Chapters 3 & 4
Written by Diane Duane
The Plot: Venom goes undercover on Wall Street to investigate CCRC. He’s attacked by a group of muggers and easily defends himself. Peter Parker travels with Mel Ahrens to meet with Mel’s contact within the Russian mob. They speak to Dmitri Elyonets, who claims to represent the old ways and resents his competitor’s illegal dealing in nuclear material. After leaving, Peter changes into Spider-Man and tails Mel’s cab. Soon enough, the cab is attacked by a van. Spider-Man saves the cab from falling off the bridge and webs up the mobsters inside the van. One of the mobster’s phones rings, and on the other line is Dmitri’s rival, Galya Irnotsji. Elsewhere, Dr. Octopus receives an update from his agent, Niner.
The Subplots: MJ cuts her finger during an accident on her shoot and is sent home. Later, MJ's model friend Lalande recommends her for a lipstick commercial. MJ is grateful for the money, but tells off the verbally abusive director as soon as the shoot is over. Someone on the set notices and gives her a production company's business card.
I Love the ‘90s: Both MJ and Lalande are fired for having minor blemishes during shoots. I’m assuming Photoshop was unable to remove tiny imperfections back in 1996.
Review: The story is still taking shape, with MJ getting into position to do more than just model hand cream, and Peter learning more about the Russian mob’s infiltration into America. The novel’s moving at a steady pace and Duane is finding a nice balance between the superhero action, the crime drama, and the real life material. For the entirety of Chapter Three, Peter is stuck on the phone, dealing with the cell phone company’s automated customer service line -- a move that might seem unusual in any other hero’s novel, but is a natural fit for Peter Parker. (This is the kind of “everyman” material I think most people want to read in a Spider-Man story; not forced girl trouble or cataclysmic personal trials, just annoyances and frustrations that anyone could relate to.) Venom also finds his way into the story, surprisingly late. His scene during this section is mostly here to introduce him to the reader, although I think Duane does a decent job on the obligatory action sequence. Venom is merciless to most of his attackers, but does spare the one young man who was reluctant to join in on the violence. The Venom who thinks that he’s protecting innocence, however skewed his perspective might be, has always been the most appealing interpretation of the character. I’m not necessarily eager to have Venom join the plot, but if written properly, he doesn’t have to be a drag on the story, either. Venom can be entertaining, just in small doses.