Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #55

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Other People's Villains

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Ah, Roger Stern at last! As the regular scripter of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man from mid-1980 throughout 1981, Roger used OPVs on a fairly regular basis; the first Spidey writer to take this tack. During that time, Roger gave us the Cobra, Mr. Hyde, the Smuggler (who was the original Power Man and is now Atlas), Jack O'Lantern, Killer Shrike, the Ringer, and Moonstone. Possibly the strangest use of an OPV, however, is this issue with Spider-Man facing off against Nitro.

The first time Nitro ever appeared (in Captain Marvel #34, September 1974), he was cover-billed as "The Man Who Killed Captain Marvel". It was plotter/artist Jim Starlin who was behind that issue, in which Nitro steals a mysterious canister of deadly nerve gas known as Compound Thirteen, which springs a leak in the battle forcing Captain Marvel to close it off with his bare hands. Immediately after accomplishing this, Captain Marvel collapses, seemingly fulfilling that cover copy. In the following issue, it is revealed that CM is in a coma from which he recovers soon after. But Jim Starlin wasn't kidding around, folks, and eight years later, in Marvel Graphic Novel #1: The Death of Captain Marvel (1982), we learn that CM has contracted cancer from Compound Thirteen from which he dies... making Nitro, indeed, the Man who Killed Captain Marvel.

Nitro is Robert Hunter (no relation to the lyricist for the Grateful Dead), a bitter man who spent most of his life in blue-collar work, resenting his supervisors and bosses. He jumps at the chance at power when it is offered to him by a group called the Lunatic Legion (whoever the heck they are). The Legion gives him the power to explode and reform. They then send him out to snatch Compound Thirteen, which is where he runs afoul of Captain Marvel. Sometime later, thinking he is attacking CM, Nitro goes after the short-lived super-hero called Omega the Unknown (in Omega the Unknown #8, May 1977 and also written by Roger Stern). Omega ends up channeling one of Nitro's explosions so that his atoms disperse into the upper atmosphere. Nitro manages to reform and return to Earth. (He lands with the impact of a meteor in the Sheep Meadow in Central Park.) This time he tracks down Captain Marvel for a rematch (in Captain Marvel #54, January 1978). When Nitro explodes during the battle, Cap uses a "ruptured tank truck" to trap half of Nitro's molecules and prevent them from rejoining the other half. With his molecules separated, Nitro cannot reform. Captain Marvel contacts the Avengers so that they will "arrange for the transferal of Nitro's caged particles to a more secure container."

In Detail...

"The Big Blow Out"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #55
Jun 1981 : SM Title
Summary: Nitro
Editor:  Denny O'Neil
Writer:  Roger Stern
Pencils:  Luke McDonnell
Inker:  Jim Mooney
Cover Art:  Frank Miller
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 Reprinted In: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #3
Articles: Deborah Whitman

It is seven AM and Peter Parker's alarm clock goes off. It jolts Peter so much that penciler Luke McDonnell is compelled to put one of those "half-Spidey- masks" on the right side of Peter's face. Without thinking, Peter slams his hand down to turn off the alarm but his spider-strength smashes the clock into pieces. He smacks himself in the forehead in frustration. "I finally get an alarm clock that works, and then I go and smash the stupid thing" he says. Stretching and yawning, Peter fills us in on his recent activities. He was out web-slinging until two AM but "didn't see so much as a purse-snatcher". Now, only five hours later, he must get up and get to Empire State University where he must "instruct Freshmen in the niceties of Chemistry 101". You and I should be so worn out as Pete is. He stands on his mattress, does a backflip into the air and sticks the landing at the foot of the bed. He has time to shower and shave, he has time to brush his hair and get his Spidey outfit on, he has time to put his civvies on and take the bus to school for a change, he has his books in hand and his keys and wallet in his pockets. And yet, he has this feeling that something is not right. That feeling is confirmed just as he reaches for the doorknob. His landlady Mrs. Muggins, still in her bathrobe, starts knocking, determined to get her rent money. "It can't be that time of the month already", Pete thinks, but it is. Since he hasn't the money to pay her, he whips up a quick websack and puts his clothes in it. Then he scoots out the bathroom skylight and webslings to school as Spider-Man. Mrs. Muggins keeps knocking, calling out, "There's no use in hiding, I know you haven't left yet, Parker!" but Mrs. Muggins is wrong. Peter Parker is long gone.

