Sunday, January 25, 2015

PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN #90 - April 1998


It Started on Yancy Street…Again!
Credits:  Howard Mackie (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Scott Hanna (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  Peter and MJ are looking for a restaurant on Yancy Street when an interdimensional vacuum suddenly opens.  As Spider-Man, Peter chases after three teenagers who have been sucked into the void.  SHOC arrives and uses his powers to provide Spider-Man an anchor into this world.  Spider-Man soon finds himself inside the Negative Zone, where a group of rebels is fighting against Blastaar.  Spider-Man joins the rebel leader Dusk, who offers to help him find the missing teens.  When Dusk is injured in battle, Spider-Man assumes his identity.  Eventually Spider-Man inspires the rebels, defeats Blastaar, and rescues the teens.  He returns home wearing the new Dusk costume.

The Subplots:  None.

Web of Continuity:  
  • SHOC feels his powers might be connected to this portal to the Negative Zone.
  • Traveling into the Negative Zone has altered the colors of Spider-Man’s costume into black and white.  
  • Spider-Man lands on Tarsuu, which is a planet inside the Negative Zone.  The rebels theorize that the portal to Earth was created by Blastaar’s attempts to find new dimensions to conquer.  
  • We discover that this Dusk isn’t the original Dusk, his parents (or perhaps the parents of an earlier Dusk) were killed by Blastaar, and that the original Dusk was thrown into the distortion field between Earth and the Negative Zone.

How Did This Get Published?:  Spider-Man to the imperial troops on page ten:  “I traveled a long way to rescue guys dressed just like these three kids just dragged off.  I’m not leaving without them.”  No one read this line and thought it could stand a rewrite?

"Huh?" Moment:  A mystery figure is pining for the return of the original Dusk at the story’s end, telling Spider-Man (as if he’s there, although he isn’t) that he must find the true Dusk.  Rereading this scene, I’m assuming this is meant to be the replacement Dusk Spider-Man met earlier, although it’s hard to tell given that this is the first time we see him without the all-black Dusk mask (and the mask under the Dusk mask makes the mystery figure look like Spawn.)

Review:  One more issue building up to “Identity Crisis,” although thankfully it’s not another one ending with Peter and MJ deciding that he should adopt a new identity.  It is, however, another issue with a whiny, nagging, and anxious MJ.  The issue opens, literally on the first panel, with MJ scolding Peter for taking a coworker’s advice and looking for a restaurant on Yancy Street.  It’s impossible now to even get through one page of these stories without seeing this horrible, off-putting mischaracterization of MJ.  It’s amazing to me that anyone thought remaking MJ into such an unbearable shrew would somehow draw readers back into the Spider-Man titles.

The purpose of the issue is, obviously, to introduce the Dusk costume.  I think the other outfits don’t have origins more complicated than “Spider-Man made it” or “Spider-Man made it with MJ and/or the Prowler’s help.”  Attaching an actual story to one of the outfits isn’t a bad idea, and it gives John Romita, Jr. an excuse to draw a sci-fi setting he wouldn’t normally be allowed to explore in this book.  We’re also graced with another variation on Spider-Man’s costume, which serves no story purpose whatsoever, but I guess was one more option for Toy Biz to merchandise back in the ‘90s.  The Negative Zone look did appear in one of the early Spider-Man Playstation games, so it does have its own small place in history.

Does anything particularly entertaining come out of this Star Wars riff?  Not really.  The art is dynamic, and the change of pace does break up some of the monotony of the previous issues, but at no point in the story do you ever care about Dusk and the rebels.  Mackie seems to be connecting this plot to his ongoing SHOC storyline, establishing a few similarities between SHOC and Dusk.  SHOC isn’t the original SHOC, Dusk isn’t the original Dusk.  The true SHOC was taciturn and serious, the true Dusk was taciturn and serious.  Both are missing, and SHOC’s powers have an unrevealed connection to the Negative Zone.  Surely this can’t all be a coincidence.  But surely we can’t expect a real answer, either.  Assuming this all paid off one day, some of this issue’s flaws would be easily forgivable, but I don’t have the goodwill to assume these hints will ever go anywhere.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I have to give this issue a bit of credit simply for being a done-in-one. These days, a story about Spider-Man traveling to the Negative Zone, adopting a fallen hero's identity, and rallying his army to overthrow a warlord would be at least a six-part arc.