Thursday, May 21, 2015

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #438 - September 1998

Seeing is Disbelieving!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Scott Kolins (penciler), Gary Martin (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Spider-Man responds to a bank’s security alarm and is shocked to discover dinosaurs inside the building.  The dinosaurs abruptly disappear shortly before the police arrive, and Peter Parker later discovers his camera didn’t capture any images of the dinosaurs.  Meanwhile, Matt Murdock is hired by Gilsoft Games to write work-for-hire contracts for the company’s employees.  While at the software studio, Murdock notices employee Angela Bradford seems oddly unfazed by the announcement.  Angela exits and changes into Synario.  Using her Mobile VR Inducer, she constructs a false reality that will create a distraction while she attempts another robbery.  Spider-Man arrives just as Murdock changes into Daredevil.  After an initial misunderstanding, they unite and defeat Synario.  When the owner of Gilsoft Games and Synario argue over who has the rights to the VR Inducer, Spider-Man simply destroys it.

The Subplots:  None.

Web of Continuity:  The name Synario doesn't actually appear in the issue.

I Love the ‘90s:  Spider-Man wonders if the dinosaurs at the bank are related to “Godzilla's big screen return.”

Review:  The second one-shot story in a row with a gratuitous guest star and no character subplots.  Fantastic.  Blatant filler is annoying enough when it shows up in Unlimited or another peripheral spinoff, but how did the flagship title end up in such a sorry state?  And didn’t Daredevil just guest star in this book?  Admittedly, DeFalco has devised a better reason for him to appear in this particular story (DD’s blindness makes him immune from Synario’s virtual reality device), but his presence still adds very little to the issue.  There’s really nothing in the story to make it stand out above any other generic fill-in; even the self-aware references to work-for-hire deals don’t lead anywhere.  Synario’s already a disgruntled employee before she finds out the company plans on “stealing” her work.  She hates her boss for ignoring her in favor of his boy’s club, so the ethics regarding corporate vs. creator-owned work aren’t relevant to her specifically.  Synario’s already robbing banks before Matt Murdock even appears, funding her own game company with the help of her VR device.  And it’s clearly the most advanced virtual reality technology in the world, since it’s the size of a Roomba but is powerful enough to convince a bank that it’s been invaded by dinosaurs.  She should already be rich.  Why is she robbing banks?  And didn’t DeFalco already create a VR-themed villainess called Stunner during the clone days?  

With a story this hopeless, the issue would have to possess an incredible artist to save it.  And to be fair, even though the plot is annoyingly simplistic, it does leave room for an artist to have a blast with the visuals.  Scott Kolins is certainly competent at this stage, but he’s not stylized enough to make the various dinosaurs, robots, and monsters particularly memorable.  This is just a dud all around; best forgotten, which it surely is.

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