Comics : Web of Spider-Man Annual #1
This story is part of a Lookback Series: Filling Gaps
This review was first published on: May 2011.
The first Web of Spider-man Vol. 1 annual, written by Web regular Ann Nocenti.
Web of Spider-Man Annual #1
Year 1985 : SM Title
Summary: Charles Vess Painted Cover
Spidey drops in a jewlery store at night to break up a heist, and finds a bunch of robots doing the pilfering. "What a crazy bunch of tin-can thives!" he exclaims. He says the gizmo bots are brilliant, and that he has to catch one to see what makes it work. He notes that the bot has been cobbled together from every day items. The robots all stack together, to form one giant figure to the delight of Spider-man. His delight is short lived as the stacked robot fires lazers out of its eyes, and emits a high-pitched squeal that jams Spidey's sense. Spidey lets the robot snare him in rope, which he thinks he can easily break out of, but the robot also gasses him nearly unconscious. Spidey finds enough fortitude to execute a flying kick, which takes the bot's head off. The rest of it escapes, but Spidey keeps the head, thinking he got no pictures.
Elsewhere, a kid with leg braces is going through a street dumpster. He complains that his hands are going spastic on him, uncontrollably. Some neighborhood kids try to taunt him with tin cans. The kids ask why he, Max, wants to hide in his room from them all day, and taunt him. He rattles off a verbose put down that the kids don't understand, and they chase Max away. He escapes to a loft, which doubles as his lab, thinking the effects of adrenaline are extraordinary, and wonders if he can synthesize them. There's a robot shell of a body which he addresses as "Future Max", saying they're going to get know eachother really well soon. Max talks for awhile with a girl he likes on the other side of his lab's wall, whom he's never met in person. The robot that robbed the jewelery store returns to Max's lab, and Max notes that the bot lost its head. He also thinks Reed Richards shouldn't have turned him down, that perhaps Richards could've cured him.
Outside on the street, a con man sees a story in a trashed newspapaer about an award winning young inventor and a science fair, giving the con man ideas.
Peter is walking around the very same science fair later at Midtown High, and runs into Max, who's exhibiting a robotic exo-suit that magnifies the wearer's strength. Max remember's Peter's name, and how Parker won many a science fair there before. They hit it off immediately and Pete decides to do a story on Max for the Bugle, and leaves to fetch his camera. At this point, the con man introduces himself to Max as Alexis Sharp, representing the Institute for Technological advancement. Sharp offers to rep Max for a small fee, but Max shuts him down, saying he reps himself. Sharp spies a rejection letter from Reed Richards, and tries a different tactic, saying not even Richards perfected the exo-skeleton. Max is suitably impressed by the man's association with Richards, explaining that he has a degenerative nerve disease and that Richards could possibly cure him. Sharp gives him his card, and cons Max into making a spec version of the exo-suit for Richards.
Back at home, after quickly examining the jewel-heist bot's head, Peter sees Max's signature work in the construction and leaves as Spidey to confront him.
At Max's, he's installed Sharp in the full exo-suit. Sharp thinks he could be the king of New York crime in such an outfit. He starts to change his tone around Max, who gets suspicious. The doorbell rings, and it's Spider-man, holding the lost head of the bot. Max introduces Sharp in the suit, saying he knows Reed Richards, but Spidey tests him saying a shame about Richard's daughter. Sharp agrees, and Spidey says Richards doesn't have a daughter (at this time, anyway). Sharp crashes through the wall in the suit, telling Spidey to come and get him.
Spidey leads Sharp into an area of town scheduled for demolition, so as not to endanger anyone. Sharp tries to hit Spidey with bullets, and blast him with "sonic shock waves", all of which Spidey dodges. Sharp also starts babbling bad movie dialogue at Spidey as they fight. They bring down a few condemned buildings, and Spidey fights Sharp to a standstill. Then Max appears, saying he knows how to stop Sharp, who turns his weapons on the kid. Spidey weblines over and gets Max out of harm's way. Max tells Spidey the suit isn't waterproof. Spidey webs Sharp and steers him into a rooftop water tower, shorting him out.
Peter arrives at Max's the next day for the Bugle photo shoot, but Max is all worked up about finally having a date with a girl on the other side of the wall, Beatrice. Peter gives him a bro talk, saying Max went up against a super-powered psychopath and hangs out with Spider-man--and is he going to be scared by a measly date? Max gets his courage up and goes to knock on Beatrice's door--she greets him and we only see her hands. She says Max looks just like she imagined and pulls him inside, shutting the door.
In the midst of Spidey getting gritty in the mid 80's with the black suit, this is a lighthearted tale that is largely played for laughs. Sharp never comes off as too big a threat in the exo-suit, and his movie quoting and shifting dialect is annoying to even read after awhile. Sharp manipulated poor Max, and escapes without getting a well-deserved beating at the hands of Spidey here for it, who barely lands a fist on Sharp.
The disabled Max is written as tough but vulnerable, and the reader never feels too much pity for him. He's contrasted against Peter Parker and one gets the sense that this kid could very well end up another Alistaire Smythe, but I'm pretty sure Max is never seen again outside of this one and done annual.
It's a surprisingly effective, though average, issue--with much quirky writing by Ann Nocenti, and definitely the stuff of a divertive, one-off annual. I can't help but think if the tone were just a tad more serious it would've benefited the story, but that's just my personal taste.
While a fairly goofy, harmless story, its a mildly enjoyable one nonetheless. The painted cover by Charles Vess is a sheer knockout, however.