As he makes his way, Spidey lets us know that he is "down to my last fiver" (which makes it a little bit difficult to live in New York City, I should think) but that his teaching assistant's paycheck is due soon, which should just about cover his rent... "For this month". But Spidey worries that the recent fire at the building (started by the Wizard in ASM #213, February 1981) will result in a rent increase. "After all the damage and repairs and the insurance company putting us up in the Plaza of all places, the Muggins' insurance rates must be going through the ceiling", he thinks. As he arrives at ESU, he thinks about talking J. Jonah Jameson into raising his photo rate. Now on the roof of the science building and removing his mask, Peter realizes that the chances of getting more money out of Jonah are slim. So, he considers asking Dr. Sloan for an increase in his T.A. salary.

But enough of such thoughts. Right now Peter Parker needs to find department secretary Debra Whitman. Peter wandered down to Deb's apartment in Greenwich Village after he was pummeled by the Wizard, Llyra, the Sandman and the Trapster (a.k.a. The Frightful Four) and passed out into her arms (in ASM #215, April 1981). Deb patched him up and prepared a big breakfast of "pancakes, ham, sausage, bacon, home fries, apple pie and coffee" but Peter beat it out of there without touching a bite. "I'll call you in a couple of days" he said on his way out the door. The next time Peter ventured down into the neighborhood, Deb was "entertaining some hometown preppie friend", Biff Rifkin, who has his arm around her as they answer the door. (ASM #216, May 1981.) Pete next tries to talk to Debbie at work but she has called in sick (in PPSSM #54, May 1981). Now he is determined to see her and apologize to her. "I get the distinct feeling Deb's had some big hurts in her life and I'd hate to think that I've added to them!" he thinks.

So, Peter takes the stairs down from the roof and soon arrives at the Bio- Physics department offices. Debra is back and hard at work on her typewriter. She tells Peter her illness was "nothing serious", then cuts him off when he tries to apologize for being a jerk. "That's all right, Peter. I'm sure you had your reasons. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of reports to type", Deb says, which sends Peter off with his tail between his legs, knowing he "just won the cold shoulder award" and that he deserves it. After all, when he first ran out on Debbie, it was to check on a woman he was thinking of as "my new girlfriend" about whom he knew nothing except that she was drop-dead beautiful. She turned out to be the evil Llyra in disguise. "King of the Louses, that's me!" Pete thinks as he goes, "I wouldn't blame Deb if she never spoke to me again!" Behind him, Deb looks heartbroken by her brush-off as a tear begins to fall from her right eye.

Out in the hallway, Marcy Kane pushes past Peter. "One side, Parker" she says. Marcy is wearing a green plaid skirt, multi-colored knee socks, and a tam o'shanter on her head. "Is this some new fashion or have you joined the Royal Scots Guard?" Peter asks her. Marcy is not amused. After Marcy passes the T.A. offices, Steve Hopkins pokes his head out and whispers to Peter. He has been noticing that Marcy is wearing "some different kind of headgear every day" and he wants to know why. "I think it's time... to engage in a little covert activity just to satisfy my curiosity", Steve says. Then he asks Peter what he's doing there so early on a Thursday morning. Pete smacks himself in the forehead in frustration. After getting up early and making it in to school, it turns out to be a day when his classes don't start until noon. "Don't take it too hard" Steve tells him, "This is payday."

"A hundred miles to the north at the U.S. Department of Energy Facility known as Project Pegasus", Virginia Hunter and her lawyer Emerson Bale confront Dr. Wilburn, the project head. Virginia is the daughter of Nitro and she has brought her lawyer to the facility to demand the release of her father. (This is not Emerson Bale's first appearance, by the way. He is the Angel's lawyer in The Champions #5, April 1976, essentially becoming the lawyer for the whole team in The Champions #7-8, September-October 1976. He defends the Wraith in Marvel Team-Up #51, November 1976... in which Peter Parker refers to him as "the famous defense attorney"... and the Avengers against Henry Peter Gyrich and the U.S. government in Avengers #190-191, December 1979-January 1980.) Dr. Wilburn explains that Robert Hunter is a very dangerous man and that Pegasus only got custody of him from the feds "after considerable strengthening of our security system". Nevertheless, Mr. Bale tells the Doctor that Nitro has "yet to have his day in court" and that he cannot be kept "as a guinea pig for your energy experiments... without due process of the law or his consent". Bale waves a writ in Wilburn's face that orders the Project to turn Nitro over to his daughter's custody. Wilburn knows he has no other choice. He picks up a phone and orders the compound to bring "subject N" to "surface level one".

