Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #18

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Graveyard Shift"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This review was first published on: Jun 2015.

Background...

During the Superior Spider-Man Interregnum, Otto Octavius founded a new tech start-up, Parker Industries (PI). Now that Peter’s back in control of his own body again, it’s on him to lead the company. In an attempt to win a fat public-works contract from New York State, PI built prototype equipment for a supervillain prison. Unfortunately, Peter's rivals at Alchemax, eager to win the contract for themselves, hired the anti-corporate spy and saboteur, the Ghost, to disrupt PI’s work. Last issue, the Ghost did just that, seemingly killing a security guard and nearly killing everyone in the building by turning PI’s equipment against the staff. With help from his costumed alter ego, Peter got almost everyone out of the building to safety. Unfortunately, his partner Sajani tried to negotiate with the Ghost to leave the company alone, and the Ghost responded by phasing a hand into Sajani’s chest. We readers don’t know what that means, but surely it’s nothing good.

In Detail...

"Trade Secrets"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #18 (Story 1)
Jul 2015 : SM Title
Summary: Ghost, Parker Industries destroyed
Arc: Part 3 of "The Graveyard Shift"
Writer:  Christos Gage, Dan Slott
Pencils:  Humberto Ramos
Inker:  Victor Olazaba
Cover Art:  Edgar Delgado, Humberto Ramos
Lettering:  Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist:  Edgar Delgado
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Editor:  Nick Lowe
Assistant Editor:  Devin Lewis
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Spider-Man doesn’t hesitate - he leaps at the Ghost, but passes right through the intangible supervillain. Since that didn’t work, he webs up Sajani and pulls her to him, a move the Ghost can’t counter since he can’t touch anything at the moment. “His [i.e., the Ghost’s] energy field disrupts technology. Probably also affects a heart’s electric impulses. But she seems okay now. Which means the guard - yes! I see him breathing too.”

Peter’s living up to his vows: so far, appearances to the contrary, no one has died. But there’s still time, as the Ghost has taken advantage of Spidey’s distraction to begin flinging explosives about, destroying the structural integrity of the building.

Elsewhere, in Peter’s private lab, Clayton Cole, Anna Maria Marconi, and the Living Brain are trying to determine their next move. They could flee outside through the formerly-secret entrance that Spider-Man uses to enter the building, which is the route the rest of the staff took. But Anna Maria has better ideas. “We’re going back in to help… Clayton, you’re an ex-super villain. He’s a robot. And we’ve got Spider-Man’s entire arsenal.” Accordingly, they gear up. Clayton modifies one of Spider-Man’s sonic-powered stealth suit (last seen in ASM #651); Anna Maria dons some special anti-Venom webshooters; and the Living Brain?

“Permission to self-repair?”

“You can do that? Uh, granted. Hey, you’re using the nanites I stored in you!”

“Affirmative. Also accessing nanite-related data you stored in my files. Upgrade potential detected. Permission to initiate?”

“Hey, go for it.”

I suspect this decision will have unforeseen consequences.

Elsewhere Spider-Man has gained the upper hand against the Ghost. The supervillain can’t fling more explosives without becoming solid, and the instant he does so, Spider-Man will hit him hard. And if he can’t remain intangible forever; at some point his suit will run out of power. Unfortunately, our hero's analysis is incomplete. The Ghost had ample time to prepare before he revealed himself, and he used it to seed the foundations of the building with time bombs. All the walls come crashing down, trapping Spidey under tons of rubble.

As the Ghost comes in close to remove our hero’s mask, the cavalry arrives! Literally, in this case, as Anna Maria is riding the Living Brain like a stallion. She uses sonic webbing (designed to take down the Venom symbiote) and Clash uses sonic blasts, and together they disrupt the Ghost’s suit, make him tangible, and disable him. The respite gives Spider-Man a chance to free himself, but he’s less happy than you might expect.

