The Absorbing Man is still encased in the bullet-type casing and racing around the city in a car next to the woman from the last couple of issues. He takes out a bunch of armed goons and they make their way back to the Owl. The woman complains to Owl that the Absorbing Man is too unprofessional to get the job done. AM, meanwhile, is still encased by the bullet's material and can't get it out of his. The girl gives him a line of coke to do and he turns into a big mass of cocaine. They turn some huge industrial fans onto him, so he blows all over the room, then scrape him off into bags of cocaine they can use to sell as the next biggest thing since Mutant Growth Hormone.
Peter is at the Bugle talking to Laurie Lynton and tells her he is married to MJ. She says MJ used to be part of the 'in crowd' that made fun of everyone like Pete and her (even though, of course, MJ never went to the same school as Laurie and Peter, so how could she know that?) Laurie admits she returned to NYC hoping to run into Peter and he jokes about her not being a stalker. As he leaves Laurie, he runs into Ethan and the two of them swing off into action and Pete takes Ethan to meet the Fantastic Four and check the scope of his powers.
Ethan announces his superhero name is Virtue and Reed Richards gets to work testing him. He is as fast as the Torch, can see Sue when she's invisible, lift as much as Ben and heal injuries. Reed can't get a blood sample because of Virtue's impenetrable skin so takes a DNA sample from his saliva. As this is going on, the ants form a message to let Spider-Man know his bug has been found (did I just write that?). He and Virtue speed off to get the tracer, while Reed says he'll let them know the results.
As they get to the gang's hideout, Ethan zaps their car with a ray thing that shoots from his hand. Peter grabs the blonde woman and gets his wallet back. Pete tells her that if she goes to tell anyone who his real identity is, he'll get SHIELD to take her and she won't be heard from again. The press show up and Virtue takes off to protect his identity. The woman darts off though – apparently too quick for Spider-Man, while the press have got a full facial pic of Ethan in Virtue get-up.
On the roof, Pete tells Ethan they've got a shot of him but he says it's OK because his glasses will hide his identity. They go inside and, as the two of them step out of the lift, the press surround Ethan and want to talk to him. The phone in the Bugle goes for Pete and it's Reed. Reed explains that Ethan is Skrull, whose father created the Super Skrull, and that he's there to conquer the world…
As with the previous three issues, there are a few standard gripes about this. Firstly, the use of the Owl as a major villain is a bit odd considering how badly Daredevil beat him back in DD v2 #42. After the shambles he made of trying to run the NY turf after the Kingpin was gone, I can't see any way he'd a) be out of prison, or b) be allowed to live by the Kingpin. Don't editors keep track of what goes on the in MU anymore? The strangest thing is, the story name checks MGH – a plot device from that very Daredevil story, so clearly somebody along the line knows about it.
Secondly, although the Marvel Knights line is supposed to be more adult-themed, I'm not convinced that turning a villain into a giant ball of cocaine, then bagging him up is a great plot idea for a Spider-Man comic. If it were a Vertigo-type book, then perhaps it'd fit but it's not and, regardless of whether this is a MK book or not, Spider-Man is still going to be read by kids. I'm far from a “won't somebody please think of the children!”-type of guy but surely, if there's a line, this crosses it?
I did like Ethan's naivety at thinking a pair of glasses would cover his identity. If the writer does have to do a Superman piss-take, at least he can write in scenes like this which are fairly amusing.
Again, I think the tale doesn't quite work in the single format and will probably read better as a TPB. It doesn't flow awfully well in this format.
Hudlin does well to bring the universe together and make Spider-Man feel a part of it. But there are also inconsistencies by doing this – the use of the Owl for one and Laurie's comments about MJ for another. His characterisation of Ethan is pretty decent but then, this isn't a 'Virtue' book, it's a Spider-Man one.