Soon after, a man named Finch wheels in a gurney that holds two separate gas canisters. Wilburn explains that Robert Hunter is within both tanks. "He was apprehended in a gaseous state and siphoned off into separate tanks to prevent him from reforming", Wilburn explains. (Just as Captain Marvel requested back in Captain Marvel #54, January 1978.) Bale takes one look at the tanks and pronounces the situation "monstrous". He orders the immediate release of Robert Hunter from the tanks. So, Finch steps up and presses the release valves on both tanks. A "sweet-smelling vapor" pours out of the tanks, comes together and takes "on the form of a man". In seconds, Nitro is free. (Nitro is a man in his sixties with long straight gray hair. He wears a purple costume that also seems to explode and coalesce when he does.) The strain of the long confinement drops Nitro to his knees, as he holds his head in his right hand. His daughter and her lawyer each put an arm around him. Bale promises Nitro "If you'll wait, we'll have you out of here in no time!" But Nitro has no intention to wait. He announces that he is "leaving now!" and begins to glow. Wilburn knows what that means and orders Finch to "get back". Then, with a "wah-boom", Nitro explodes. When the smoke clears, there is a "small, steaming crater" in the center of the room. Virginia, Emerson, Wilburn and Finch are all unconscious, "seemingly carried out of harm's way by the shockwave". The vapors in the room come together again. And Nitro the Exploding Man reforms, laughing.

Nitro would love to stick around and "flatten this place" but his explosion has tripped an alarm. Noticing that his explosion "ripped a hole in the wall", Hunter picks up his daughter and her lawyer and hustles outside. And, wouldn't you know it? Virginia's car is parked right on the other side! Nitro notices that she is "still driving that three year old compact" which makes him think that other aspects of her life are unchanged as well. He's not thrilled about it ("A good artist like her oughtta be able to afford somethin' better.") but it does give him an idea of where to go.

And so it is that, hours later, Virginia Hunter wakes up to find herself back in her apartment. Her father crouches in front of her and Bale is tied up in a chair off to her left. Nitro puts on a pair of brown pants and green plaid shirt over his costume as he remarks that Virginia still lives in the "same three story SoHo walk-up, same carpet, same plants." Bale, also awake, tries to tell Hunter that he is making a mistake by sidestepping the law but Hunter won't hear it. When Virginia tries to explain that Bale is there to help, Nitro slaps her across the room. "Help me?" he says, "Like you tried to help me when you tried to have me committed?" (As far as I know, this is Virginia's first ever appearance so any reference to her past relationship with her father is revealed here for the first time.) Bale tells Nitro to "be reasonable" which only gets Hunter in his face, fists clenched, raving that he doesn't have to be reasonable, "not with the power I have". Then he gives us a quick origin... which is more than we actually got in Captain Marvel #34. He tells Bale that "all my life I was stepped on, shoved around by dozens of straw bosses... forced into retirement". Then he heard voices from outer space. It was the Lunatic Legion offering him power. But Virginia thought her old man was just crazy so she tried to have him committed. Only in the Marvel Universe would Virginia be wrong and her father get the power to blow himself up real good. He became the Legion's "deadliest agent on Earth" until he ran into Captain Marvel. Now all he wants to do is run into Marvel again and get his revenge.

He grabs Virginia by her wrists and pulls her onto her feet. When she complains that he is hurting her, Nitro tells her he will let go when she tells him where Captain Marvel is. Virginia hasn't a clue but Bale has heard on the news that CM is now based in Denver, Colorado and he spills the beans to Hunter. Nitro puts on a brown jacket and brown hat. (What is the deal here? Does Virginia keep her father's clothes around?) Then, he again grabs his daughter by the wrist and yanks her out the front door. She is going with him to the bank to withdraw some money and then the two of them are going to be on their way to Denver.

Alone in the room, Bale realizes that they should have listened to Wilburn and not let Nitro out. Feeling responsible, he gets to his feet, makes his way to the desk (with the chair still tied to him), knocks the receiver off the telephone and pushes "O" with his nose. When the Operator answers he calls out, "This is an emergency! Get me the police!"

