Marvel Age: Spider-Man gets the "two-issues-in-a-month" treatment. Is Marvel intentionally trying to torture us or is that just an unexpected side effect?
|Plot:||Stan Lee, Steve Ditko|
Dr. Doom is looking for a new way to attack the Fantastic Four. He knows that Spider-Man once tried to join the FF and was refused. How does he know this? Beats me. Especially since that story wasn't re-booted in this Marvel Age series. (So much for "Great for New Readers".) Doom creates a transmitter that allows him to communicate with Spidey by way of his spider-sense and he sends out a message requesting help.
Spidey follows his sense to the Latverian Embassy where Doom offers him a partnership. When Spidey turns it down, he must fight his way out. Doom isn't ready to give up. He reverses the device he built, which allows him to use the spider-sense to trace the web-slinger. But, meanwhile, Flash Thompson has gotten a hold of a Spider-Man costume and plans to use it to scare Peter Parker. Flash waits on one side of a fence to spring out at Peter who is walking on the other side. But Doom's reading leads him to the area and he assumes the one in the costume is Spidey... so he captures Flash by mistake. (This sequence is so sketchy in this version that it could easily be misinterpreted. We go from "According to my dial, the real Spider-Man is almost directly below me now" in the original book to "Perfect! Spider-Man doesn't even see me coming" in the new one. Granted, it should be pretty easy to figure out that Doom's tracer is pinpointing Peter Parker but the script doesn't do you any favors.)
Later, Peter and Aunt May see Dr. Doom on their TV as he interrupts programming to reveal that he has captured Spider-Man. Just as in the original story, Pete gets out of the house by pulling a fuse in the basement and pretending it has blown. He tells Aunt May he needs to go buy a new one.
Instead, he goes to take on Dr. Doom as Spider-Man. (In the original, Spidey goes through a lot of trouble to figure out where Doom is hiding out. In this version, he just shows up. Are we supposed to assume it's all just back at the Latverian Embassy?) A big battle breaks out which only ends when Doom sees the Fantastic Four coming and decides to beat it out of there. (So, Doom runs away from his Embassy? Does this make any sense to you?) And there's more to the story but that's pretty much all you need to know for our purposes.
This issue is a big step backwards. In fact, I'm not even sure why scripter Daniel Quantz is bothering with this story at all. If this series is willing to skip Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1, why not skip ASM #5 as well? The original story was one of Stan and Steve's lesser efforts and it's not like it has any crucial information. (And that doesn't seem to be a factor in this series anyway. We skipped Spidey's entire origin, for crying out loud!) Instead, Daniel ends up force- feeding Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four to the new reader. Who are these guys? What do they have to do with anything? Since there is no context, there is no sense of the menace that Doom represents. So, he has robots and can capture Flash Thompson. So what? What makes him any more frightening than any of the other bad guys we've seen in this series? Nothing, if you go by this issue.
As usual, there are various attempts to drag the stories from the 1960s to the 21st century, though this time they mostly amount to dialogue. So, Liz Allan refers to Spider-Man as "a babe", Spidey refers to Doom as a "whack-job" and Flash thinks the web-spinner is "the coolest" but Daniel leaves the old "blown fuse" gimmick intact direct from 1963. How many people even have fuses these days instead of circuit breakers? How many stores still sell them? Unfortunately updating a plot change like this requires a little more thought than tinkering with the dialogue. Looks like even Daniel himself has grown tired of the entire process.
The real trouble with this issue is that the centerpiece of the story is the fight scene. In the original, Ditko crafts a six-page extravaganza filled with Doom's odd weapons and Spidey's quirky responses to them. The current issue mostly gives us Doombots and laser beams and just goes through the motions. Mark Brooks seems to be the better of the two artists who are alternating on this series but neither of them can hold a candle to Ditko. Brooks' work seems to be developing nicely. It is mostly clean and understandable (which is more than you can say for some comic artists these days) but there are still moments, such as the scene where Peter works out in his basement at home with a photo taped onto his punching bag and stand-up lifesize figures of Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, which suffer from lack of immediate recognition. It could be a very funny scene except that the photo is not readily identifiable. It must be Flash Thompson, right? I assume it is Flash Thompson but we're never given a very clear look at it and, besides, what does Flash look like in this particular Spider-verse anyway? Is there any consistency to him at this point? Daniel Quantz could straighten this whole problem out by adding a line that actually identifies the photo but he doesn't bother. So, a potentially funny moment is lost as the reader has to look twice to even understand exactly what is happening.
We're back to one web again. And we've caught up to the stories that were already published in the Marvel Age: Spider-Man paperback. Can we now call a halt to the proceedings?