Thursday, October 16, 2014

SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #22 - December 1997

The Politics of Magic
Credits:  Todd Dezago (plot/script), Mike Wieringo (plot/pencils), Rich Case & Scott Hanna (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  Dr. Strange senses the dimensional chaos inside the Aleister Building, and soon arrives with Spider-Man.  Strange casts a spell that freezes the flux temporarily, allowing Spider-Man to enter the building and find the Sphere of Sara-Kath, which is amplifying the Technomancers’ Babylon Portal.  Strange’s physical body must remain outside to maintain the spell, but his Astral presence follows Spider-Man inside.  Spider-Man eventually loses Strange’s guidance when Strange is attacked outside, leaving him alone with Lord Buel.

The Subplots:  Jonah Jameson visits Billy Walters in his apartment.  He gives Billy a secret assignment to investigate Norman Osborn’s takeover of the Daily Bugle.  Meanwhile, Anna Watson babysits Hope.  

Web of Continuity:  
  • The issue opens with an explanation of how Dr. Strange has regained his mystic powers.  This is Spider-Man’s third team-up with Dr. Strange since the post-Clone Saga era began, but it’s the first time a story has gone out of its way to explain Strange’s recent continuity.
  • Lord Buel reveals that he was a noble in another dimension who studied the mystic arts out of boredom.  He was sentenced to another realm for evoking dark spirits, and now seeks the Sphere of Sara-Kath to gain vengeance.  Aside from being surrounded by his pet Gremlyns, Buel has the power to reshape flesh.
  • According to Strange, the Sphere of Sara-Kath is a mysterious object that can “augment by a hundredfold the magikal abilities of any who possess it!”
  • Strange is distracted at the end of the story when he senses Franklin Richards and his “blue…ball!”  This is a reference to the ending of the “Heroes Reborn” event, as seen in Heroes Reborn: The Return.

I Love the ‘90s:  Billy Walters is watching X-Files, and telling Scully not to enter a room, when Jameson knocks on his door.

Review:  Hypothetically, the Technomancers material could’ve worked if it were used as an excuse for ‘Ringo to just draw something cool for an issue or two.  That’s the bulk of this issue, which is far more exciting than the last chapter, as Wieringo is given page after page of monsters, demons, and dragons to play around with.  That’s fine, but every page with Lord Buel just drags.  It’s hard to justify why exactly this character is a Spider-Man villain, and to be honest, his design isn’t up to Wieringo’s usual standards.  His face is a human/bat hybrid with some cyborg crap thrown in, and he dresses like every post-Tolkien evil wizard ever to appear in an AD&D source book.  I wouldn’t mind him so much as a one-issue, throwaway villain, or in a peripheral team-up book, but his presence in a monthly title is simply annoying.  Three issues of this?  No thanks.  Scheduling this arc while “important” events are occurring in the other titles just emphasizes how much it feels like filler.  There are some great Spider-Man shots this issue, however.  The story’s set at night, which works to Wieringo’s advantage, since he was always one of the artists who understood how to incorporate black into the costume.  I’m surprised some of these panels haven’t shown up on any Spidey merchandise over the years.  Spider-Man looks fantastic this issue, he’s just stuck in a bland story.

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