Monday, November 17, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #429 - December 1997

The Price!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Bud LaRosa & Al Milgrom (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  Inspired by the public’s acceptance of the Thunderbolts, Absorbing Man and Titania adopt the identities of Lightningbolt and Thunder-Girl.  They pursue the Daily Bugle’s bounty on Spider-Man, who’s been spotted at ESU.  After reading the morning’s paper, Daredevil locates Spider-Man and offers his help.  They team up against Absorbing Man and Titania, whose true identities are soon exposed.  When a news copter crashes on top of Titania, Spider-Man saves her life, which inspires Absorbing Man to turn himself in.

The Subplots:  Martha Robertson is angry at Robbie for spending so much time at the Bugle.  Offended by the bounty offer, Robbie tells Jonah that he might not return.  Professor Mark Howard wants to talk to Peter, but he disappears in an alley.  Concerned for Peter’s safety, MJ tells Peter to lay low as Spider-Man.  Later, she’s angry at him for his public fight with Absorbing Man and Titania.

Web of Continuity:  
  • A heavy storm is covering the city.  I believe this is a reference to the Heroes Reborn: The Return miniseries, even though no footnotes point to this.
  • Professor Mark Howard is the "tough" professor that Peter can't seem to please. As far as I can tell, this subplot goes nowhere.

*See _________ For Details:  Daredevil, who is wearing bandages this issue, was shot in Daredevil #368.

I Love the ‘90s:  A thug Spider-Man stops at the issue’s opening says the rain could be a sign that the approaching millennium is the end of the world.  Later, Spider-Man compares Absorbing Man to “loserrr” Susan Lucci.

Creative Differences:  Spider-Man comments that the news copter, not Daredevil, is what triggered his spider-sense.  This balloon is clearly hand-lettered, while the rest of the issue is computer lettered.  The hand-lettering is so unbelievably bad I’m shocked it made its way into a professional publication, to be honest.

“Huh?” Moment:  How is a helicopter flying in this horrific thunderstorm?

How Did This Get Published?:  Daredevil to Titania, who boasts that she can take him given half a chance:  “I’m sorry you don’t consider a recent gunshot wound a sufficient equalizer!”

Miscellaneous Note:  The Statement of Ownership has average sales of 159,950 copies with the most recent issue selling 134,828.

Review:  I don’t like to continually rag on certain titles, I honestly don’t, but Amazing Spider-Man has been a dog for about a year now.  The Doc Ock revival had a few bright spots, mostly thanks to Steve Skroce, but now we’re back to mediocre one-off stories with perma-guest artist Joe Bennett.  Bennett’s most recent issue of Unlimited showed he has real promise and could be a solid Spider-Man artist one day…yet his ASM fill-ins have been routinely awful.  This is no exception.  The intense rain, referenced throughout the issue (it even plays a role in the story’s conclusion) is represented by the occasional vertical line drawn across a panel.  And pages go by at a time that don’t even have lines to indicate rain.  Compare this to the rain scenes in Peter Parker, Spider-Man and notice the care John Romita, Jr. puts into creating a downpour that actually adds to the mood of the story, interacts with the characters and environment realistically, and simply looks cool.  Bennett also has problems dealing with the supporting cast members.  One annoyance is Bennett’s generic female model that he can’t seem to shake.  This is painfully obvious in the scenes with Martha Robertson, who doesn’t look that different from Mary Jane.  His action scenes have a bit of energy to them, but I’m still annoyed by his inability to draw Spider-Man consistently from panel to panel.  (What exactly is Spider-Man’s eye shape under Bennett?)

The story I find even more galling.  I can appreciate the efforts to incorporate Spider-Man into the Marvel Universe by referencing Thunderbolts and Daredevil, but the basic plot reads like filler.  Absorbing Man and Titania are never compelling antagonists, and it’s aggravating that Titania’s (irrational) fear of Spider-Man has been ignored.  It’s possible that this was resolved somewhere and I wasn’t aware of it, or perhaps DeFalco thought he was addressing it by having Titania face Daredevil while Absorbing Man attacks Spidey, but it’s odd that the idea isn’t even mentioned.  

The generic setup and dull villains would be tolerable, though, if the story gave us some interesting subplots or a creative use of the supporting cast.  This issue, yet again, we’re getting two women nagging their husbands.  Martha Robertson’s demeanor wouldn’t be so bad if we hadn’t seen her complain about the same thing for so many issues in a row, but MJ’s behavior is unforgivable.  Even after J. M. DeMatteis recently penned a scene in Spectacular that had MJ actually supporting her husband and telling him not to worry about Osborn exposing his secret ID…guess what she’s doing this issue?  She’s frantic about what could go wrong, and even nagging Peter for turning his back on a cop that could’ve shot him and collected the reward.  By the end of the issue, she’s furious at Peter for breaking his “promise” and becoming Spider-Man again.  If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the exact setup that will soon be used for Peter and MJ’s relationship during the next year’s relaunch.  It’s also the most boring and obvious thing you can do with MJ.  I can understand the creators wanting to introduce tension into the Parkers’ marriage, drama requires conflict of course, but don’t do it in such a predictable way.  And twisting MJ’s established characterization in order to make her this unlikable nag is textbook bad writing.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I thought Titania overcame her fear of Spider-Man during "Acts of Vengeance" in one of Gerry Conway's SPECTACULAR issues. Dr. Doom plants something on her that allows her to fight Spidey without panicking, then when it stops working she has a breakdown, but then, in classic Spider-Man fashion, Spidey accidentally informs her that she's been holding her own just fine this whole time, which causes her to overcome her phobia and press her attack.

She's also fine to fight him again in Conway's WEB two-parter that served as an "Acts" epilogue.

Also, thanks for mentioning JR jr.'s rain scenes. As far as I'm concerned, he is, hands-down, the best there is at illustrating pouring rainstorms.

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