Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #666

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This review was first published on: Aug 2011.

Background...

Peter Parker, now a published research scientist, has his dream job working with Horizon Labs. He has a new steady girlfriend in Carlie Cooper, who is a police forensics investigator. Everything's not perfect in Spider-man's world, however. While the Horizon job allows Parker to concoct whatever he can conceive of to help him fight crime as Spider-man, he recently made a weapon that would disable the spider-sense abilities of Allistaire Smythe's spider-slayer army, but was caught in the weapon's radius himself, in effect losing his own spider-sense.

To compensate, Peter utilized the above-mentioned Horizon tech, as well as training with the Master of Kung Fu himself, Shang-Chi, forming his own unique brand of combat style.

Peter has somehow found time amidst all of this to take deceased Johnny Storm's place in the Future Foundation, as well as retain membership with two Avengers teams.

On the villain front, ex-heroic Green Goblin Phil Urich has turned to the evil side and is parading around as the new Hobgoblin. Doctor Octopus is planning a far-reaching scheme with a newly re-formed Sinister Six. And finally, and most integral to this tale, The Jackal has returned and has infected Manhattan Island's civilain population with spider-powers via bedbugs, for as-yet unknown purposes. Spider-Island begins.

In Detail...

"The One And Only"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #666
Sep 2011 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Island prelude; Jackal, Kaine appear
Story:  Dan Slott
Artist:  Stefano Caselli
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Marte Gracia
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Senior Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Assistant Editor:  Ellie Pyle
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Issue
Review
Articles: Green Goblin IV (Phil Urich), Hydro-Man, The Jackal, Kaine, Winters, Norah, Queen (BTS)

Spider-man is swinging high above the city, musing that he's at last being Spider-man "for real", or rather has started to live up to his full potential as a hero. He captures a couple of masked crooks who are robbing a deli. Subdueing the robbers, and webbing them, Spider-man gets word via an in-mask comm link of another super-villain scuffle happening across town and swings off.

Over at City Hall, Glory Grant and some other Mayoral aides have the unenviable duty of telling Mayor Jonah Jameson why his approval ratings are down--due to Jameson's own stance on Spider-man being a menace to the city.

Spider-man comes across the disturbance across town--Hydro Man knocking over a jewlery store and making short work of Spider-girl, Firestar and someone named Gravity. Spider-man fires a small projectile out of his wrist, which fuses with Hydro Man and freezes him to the spot. That was easy.

Afterwards, Spidey heads to Horizon Labs, to check in as his alter-ego, Peter Parker. A flick of a switch, and the "unstable molecule" red & blues Spidey suit he's wearing transforms into black garb that he cover with civilian clothes.

In a lab with co-workers Bella, Grady, and Horizon honcho Max Modell, Peter shows off his "Cryo Cube 2000" device. Demonstrating with a "clew" of worms, Peter places them in the box and with a flick of a switch, freezes them. He shows that they can be unfrozen and unharmed in the process. Modell calls it excellent work, that "could revolutionize how we deliver emergency medical transplants".

Carlie calls Peter, interrupting things. She's at the morning's crime scene at the deli. She's telling Peter something has happened to her, something weird, that they need to talk about (last issue's backup story showed Carlie getting her own spider-powers from Jackal's bugs). One of the crooks Spidey webbed up earlier breaks free of the webbing, showing super-human prowess (as he's also infected) and tries to make a run for it. Without missing a beat, Carlie punches the crook as he's passing by, knocking him out much to her fellow officer's surprise, and continues her conversation with Pete, who says they'll talk after she gets off of work.

The prospect of having to talk with Carlie about something mysterious fills Peter with a kind of apprehension. As he's leaving Horizon, he's lost in thought, and almost gets run over by a bus (as he doesn't have his spider-sense anymore, he thinks how he hasn't had to look both ways before crossing a street since he was a sophomore in High School). Someone pulls him back by his shirt collar from behind just in time. It's Phil Urich, who's standing there with Norah. Phil says Pete should watch where he's going, that Phil won't always be around to save him. Peter asks if Phil and Norah are an item, and wasn't Norah dating Randy Robertson? Phil interjects, saying Randy's not his type. Norah says if the two of them are done gossiping about her social life, she has a deadline to cover for the Bugle--Spider-man sightings all over town, sometimes in three places at once.

