Monday, May 11, 2015

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #437 - August 1998

I, Monster!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Rafael Kayanan (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inker), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Spider-Man passes by Synch, in his civilian identity, in Central Park.  He stops and rescues Synch from a group of muggers.  Elsewhere, Plantman is secretly spying on Synch.  He doses Synch with his mutagenic pollen, which causes Synch to mutate into a monster.  Synch attacks Spider-Man, but Plantman isn’t pleased by the progress of the fight.  He beckons Synch to his underground hideout, and Spider-Man follows.  Soon, Spider-Man is also exposed to the mutagenic pollen, which transforms him into a human-spider creature.  Eventually, Synch and Spider-Man are able to overwhelm Plantman and throw him into a batch of his mutator plants.  Plantman agrees to provide an antidote if the heroes allow him to become human again.

The Subplots:  MJ and Aunt Anna discuss Peter’s upcoming exam, which is crucial for his GPA.

Web of Continuity:  Plantman’s stated motivation this issue is to gain revenge on Synch and Generation X, following his defeat in Generation X #25.  Except…Plantman wasn’t in Generation X #25, or any other issue of Generation X.  DeFalco has him confused with the living-tree interpretation of Black Tom, who was the villain in Generation X #25.

“Huh?” Moments:  
  • Spider-Man tells Synch to be careful in the park at night, even though the bright blue sky and corresponding colors clearly indicate it’s daytime.  Actually, there are numerous references to this story occurring at night, a detail apparently never told to Bob Sharen.
  • Spider-Man previously met Synch with the rest of Generation X in 1997’s Marvel Team-Up #1.  He doesn’t recognize Synch in the park, even though Synch’s costume doesn’t have a mask.
  • If Synch’s powers are only supposed to work on mutants (as stated early on in the issue), he shouldn’t be able to “synch” non-mutant Spider-Man’s powers by the issue’s end, mutagenic pollen or no mutagenic pollen.

How Did This Get Published?:  “Losing to those annoying kids the first time we fought was bad enough - but their lack of respect was even more irritating!  They mocked both my costume and my powers!  I mean,really, they cower at the mere mention of Magneto --the Master of Magnetism!  And what has that cretin accomplished with his mutant supremacy silliness?  Perhaps plants just aren’t considered ‘cool enough’ -- in the colloquial parlance.   You and your sisters, my love, will soon teach them the error of their ways!  Magnetism -- mutants -- bah!  The deciduous…the coniferous.  There is where true power lies!”  Plantman’s villainous monologue on page six.

Review:  Wow…is there any wonder why Marvel was ready to reboot these titles by now?  I’m not defending the reboot (which ultimately failed to bring in new readers, annoyed existing fans, and created unnecessary continuity problems), but obviously something had to be done if the spider-office thought that an issue like this was printable in the first place, let alone a story worthy of their flagship title.  Virtually every aspect of this issue is a screw-up.  DeFalco’s just invented a Generation X back issue that never existed, the dialogue is painfully corny, Synch’s powers are inconsistently portrayed, Plantman’s wearing his laughable Silver Age outfit again for some reason, Synch switches into his superhero outfit while mutating into a monster for another unknown reason, and no one’s even told the colorist what time of day the story’s taking place.  And the human drama that’s supposed to be the hallmark of a Spider-Man story consists of one page of Peter studying for a test.  A test that’s going towards this degree he only seems sporadically interested in pursuing.

To call this work subpar wouldn’t do it justice.  The only redeeming attribute would be the debut of penciler Rafael Kayanan, who’s filling in for a few issues.  Kayanan isn’t great, in fact I remember some fans openly loathed his work, but I do think he draws a respectable interpretation of Spider-Man.  He’s got the poses down, I like the way he handles the costumes web-pattern, and he’s usually able to draw Spider-Man’s eyes consistently, with the right balance between the white interior and black outline.  His human figures and faces need work, but I do consider him an improvement over Joe Bennett’s art from this era.

1 comment:

Matt said...

DeFalco really seemed to be phoning these final issues in, more than any of the other Spider-writers at the time. Maybe he figured it wasn't worth much effort, given he'd be off the series soon anyway.

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