Now it just so happens that Peter Parker is also at the bank, cashing his paycheck from the university. This gives him enough money to pay his rent "and maybe have enough left over to buy a Big Mac". As he exits the bank, he runs smack into Robert and Virginia Hunter who just happen to be using the same branch. "One side, Shorty! Watch where you're goin'!" Hunter tells Pete. This moment of contact sets off Pete's spider-sense. He rubs the back of his neck as he watches the duo enter the bank and he wonders, "How could an old man and a middle aged woman present any kind of danger?" (Huh? Virginia is middle- aged? She looks pretty young to me. What is she, thirty?) Pete walks away from the bank, thinking he must have imagined it. (Pete constantly ignores his spider-sense. What's the good of having it at all?) He figures that "missing those extra hours of sleep has made me punchy". But then a police car drives by with its siren blaring and Pete starts to reconsider the situation..

Pete watches from the corner as two cops get out at the bank and run inside. Briefly, he considers joining but turns and walks away instead. "It's probably a lame robbery attempt!" he thinks, "The NYPD is more than capable of handling that old geezer!" But then his spider-sense screams at him again and the next thing Pete knows an explosion "rips through the bank's glass-and-steel facade", tipping the police car on its side and knocking people to the ground, Pete included. Quickly getting to his feet, Peter sprints down a nearby alley and leaps straight up from the ground to a rooftop where he will change into his Spidey duds. He kicks himself for ignoring his spider-sense and prays that no one was seriously hurt in the explosion.

Inside the bank, Nitro stands amidst a pile of money, shoving it into a bag. There is debris all around and one man stretched out on the floor, but Virginia seems to be relatively unhurt as he kneels by her father and tugs on his arm. She doesn't understand how her father has become such a heartless thief and she wonders what the Lunatic Legion did to him. Nitro replies, "They gave me power! Showed me what it could do!" He has not time to elaborate further as Spider-Man swings in and kicks him right in the chops.

The two men crouch and face each other. Spidey doesn't know who Nitro is but he doesn't like the look of the glow that is emanating from Nitro's body. Instinctively, the web-slinger leaps backwards. Just in time to avoid the full brunt of Nitro's blast. Still, Spidey ends up outside again, perched on a wall on the building across the street, right by the overturned police car all as a result of the shockwave. "If I hadn't jumped back when I did, I'd be spider- burgers right now" he realizes.

Quickly, Spidey heads back to the hole in the bank's wall and he is stunned to see Nitro exiting from that spot. "B-but you just blew up!" he stammers and Nitro informs him that he "can explode again and again". Which is all well and good but, as Spidey says, "You're not much in the speed department". Nitro tries to punch Spidey and the web-slinger just leaps right over him. From behind, Spider-Man shoots his webbing and pins Nitro's arms to his sides. Then he really pours it on, covering Hunter with webbing from head to foot. In response, Nitro starts to glow again. "Uh-oh!" says the web-slinger. "Clear the streets!" yells a bystander as he runs off. Even Nitro's eyes start to glow as he announces that he can't be defeated for long "because I can't be destroyed! But you can!" And Nitro explodes with his biggest blast yet. The force of the explosion rips the webbing to shreds as Spidey is blown way up on the side of a building. This time it isn't "spider-burgers" that comes to mind. "Another split-second and I'd have joined the choir invisible!" he thinks. Then the web-slinger sees something that stuns him. The mist comes together and reforms into Nitro. "You see? I told you" he says, "Nitro can't be destroyed."

None of this deters the web-slinger in the slightest, however. He leaps down to the ground and gets back into battle. "That's a pretty good trick, Gramps" he says, "but I bet you hit like an old lady!" The plan is to make Nitro reckless with "a few old-age taunts", then keep him off-balance so that "he can't blow up on me again". So, when Nitro takes a swing at him, Spidey sidesteps, grabs Nitro's left arm, and flings the villain high into the air. As Nitro falls to earth, Spidey jumps above him, shoots one web onto the side of a building and another web around Nitro's ankles, and then starts swinging through the city, dragging Nitro along with him. As he does it, he starts singing "The Man On the Flying Trapeze". (What do you know? I was just doing a Lookback of ASM #25, June 1965 in which J. Jonah Jameson, using Spencer Smythe's robot, sings the very same song. I was looking for examples of Spidey singing it... and here is one!) Along the way, he makes sure to keep Nitro swinging like a pendulum, making him too dizzy to work up the concentration to blow up. The trouble is, he doesn't know what to do next. "I can't swing him around town indefinitely", he thinks. (On the ground, a woman looks up, points, and says, "Geez, an' all these years I thought Spider-Man was just a gimmick the Daily Bugle dreamed up to sell papers!" Where have you been, lady?)

