The credits page highlights the Superior Spider-Man and the Chameleon but it’s really a team-up with Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, and Nick Fury Jr.
In Moscow, Mr. Stovic, a gray-haired and bearded man who is apparently a KGB higher-up, hands an envelope to two people who remain in shadow. “Your target is this man,” he says, “Dmitri Anatoly Nikolayevich, also known as Smerdyakov Kravinoff, also known as the Chameleon.” (I remember when the Chameleon had no names at all and now he has a wealth of them.) Stovic tells his operatives that the Chameleon is in SHIELD custody “after his involvement in a scheme to blackmail the world.” (Or the Ends of the Earth storyline to you and me.) He adds “The Chameleon knows secrets that belong only to the Russian people. The KGB would rather those secrets die with him.” In other words, Stovic’s operatives are a couple of assassins.
Days later, in upstate New York, a SHIELD team led by Nick Fury Jr. crash in on “an AIM splinter cell operating on US soil.” Apparently AIM now has diplomatic immunity, about which I know nothing, which this cell’s presence could jeopardize. Also apparently Nick Fury now looks like the Ultimate Comics Nick Fury who looks like Samuel L. Jackson, about which I know a little something. In an effort to make Nick Fury look like what all of the movie goers expect Nick Fury to look like, a new character was concocted in the mini-series Battle Scars which only really existed to create this new character: a previously unknown son of Nick Fury whose name was Marcus Johnson but who now goes by the name Nick Fury Jr. You can see why they did it but it's horribly silly, really. Embarrassingly so.
Anyway, Nick leads his men into the AIM base, which has “been compromised” so that “everyone is down…unconscious.” They round a corner and discover the Superior Spider-Man perched upside-down amidst a whole bunch of AIM scientists that he has webbed to the ceiling. “I need to see Acting Director Maria Hill right now,” he says, “or thousands of people will die.”
So Nick takes Spidey with him to SHIELD (which used to stand for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division, then stood for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate but now seems to stand for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division because now we’re just a slave to the movies with everything.) “The greatest spies in the world, secret agents who work in secret to keep us all safe from threats and terrorists and whatnot,” Spidey thinks, “They are nothing to me.” When Nick tells Spidey his name, Spidey replies, “Of course you are. And I’m Samuel L. Jackson,” thinking to himself, “Ha ha! That was funny!” He also thinks that he’s about to stage, “the greatest escape in the history of the world” from the SHIELD helicarrier, “just as soon as I break in.”
Later, Agent Coulson, the Black Widow and Hawkeye join Spidey and Fury in the debriefing room. Coulson is angry at Fury for bringing Spidey along. Spidey is upset that there are Avengers here. “This complicates matters,” he thinks. Spidey tells the Widow that he’s there because he “took down a hive of AIM scientists,” but he is only using them as “part of a masterfully constructed cover story.” “AIM was my ticket onboard this leviathan,” he thinks, “They’ll be a perfect scapegoat for what’s about to happen next.” And thinking this, he releases a swarm of spider-bots behind his back. They scurry off and explore the helicarrier.
Meanwhile, the two men who took on the assignment to kill Chameleon approach the helicarrier in a cloaked plane. One calls the other “Gleb,” while Gleb refers to the other as “brother.” As they approach, Otto gloats over the way his bots have infiltrated. “Had I wanted to eliminate SHIELD,” he thinks, “it’s painfully obvious that I could on a whim.” As he talks to Hawkeye and the Widow, one of his bots locates the Chameleon while another apparently shuts down the carrier’s power. With that, we learn that Acting SHIELD Director Maria Hill, Taskmaster, and Dr. Bruce Banner are also onboard.
