Credits: Howard Mackie (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Scott Hanna (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft (letters)
The Plot: Spider-Man webs a replacement mask on his face, while Norman Osborn tricks the Punisher into joining the manhunt. Spider-Man flees various gunmen, but crashes into the East River after the Punisher shoots away his webbing. He’s rescued by bookkeeper Clarence Fielding, who was also searching for Spider-Man until he decided not to sacrifice his principles for money. Soon, Spider-Man and Clarence are caught in-between the Punisher, Shotgun, and a group of mercenaries. Jimmy-6 arrives to pay his debt to Spider-Man, which Spider-Man tells him is clear if he helps Clarence get to safety. The Punisher and Shotgun soon confront Spider-Man in a warehouse, but Punisher quickly realizes that Osborn duped him into pursuing Spider-Man. Suddenly, the Green Goblin flies overhead and drops explosives into the warehouse.
The Subplots: Arthur Stacy, MJ, and Shantal are visiting Jill in the hospital. Norman Osborn arrives and asks Arthur to do what he can to find his grandson.
Web of Continuity: Jill previously appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #430 and #431, back in school and with no indication that she had been recently shot. Yeah, we can move the issues around so that Peter Parker, Spider-Man #87 takes place after ASM #430 and #431, but a footnote or two in the comics would’ve been nice.
How Did This Get Published?: There are quite a few eruptions of Mackie Robot Speak this issue, but Norman Osborn seems to have a severe case: “This is why I have turned to you. It is why I chose to liberate you from your captors. You, sir, are a true American hero. The persecution you have suffered for your continuing attempts to serve this great nation of ours is unconscionable…I ask only that you do that which is right…that which you have always done.”
*See _________ For Details: The Punisher’s “captors” aren’t identified, but a footnote points to Heroes for Hire #9.
Review: After a few years of underexposure, following several years of overexposure, the Punisher seemed to be making quite a few guest appearances in 1998. I’m not sure if he was much of a sales draw at this point, but it’s nice to see John Romita, Jr. draw the character again. If you’re hoping for an actual Punisher/Shotgun confrontation, however, you’re sure to be disappointed. The characters are only given one panel to exchange empty threats before the Green Goblin suddenly appears and drops a copious amount of pumpkin bombs. The final five pages of this comic are packed with characters coming out of nowhere…the Punisher, Shotgun, Jimmy-Six, and finally the Green Goblin all magically appear when the plot needs them to, allowing the issue to end on a cliffhanger before the crossover’s final chapter.
The plotting of this issue is, to put it politely, not tight. Shoehorned into all this chaos is another character, Clarence Fielding, who goes through a highly implausible arc that has him as a down on his luck gambler willing to kill Spider-Man to bravely defending his life over the course of three pages. I’m not entirely confident that Howard Mackie could pull off this arc even if he dedicated an entire issue to the story, but surely no one honestly thought three pages were enough to effectively dramatize Clarence’s transformation. As tedious as the relentless chase scenes are, I will give the creators some credit for adding a bit of humor this issue. None of these jokes are uproariously funny, but they’re cute enough to distract from the monotony. (Romita even works in a cameo by his parents.) I’m assuming Clarence was also added to offer some relief from the chase/fight pattern of the story, but I think the jokes are much more effective.
“SpiderHunt” has been easy on the subplots so far, but this chapter does break for a few pages to check in on the Stacy family. By “check in,” I mean “remind the reader of how little anyone actually cares about the Stacy family.” Remember the prelude to this crossover, which ended with Spider-Man finally submitting to MJ’s advice and asking Arthur Stacy for help clearing his name? That was several chapters ago and it hasn’t been brought up since. When Arthur does appear again, it’s when Norman Osborn suddenly asks him to find his grandson. Now, bringing Arthur into the Osborn drama is potentially a smart move, and it only makes sense that Arthur would be investigating Osborn in some manner due to his “connection” to the Green Goblin (who killed his niece, even though Arthur’s seemed exclusively interested in Spider-Man so far.) But…why should I care about this scene if it’s just going to be ignored like Arthur’s previous moment? More importantly, how hilarious is it that everyone just forgot that Jill was shot a few issues ago? It was forgotten last issue, hasn’t been referenced in any of the other titles, and Jill’s even made a few appearances in ASM since the shooting all hale and hearty. Now, she’s in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and a nasal cannula to help her breathe. Not only is this sloppy title-to-title continuity, but it’s an outright admission that no one involved in the books, fictional character or actual creative team, really cares anything about the girl.