As Spidey nears the river, he briefly considers dumping Nitro in the drink. It also occurs to him that "Nitro might take to water like a human depth charge" which doesn't sound like a very good idea. But as he nears the harbor, he notices a building below, with "Chemico, Inc" emblazoned across it. Built into the wall of the structure is a wooden "second-story outcropping", propped into place with two-by-fours. This is just what Spidey is looking for. "Unless my Chem Prof was putting me on when he gave me his lecture on chemical storage procedures that added chamber should have just what I need to handle Grandpa Ka- Boom", he thinks. And with that thought, he goes into action. He swings Nitro around and lets go of the webbing so the villain wafts high into the air. The webbing comes off Nitro's legs as he reaches his peak and starts to fall. Meanwhile, Spidey is busy covering the top of the outcropping with webbing. Nitro, aimed perfectly by Spidey, lands on the webbing. He smashes through the outcropping's roof and ends up in the room, covered up to his neck in webbing. Furious, Nitro vows to explode himself free but Spidey suggests he rethink that idea. "You're sitting on a powder keg, so to speak," he says. But Nitro doesn't listen. He "glows all the brighter" and explodes with such force that he blows the outcropping right off the side of the building.

Spider-Man turns and ducks on the roof of an adjacent building. The explosion is intense because the outcropping was "filled with real nitro". Spidey knew that "chemical companies store their explosive stuff in chambers like that so accidental explosions won't destroy the whole building" and he figured that Nitro mixing with nitroglycerine would snuff out the villain for good or, as Spidey puts it, "he'd be scattered to the winds". But the web-slinger is wrong about that last part. Even as the webster starts to swing away, Nitro starts to reassemble and Spidey suddenly realizes that he doesn't know how to stop this guy.

"Show yourself, you coward!" bellows the reassembled Nitro. "Up here, old timer! Come and get me!" says the wall-crawler as he jumps through the hole in the Chemico building's wall. "Yeah, please come and blow me to bits!" he thinks as he runs on the wall through the warehouse. He is fresh out of ideas... until he stumbles upon three canisters labeled "Nausea Gas". Suddenly he knows just what to do.

Outside, Nitro channels his explosion powers into his fists and feet, using them to create "hand-and-footholds" to climb up the side of the building. As he climbs through the hole, he challenges Spider-Man to face him. The wall- crawler swings onto the scene carrying one of the Nausea Gas canisters with a big glob of webbing attached to one side of it. He tosses it at Nitro and the web-glob makes it stick to Nitro's chest. Nitro tries to pull it off and just gets his hands stuck in the goo. Well, by now, we all know that Nitro has one answer to everything. He decides to blast himself free and starts to glow once again. As soon as Spidey sees that, he runs and leaps out of the hole in the wall. He is safely perched on the building across the way when Nitro's blast rips through the warehouse. The whole Chemico building is trashed. ("I hope the Chemico people have a good insurance policy!" Spidey thinks.) There is a pile of rubble where all the inventory used to be. Spidey sifts through it and finds Nitro, doubled up into a ball. He wants to know what the web-slinger did to him since he feels so awful he "can't concentrate enough to 'splode". Spidey informs him (and us) that the canister was filled with a gas used to break up riots, causing intense nausea. "The particular brand produced by Chemico happens to combine with other gases quite easily!" he explains. This means that the Nausea Gas combined with Nitro's vapor-form when he re- combined. "That Nausea Gas is now part of you [sic] chemistry, Nitro" says the webbed one, "I'm afraid you're going to be sick for a long time!" A dirty trick on Spidey's part but at least he finishes with, "I'm sorry!".

