Comics : Spider-Man/Human Torch #4

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This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

This series has been stepping through time visiting some untold tales of Spidey and the Human Torch. Last issue, the two had some male bonding over wrenches, lugnuts, the Spider-Mobile, reckless sideways driving, an attractive Russian spy, and some monkeys.

In Detail...

"Cat's Paws"
Spider-Man/Human Torch #4
Jun 2005 : SM Title
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Ty Templeton
Inker:  Drew Geraci, Tom Palmer
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Review

Flashback twelve years ago. A burglar is unsuccessful trying to steal the Headdress of T'Chambwe, first Chieftan of the Wakandan tribe.

Flashforward to a few years ago, when Spider-Man was dating the Black Cat, and after he revealed his identity to Felicia. Johnny Storm, in a Spider-Man costume greets his date at the door - the She-Hulk in a French maid outfit. Johnny had forgotten about an invitation to the Wakandan Embassy, for a formal affair on the same day as his costume party hosted by his friend Sharon and the Rolling Dead band. Johnny advances on She-Hulk much too strong, making her uncomfortable. She decides to leave, and the Torch ignites and flies off berating himself.

Meanwhile, Spidey (in his black costume) and the Black Cat have just captured the Beetle, leaving him wrapped in a web cocoon for Capt. Jean DeWolff. As Spidey and Felicia leap across the rooftops, the Cat surprises her love, wanting to do something with Peter Parker over Spider-Man. Pete uses his alien costume to transform his costume into street clothes. She shows Pete an article about the tribal mask on display that her father tried to steal years before. Peter jumps to conclusions that she wants him to help steal the mask. She doesn't disagree, but gets into a quarrel with him. While the Torch witnesses the fight, Peter becomes indignant over Cat's apparent lack of morals. Johnny is stunned to see Peter Parker together with the Black Cat. When the Torch appears out from hiding, he immediately begins flirting. Felicia welcomes the invitations.

Later that night at the embassy, Peter Parker tried to use his press credentials to gain entry into the exhibit. Using his costume to change into a tuxedo, he meets the dress requirements and enters. The Black Panther is there, as are Johnny Storm with his date - Felcia Hardy. Peter confronts Felicia, but Johnny escorts her away to be introduced to the Black Panther. Johnny is offered a private viewing of the ancestral mask. On the case, Pete's costume transforms into a Wakandan guard's uniform. However, Felicia points him out to the security guard escorting them, and Peter is on the run leaving the Torch and the Cat time to get at the mask. Pete hides on the ceiling, and asks the suit to change into something to make him blend in. As the only white man in a Wakandan tribal outfit, he does no better than before. A troop of armed tribesmen chase Pete, who has given up and transformed back to his black Spider-Man costume. The Black Panther sees the commotion, and knows Spider-Man as an ally. He commands his men to stand back and let him deal with Spider-Man personally.

Johnny meanwhile uses his powers to draw the heat out of the room to avoid the heat sensors, while continuing to flirt with Felicia. Johnny then applies heat to create a distortion to the laser beams surrounding the mask. The space between the lasers is still tight, and Felicia has to strip down to her undergarments in order to squeeze between the beams. While Spidey and the Panther squabble, Felicia manages to get close enough to cut a hole through the glass protecting the mask. The alarm sounds, the guards enter the room holding the mask, but the supposed thieves are gone leaving the mask behind! The Black Panther orders the exits sealed before Spider-Man can escape. The costume, like a chameleon, adopts the colors of the wall behind him, allowing Spider-Man to escape. On the rooftop, Spider-Man confronts the two. Before Spidey can get too upset, the Black Cat reveals what she was after - he father's lucky lock-pick he dropped into the mask many years before. Though Spidey points out that they could've just asked the Panther for it, there would be no fun in that.

Spider-Man and the Black Cat reconcile, stunning Johnny into thinking Felicia is a chronic flirt. Johnny accuses Spider-Man of having no class, making moves on his friend's girl. But before her leaves, Johnny tells Felicia, "Call me?"

In General...

Generally a fun issue, with more Spidey and Torch bantering. The artwork was solid, and (like the previous Spidey/Torch issues) captured the time period (1980's). For example. the 6th page of the story stands out to me with the classic shot of Spidey bounding from rooftop to rooftop, with several of his previous movements faded within the same panel.

Keeping a critical eye while reading it, I was upset that Johnny was depicted as abetting a crime so easily, while Felicia was up to her old criminal tricks again, during a time when she had gone straight. Whoops. I'm ashamed of myself for falling for the plot twist, and halted my crabby review about poor characterization and lack of continuity.

I enjoyed seeing Spidey use his alien costume for disguises several times in the story. Before it became Venom, the alien offered Spider-Man an underutilized ability.

The bit with the She-Hulk was interesting, showing that a hot-shot like Johnny Storm still has trouble with dating.

Overall Rating...

A fun, enjoyable issue. I'm surprised that Johnny would go along with the plan so easily and risk relations with Wakanda; but then again, when it comes to Felicia Hardy, many men grow weak in the knees.