“Bad enough I have to get to Sajani and the guard before this place comes down - which your ‘Hooked on Sonics’ routine didn’t help- now I have to worry about my ‘amazing friends’?”

Anna Maria won’t take his guff, pointing out that she and her crew took out the Ghost, which Spider-Man couldn’t. Given that none of them can climb walls, Anna Maria and company make for the exits, but not before Anna Maria leaves our hero a parting gift: a backpack filled with Peter’s civvies. It’s a good save, because it will permit Peter to reappear on the outside when his work is finished. He apologizes obliquely, saying “Thanks - really… I’ll make sure everyone - including your screw-up of a CEO - sees you on the outside.”

And so they do. The Brain, Clash, and Anna Maria take the imprisoned Ghost outside, followed shortly by Peter Parker, who’s carrying Sajani and the security guard. So no casualties! As the NYPD takes the Ghost into custody, he rants about how his employers set him up to fail, to eliminate a threat. Anna Maria realizes that this means one of PI’s competitors was ultimately responsible, and shrewdly guess it was Alchemax. Not so shrewdly, she abandons any plan to hold them responsible, on the grounds that they’ll have been “too smart” to leave an evidence trail. I don’t know why she thinks that. I bet the Ghost would love to flip on Mark Raxton and Tiberius Stone, given the opportunity.

BBRROOOOMMM goes the building as the building collapses into dust. The assembled staff are heartbroken, as it’s clear that PI is done for. Peter won’t have it: he reasonably points out that the heart of the company is the staff, who are all fine. The firm can continue! The staff, just as reasonably, point out that “We’ve lost our headquarters. Our equipment. All our work. Even with insurance, we’re back to before day one. How do we come back from that? And if you’re still working for Spider-Man, how do we know this won’t happen again?”

To this, Peter doesn’t have a convincing answer. He just mutters something about faith and hard work. I guess if you want a rousing speech, Captain America is your guy.

Peter could have given a better response. He might have said that the staff are wrong to think that PI was targeted because of Peter’s connection to Spider-Man, that it was instead the work of a corporate competitor, but he’s not yet aware of the Alchemax connection - only Anna Maria suspects it. He also might have said that, as he just discovered, Anna Maria and Sajani have been advancing PI’s nanotech research, and their data has been preserved in back-ups within the Living Brain. But he doesn’t say this either, perhaps because he’s still working through the fact that his business partners were deceiving him… though, given how many secrets he’s kept from them, he’s well aware that he doesn’t have the moral standing to call them out for it.

In General...

Just like the last two issues, this story clocks in at 14 pages, which it makes the most of: fun action sequences, an interesting villain, and the metaplot of Parker Industries moving forward. The company will have to be rebuilt and a new business plan developed. Clash has rediscovered his taste for costumed adventure, and the Living Brain is upgrading itself, both of which are promising story seeds. I’m interested to see what happens next, though it will be a while: Marvel’s summer 2015 universal reboot, ‘Secret Wars’, comes next, which means a look-in to a world where the Parker-Watson marriage never broke up. ASM will (presumably) return in the fall, but it will tell stories of a new Marvel Universe. Who knows what will have changed? My guess is that writer Dan Slott wouldn’t be laying pipe for future stories if they were all going to be ripped out by a company-wide event, but I guess we’ll see.

Overall Rating...

Just like last time, four webs, with a half-web dropped for how compressed it is.

Footnote...

The cover pays homage to the classic ASM #50 cover. Click on the link to read Al Sjoerdsma’s analysis of why that cover is the best Spider-Man cover ever, perhaps even the best comics cover ever. Unfortunately, this homage is marred by the fact that superimposed over the ruins of the Parker Industries complex are the creator credits, the publisher insignia, the issue number, the ISBN box, and ads for bonus digital content, as well as for the summer 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron. All of this makes it hard to immediately grasp what Spider-Man is looking at, blunting the impact of the cover.