Back at the debriefing room, Fury notes that, though the power is off, they are “not falling out of the sky.” Spidey thinks, “Because I want you distracted, not dead. Luckily for you.” But he is puzzled when the Widow says, “Avengers ID card is being blocked.” He did not block any communications. Then, SpOck’s spider-sense goes off. He can’t understand why since he should be the only threat. Until, “a spatial rift accompanied by a host of armed attackers and two men with skulls for faces” appears. The Russians attack. Gleb has a death touch. His brother has an electrically-charged staff. Spidey takes advantage of the attack to go to the Chameleon’s cell. There he finds Chameleon has escaped when the power shut off the energy field of his cell and has killed his doctor and a guard. Otto realizes this is his fault. But when the two Russians break in, he transfers the guilt and blames them instead. “Their interference caused my plan to go awry,” he thinks, “They caused the Chameleon to escape, not me. Not me.”
Spidey and the Russians fight. Gleb grabs Spidey by the head and proclaims, “I died for your sins.” (A strange thing to say.) Otto feels Gleb’s “touch burning through [his] mask.” He breaks away and flees, deciding that “These two don’t matter. The only thing that matters is finding Chameleon.” But he finds the Hulk standing in his way. “Smash,” Hulk says.
Yup, it sure looks like Otto is putting the Sinister Six back together. (A version of it, anyway.) He snagged the Sandman from the Baxter Building vault in Avenging Spider-Man #17 and captured Electro in Avenging Spider-Man #18. Now finally rid of Ghost Peter (whom he first glimpsed in Avenging Spider-Man #19 and eradicated in Superior Spider-Man #9), Otto goes all out trying to spring the Chameleon. Though Peter is no longer part of his make-up, it appears that his peek into Peter’s life in Amazing Spider-Man #700 still holds some sway. He doesn’t want to kill anyone, he just wants to free the Chameleon. To see that his scheme has not only made it easier for the Russians to attack but gives the Chameleon the opportunity to kill his jailers, fills Otto with guilt. But since he is free of Peter, “With great power comes great responsibility” no longer applies. Rather, he shirks the responsibility and blames the Russians for the Chameleon’s actions. That is all to the good and shows continued development of the character. I also like Otto’s attempts at humor; the labored “Maybe someone forgot to pay their electric bill,” when the lights go out, “Nervous bladder!” when Fury asks where he is going, and the aforementioned “And I’m Samuel L. Jackson,” which is funny not because Otto says it but because Otto thinks it is funny. But otherwise, this issue doesn’t have that much going for it. It suffers from being the first part of a continued story so that things are still up in the air and some introduced characters are barely used. For example, who are the Russians assassins? Are these characters I should know? Or are they entirely new? Who is Mr. Stovic, for that matter? Is he important? Will we see him again? There are plenty of characters who could be considered Spidey’s team-up partners but they don’t get much to do. (The group is nicely presented in Paulo Rivera’s cover showing the Chameleon behind bars but with parts of him impersonating the Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Spidey, and a couple of others I can’t identify.) Hawkeye is there solely for Spidey to think about how stupid he is, though he and the Widow at least fight the Russians for a bit. Banner is there to become the Hulk at the end. Hill and Taskmaster have one panel appearances that seem to only pad the roster.
I’m also not too fond of the “Cinema-ification” of Marvel Comics. I understand why they’re doing it but I’m not much interested in Samuel L. Jackson Fury outside of the Ultimate universe or Agent Coulson as a major character or Hawkeye, the Widow and the Hulk hanging out on the helicarrier.
Marco Checchetto’s art shines in subtle ways this time. I like page 1 panels 2-3 with the photos of Chameleon being held by a hand in the foreground while Mr. Stovic is seen commenting in the background; page 2 panel 1 with the angle aligned with the incoming SHIELD airship; page 5 panel 2 with the view from outside the glass looking into the airship even as Spidey thinks about breaking in; and the flashier page 12 panels 2-5 showing all of the images projected by the spider-bots as we view things through the mask from Spidey’s perspective. But some things don’t work for me. Whose dead eye are we looking at on page 17 panel 6. The doctor? The guard? And why are we focusing in on it? And in the final panel in the book, on page 20, it took me a long time to realize this is the Chameleon escaping disguised as the doctor. But maybe that’s just me.
I have faith in Chris Yost to pull all of this into a bang-up concluding issue but, for now, it’s too little, too vague. Only two webs for this one.