Later, Virginia Hunter, Emerson Bale, the police and an ambulance arrive on the scene. The paramedics take the queasy Nitro away on a stretcher and load him into the car. One sympathetic paramedic says, "We'd better make this trip slow and steady." The other (named Sal) agrees, "Gotcha! I'll try to avoid the bumps and potholes." Spidey apologizes to Virginia for ending it this way. Virginia tells him she understands. "I'm just glad you stopped him before he hurt anyone else" she says as she steps into the back of the ambulance. Emerson Bale, hands in pants pockets, tells Spidey "the court will have to decide if Nitro is well enough to stand trial". He adds "I'll have to excuse myself from the case now. I couldn't defend that man in good conscience no matter how much I believe in due process!" He tells the webhead that his plan was to "defend Nitro on the grounds that his power had driven him temporarily insane" but now he's seen Nitro in action, he knows that simply isn't true. "Robert Hunter knows what he is and enjoys his power", he says. "It's sad, though, because deep down he's just a bitter old man." It is only then that Bale realizes that Spidey has split the scene and is scaling a wall, already several stories up. The web-slinger stands on a ledge and looks down on the city. He didn't leave Bale in the lurch to be rude but because he feels "like a heel". He realizes that Bale is right. "In the final reckoning I defeated a menace who was just a bitter old man! Phooey!" he thinks, "Even when I win, it feels like losing!"

The Clean Up:

Steve Hopkins follows through on his plan to discover the secret of Marcy's headgear in the very next issue (PPSSM #56, July 1981) by using a trapeze, of all things. It turns out that Marcy had hair of "spun gold" as a child, which she felt was her best feature. Unfortunately, as she got older, her hair darkened until she became a brunette. So she bleached her hair from that point on. Lately, though, her doctor has told her she was ruining her hair and that she has to stop bleaching it or it will fall out. So, she resorts to a blonde wig and various hats to hold the wig in place. Marcy eventually adjusts to being a brunette but then it turns out that none of this stuff is true as we later discover that Marcy isn't even human in the first place!

Biff Rifkin hangs around, for the next year and a half, occasionally dating Deb Whitman and getting under Peter Parker's skin. (Pete even loses his temper and smacks him across the science department hallway in PPSSM #68, July 1982.) But, in PPSSM #74, January 1983, Biff reveals that he has loved Deb since college in the Midwest. But Deb has "always seemed to fall for guys who treated her like dirt" and she ends up marrying a man who repeatedly beats her. Biff breaks into their house one day while a beating is in progress. He knocks Deb's husband out and takes Deb to the hospital. Since that time, Biff has been Deb's guardian angel, watching over her as she separates from her husband and moves to New York. Eventually Deb moves back to the Midwest. Whether she and Biff end up together has never been revealed.

As I mentioned, this is not the first appearance of Emerson Bale but it appears to be his last. This seems to be the first and last appearance of Virginia Hunter. Does anybody know if Virginia ever shows up again?

Nitro definitely shows up again. He has a one-panel cameo when he gets transported in an armored car back to Project Pegasus in Marvel Team-Up #113, January 1982 then messes around with the New Mutants and Cage before trying to assassinate Norman Osborn as an agent of the Kingpin in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #95, September 1996. Most recently, Nitro has been tangling with Iron Man. The Golden Avenger takes Nitro out by duplicating the "frequency pulse" of his explosions and forcing him to blow up over and over again in Iron Man, Vol. 3 #15, April 1999. In Iron Man '99 Annual, Nitro teams up with Whiplash, Firefight, Rocket-Launcher, Airborne, Smokescreen and Boobytrap but it does him no good. Iron Man still has his frequency and can still blow him up whenever he wants.

In General...

I love issues where Spidey faces unbeatable foes and yet finds ingenious ways to defeat them. The secret of such stories is that the solution cannot feel like a cheat. This one has a nice fit to it. What makes it all work is that Spidey has a good reason to stop at the chemical warehouse (namely the nitroglycerine) but the scheme ends up failing. This not only gives us an example of the web-slinger desperately thinking of solutions to the problem it also makes the subsequent discovery of the nausea gas seem serendipitous rather than contrived. First-class writing by Roger helps to pull this off. I also love the use of Nitro, a villain previously only associated with Captain Marvel and Omega the Unknown. Who else but Roger would ever consider using such an oddball opponent against Spider-Man? And I really love all the supporting characters. Mrs. Muggins! Deb Whitman! Marcy Kane! Steve Hopkins! Emerson Bale! Bliss! The artwork, unfortunately, is a bit pedestrian (more the fault of Jim Mooney's inking, which seems rushed this time, than Luke McDonnell's penciling) and the story can't compare with classic issues but, still, I have no compunctions about giving this issue a good, healthy four webs.

Overall Rating...