Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #21 - August 1998


A Real Boy
Credits:  Chris Golden (writer), Mike Deodato, Jr. (penciler), Joe Pimentel (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Jack Morelli (letters)

The Plot:  Peter and Betty are sent to the Swiss Alps to cover an event hosted by Dr. Walston Kraft, a scientist who specializes in cloning.  Peter investigates Kraft’s home and discovers Frankenstein’s Monster and Ivan the Hunchback are secretly staying there.  He also learns that Kraft has made dozens of clones of the monster’s body.  Betty’s own investigation leads her to believe that Kraft has a connection to his neighbor, a descendant of the original Doctor Frakenstein, Victoria Frankenstein.  Peter investigates her castle and discovers that she’s been kept prisoner there by Kraft.  She reveals to Peter that Ivan pretended to be the monster’s friend in order to trick him into falling for Kraft’s scheme.  Peter returns to Kraft’s and convinces the monster that Kraft and Ivan are using him.  The monster kills Ivan in his anger, and sets fire to Kraft’s lab.  Peter escapes with the monster, who disappears shortly before Peter can introduce him to Betty.

The Subplots:  None.

Web of Continuity:  I seem to recall Marvel labeling this a “retelling” of Peter’s first meeting with Frankenstein’s Monster, but this is clearly set in current continuity, since Betty is a reporter and Billy Walters is even mentioned.

We Get Letters:  The “Next Issue” box in the letters page accidentally runs a teaser for the Lizard story that ran two issues ago.  The same page also jokes that editor Ralph Macchio isn’t paying attention to what’s going on.

Review:  There’s an odd significance to this issue, since Peter only appears as Spider-Man on the cover.  In the story, he rightly decides that Spider-Man showing up in the Swiss Alps while Peter Parker is traveling there would make ace reporter Betty Brant suspicious, so he forgoes changing into costume.  It’s a perfectly logical decision to make, but it’s strange to read a story that doesn’t go through some form of acrobatics in order to get Peter into costume.  Visually, it’s probably not the best decision, since Mike Deodato, Jr. is forced to spend the majority of the issue drawing Peter in what appear to be black long johns.  I wonder now if Deodato was hired for this job after he successfully channeled Gene Colan in Spectacular Spider-Man a few months back.  Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t look much better than the average issue of Unlimited, which may or may not be due to the fact that Deodato isn’t inking his own work.  (It just occurred to me that Marvel could’ve gotten Gene Colan himself to illustrate this issue if they wanted, since he was alive and working at the time.)

The story, like the previous issue, is a somewhat baffling attempt to incorporate ‘70s monster characters into a Spider-Man story.  It’s not bad, since Golden does have a handle on Peter’s character and his dialogue is fine, but there is a sense that Marvel was kind of desperate to fill Unlimited with pretty much anything by this point.  Thankfully, there is some effort to personalize the story as a Spider-Man story, allowing Peter an opportunity to give his own thoughts on cloning and to relate to Frankenstein’s Monster on a deeper level.  I can’t believe I just wrote that, but hey, it’s a superhero comic.  Golden strikes a decent balance between taking the material too seriously and just presenting it as camp, and as bizarre as the premise is, the issue is actually more entertaining than many of the other titles released by the spider-office this month.

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