Tuesday, January 20, 2015

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #432 - March 1998

The Hunted!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  Spider-Man searches for Normie Osborn, while also avoiding numerous bounty hunters.  Meanwhile, the Rose meets with Fortunato.  When Black Tarantula arrives, Rose is kicked out of the meeting.  Fortunato gives Black Tarantula permission to expand into New York, provided he kills Spider-Man.  Black Tarantula finds Spider-Man on the Daily Bugle roof and beats him nearly unconscious.  When he discovers Spider-Man was searching for a missing child, he allows Spider-Man to live long enough to find Normie, but warns him to retire afterward.  Black Tarantula rips off half of Spider-Man’s mask and leaves.  A disoriented Spider-Man is soon forced to flee from more bounty hunters, including the deadly Shotgun.

The Subplots:  MJ is dancing with Chantal in order to forget her problems.  At the Daily Bugle, Peter tries to talk Robbie out of leaving as he packs his boxes.  Jonah declines to say goodbye to Robbie.  At a Brooklyn salvage yard, Normie asks the Green Goblin if he is his daddy.

Web of Continuity:  
  • What we learn about Black Tarantula this issue -- he has superhuman strength, can shoot laser beams out of his eyes (?!), has some personal sense of honor, refuses to reveal if he has a connection to the Tarantula, and he claims that his identity goes back almost seven hundred years.
  • Peter acts as if this is the first he’s heard of Robbie quitting the Bugle, even though they’ve already discussed it in the previous chapter of this crossover.
  • The hints that the new Green Goblin is Harry Osborn ultimately go nowhere.

Review:  After over a year of teases, Spider-Man and Black Tarantula finally meet this issue.  Their confrontation really has nothing to do with the “SpiderHunt” crossover, which is an odd decision.  Maybe DeFalco thought this high-profile event was a good time to finally bring Black Tarantula out of the shadows, but the final product reads as if DeFalco had a Black Tarantula story to tell and he worked in “SpiderHunt” around it.  Black Tarantula has a nice design, and I tend to like villains that have their own codes of honor, so I’m not dismissing him as a character just yet.  I do think he’s a little too reminiscent of Bane, in the sense that he’s a large intimidating brawler, but also a shrewd criminal mastermind.  The early chapters of “Knightfall” went out of their way to truly sell Bane as a character and not a plot device, while I feel that the build-up for Black Tarantula hasn’t been nearly as compelling.  

As for “SpiderHunt,” the plot advances incrementally, just enough for a half-hearted effort to convince the reader that Harry Osborn is alive.  Considering that the creators didn’t seem to have a real plan behind this, and that another character entirely was at one point supposed to be the new Green Goblin, these scenes are just annoying in hindsight.  The story also introduces a more “professional” bounty hunter, one that just so happens to appear quite often in John Romita, Jr.’s bibliography.  Shotgun’s a government agent, a bodyguard, a bounty hunter, whatever you need him to be, I guess.  I don’t have a real problem with him appearing in this storyline, but he’s essentially a guy with a giant gun, making him not much of a threat to Spider-Man under normal circumstances.  Spider-Man has to be put through the wringer by someone else’s pet character before Shotgun can be perceived as a legitimate challenge.  

While I’m glad John Romita, Jr. is mainly responsible for the look of this crossover, even turning up here as a guest artist, I don’t think he’s well served by the overall production of the issue.  Bud LaRosa’s inks are appropriately moody when they need to be, but in general he lacks the polish of Scott Hanna.  I’m also unsure what’s happened to the coloring this issue; almost every page looks washed out, which is definitely not the look I associate with Bob Sharen.  Finally, there’s an irritating tic with the lettering this issue, as random word balloons suddenly appear at a much smaller font for no reason.  I have no idea what was happening in Marvel’s offices when this issue was put together, but it’s ridiculous that the franchise’s flagship title doesn’t have a better showing during its big crossover event.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Glancing at the page you reproduced here, I'm reminded that John Romita, Jr. draws the greatest Norman Osborn ever.

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