Monday, March 9, 2015

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #20 - May 1998


A Long Way till Dawn
Credits:  Christopher Golden (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Joe Pimentel (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Jack Morelli (letters)

The Plot:  Dracula’s daughter Lilith is feeding on teenage Goths, aided by her thrall, Simon Garth, the Zombie.  Hannibal King is hired by Simon’s daughter to locate the Amulet of Damballah, which Lilith is using to control Simon.  Lilith leaves a false clue with Spider-Man, implicating Morbius in her killings.  Following the lead, Spider-Man runs into Hannibal King at a nightclub owned by Lilith.  They join forces, but are soon abducted by Lilith’s followers.  When Hannibal regains the Amulet of Damballah from Lilith, she loses control of the Zombie and is forced to retreat.  Hannibal returns the Zombie’s body to his daughter, while Spider-Man recounts the unbelievable events to Mary Jane.

The Subplots:  Peter and MJ go on a date that is surprisingly not interrupted by an emergency.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Lilith wants to kill the “pretend” vampire Morbius; she assumes Spider-Man can lead her to him.
  • Dr. Jacob Weisenthal, a friend of Moribus and a supporting cast member in his regular series, is killed.  Lilith murders him as punishment for not knowing where Morbius is, and for working on a cure for vampirism.
  • Spider-Man refuses to believe at the beginning of the story that “real” vampires exist.  Even after he’s forced to change his mind, he remains adamant that Dracula is a fictional creation.  And yet, he encountered Dracula a year and a half earlier in Spider-Man Team-Up #6.

I Love the ‘90s:  The bouncer at Lilith’s Goth club calls Peter a “90210 boy.”  Later, Peter refers to himself as “Mulder” while investigating the emergence of vampires in New York.

Review:  Who would’ve thought that two Spider-Man stories within a year’s time would involve Simon Garth, the Zombie and the Amulet of Damballah?  How did that even happen once?  The only explanation I can think of is “Bronze Age Revival,” which apparently hasn’t died out yet by early 1998.  Since no one knew what exactly to do with Spider-Man Unlimited, it appears that a decision has been made to turn into a 1970s horror throwback comic for a few issues.  Regular artist Joe Bennett is still around, even though he’s also working on the monthly Amazing title, and the X-office’s Wolverine: Days of Future Past miniseries.  As I’ve said many, many times by now, Bennett’s art shows occasional hints of real talent, but too often resembles that generic “Deodato Studios” style that is already badly dated by the late ‘90s.  The fact that he has exactly one female body type he doesn’t deviate from is especially obvious in an issue starring a female villain.  

I’ve mentioned before that I tend to enjoy Spider-Man stories that pit him against foes that haven’t been recycled endlessly in these titles, so at the very least I’ll give Christopher Golden credit for pulling Lilith out of obscurity for this tale.  She’s just interesting enough to serve as the villain in a one-shot story, even if she isn’t exactly overflowing with personality.  Hannibal King is a character I know almost nothing about, and it seems as if the story is written with readers like me in mind, since Golden is treating it as an introduction to the “supernatural detective.”  (Does he predate Constantine?)  Hannibal is fleshed out just enough to give the reader some sense of his personality and a basic idea of his internal conflict.  That’s more than could be said about some of the other Bronze Age cameos from this era, which assumed the audience cared about these forgotten characters as much as the nostalgic editors did.  Even though Spider-Man himself doesn’t contribute much to the plot, and is arguably a generic hero that could’ve been replaced by anyone, Golden seems to have a handle on his personality.  The brief scene that has Peter trying to blend in at a Goth nightclub is kind of cute, reminding the reader of how awkwardly Peter fits into any fad.  (Although his “trendy” new look resembles the way I think Marvel wants Peter to dress today.)  Like many issues of Unlimited during this era, it’s clearly filler, but not bad filler.  I do question why no one remembered the recent Spider-Man Team-Up issue that had Dracula on the cover, however.  If you’re going to make a sweeping statement about Spidey’s belief in Dracula, would it be so hard to check and see if they appeared in the same comic before?

3 comments:

snowkatt said...

" (Does he predate Constantine?)"

yes he does actually
by a decade hannibal king was introduced in tomb of dracula 25 in 1974

constantine was introduced in 1984 in swamp thing 25 as a cameo and fully appeared in 1985 in issue 37

and king is a mainstay of blade's main characters
as well as a vampire himself ( andnot very happy about it )

MasterMahan said...

Yep. There's been a lot of Vampire Detective characters around, and according to TVTropes, Hannibal King was the first.

Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, we have exactly the same "I don't believe in Vampires" protests from Peter in the PPSM relaunch, maybe issue 8?