Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1

Background

Former private eye Mac Gargan was paid by J. Jonah Jameson to undergo genetic experiments that turned him into the Scorpion. Jonah did this in an attempt to bring in Spider-Man, unintentionally creating a greater threat than Spider-Man ever posed. Years later Gargan bonded with the Venom symbiote and became a member of the Thunderbolts under Norman Osborn's supervision. He also became a cannibal due to the influence of the symbiote.

After Osborn's actions during the Skrull invasion, he was promoted to head of S.H.I.E.L.D/H.A.M.M.E.R and as a result, the Avengers. Gargan was one of the Thunderbolts that received the promotion to the premiere team of Avengers.

Jameson continued to publish the Daily Bugle until he suffered a heart attack and was forced out by Dexter Bennet. Jameson went on to be elected mayor of New York.

Story 'Women Love Him, Men Want To Be Him'

  Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1
Summary: Spider-Man & Spider-Man (Venom/Scorpion) appear
Editor: Thomas Brennan
Writer: Brian Reed
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inker: Tim Townsend

New supervillain code-named General Wolfram (Claude Kramer) makes his debut wearing the skin of a wolf as a costume and swastika tattoos as arm accessories. He has just robbed a bank. As he tries to escape, he is captured by the black-clad SHRA-authorized Avenger Spider-Man. As the narration (a play on the Spider-Man movie introduction) reveals, this is not the Peter Parker Spider-Man. This is Mac Gargan, previously known as the Scorpion, then Venom, now officially Spider-Man.

Unlike the other Spider-Man, this one is respected by the public. As he assures the crowd that he has everything under control, two very attractive women catch his eye. Anticipating their actions, Gargan orders the symbiote to uncover his mouth. Overcome with lust they rush up and kiss him; Gargan doesn't complain.

He swings away to the nearest rooftop where he examines the duffel bag containing the stolen money and estimates that it's $200,000. He informs Wolfram that this now belongs to him. When Wolfram attacks him, he gets webbed to the roof. He then tells Wolfram that he's hungry. As he chows down, he thinks to himself that his fur suit will be caught in his teeth.

Later as Venom swings past the DB, we look inside to find Dexter Bennett (who resembles a fat Orville Redenbacher) discussing Spider-Man with his staff during a meeting. Taking a 180-degree turn from his previous stance, he now raves about Spider-Man's merits. This confuses the staff as they have published articles over the last few months accusing him of murder. Bennett silences all of them and wants them to find out everything about Spider-Man and get him in here for an interview. Betty Brant walks out of the meeting to cover a press conference at city hall.

We cut to a strip club where Gargan is spending the money Wolfram stole from the bank. He takes a particular interest in one dancer: Cherry, dressed as a cavegirl. For some reason, he insists on calling her "Candy". We learn that he took a special interest in another dancer "Destiny" at one point - until she discovered he wasn't really Spider-Man. He asks who would come looking for her if she went missing. She is shocked at the type of question and doesn't provide an answer.

Betty arrives too late for the press conference and tries to use her past association with Jonah to answer a few questions. Jonah is too busy being himself to let her get in more than two words. He arrives at his three o'clock meeting with Dr. Shep Gunderson. Gunderson describes his plans for a super villain rehabilitation program. At this point Jonah shuts him down, flatly stating he's not interested. He wants crime stopped before it starts. Gunderson walks away in disgust.

We switch to Avengers Tower where AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" is being played at full volume in the kitchen. Osborn enters and shuts off the music. He turns to see Candy dancing on the island in the middle of the room. Osborn pulls Gargan aside. He tells him that the police want to know where the money from the robbery went and why Wolfram has only one arm after being seen with him. He reminds Gargan the one rule: nobody does anything without his permission. Gargan states that he understands, but adds Norman to his "payback" list.

Cut to a hospital where Wolfram is recovering. Dr. Gunderson appears in his room in a greatly altered state: white, featureless face with matching hands. He introduces himself as The Redeemer and tells him that he's here to save him.

At Gracie Mansion, Jonah returns home after a long day. He enters his bedroom Candy the stripper face down in his bed. She is naked, although strategically covered by a sheet. There is blood all over the bed, floor, and the nearest wall. The window appears to be broken from the outside, leaving shards of glass covering the floor. Jonah is speechless.

The Redeemer brings Wolfram to his other patients: The Hippo, Dr. Everything, Dementoid, and Eleven. He intends to redeem them by getting to the root of their problem and correcting it. To do this, he intends to lead this group to capture - and rehabilitate - Spider-Man.

General Comments

As part of the premiere Avengers team, Gargan apparently has it all. Public adoration, a nice place to live, and all the criminals he can eat. Provided he does it on Osborn's terms. That last part doesn't sit well with him.

Osborn looks at the big picture while Gargan looks for personal gain. He is trying to keep their activities under wraps so that the public remains unaware of his true objectives. For Osborn, power is built on secrets. He has been given virtually unlimited power. When any member of his team does something of this nature, it runs the risk of decreasing his power base.

Of course Osborn is crazy if he actually believes that he can maintain absolute control over a group of aggressive super villains posing as heroes and who are always in the spotlight.

Not that it detracts from the story, but the characterization of Gargan is different than in the Dark Avengers series. In this issue he acts like one would expect, aggressive and sleazy. In Dark Avengers he is much calmer due to the medication that he and the other psychopaths are kept on. I'm not sure which is correct as they work within the context of the respective series, but I hope that this can be explained.

Overall Rating

3.5 webs. You have to give Reed credit. Placing a dead stripper in Jonah's bed as a cliffhanger is a great idea.

Bachalo's art is a bit cartooney in places, but it works well overall. I have no problem with an artist that has a distinctive style like this.

Footnote

Gargan became the Scorpion in Amazing Spider-Man #20 and was bonded the Venom symbiote in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #10

Osborn ascended to power in Secret Invasion #8

Jonah became mayor of New York City in Amazing Spider-Man #591.