Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #348

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Spider-Man has just freed himself of the nightmare that is Venom. He has convinced Brock of his death and left him to live in peace on a deserted island with the symbiote.

Recently, William Baker (a.k.a. Flint Marko, a.k.a. The Sandman) has given up his life of crime and joined the prestigous Avengers (Avengers #329). Technically, he is only working with the heroes on a 'reserve' basis, but it is a definite change from his days with the Sinister Six.

In Detail...

"Righteous Sand"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #348
Jun 1991 : SMURF 348.500 : SM Title
Summary: Sandman Leads The Avengers
Editor:  Danny Fingeroth
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Erik Larsen
Inker:  Randy Emberlin
Cover Art:  Erik Larsen
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 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #19
Articles: Black Fox, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Sandman

The issue opens with Sandman calling out 'Avengers Assemble' to impress a bunch of neighborhood kids. He is in New York with the Casada family who gave him a home under the impression that he was actually a man called Sylvester Mann. Since his identity has been revealed and his status as an Avenger leaked to the press, William Baker is asked to leave because of the attention being drawn to the family.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker is getting no respect from his wife despite reminding her that, he too, is a 'reserve Avenger'. Mary Jane has to leave for a 'Secret Hospital' shoot, so Peter relieves some stress by going out as Spider-Man. It seems a one-page recap is the extent of MJ's happiness that Peter survived his fight with Venom. Such is the life of Mrs. Spider-Man.

Peter stops by the Bugle and gets a tip from Ben Urich about an odd shipment going through the Brooklyn railyards. Urich doesn't have time to check it out himself, so he suggests that Peter go in his place. Sandman recieves the same tip from a bystander who saw suspicious activity and recognized Baker as an Avenger. Sandman checks it out to see camouflaged troops planning the movement of a nuclear shipment. At the same time, Peter is turned down for time at the lab due to overcrowding and decides to check out Urich's tip.

Sandman and Spider-Man reach the railyard at the same time, but not before Baker has some kid call the Avengers for back-up. Sandman tries to warn the soldiers guarding the nuclear shipment that 'there's gonna be a hijackin'!', but it's too late. Terrorist tanks and helicopters appear from the neighboring box cars to take the shipment.

The following four pages describe what a Sandman danger room sequence would look like in an X-Men title. The tanks attack Spidey and Sandman with gas, a water cannon, rubber bullets, and giant silly string. Naturally, our heroes survive each test but are distracted long enough to watch two helicopters fly off with the nuclear material railcar. Thank god the Avengers finally show up to stop them.

The next four pages describe what an Avengers danger room sequence would look like in an X-Men title. The Vision phases through the cockpit of a helicopter and scares the pilot, causing the flight to go off course. She-Hulk jumps from the Quinjet to the ground as Captain America throws his shield to break the wires holding the railcar. Thor catches the railcar in mid-air and lowers it gently into She-Hulk's grasp on the ground. The terrorists go on the offensive by firing missles at the heroes, but they are easily handled by Quasar. Finally, Sersi turns the helicopters into safety glass so when they crash all the terrorists will feel is 'bruises and acute embarrassment!'.

Captain America tells the Sandman that his judgment may have been off since this was a domestic situation and not a global or cosmic threat which the Avengers' new charter limits them to. Cap is trying to tell Sandman to be more careful in the future, but Baker takes it as though he's being fired from the team. Before he can explain himself, Cap watches with Sersi as Sandman storms off, contimplating a return to crime.

The final two pages give Peter faith that he'll never end of like the Sandman because he has Mary Jane, and marks the return of the Black Fox to New York who's story will be told in ASM #349 and #350.

In General...

Sandman's career with the Avengers was over before it began. Although he may have survived five issues with the super-team (Avengers #329-333), Marvel chose Amazing to return him to a life of crime. Avengers #333 and Amazing Spider-Man #348 were both published in June of 1991, marking the end of the 'Sandman' experiment with the team.

On a sidenote, the Casadas (Sandman's 'roommates', the people who gave him a place to room and board in New York) appearance in this book would be their last. Erik Larsen used the family as a weapon against Sandman when Dr. Octopus killed them all in Spider-Man #18. He intended to have Sandman recruit the former 'Sinister Six' to kill him as retribution. However, it didn't turn out that way. Good story, read Spider-Man #18-23 if you're interested.

Overall Rating...

A lot of flash and mirrors for a poor parlor trick. The cover promises Spider- Man, Sandman, and the Avengers!! Unfortunately, it delivers Spider-Man (okay), Sandman (meh), and the Avengers (zzzzz).

The big terrorist threat is extremely laughable. You can almost feel the Avengers laughing as they go through the motions to protect mankind. Sandman and Spider-Man are given somewhat of a challenge. Like the challenge you sense from playing your little sister in basketball, but promising to shoot the entire game left-handed. It wakes you up for a moment before reality sets in.

This story was simply a way to get the Sandman back to his usual 'grey' self and set-up Spider-Man's future Sinister Six storyline. It could have been much better written regardless. The saving point is Larsen's art.

Footnote...

This 'Sandman as Avenger' storyline began in Avengers #329 and continued through issue #333. For a follow-up, check out the previously mentioned Spider-Man #18-23 for the 'Revenge of the Sinister Six' storyline.