Friday, August 22, 2014

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #249 - September 1997


Into the Light
Credits:  J. M. DeMatteis (plot), Mark Bernardo (script), Luke Ross (penciler), Dan Green (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  While on a date, Peter and MJ see a crazed figure running through the streets.  As Spider-Man, Peter discovers the man is John Jameson, who’s mentally regressed into his Man-Wolf persona.  He subdues John, as Ashley Kafka arrives.  She asks for Spider-Man’s help in restoring John’s true personality.

The Subplots:  Calypso finds Kraven visiting “his” grave.  She attempts to seduce him but Kraven rejects her.  Jonah Jameson is adamant about leaving the hospital.  Flash Thompson calls his sister Jessie to talk about their childhood, but she refuses.  When she accuses Flash of being drunk, he spirals out of control.  Later, he hits a tree while driving drunk.  At the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant is shocked when Norman Osborn enters.  Jonah soon arrives and confirms that Osborn now owns the Bugle.

Web of Continuity:  
  • The new Kraven tells Calypso that Kraven “is dead” and to leave him in his grave.  I believe this is the first strong hint given that we’re not dealing with a resurrected Kraven.
  • Marla asks Jonah how their book of Shelley poems ended up in his hospital room.  He doesn’t want to answer.
  • Jessie reveals to Flash that she also followed in their father’s path before entering Alcoholics Anonymous.

Miscellaneous Note:  The cover credits are for this month’s issue of Amazing Spider-Man, not Spectacular.

Review:  I’m just going to assume there was an executive decision made to give Peter and MJ “marriage problems” during this era.  The only title of late that hasn’t featured MJ lecturing Peter or complaining about something he’s done is Sensational, which is a book that usually seems pretty divorced from the other book’s plotlines anyway.  Thankfully, this issue is plotted by J. M. DeMatteis, so even if MJ is mad at Peter yet again, the idea is used to set up a legitimate exploration of their relationship.  MJ feels that she’s taking second place to Spider-Man, Peter assures her that it isn’t true, and they then proceed to actually have a fun date.  Then, Peter spots trouble, leaving MJ alone in the rain at the movie theater.  And even though he promised to come back, he’s forced to stand her up in order to help Dr. Kafka return John Jameson back to normal.  I don’t mind “marriage problems” when treated in this way, since MJ is given a defensible viewpoint while Peter is also allowed to be sympathetic.  We also get to see the balance between the good and bad in their relationship, as they do have fun together, even if it’s short-lived before Peter’s off to play hero again.  The other titles haven’t been nearly as nuanced, with MJ becoming increasingly unlikable as the post-clone era has continued.

Getting to that Spider-Man vs. Not Quite the Man-Wolf fight, it’s obviously not a classic.  John Jameson just acting like Man-Wolf without the powers isn’t going to be much of a threat, but to Luke Ross’ credit, he does a fine job selling the action.  (Ross continues to get better every issue.  His facial expressions have certainly come a long way over the past few months.  His feral, crazed John Jameson is surprisingly disturbing, as opposed to just ridiculous.)  What I like about this issue is that it’s a great example of how numerous subplots can save an issue that doesn’t have much of an antagonist.  It actually feels like things are happening in Peter Parker’s world, as Flash descends further into alcoholism, Jonah begins to recover, Norman Osborn buys the Bugle, all while Kraven and Mad Jack lurk in the background.  So, even if you don’t care for the John Jameson story, there’s still a lot of things happening to hold your interest.  The other books are suffering from either a lack of subplots, or subplots that inspire little more than apathy.

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