Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #4

Background

Mac Gargan is now the official Spider-Man on Norman Osborn's team of Avengers. He is able to mimic the appearance of his enemy since he now wears the Venom symbiote. This does not mean that he has turned over a new leaf. It means that he has to keep his less-than-heroic activities out of the press.

So far Gargan has managed to do this despite his worst intentions. Killing a stripper and dropping her in J. Jonah Jameson's bed. Inciting a city-wide gang war between the Rolling Sevens and Park Avenue Players. And occasionally cannibalizing some Z-list villains trying to get him into group therapy for maiming them.

As a last ditch effort, The Redeemer - the leader of the Spider-Man reform movement - has anonymously sent photographic evidence of Spider-Man's involvement in the gang war to Jameson. Jameson was ecstatic that he can now have the wall-crawler thrown in jail.

Story 'What The #### Is This #### All About?!'

  Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #4
Summary: Spider-Man (Venom/Scorpion) appears

Jameson meets with Osborn and presents the incriminating evidence. Osborn promises to determine whether or not the photographs and recordings are legitimate and then review it with Spider-Man. Jameson assures him that they are legitimate and wants to move on it now, but Osborn refuses to take his word for it. Jameson leaves Osborn's office vowing that he won't let this be swept under the rug.

Osborn contacts Bullseye and Daken and instructs them to meet him in his office. He then calls Victoria Hand to begin conducting interviews for a replacement Spider-Man. She should use the candidate list from his files.

Hours later the Big Apple Festival is in full swing. A government-sponsored carnival-like event featuring a public appearance by Spider-Man to distract the public from the gang war and poor economy. Redeemer, General Wofram, and Dementoid are aware that Jameson was unable to effectively use the evidence he sent him. They decide to make once last attempt to "save" Spider-Man. Redeemer leaks the information to the leaders of the Rolling Sevens and Park Avenue Players and instruct them to meet him at the Festival. Having lost his limbs to Gargan last issue, the diminutive Redeemer must be carried around by Wolfram in an infant's harness.

He meets up with the leaders of both gangs and explains his plan. Despite their initial antagonism, both leaders agree to a temporary truce to take out Spider-Man. However they abandon the plan altogether when they see the Tilt-A-Whirl. Both gangs agree that the Tilt-A-Whirl is the best carnival ride ever and decide to enjoy the day.

Jameson is brought on the stage to make his opening address and is essentially ignored. When Gargan appears, the crowd goes wild. This is capped off with several pairs of women's underwear thrown on the stage while he hams it up for his fans. Jameson is silent.

Unknown to either of them Bullseye and Daken are a short distance away from the crowd. Bullseye has acquired a French Poodle from an unsuspecting attendee. He decides to aim for Gargan's left eye since it will be more challenging from this distance. During Jameson's speech he throws the yapping dog at Gargan and as expected, embeds it in his left eye.

As he is screams in pain about the dog in his eye, Bullseye and Daken presses their advantage. Gargan grabs Bullseye and throws him into a corn dog stand. Bullseye turns each one into a projectile, also embedding in the symbiote. This draws the attention of the gang members who see Spider-Man being attacked and want to kill him now that they've had their fun. Dementoid joins in the melee when he sees that they may succeed, despite Redeemer's protests. Gargan finally finds his footing and in rapid succession knocks out the gang members, Bullseye, and throws Daken through the window of a nearby building.

When the dust settles, Chief Ibanez appears and congratulates Jameson and Spider-Man for capturing the leaders of the rival gangs, Bullseye, Dementiod, and General Wolfram. While Jameson tries to spin this in his favor, Gargan pulls the poodle (which is still alive) out of his eye.

As the police march everyone to jail, Gargan finds the limbless Redeemer on the ground like an abandoned Kewpie Doll. When he is turned over to Ibanez, Redeemer confesses to his part in today's activities, but justifies it as serving the greater good.

Later at Avengers' Tower Gargan and Osborn have reached an agreement. With public sentiment on his side after his victory during the festival, Osborn won't try to kill him. He will either learn from this episode or Osborn himself will come after him next time. The only thing Gargan admits to learning is that when you start eating someone, it's a good idea to finish eating them.

General Comments

I was a bit disappointed that the sub-plot involving Redeemer's evidence was resolved so easily. However after thinking about it, we (and by extension Osborn) are aware of Jameson's long history of publishing anything anti-Spider-Man and later retracting it when the truth is revealed. Osborn is simply using Jameson's weakness to his advantage. I think a simple one-panel explanation of this would have helped.

One aspect of this series that I sadly didn't catch it until now is that Jonah doesn't seem to realize that he's dealing with two different Spider-Men. The very nature of the dual Jameson/Spider-Man rivalries are polar opposite. Peter annoyed Jonah by keeping Spider-Man's name in the press doing every sort of heroic deed possible. Gargan's pranks have a decidedly nasty (although somewhat humorous) element to them. Jameson can't be this oblivious. Something should have caused him to notice that the black-costumed Spider-Man is acting differently.

I say all of this not having read the Peter/Jonah feud in Amazing Spider-Man #592 (still on the anti-Brand New Day wagon). I have no idea where this takes place in current continuity other than after Dark Avengers #1, which is of limited help. It is possible that this preceded #592. Its also possible that the editors aren't worrying about "minor" details like this and would ignore requests to explain this.

Overall Rating

3 webs. If one can ignore the potential conflict with the events in Amazing Spider-Man, this is a reasonable conclusion to this arc.

The story rolled along and held together well. It's not surprising that Osborn sent Bullseye and Daken (not their Avenger counterparts) after Venom when he became a liability. What was surprising is Bullseye's choice of weapon. Using a poodle offensively was very unexpected and equally hilarious.

It was obvious that Venom would not be killed or removed from the Avengers during this issue. The point of a series such as this is not to make major changes, but to use the elements of a larger crossover to tell a different kind of story. This rule was followed. We have seen the last of the Spider-Man Revenge Squad. Odds are we won't see the Venom / Jameson feud in the pages of Dark Avengers or Amazing Spider-Man any time soon. We have more than likely seen the last portrayal of Gargan as a multi-dimensional character. In the pages of Dark Avengers, he will resume his background role, returning the focus to Osborn.

Art-side, alternating Bachalo and DiSalvo's artwork as they have in previous issues leaves me feeling that they should have given full pencils to DiSalvo for the entire arc. His work is cleaner and easier to follow than Bachalo's. Bachalo's work had too much shadow and compressed panel content which when compared to Disalvo's looked a bit rushed.

The story is supposed to be - in my opinion - a dark twist on a typical Spider-Man story. Looking at it in that light, it's entertaining. If we attempt to force it into a continuity it was never meant to fit, it will just give us headaches and ulcers.