Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #21 - November 1997


Opening Doors
Credits:  Todd Dezago (writer), Mike Wieringo (penciler), Rob Stull (inks), Gregory Wright & Mark Bernardo (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  At the Aleister Building, home of the Technomancer Corporation, the Neomancers arrive with the Sphere of Sara-Kath.  While Maegis Senreich is distracted by its arrival, the Babylon Portal unleashes demons from another dimension.  The Neomancers are attacked by the demons, as the Gremlyn Lord Buel emerges from the portal.  Meanwhile, Spider-Man feels a strange attraction to the Aleister Building.

The Subplots:  Jill takes Peter and MJ to her new favorite coffee place, the Daily Grind.  Billy Walters tries to become friends with Peter, but Peter is too busy to humor him.  Aunt Anna meets the Parkers’ new neighbors, Ellen Hibbert and her daughter Hope.  Hope later spots Spider-Man exiting Peter’s bedroom window when he leaves for the Aleister Building.

Web of Continuity:  
  • The Technomancers are an ancient group that merges sorcery with modern technology.  The corporation is a front for their true activities.
  • Billy tells Peter that an attractive blonde woman with blue eyes was looking for him earlier at the Daily Bugle.
  • Robbie Robertson makes a reference to Jonah Jameson being in the hospital, making this issue hard to place in regards to Spectacular Spider-Man continuity.  This is one of the (many) issues the Chronology Project says takes place “in-between the pages” of Spectacular Spider-Man #250.
  • Ellen Hibbert is a uniformed police officer.  Her daughter Hope is deaf.  Peter doesn’t know this and just assumes she’s a strange kid.  The Hibberts are living next door in Aunt Anna’s old house.

*See _________ For Details:  Peter reflects on the last time he was in the attic with Ben Reilly, in Spectacular Spider-Man #240.  Later, Shirley at the Daily Grind comments on “everything that happened” during “Revelations,” circa Amazing Spider-Man #418.

I Love the ‘90s:  Billy Waters is wearing a “Massimo” shirt, which is a play on the popular Mossimo t-shirts of the ‘90s.  He also has a flannel jacket tied around his waist, which is an odd fashion choice for a comic published in late 1997.

Miscellaneous Note:  I’m assuming the Aleister Building was named after English magician Aleister Crowley.

Review:  Aw, no….the Technomancers.  These are instantly forgettable villains that eat up a few issues of Sensational while most of the other titles deal with the returns of Norman Osborn and Doc Ock.  Despite some nice design work by Mike Wieringo, there isn’t much to these guys.  Unfortunately, Todd Dezago seems rather enamored with the concept, because he spends around half of the issue establishing the Technomancers’ headquarters and giving the reader a glimpse into the organization’s hierarchy.  Really, they spend the bulk of their scenes talking about mystic plot devices and cackling over their vaguely defined future plans.  It’s not that enthralling.  The storytelling’s also a little muddy during the introduction of new villain Gremlyn Lord Buel.  The scene reads as if one of the lower Technomancers has been transformed into Buel after being attacked by one of the demons (or “Gremlyns”).  Instead, the next issue makes it clear that Buel is a new character that’s entered through the portal.

The rest of the issue touches on numerous subplots, and as much as I like subplots in my Spidey comics, these are mostly duds.  I skipped the majority of the Clone Saga during its release, so the return of the Daily Grind doesn’t evoke any fond memories for me.  And the story’s staged to make the Daily Grind’s return into a momentous occasion, when in fact the location soon returns to obscurity.  Jill Stacy almost displays a hint of a personality in this scene, though, as she’s apparently now a snobbish hipster who’s annoyed that Peter and MJ have already discovered her cool new spot.  I would argue that this contradicts her established personality, but we all know she has none.  The Hibberts had potential as new supporting cast members, but after Dezago goes through a Rear Window riff with Hope, they’re quickly forgotten.  Billy Walters’ brief scene is probably the best of the subplots, if only because Peter realizes he’s been brushing Billy off and begins to worry that he’s hurt the guy’s feelings.  That’s classic Peter Parker, and the books don’t have enough of those moments at this time.  Billy’s scene also hints at the return of Gwen Stacy, or more likely her clone, which adds some intrigue to a fairly dull issue.  It’s a feint, of course, but it works as an attention-grabber, and Billy’s a smart choice to use as the messenger since he’s a character that wouldn’t recognize Gwen.  These are the little moments that Dezago’s really good at sneaking in; I just wish his main stories were this interesting.


wwk5d said...

"Hope later spots Spider-Man exiting Peter’s bedroom window when he leaves for the Aleister Building."

I hope his Spider-sense was tingling and he just brushed it off, because otherwise...

Matt said...

I was happy to see the Daily Grind return, at least. Not necessarily because I loved the setting, but more because it meant Marvel wasn't just completely disavowing the Ben Reilly era (Peter's flashback regarding Ben in this issue was a nice touch too).

Regarding the Technomancers, I get the impression that DeZago and Wieringo were itching to do some "world building", but I would argue the pages of a Spider-Man comic are not the best fit for such a thing. I believe it wasn't too long after this that they began their creator owned series, TELLOS, to scratch that itch.

Also, while I have no real problem with the character, I've never liked the name Billy Walters. It just sounds obviously fake and made up (apologies to anyone actually named Billy Walters, but you have to admit your name sounds like the name of a fictional character rather than a real person).

G. Kendall said...

My assumption is that Peter is ignoring his spider-sense because the draw of the Technomancer's building is too strong.

I always read Billy's name as "Billy Waters" instead of "WaLters" because I can't believe his name is so similar to Barbara Walters'.

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