kendall said...

I assume the "tough year" is a reference to being punched into a coma and then trapped inside the Cyttorak gem by Onslaught, right?

Yes, in addition to whatever happened in Incredible Hulk, I suppose. Plus, he had to live in the Ultraverse during this time.

Regarding Mary Jane nagging: We've already seen that Marvel failed once in getting Spider-Man back to the single life by way of the Clone Saga. Maybe their new plan was simply to make her unbearable until readers wanted her gone?

There was a fan theory around this time that this was Marvel's plan. Out of nowhere, Wizard began running rumors that Peter and MJ were getting a divorce around early 1998, as I recall. It's possible Marvel put that out to test fan reaction.

Matt said...

Well, simply the fact that Marvel sent the couple to marriage counseling could've been a step in the direction of splitting them up.

I have never understood why, if Marvel was so adamant about separating Peter and Mary Jane (and I understand why they wanted to do it), they didn't just divorce them and be done with it. The argument that divorce would "artificially age" them is nonsense. People get married straight out of high school sometimes, and are divorced by 20. No one looks at these people and sees them as anything other than youngsters who made a mistake. A baby would artificially age them, but Marvel already put the kibosh on that idea, so a divorce would've been no big deal, and certainly far, far better than the Mephisto nonsense we were eventually given.

Jason said...

I'm trying to remember exactly how that Hulk story ended. I believe a group of villains called the "New World Order" sent Juggernaut to fight a Hulk who'd been suped up by Apocalypse into the newest version of the Horseman War.

I feel like it ended with the Juggernaut retrieving the Hulk's sword and bringing it back to the NWO, at which point it was revealed that the sword contained an explosive, which blew all members of the NWO to kingdom come, thereby weeding out more examples of "the weak."

Obviously it makes sense for Juggernaut to survive the explosion, and maybe even for the sword to survive too, I guess ... ?

Implying that the NWO are "welchers" for not delivering on any promised reward for his service seems odd, though, if he knows they were all killed.

Maybe I'm misremembering the storyline. It certainly wasn't one of Peter David's most memorable.

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