Comics : Spider-Man/Human Torch #3

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This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

Spidey and the Human Torch have been adversaries and practical jokers to each other, though fighting on the same side against the forces of evil. This series so far has taken a look at some untold tales of the two as teenagers. In the last issue, Spidey and the Torch traded places with Johnny taking on Kraven while Spidey made a mess of an interdimensional field trip with the rest of the Fantastic Four.

In Detail...

"Auto Motives"
Spider-Man/Human Torch #3
May 2005 : SM Title
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Ty Templeton
Inker:  Nelson Palmer, Tom Palmer
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Review

The story starts after Gwen's death, taking the series for a more serious turn. Peter is talking to her ghost from atop the Brooklyn Bridge, giving a summary of his crazy life since she left. Life has been so depressing, Pete is in serious need for something fun to happen to dispel the gloom that's been overshadowing everything. That fun came from two strangers named Carter and Lombardo who asked Spider-Man to promote Corona Motors with a Spider-Mobile dune buggy. Spidey put it together with help from the Torch. He has started to feel like he's getting back into the swing of things - back to the old Peter Parker again.

At the Baxter Building, Johnny pathetically tried to make moves on Russian physicist and college intern, Ms. Nina Pushnikov. Joining her is another science intern, Peter Parker. Johnny looks on at Peter with jealousy. To him, Pete has all the luck - smarts, looks, beautiful girlfriends, and interesting jobs.

At the lab, Mr. Fantastic has developed a gravity localizer, which can control the gravitational pull between two objects. Peter and Nina are caught in the device's path, and walk up the wall - something Peter is secretly very accustomed to doing! At the end of the day, Peter and Nina part nicely, but Nina calls him an idiot under her breath. She heads into another building and reveals that she's a cold war Russian spy - allied with the Red Ghost and his Super Apes!

Back at the Bugle, Pete tells Robbie about Reed's invention. Robbie is disappointed in Peter's appears to be avoiding him and not delivering pictures like he used to do. Pete confides in Robbie his misery and guilt over being helpless to save Gwen. While, Robbie gives Pete a pep talk, Pete slips away.

Johnny is meanwhile working on the Spider-Mobile, while giving himself a pep talk about the lack of women in his life. Spidey arrives outside the window, and the two take the buggy out so that Johnny can offer Spidey some driving lessons. Spidey doesn't take the lessons seriously, getting the Torch nervous. Two cops pull them over. They think they're in trouble for reckless driving, but instead the cops ask for help stopping Stiltman, who just robbed a jewelry store. Stuck in traffic, Stiltman gets away. Spidey gets a crash course in parallel parking, but by the time they get done, Daredevil has already taken him down. Johnny stops to treat Spidey to some Mostess fruit pie snacks. By the time they leave the store, someone has stolen their hubcaps. After Johnny cracks that the Spider-Mobile is driving him up the walls, Spidey gets a brilliant idea.

The two head back to the lab. Spidey knows the code to enter the lab - but blames Peter Parker for giving the code away to him. They arrive to add a custom feature onto the buggy - Reed's gravity localizer. As they work on the car, for perhaps the first time the two let their guards down and talk with some sincerity. Spidey admits that he's hurting after his girlfriend was killed, a pain rivaled only by the murder of his Uncle Ben. Johnny, for once, shows some compassion, and offers his friendship whenever Spidey needs it.

Nina directs the Red Ghost to the Baxter Building to steal Reed's gravity invention. After he and the apes break into Reed's lab, they discover the device is gone. But Nina sees the TV news showing the Spider-Movie driving sideways across city buildings! They drive down back onto the street, and appear to run over someone. Spidey's spider-sense didn't warn him of danger, but he runs over to check on the man. The Red Ghost played possum, and had let the buggy phase through him. The apes attack, and drive off with the Spider- Mobile. Spider-Man shoots a web on the escaping vehicle and gets pulled across town. Meanwhile, the Torch evades the Red Ghost's bullets, and gets doused from a fire hydrant behind. The apes rip off the fender attached to Spidey's web. As the apes and the Red Ghost escape, Spidey has a plan. Returning to the Yancy Street Deli, he yanks the display of Mostess Fruit Pies at the apes. They abandon the buggy, and focus on their big delight in every bite. While the Ghost phases through Spidey's web, Torch uses the gravity localizer to suspend him in mid-air until S.H.I.E.L.D. troops arrive to carry the guilty party away. Reed arrives, and mentions that not only did he lose Nina, he'll have to let Peter Parker go since he so easily gave Spidey the code to enter the lab. Before the device is removed from the buggy, Spidey asks to use it one more time - to drive sideways around J. Jonah Jameson's office!

In General...

What's not to like about this story? It has heart, humor, the Spider-Mobile irritating JJJ, and monkeys! It was cool documenting Pete breaking out of his Gwen depression to shout "Weeee!", and perhaps the first moment that Spidey and the Torch stopped clowning around for a second to talk about something serious. But it was also cool to see them joking around a few minutes later! It was an odd twist to see neurotic Spidey being the carefree one when behind the wheel, and free-loving Johnny feeling like a dad teaching driver's ed to his teenage son.

But best of all was the strategic use of "Mostess" Fruit Pies. If you've ever seen a comic book from the 70's, and the infamous 1-page Hostess snack comics at the end, you hopefully got the joke. You can see an amazing archive of those classic ads here at Seanbaby.com. (Please note: the page has a banner ad for an adult webpage)

Overall Rating...

A great fun issue. Templeton and Nelson's art is crisp and consistent throughout, with a style reminscent of the comics of yesteryear - even down to the halftone dot patterns.