Tuesday, November 18, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #430 - January 1998

Savage Rebirth!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  Budget cutbacks initiated by Mr. Pogue enable Carnage to escape Ravencroft.  He travels to the Daily Bugle and assaults Martha Robertson in an elevator.  Spider-Man races after Carnage.  Their fight is interrupted by the Silver Surfer, who is passing by.  Carnage’s symbiote has an instinctive reaction to the Silver Surfer; it leaves Cletus Kasaday’s body and escapes into the sewers.  Silver Surfer follows, but emerges possessed by the symbiote.  He declares that he is now the “Carnage Cosmic.”

The Subplots:  MJ is still annoyed at Peter for appearing as Spider-Man while a bounty is on his head.  Jacob Conover meets with Norman Osborn, while Robbie Robertson unsuccessfully tries to get Jonah to open up.

Web of Continuity:  
  • This mysterious “Mr. Pogue” appears to be the new head of Ravencroft.  This month’s issue of Spectacular brings us the young Dr. Garrison as the director of Ravencroft, although the dialogue did establish that his position was temporary.
  • Cletus Kasaday says that his symbiote has a “race memory” of the Silver Surfer and that its species is terrified of him.
  • Billy Walters makes one of his very rare appearances outside of Sensational Spider-Man.  Joe Bennett unfortunately seems to think Billy is around thirty-seven years old, and has given him Bon Jovi’s hair circa 1993.

*See _________ For Details:  The issue opens with Spider-Man enthusiastic that the Avengers and Fantastic Four are alive.  A footnote points towards the Heroes Reborn: The Return miniseries.  After Spider-Man swings past the Thunderbolts’ HQ, another footnote advises us to read Thunderbolts #10 to learn the real story behind the team.

How Did This Get Published?:  Tom DeFalco’s Silver Surfer dialogue is a testament to stilted, tin-eared superhero scripting.  As the Silver Surfer saves the MIR space station from an asteroid:  “A single blast of my power cosmic can easily reduce that massive rock into insignificant shards -- but I must make certain that I incinerate any shard which might strike the station!  It is done!  Those brave Cosmonauts are safe!  I must return to the planet Earth where other startling events now claim my attention.  Though my heart soars at the miraculous return of the Fantastic Four -- I am most curious how this joyous news will affect my deepening relationship with Alicia Masters, the Thing’s former girlfriend.”

Creative Differences:  An inserted narrative caption on the opening page states that although Spider-Man isn’t sure how the Avengers and Fantastic Four survived Onslaught, he did help in their return.  This is another hand-lettered caption that stands out, very obviously, with Comicraft’s work.

Review:  Oh, dear.  Not this one.  I’m sure we were all looking forward to the day the Silver Surfer would team up with Spider-Man against Carnage, right?  There’s something to be said for the occasional oddball guest star, but the Silver Surfer has absolutely no place in a Carnage story.  Carnage stories are, arguably, barely even Spider-Man stories, since they involve a serial killer/monster that preys on random innocents.  He certainly isn’t a villain suited for Silver Surfer, who’s almost exclusively associated with Marvel’s cosmic cast by this point.  Plus, Silver Surfer’s insanely powerful, so one flick of his wrist would easily turn Carnage into a pile of dust.  

In order for Carnage to present any kind of threat  -- and DeFalco actually wants this to stretch past one issue -- DeFalco has to avoid a straightforward confrontation and actually give Carnage the Surfer’s powers.  Carnage, the ‘80s horror movie monster brought to comics, now has cosmic powers, which he inevitably isn’t going to use to accomplish anything.  So, now we’ve got a story that doesn’t really work as a Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, or Carnage story.  Connecting the alien roots of the symbiote to the Silver Surfer isn’t necessarily a bad idea, if you are going to be inserting the Silver Surfer into this, but every other aspect of this team-up feels horribly awkward.  And, even ignoring the Silver Surfer angle, the reader is left with one of the worst Carnage stories yet.  Not only is his escape from Ravencroft extremely unimaginative (and pathetically easy), but Carnage’s big plan after his escape is to go to the Daily Bugle for…some vague reason, and then to walk around the block until he’s spotted by Spider-Man.  And that scene with Martha Robertson in the elevator is simply terrible.  Not only is the scene so rushed it lacks any drama, but Carnage inexplicably leaves her alive -- if you’ve ever read a single Carnage story, you know that’s not his M. O.  Martha survives with only a cut on her arm; apparently, there wasn’t enough blood for Carnage to write one of his trademarked threats on the wall, so he added his blood to hers.  Why DeFalco felt the need to stress this I don’t know, unless he really wants to emphasize that Martha hasn’t been hurt.  If DeFalco isn’t willing to kill or harm Martha, then he shouldn’t have put her in this scene.  Or, at the very least, he should’ve come up with a great distraction to keep Carnage from finishing the job.  Having Carnage suddenly change his mind about killing, conveniently while stuck in an elevator with an established cast member in the middle of an ongoing subplot, is ridiculous.  (A few minutes after leaving the elevator, Carnage changes his mind again and decides he does want to go back to murder.)

Regarding the subplots, and the art, I’m left repeating myself.  The same subplots are being recycled once again, so MJ’s a nag, Martha’s a nag, Jonah’s acting unusually distant, Robbie is concerned, and Peter’s conflicted about donning his Spider-Man costume.  If I didn’t care by now, certainly there’s nothing here to change my mind.  And Joe Bennett’s art is still not up to the promise we’ve seen in Spider-Man Unlimited.  Ugly faces, strained anatomy, rushed backgrounds, and an inconsistent Spider-Man from page to page.  This is just dire work, all around.

1 comment:

Comicbookrehab said...

I remember reading this after reading the sequel of sorts that DeFalco wrote in one of the final issues of "What If?": "What if The Avengers Fought The Carnage Surfer Alongside Spider-Man? " - adding the Avengers to the mix made more sense than just having it be a Spidey/Surfer team-up. Also, Sergio Cariello's art was better than Joe Bennett's

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