Elsewhere, May Parker and husband Jay Jameson Sr. are preparing to leave New York for Boston (as seen in last issue's backup story). Jay decides to have his apartment fumigated before packing, so as not to bring anything undesirable with them to Boston.

Elsewhere again: two thugs have another thug named Leonard Kornfeld cornered in an alley, ready to take him apart over money he owes their boss. He busts out the spider-powers, having recently been infected, and takes the thugs out easily. Watching in the alley is The Jackal, who's accompanied by a monstrous, hooded spider-like beast. Jackal tells Leonard he gave him his spider-powers, and now he's giving Leonard a chance to do something with them, handing him a card with an address and telling him to be there tommorrow at daybreak.

Over at the Baxter Building, Spidey is in his white and black Future Foundation outfit, and is seeing off Sue Storm and all the kids. Seems Reed Richards wants to place the entire building on lockdown and scan for traps after Doctor Octopus' recent invasion back in ASM #660. After bantering with Ben Grimm for a moment, Spidey gets a call from Mary Jane, who reminds Peter it's May and Jay's last night in town, and that he should go to see Betty Brant in the hospital after her recent attack. Cut to a scene of the new Venom, aka Flash Thompson, gunning down a bunch of A.I.M. terrorists on a nuculear submarine. Afterward, Flash himself patches in a call to girlfriend Betty via a commlink. Betty takes his call in the hospital, where many inbound patients are going nuts with their own spider-powers.

At Avenger's mansion, Spidey is in costume playing a poker game with The Thing, Red Hulk, Hakweye, Iron Fist, Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, Cage and Spider-Woman. After wondering why he was never invited to many of the games before, Iron Fist says it was because of his spider-sense ability, and now that he doesn't haven't, they're all glad to fleece him of his money. Spidey has to fold and cut out early, as he's taking karate lessons from Shang-Chi at one of Iron Fist's dojos.

At said dojo, Chi tells Spider-man it's his final lesson, and that he will take on someone with true spider-powers, Julia Carpenter, the new Madam Web. After sparring, Julia says Spider-man is almost ready for the challenge he has to face. Peter says he hates all the future-stuff that Julia sees, as she's clairvoyant. Julia says Spider-man has to be ready to use a new move in his fighting arsenal, his killing stroke. Peter says his new policy is that no one dies while he's around, which goes for bad guys too. Julia says there is a certain destiny that leads everyone to victory, that depends on the life Peter will be forced to take.

Spidey's heard enough, and he swings home, oblivious to all the civilians around him with spider-powers of their own, crawling and swinging around the buildings. He arrives at his apartment to find Carlie has let herself in with her key. She wants to talk, but Spidey says "it's really been one of those days", and can it wait until morning?

Epilogue; Jackal returns back to his lab with his monster sidekick. There are several lab-coated clones of Miles Warren milling around the lab. Jackal's mysterious female "benefactor", who's not shown, tells him she's brought him a gift, motioning towards a cloudy chamber with a human form inside. Jackal claims "he's perfect. Down to the last cell." and relishes the chance to study "this prime specimen". The benefactor asks if Jackal can perform "the procedure" on the subject, and Jackal asks if she's mad, that if it fails the subject will be even more powerful. The mystery woman commands him to do it.

Via dialogue, it's revealed that the hooded beast hanging with Jackal is none other than Kaine, resurrected after last year's Grim Hunt story and becoming the new Tarantula. Jackal pulls a lever, to perform the experiment on "the real firstborn" subject in the tank. It turns the human shape into a hulking, six-eyed spider-monster that crashes out of the glass tank to attack Jackal. The mystery woman says simply, "Heel." and the beast stops. The woman says soon everyone in the city will soon similarly bend to her will, this "Island of Spiders". The last page is a splash showing many more everyday people swinging around the city like Spider-man.

In General...

