Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #354

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This story is part of an Arc: "Round Robin"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

In part one of the six-part 'Round Robin' saga, Spider-Man and Darkhawk have teamed up to stop the jailbreak of Eliot Franklin by the Secret Empire, most notably their newest recruit Midnight. The Secret Empire is creating its own army of enhanced cyborgs to combat the constant threat of super-beings and to keep pace with more advanced terrorist organizations like A.I.M. and Hydra. To do so they needed to spring Eliot Franklin from jail and have already run in to superheroes attempting to stop them.

Part one ended with Midnight and the Secret Empire escaping with Eliot Franklin. To stop Spider-Man and Darkhawk from pursuing, an unmanned flyer has been sent spiraling toward an innocent group of bystanders.

In Detail...

"Wilde At Heart!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #354
Nov 1991 : SMURF 354.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "Round Robin"
Editor:  Danny Fingeroth
Writer:  Al Milgrom
Pencils:  Mark Bagley
Inker:  Randy Emberlin
Cover Art:  Mark Bagley
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Review
 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #24
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Round Robin (TPB)
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Midnight, The Punisher, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Part two opens where part one left off. Spider-Man is unable to stop a flying platform sent as a distraction by Midnight from hitting a group of innocent people on the street. Darkhawk tells Spidey to launch him toward the platform and is able to pull the controls upward, away from the crowd, but into a building. Having been bought some time by Darkhawk, Spidey is able to save the people on the streets below by webbing up the falling debris.

Young Darkhawk is convinced that his rescue attempt was possible only with the aid of Spider-Man when it was actually the other way around. Spidey has a heart to heart with the young hero on nearby rooftops, vaguely mentioning his own origin with the death of Ben Parker. After mentioning the "with great power..." line, Darkhawk swings off leaving Spidey convinced he'll be okay.

Peter returns to Aunt May's house to pick up MJ, the entire fight seemingly takes as long as May's wrestling program. Peter and MJ walk their way to the Bugle where Peter drops off some photos he took of the fight to Joe Robertson. After some prying, Peter admits to MJ that he's down because the fight with Darkhawk and Midnight reminded him of his Uncle Ben.

Midnight returns to one of many Secret Empire hideaways with Eliot Franklin. The elite members are unhappy with Midnight's performance, although he did retrieve Franklin against both Spidey and Darkhawk. He is ordered back to his quarters while the Empire consults with Dr. Franklin. Numbers Seven, Three and Five (the only anonymous ruling members of the Empire with dialogue) walk Franklin through a James Bond-type of secret lair where each room is demonstrating a new weapon, each designed as an addition to Midnight's cyborg body. Number Seven wonders if a regular human body can be improved in such a fashion then what can be done to someone who already has super-abilities? Franklin warns against the recruitment of former super-villains (such as his old Wrecking Crew) and suggests the Empire go after younger, impressionable heroes such as Nova of the New Warriors.

In the meantime, Midnight is furious at his treatment by the Empire's elite. He admits to his nurse, Lynn, that although the Secret Empire is responsible for his current condition, their soldiers simply "did what they had to do to take me out. I can understand that.". After accidentally destroying the Empire's eavesdropping device, Midnight admits to Lynn that he is going to take command of the organization once he can get around his pain-inhibitor chip and that she will rule with him.

There's a quick page and a half showing the Punisher get the drop on some drug dealers thanks to Micro's help. Micro also informs him that the Secret Empire has broken Eliot Franklin out of jail.

Peter goes to Avengers Mansion as Spider-Man to use his 'reserve' status to get in touch with Moon Knight. He informs Moon Knight that his former partner, Jeff Wilde, is alive and working for the Secret Empire and promises to call if he comes into contact with him again.

Flash to two weeks later. Nova is patrolling New York when Midnight gets the drop on him. He grabs hold of Nova claiming that he just wants to talk and puts his own life at risk (supposedly) to convince him. Their flyby catches Peter's attention (he still has a tracer on Midnight), who ditches a homemade dinner by MJ to track them while informing Moon Knight over an Avengers ID Card.

Nova agrees to come with Midnight to a Secret Empire stronghold (to get information that will help the New Warriors take them down) while passing near his team's headquarters. Unfortunately, for Nova, Spider-Man (based on what he knows about Midnight) interrupts the plan and separates he and Midnight in mid-air. Nova tells Spidey to butt out and, as he attempts to 'rescue' Midnight, calls his teammate Night Thrasher to keep the web-crawler off his back.

Realizing that Nova isn't going to save him in time, Midnight takes to the skies and attacks Spider-Man. Nova realizes that everything Midnight told him was a complete lie as Night Thrasher mistakenly takes the offensive against Spidey. Nova counters Midnight while Night Thrasher is taking on Spider-Man when Moon Knight arrives on the scene from his copter. Heavily outnumbered, Midnight attacks Moon Knight incapacitates Nova.

Moon Knight, Night Thrasher and Spider-Man can only stand and watch as Midnight takes off with Nova.

In General...

Part two of 'Round Robin' keeps the story going while introducing new players to the game. Moon Knight was a necessity considering that the main antagonist is his former partner. It's clear through the dialogue that he is shaken at the reappearance of a partner thought dead.

Nova is a rather new character that appeared in the last Spider-Man story with the Tri-Sentinel. It seems reasonable that he would be the type of 'impressionable young hero' the Secret Empire would recruit. The addition of his teammate, Night Thrasher, at the end also fits.

The Punisher is being slowly added to the story through cut-ins, but I like that he remains the loner going after the Secret Empire on his own. He wouldn't be involved with these superheroes unless it was absolutely necessary.

Midnight's story is also becoming more interesting. He has an obvious disagreement with the Secret Empire he is working for and can cause a lot of trouble if done the right way. The addition of Eliot Franklin and a mysterious nurse aiding Midnight gives some beef to the Secret Empire. It is not just some random entity striving for world domination that needs to be stopped. Unlike A.I.M. and Hydra (when poorly used) it has a pulse.

The sides are beginning to form for an old-fashioned good vs. evil war. Since he's always the loner, it's nice to see Spider-Man team-up with such random heroes.

Overall Rating...

The story is progressing nicely and is headed in the right direction. Bagley's art remains top-notch while Milgrom's dialouge has improved ten-fold since last issue. Maybe he just hates Darkhawk?

Footnote...

My only beef is that Moon Knight's former partner is being revived as a villian in Amazing Spider-Man. At this time the Knight had his own book going entitled Marc Spector: Moon Knight. In fact, the arc going on at the same time as 'Round Robin' (Marc Spector: Moon Knight #32-33) guest-starred Spidey and the Hobgoblin. This story seems better suited in the book of its most effected character. However, I'm sure 'Round Robin' would have sold half of what it did if it occurred in Moon Knight's book.