Rival mob bosses Dr. Octopus II and Jason Tso have begun a high-tech gang war. Tso has formed a partnership with Allistaire Smythe, creator of the spider slayers. The Scarlet Spider -through his digital assistant Seward Trainer - was able to stop the latest skirmish between Smythe's new slayers and Octopus' operatives: Aura, Joyride, and the Looter. In doing so, he has incurred the wrath of Octopus for his interference. She has vowed revenge.
In Paris, France the man known as Henri sits at a cafe in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. As he takes a sip from his coffee cup, a throwing knife misses him by mere inches and is embedded in the trunk of a nearby tree. He turns to face the woman known as Joystick to congratulate her on her victory in Castellon de la Planna.
Joystick is a participant in the enigmatic "Great Game" of which Henri is a referee. She explains that she made a special trip to Paris to deliver a souvenir: the mask of her recent opponent, El Toro Negro.
Henri passes her an envelope that expresses her sponsor's well wishes in the form of cash. The envelope also contains her next assignment. The city: New York. The target: the Scarlet Spider.
For his part the Scarlet Spider is trying to stop a turf war between two small gangs despite the fact he's late for work at Club Noir. He has recently been promoted to bodyguard for Jason Tso (who is currently at war with Dr. Octopus). As he arrives he calls Carrie Bradley to reschedule their date. He had to cancel as the last minute due to job responsibilities. Against her better judgement, she gives him a second chance.
In another part of town Carolyn Trainer (the new Doc Ock) makes preparations for her revenge against the Scarlet Spider. Her virtual (and still unidentified) partner arranges an impromptu virtual meeting with a surprised Stunner. According to him, she has some "disorientation after her long sleep". He quickly gains her trust despite the fact that his digital image is highly blurred.
Seward Trainer - father of Carolyn - has been observing their operations, including this latest meeting. He realizes that she and her partner have technology that can "physically enhance and mentally enslave" humanity. He knows that she plans to use this against Ben and looks for a way to contact him.
Back at Club Noir, Tso reads a very unflattering article about him in the Daily Bugle that (accurately) ties him to organized crime. He sends Ben to force Ken Ellis (who wrote the article) to print a retraction - or else.
At the Daily Bugle, Joystick and her official monitor are parked in a non- desrcript mini-van filled with surveillance gear for the Great Game. They discuss her objective: find Ken Ellis since he has provided the most coverage of the Scarlet Spider in the hopes it will lead to "Spider-Man Red". She takes the elevator to the newsroom where the encounters intern Phil Urich (Ben's nephew). She asks if he can direct her to Ken Ellis. He tries to direct her to his uncle, but she only wants Ellis. She flirts with him a bit and gives him her card with the instructions to have Ellis contact her. When Ellis shows up looking for a news tip on the new Green Goblin, Phil sends him to a false address on the West Side.
Outside the Bugle, Kannor drops Ben off to complete his assignment. Ben sees Ellis leave the building and decides to follow him as the Scarlet Spider. Joystick and her monitor follow Ellis as well. Phil- who *is* the new Green Goblin - returns to his loft and changes to confront Ellis.
Ellis arrives for his "scoop" at Phil's false address. Scarlet Spider watches him from a distance waiting for the right moment to approach him. While he waits, Joystick attacks him. Ellis overhears the fight and rushes over to observe it, hoping this will lead to a Pulitzer.
Joystick explains to the Scarlet Spider that he is now involved in a real- life version of Mortal Kombat™; in order for her to advance to the next level, she has to defeat and de-mask him. During their battle, Joystick destroys a corner of a building.
The debris falls toward Ellis, but he is saved by the Green Goblin (yes, you read that right). Urich only intended to put a scare into Ellis for trying to steal a story from his uncle, but he doesn't want him dead. When asked for an interview, the Goblin deposits him on a water tower.
Joystick batters the Scarlet Spider, leaving him practically defenseless. She asks her monitor through her headset if she can proceed with the kill, which is denied. The rules of this game require a "non player" be given a second round. Disappointed but compliant she disappears in a blinding energy field.
When Scarlet Spider regains his sight, he sees only the Green Goblin. The Goblin offers to help him find Joystick. He accepts his offer and quickly leaves when he realizes he's late for his date with Carrie.
When he finally arrives, she has been waiting a very long time. She is in the middle of dumping him when a woman screams out that the man running toward them stole her purse. Carrie clotheslines him quickly bringing him to the ground. Ben compliments her on her heroism. She uses this event as a metaphor for being prepared and says her goodbye.
Back in Paris, El Toro Negro pays a visit to Henri and states that he will have his revenge against Joystick, despite the rules against payback.
Lot of sub-plots going on here. Many of them good, some are pointless.
The sub-plot involving the new Doc Ock, her secret partner, and Stunner does very little to entice the reader. They could have had Seward listen in and discover their plans without being intentionally vague.
To be honest - I almost can't believe I'm saying this - I like the concept of the "Great Game". I know something like this has been done before, specifically in Web of Spider-Man #44 / Incredible Hulk #349, but it does interest me.
The concept of the new, heroic Green Goblin never sat right with me. Phil Urich is, like, very irritating to me. He, like, does something with his powers to, like, honor his "Uncle Ben". Have we not, like, done that much better already? There's, like, something else he did that annoyed me, but I can't remember what it was.
Carrie Bradley comes across as a very high-maintenance kind of gal. Granted Ben was extremely late (for coffee I may add) but to dump him - and rub his nose in it - for this seems a tad extreme. Oh well "Hell hath no fury..."
2 webs. DeFalco juggles a high number of sub-plots, but I think that's where the story suffers. There seems to be too much going on to have any real significance. Whiz-bang transitions and little explanation detract from the story.