Thursday, January 29, 2015

PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN #91 - May 1998


Undercover
Credits:  Howard Mackie (writer), John Romita, Jr. (penciler), Scott Hanna (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  The Trapster now has a price on his head, so that no loose ends remain from the framing of Spider-Man.  He defeats a group of Hand ninjas, but is soon targeted by Shocker.  Meanwhile, during a secret meeting at a cemetery, Detective Snipes and Arthur Stacy convince Spider-Man to approach the Trapster in a different identity and convince him to confess.  As Dusk, Spider-Man rescues the Trapster from Shocker.  He explains that he’s also been targeted by Norman Osborn and the two agree to team up.

The Subplots:  Jill has returned to school.  MJ is increasingly aggravated by the stress caused by Peter’s life as Spider-Man.

Forever Young:  MJ, twice in the same panel, spontaneously declares she’s too young for this stress.  She then repeats the “too young” claim a few pages later.  This is the beginning of an irritating theme that continues into the reboot -- Peter and MJ keep claiming they’re “too young” for anything that happens to them.  The creators also hammer home the idea that they were too young to get married.  Never mind that just a few weeks before this issue was published, Peter’s college days were established as being nine years ago in one story produced by the same office.  

I Love the ‘90s:  MJ’s just going to wait around for Peter until she grows old…NOT!

Review:  PPSM is often the weakest of the four monthly titles, but I was hoping that “Identity Crisis” could bring something out of the book.  Given that this title served as impetus for the event, and is the one dealing with the Trapster, it’s not outrageous to expect a bit more from its contributions to the storyline.  Instead, we get this half-hearted effort.  Yes, the art is as solid as ever, but I could nitpick this story for days.  Cliché elements that I can’t stand, like the Hand being dismissed as pathetic, disposable foes.  MJ acting even more unlikable than usual in a Mackie story.  (Even though this seems to be an intentional choice in order for Peter and MJ to have a heart-to-heart, at the end she’s still as irritable and petulant as she was before the conversation.)  Lazy plotting, such as Dusk being able to magically find the Trapster.  Jill just popping up fine and dandy after being near death an issue or so ago.  Lazy scripting, such as the art and script disagreeing on the spelling of “Cypress Hills” in one scene.  Lifeless dialogue, with no real personality for any character.  

And Dusk, so far, is the least interesting of the new identities, even if John Romita, Jr. succeeds in making a black void look cool.  We’ve seen some attempt to tie Spider-Man’s unique traits into his other identities, but Dusk really is just a void.  With no personality and not much of a gimmick, he’s just kind of there.  It could be argued that Spider-Man’s powers enable him to be stealthier than the average hero, which I suppose is Dusk’s hook, but the issue doesn’t communicate the idea at all.  Instead, it’s Spider-Man in black pajamas, switching identities because that’s what the story demands.

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