Inventing the Hornet!
Credits: Todd Dezago (script/co-plot), Mike Wieringo (pencils/co-plot), Richard Case (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)
The Plot: Spider-Man uses an anti-gravity harness developed by Hobie Brown as the basis for his new costumed identity -- The Hornet. He soon discovers the Looter robbing the Daily Bugle’s safe. Flash Thompson also stumbles upon the Looter and is taken hostage. Hornet uses his quick wits to rescue Flash and apprehend the Looter. Norman Osborn, impressed by his actions, offers the Hornet a place on his team. The Hornet flies away. Watching the press coverage outside the Bugle, the Vulture is incensed when the Hornet claims that no one will have to worry about Spider-Man now.
The Subplots: Peter tests out the anti-gravity harness by giving MJ a ride through the sky. When it’s clogged by bird feathers, they nearly crash. Later, Billy Walters is stood up again by Peter when he goes into action as the Hornet against the Looter.
Web of Continuity: The "stingers" Peter uses as the Hornet are the ones Ben Reilly designed as the Scarlet Spider.
I Love the ‘90s: Billy calls the large shadow he sees in the sky (presumably the Vulture) “X-Files freaky.” Later, Billy watches a news promo that says they’ll have the latest on the Hornet, “tonight following E. R.” There are also references to Seinfeld reruns and Conan airing in late night, but that’s still true as I write this today.
We Get Letters: An irate fan writes in response to a rumor in Wizard that claimed that Peter and MJ will soon divorce. The editorial response doesn’t give a real answer, but it is worth noting, since it provides the first hint that a relaunch is coming: “But we can say that we have been having a number of very serious conversations with a number of very interesting people about the future of the webhead. Conversations that my render any upcoming stories or ideas quite moot.”
Gimmicks: All of the initial “Identity Crisis” covers are actually double-covers. One with Spider-Man and one with the new identity. The cover price remains the same. You can view an archive of every cover on the I Love Comic Covers blog.
Review: After a month of teasing, “Identity Crisis” finally begins. I remember the initial response to the solicitation hype was tepid to say the least, but the titles gained positive word of mouth as the months progressed. The only positive word of mouth I can recall the Spider-Man books receiving during this time, to be honest. I have no real affection for any of the alternate identities, but I can’t say any of them particularly bother me either. I recognize this as a gimmicky event storyline from the get-go, and I don’t think there’s any attempt by the creators to hide this fact, which is admirable. It’s a fun diversion for a few months, and that’s a decent enough justification. Within the context of the story, there’s no real reason for Peter to suddenly adopt four new identities (one would clearly do if his goal is simply to avoid being Spider-Man), but I can see the appeal of giving him a different persona in each spinoff. It’s a creative use of the multi-title format, and it’s a clever way to have the titles connect with one another without directly crossing over.
Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo open the event with yet another reminder of how much they love the Looter. I liked their previous use of the villain, although I think they take his obsession with his precious meteor too far this issue, indicating that he genuinely loves the rock and is now treating it like a high school crush. It’s too silly to come across as creepy, yet not funny enough to justify the diversion into surrealism. The light-hearted tone works better in other areas, thankfully, such as the playful narrator. Narrators in superhero comics are usually boring or pretentious, on the rare occasion they appear anymore, so it’s a relief to see someone try to make the narrative captions special. My favorite bit is when the narrator switches to the wrong flashback by mistake. Sensational, at its best, is a book with personality, and that’s on display this issue.
Regarding the Hornet identity, the creators do put some effort into making the new persona remain unique to Peter Parker. Hobie could never use the anti-grav harness as the Prowler, but Spider-Man’s super-strength can carry the excessive weight without a problem. Ben Reilly already adopted the use of stingers, so it’s logical that Peter would revive them. And I suppose it could be argued that spider-powers and hornet-powers would both allow Peter to move like an insect, so there’s no big stretch there. I do think it’s strange that Peter is making very obvious statements as the Hornet that indicate a connection between him and Spider-Man, which would seem to undermine the entire point of the story. This could perhaps be dismissed if done as a quick joke, but instead it becomes a major plot point, leading into the next issue’s Vulture story.