In Final Battle with the Black Tarantula!
Credits: Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)
The Plot: Peter and MJ realize that Black Tarantula’s target is her professor, Marina Caches. MJ warns Marina, who tells her the history of the Black Tarantula, her ex-husband. Marina’s boyfriend Dante Rigoletto arrives and takes Marina, her son Fabian, and MJ to safety. Spider-Man follows. They arrive at the home of Dante’s uncle, Fortunato. The Rose happens to be there, complaining about his recent treatment. Shortly before Dante and the rest enter, Fortunato rips off Rose’s mask, exposing him as Jacob Conover. Soon, Black Tarantula arrives, leading to a battle involving Spider-Man, Fortunato’s men, and his army of Hydra Killdroid suits. After Black Tarantula hears Marina’s pleas to give Fabian a normal life, and Spider-Man prevents Conover from taking a shot at him, he decides to leave.
The Subplots: None.
Web of Continuity: Marina reveals that she fell in love with Carlos LaMuerto in college, not knowing he was the Black Tarantula. After discovering his underworld connections, she divorced him and left with their son. She says that the Black Tarantula now wants Fabian to continue the tradition of his father, grandfather, and every firstborn son and receive the Black Tarantula’s powers.
I Love the ‘90s: Spider-Man suggests everyone stop fighting and discuss their favorite Titanic moment.
How Did This Get Published?: MJ to Peter, after he warns her that her life is in danger: “You can’t bundle me off to my sister in Pittsburgh because you suddenly got a hint of a new peril!”
Review: I must be hallucinating…is this Black Tarantula torture finally over? I honestly can’t believe it. I know that (some of) the creators are going to be wrapping stories up in order to make way for the upcoming relaunch, but that’s still a few months away. I assumed this storyline would be slogging through ASM right until the end, but instead it looks like DeFalco is going to close out his run with a few one-shot stories. Oddly enough, with so many issues dedicated to selling this arc, the final chapter turns out to be extremely rushed. Not that I want this story to go any longer, but it’s odd that after such a slow buildup, we’re getting the Black Tarantula’s origin as a quickie info-dump, the resolution of the Marina Caches mystery, the revelation of the Dante Rigoletto/Fortunato connection, the revelation of the real identity of the Rose, and the big fight scene that ends with the Black Tarantula walking away. All in one issue. Did Tom DeFalco just want to end this as much as the readers did?
In a way, I can see how this issue was intended as the climatic, action-packed resolution to the long-running arc. Elements from other titles, such as Fortunato’s Hydra connection, come into play, which exhibits cross-title continuity in a way the readers usually missed during this era. And the fight scene is portrayed as a convincing challenge for Spider-Man, one that requires the use of both the Stingers and the Impact Webbing. The revelation that Black Tarantula isn’t immortal, but instead passes his powers on to his son, isn’t so bad as a twist revelation, and provides him an additional motivation for wanting his son back. But at no point does any of this come together. Every aspect of the issue is rushed (most egregiously the nonsensical revelation that Jacob Conover is the new Rose), which blunts any dramatic impact. If the Black Tarantula’s origin can be summed up in less than a page, why did we have to wait almost two years to get it? And where did Dante Rigoletto, with his rather convenient connection to Fortunato, even come from? Honestly, at any point during this arc, how many readers had any investment in Marina Caches’s custody battle, or just any investment in her as a viable character? Looking at this is frustrating in hindsight, because it seems as if Tom DeFalco could’ve taken some of these elements and actually crafted one of the better gang war stories we’ve seen in ASM. What we got instead was a mess that lasted nearly two years, never producing one compelling character or engaging plot in the process. What happened here?