Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #11

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This story is part of an Arc: "Vibranium Vendetta"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 4 Apr 2018.

Background...

This is the second part of “The Vibranium Vendetta”, the serial that ran through all of Spider-Man’s annuals in 1991. Black Panther and Spidey are caught between an industrial saboteur known as the Ghost and an armored foe calling himself Sunturion.

In Detail...

"The Ghost And The Machine"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #11 (Story 1)
Year 1991 : SM Title
Summary: Outlaws, Rhino,
Arc: Part 2 of "Vibranium Vendetta"
Editor:  Danny Fingeroth
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Marie Severin
Inker:  Marie Severin
Cover Art:  Erik Larsen
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Articles: Kingpin, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Prowler, Rhino, Rocket Racer, Sandman, Silver Sable

Spidey shoots some webbing at the golden man but he teleports up into the sky above them. He is really upset, saying “You tried to destroy Roxxon, now I’ll destroy you.” I’m getting a real anti-Iron Man vibe off of this guy. Speaking of which, the armored avenger is flying to the warehouse, because he is still suspicious of Roxxon’s new vibranium as well. In the meantime, the Ghost tries his hand with his non-lethal ray gun but Sunturion just turns the blast back on him. The Ghost goes intangible and sinks thru the floor. Sunturion then turns his attention on Spidey and the Black Panther. Sunturion blasts Spidey (who dodges naturally) and shoots a ray that “absorbs” the machinery that the Black Panther is hiding behind.

Before things can get deadly, Iron Man arrives and blasts Sunturion with a repulsor ray. Iron Man tries to talk sense into Sunturion, saying he wasn’t a killer before. He gets a zap to his head for the trouble. Spidey helps by grabbing the microwave projector that initially turned Dearborn into Sunturion and shoots him with it again. Which turns him back into a regular guy. He mouths some lame excuse about the shock of the transformation causing him to “act in extremes”. But he says he is fine now and shows that he is now in control of his transformation. Just then, the campus cops show up and Dearborn shoos the heroes away by threatening to charge them for trespassing on Roxxon property. Spider-Man and Black Panther are upset, but Iron Man reminds them that Dearborn is only doing his job. The heroes leave together, but agree to meet again tomorrow night after using their connections to see if they can dig up any dirt on Roxxon.

Spidey returns home to watch reruns while the Ghost reports his failure back to the Kingpin. The Kingpin changes his plans. Now he wants a sample of synthetic vibranium, then the lab destroyed. Which seems like the same plan as before, but who would argue with him? Meanwhile, Ultron (who escaped from the Vault in the first part of this story) is in New York as well. Apparently he has a hideout in the sewer. And a factory to produce robots and put human disguises on them. Not content to create an underground kingdom called Ultronia and rule as king of the robot people, he declares war on all humans and plans to steal synthetic vibranium for himself (to upgrade his armor, natch).

Meanwhile, after last night’s attack, Roxxon moves their operations to a more secure area. Well, supposedly secure. Chip and Ethan the botany majors (hah, losers!) are excited and think maybe their research will get the spotlight with Roxxon finally gone from campus. Spider-Man and Black Panther are chilling by the warehouse at Roxxon’s headquarters when they see an army of men marching towards it. Once they spot Spidey and Black Panther, they immediately open fire on our heroes who dive for cover. Inside the warehouse the Ghost is up to his old tricks. He’s just about to get a sample of the vibranium when Ultron bursts thru the floor. He shoots his eye beams but the Ghost turns insubstantial. Ghost said he was prepared for Iron Man to show up, but not Ultron (whom he doesn’t seem to recognize). Outside, T’Challa and Spidey take the offensive. One of the soldier’s shots go wild and takes the head off another solider. Turns out the soldiers are actually robots! That gives the heroes the ability to really cut loose, but they are still outnumbered and not making much headway. T’Challa eventually grabs a machine gun to mow them down more quickly. It also gives Spidey a chance to break away and get some evidence of Roxxon’s wrongdoings.

Speaking of which, the fight outside has alerted Arthur Dearborn (just like last issue) and he’s evacuating the building and taking a computer with all the pertinent files away in a helicopter. Iron Man flies in beside them and demands they land the helicopter. The pilot shoots a missile at him but he uses his repulsors to stop it. Then, Dearborn transforms into Sunturion to confront Iron Man in mid-air.

Now we have three battles going on, so try to keep up... Inside the warehouse the Ghost throws grenades at Ultron which doesn’t put a dent in his admantium armor. Ultron fires his eye blasts again, and the Ghost goes insubstantial again. (Ultron really should have infrared scanners put into his eye sockets for situations like this.) Anyway, he does the old shoot the sprinkler and douse the whole area trick, spotting the ghost’s outline in the water. He blasts him clear out of the building through a brick wall. The Ghost gets to his knees and decides he will just have to give the Kingpin his deposit back. (And this is the last we see of him in this storyline.) Meanwhile, some security guards enter the warehouse due to the fight and Ultron escapes down the hole he came in because he doesn’t want to be identified yet.

Then, we get one measly panel of Black Panther and Spidey standing beside a pile of broken robot soldier bodies! Yep, Spidey’s fight was finished off panel and now they are taking a breather and watching Iron Man and Sunturion go at it. The two armored foes are too evenly matched. Until Sunturion lets go with an omni-directional energy burst that accidentally clips the helicopter. Sunturion asks Iron Man for help since his abilities “are not geared towards rescue” according to him. Iron Man uses his uni-beam to gently land the helicopter as Sunturion lands and changes back to Dearborn. Iron Man plugs into the mainframe while Arthur protests feebily. As Iron Man walks away, our heroes are left wondering who, exactly, sent the robots if they weren't part of Roxxon's security.

Speaking of which, Ultron didn't run too far away because we see him hiding in the bushes just outside the gates of the Roxxon HQ when he is approached by Pembroke, Kingpin’s concierge. They strike some sort of deal. Which is weird since no one is supposed to known Ultron is back in town and this is his first appearance outside of his sewer hideout. Kingpin must have some on the ball informants!

Meanwhile, at ESU, the botany team’s experiments are having an unforeseen effect on the vibranium crates Roxxon left behind. The metal bands are melting in the basement of the building next door due to their use of wide band microwave transmissions to increase crop growth. Uh oh!

In General...

This episode does seem to be shifting focus from Spider-Man to Iron Man a little too much for my liking. Iron Man saves our hero’s bacon twice! I can see why you need a heavy hitter like him when you have Ultron as a villain, but at least let the title character provide more to the story than just “distract the guards”.

Overall Rating...

Every character is moving around the chessboard pretty efficiently. I got the feeling that the first chapter could have been dumped and this story would flow just as well. The only complaint I have is the confusion on where Roxxon’s vibranium is stored. I thought Roxxon moved their stuff from the NY campus to their corporate HQ on Long Island. But the botany geeks see all the hubbub that took place and act like it is just next door. Which is it? I don’t know. If they moved everything from campus, why did they leave crates behind? If they just moved next door on campus, why was everyone fighting over in Long Island?

Footnote...

With the help of a few fan-sites I've finally found the first appearance of this Sunturion guy: Iron Man #143 (in 1981), written by David Michelinie, of course. That's one 25 year old mystery solved thanks to the internet!