Avengers West Coast #86

Background

The Avengers West Coast have agreed to protect Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Galvan during their convention. This occurs after a newspaper informant is killed in New York before he can reveal which of the presidential candidates has connections to the mob during a press conference. Spider-Man (on hand at this press conference) makes his way to California to follow up on the murder and teams up with the Avengers to fight a group of super-powered villains called "Deathweb" that attack the convention.

Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter) reluctantly brought along her daughter Rachel on this assignment because she couldn't find someone to watch her in time. As one can imagine, the child was kidnapped by Deathweb.

This leads to all sorts of complications. Julia has a falling out with Iron Man over her actions and abandons the mission to find her child. She returns to Mike Clemson, a double agent for the Federal government and a clandestine group called The Conclave, to ask for his help. Clemson's association with Deathweb and their employer, the Manipulator are soon revealed to her and her unexpected assistant Spider-Man.

The Manipulator had planned to use Rachel to simply control Julia, but since Spider-Man can't be controlled, he instructs her to kill Spider-Man or her daughter dies.

Story 'Webs of Fear and Sorrow'

  Avengers West Coast #86
Summary: Spider-Man appears, Death-Web, Manipulator
Arc: Part 3 of 'Deathweb' (1-2-3)
Editor: Nel Yomtov
Writer: Dann Thomas, Roy Thomas
Pencils: David Ross
Inker: Tim Dzon

Spider Woman attempts to kill Spider-Man while the Manipulator, Mike Clemson, and 2/3s of Deathweb watch. Spider-Man attempts to reason with his namesake, but to no avail.

Their fight ultimately destroys a monitor bank and sets the building on fire. The villains escape and leave the heroes to a fiery demise.

Later on, Deathweb breaks into the Avengers' compound in Palos Verdes and leave a message from the Manipulator. He instructs the Avengers to stay away from the Libertarian convention if they want Rachel to live. Larry Carpenter (Rachel's father, Julia's ex-husband, and Libertarian P.R. consultant) begs them to do as the Manipulator instructed them.

Spider-Man and Spider Woman free themselves from the collapsing building and begin to search for Rachel. Spider-Man tells Julia that he fired a spider- tracer onto Rachel prior to her kidnapping. They follow the signal to an unguarded trailer park in Gardena and rescue her (this occurs behind the scenes).

They bring her to the convention center and reunite her with Larry. He alternates between thanking them and criticizing them for potentially placing her in jeopardy. Julia unmasks to prove that she had just as much to lose by attempting this as he did. Larry is predictably outraged by this revelation and threatens to have her visitation rights stripped.

At this point Deathweb attacks during Galvan's speech and kills him before anyone can react. At this point the Avengers – who have been keeping out of sight – attack Deathweb. Their coordinated attack finally defeats the trio of assassins.

Once the fighting stops, Galvan's running mate Wilson Lambert grabs the podium and delivers an impromptu address indicating that he will finish what Galvan has started. Spider Woman once again abandons her post to check on Rachel and Larry.

Following the assassination of Galvan and the ensuing fight, Larry has taken Rachel to the parking lot, intending to take her "some place safe". He believes her safety has been compromised and can't take her home. At this point the Manipulator reappears and tries to kidnap Rachel again to keep the upper hand against the Avengers. Larry attacks the Manipulator to save his child. His brave actions do not go unpunished as the Manipulator causes him to have a heart attack.

Spider Woman and Spider-Man appear, coming between Manipulator and Rachel. This prompts him to leave without his target. Julia and Larry exchange their goodbyes moments before he dies.

Back inside, Lambert is still delivering his address to the crowd. When he calls for the execution of Deathweb, they pose the question - to all those in attendance - why they were under orders to not injure him under any circumstances. The implication that he was responsible for Galvan's death takes the steam out of his speech. He begins to stutter and stammer until he is escorted off the stage.

The Avengers are left with the obvious question: did Lambert orchestrate the assassination of Galvan in order to become the party candidate? They don't know who to believe and they'll never be able to prove it one way or the other.

General Comments

This entire arc is a classic case of "insert Spider-Man, (hopefully) boost sales". As far as Spidey's contribution to the overall plot, it was minimal. Any member of the Avengers could have substituted in this case.

This story could have been based entirely in California (y'know where they are based) without requiring an East Coast event (that was largely ignored after the setup) to bring in Spider-Man.

This was mostly an extended Spider Woman story, which is not a bad thing. The character needed something besides a name associated with the most popular Marvel character. She is now set up to be a single mom / superhero. The possibilities from this development interest me. If done properly, Julia could step out into her own and become a compelling character. However I don't think this is going to happen anytime soon. The low grade melodrama in this arc indicates that any real character development will be ignored. Julia's characterization is essentially a female Peter Parker. This does not make her interesting, it makes her a derivative. That's like saying "we're going to clone Peter Parker and give him blond hair". Why spend all that time remaking something if there's no difference between the original and the copy?

Overall Rating

2 webs. This arc had so much potential, but it fell flat in many places.

The inclusion of Julia's daughter as a damsel in distress was done in such an uninspired way that it tanked the story for me. This is the worst kind of plot element: the kind you know is morally wrong and will have obvious consequences.

The Julia/Larry sub plot could have been much more enjoyable if Larry had a real personality. Even when she unmasked to explain her seemingly irresponsible behavior he still resorted to type. It took dying to make him less of a jerk.

The ending was relatively interesting. Instead of the time-honored dramatic reveal of the person responsible, we are left to guess if Lambert is actually behind Galvan's death or if he's an innocent pawn of The Conclave. That scene is the high point of the arc, but it's not *that* high.