Signs of the Times
Credits: Todd Dezago (writer), Todd Nauck (penciler), Andrew Hennessey (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)
The Plot: Hoping to collect the $5 million bounty, Hydro-Man holds a group of civilians hostage inside a water tower. Sandman sees the news reports and confronts Hydro-Man before Spider-Man can arrive. Spider-Man tries to rescue the hostages while Sandman keeps Hydro-Man preoccupied, but he’s hindered by the NYPD and another group of bounty hunters. Sandman stops Hydro-Man by merging their bodies together and allowing Silver Sable to freeze them. Spider-Man changes into Peter Parker and leaves with the last hostage, who passed out earlier. He leaves behind a web-dummy clothed in his costume, which is promptly shot by the bounty hunters. Later, Spider-Man asks Hobie Brown for help.
The Subplots: Anna Watson teaches Hope sign language. Neither are Spider-Man fans. MJ tells Peter she’s sick of the drama surrounding Spider-Man. At the Daily Bugle, Peter realizes the blonde that’s been looking for him is Ben Reilly’s friend Desiree. He’s not able to have a real conversation with her because he has to rescue Hydro-Man’s hostages. Meanwhile, the Vulture is released from prison.
*See _________ For Details: Sandman and Hydro-Man previously fought, and merged together, in Amazing Spider-Man #218.
I Love the ‘90s: Billy Walters to Peter, who’s distracted when he spots Desiree across the room: “Uh…Pete? Yo, Dude…What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” There’s also a reference later on to being “deked,” as in “tricked,” but I have no idea if this is forgotten slang or something Todd Dezago invented.
Review: This begins the month in-between “SpiderHunt” and “Identity Crisis,” the next event that has Spider-Man adopting four new identities in order to avoid Norman Osborn’s bounty. Why we’re getting this month break is a mystery to me; it’s not as if the reader needs four separate stories to set up Spider-Man’s decision to briefly change his superhero persona. Not surprisingly, when left with a month in-between events, most of the titles promptly go into filler mode. There’s nothing egregiously bad about this month’s Sensational, aside from Todd Nauck’s disproportionate balloon heads, but there’s nothing to get too excited about, either. Dezago touches base on a few of his subplots, but the only real advancement is a hint that Desiree’s psychic powers allowed her to feel Ben Reilly as he died, which somehow explains why she’s seeking out his only known relative. I would much rather the Ben Reilly supporting cast return to obscurity, but there is a hint of a good idea in here -- how exactly does civilian Peter Parker deal with mutants, especially one that can read his mind?
The action plot assumes that the audience really wanted to see Hydro-Man again so soon, which is hard to believe, especially when his scheme this issue is so uninspired. The plot’s structured so that the entire fight stays between Sandman and Hydro-Man, while Spider-Man is left rescuing the hostages. I like Dezago’s consistent focus on Spider-Man’s commitment to helping people, as opposed to constant fistfights, but it would be nice to see the title character have more to do. Also, Sandman’s plan is utterly ridiculous. I thought merging his body with Hydro-Man’s was supposed to be one of the most horrific experiences of his life, so why is he so eager to do it again? His plan also involves being frozen in that state with Silver Sable’s special gun…why? Sable makes a joke that he’s doing this for the overtime, but honestly, what kind of a plan was this supposed to be? I understand that some people view the Sandman/Hydro-Man fight in Amazing Spider-Man #218 as a classic, but I don’t think this is the sequel they wanted.