While this is a very enjoyable, and very very densely-packed issue, I could spend the rest of this review pontificating solely on those last few pages in Jackal's lab. It's confirmed here that Jackal is hanging out with Kaine, who is now a monosyllabic beast (not sure how excited I am about this development, as I thought there was still plenty that could be done with Kaine's character as he was before last year's Grim Hunt).

A mysterious woman "benefactor" who isn't shown has gifted Jackal (who's back in his big-eared classic look, which I love) with a "prime specimen". The dialogue would have us strongly believe that it's Ben Reilly in that tank, who was the first and most successful clone of Peter Parker, and who died at the hands of a newly-returned Norman Osborn at the end of the second long-running "Clone Saga" (head on over to Spider-man #75 for more info).

Is this really the case? Is Marvel and Dan Slott actually choosing to open the can of worms that was the Clone Saga all over again? It's possible, as Slott has stated an affection of sorts for the story, and it's getting well into the nostalgic re-evaluation period for the tale (combined with Marvel's recent massive reprinting of the complete saga).

My initial reaction to this is that it's a bad idea, let Reilly stay dead, no more clone crap. Although many, many, many Spider-man readers seem to love Ben Reilly, I think bringing him back is not the best idea (also, how would it be possible that the villains have Reilly's body when he crumbled to dust in Peter's arms at the end of the Clone Saga?). Yet I'm intrigued to see where Slott is going with this, and I doubt (I hope) it's as simple as merely bringing back Ben, that this story will go deeper than that. As for the identity of Jackal's female benefactor? I'm reliably terrible at guessing at these things, but it's someone with psychic powers. Say, whatever happened to that Gwen Stacy clone that was being stalked by the High Evolutionary back in the 80's?

Somehow, Peter finds time as Spider-man to dispatch Hydro Man in a series of panels, stop some street crime, hang with the FF and Avengers, train with Shang Chi, and tend to his professional life as Peter Parker; it's reasonable enough in showing how he might be too busy with all this to notice the recent outbreak of civilains gaining powers very much like his own. I really liked the scene of Phil Urich saving Peter from getting hit by a bus. When are we going to get more of this new Hobgoblin fighting Spider-man? (likewise, when are they ever going to establish Urich as a credible super-villain threat?).

Mary Jane watch: she's relegated here to reminding (nagging) Peter to see off May and Jay as well as visit Betty in the hospital. I guess those old marriage habits die hard.

The pages with Julia Carpenter are effectively perplexing (I got my fill for awhile of the pseudo-mystical gibberish of the first Madam Web in last year's Grim Hunt story, thanks very much). Carpenter refers here to Spider-man's "killing stroke"--is this something new or a reference to the deadly stinger Spider-man wielded during "The Other" storyline? If Slott finds a way to create a unified field among the stories of The Other (and the powers that Peter gained during that story and inexplicably lost during after One More Day) and The Clone Saga, and take the chance to explain away some of the unanswered BS that accompanied those stories, I'll be very impressed (but that's probably expecting far too much out of this story).

Caselli brings a his A-game to the artwork duties here. He's certainly one of the best Spider-man artists in years and I wish he was handling this entire arc (fully knowing that the page count alone would be crushing for any one artist).

Overall Rating...

While at first this issue felt like a 5-webber while reading it, I modified my rating based on the fact that not a lot actually happens here. Though what does happen here is done very, very well, it's all set up for the rest of the story. Based on that I'll save some webs for later issues.

Dan Slott does do an insane amount of work here getting all the moving parts in place, story-wise, for this summer/fall comic event. It mostly all works together. I was very skeptical of this event story when I heard about it, but if this issue is any indication readers are in for quite a ride, and there may very well be a major status quo shake-up coming soon.

Footnote...

Notice all the little product placement in this issue, for Orbitz and Harley Davidson? Yeah, yeah, I'm sure Wacker would say without this special little advertising, the issues would cost us, the readers, like twenty dollars more or something (I'm exaggerating of course). It's just a little baffling, and distracting, to see the ads pasted up in a corner of one of the panels. Takes me out of the story for a moment in a way that the full page ads don't.