This is number three in the Byron Preiss 1990's mini-novels series, aimed at younger readers. These "super thrillers" are 13-140 page paperbacks, with medium-level storylines, and occasional line art.
This book is by Martin Delrio, who was the writer on the first of this series, "Midnight Justice". Sad to say, his previous effort really didn't have much to suit my tastes. Let's see if there's anything different in this issue.
In keeping with the first two books in the series, there's a classic bad guy (this time it's Doc Ock), and a big-name team-up partner (this time it's Captain America). There's a little sense of "formula" in this, but I guess that's no reason to write off the story.
So what is the story? Well, as the title suggests, we're talking global threat this time. It all starts innocuously enough, with some bad guys in funny breathing-masks racing around town. Spidey manages to stop one, but the other three slip away. But before the web-slinger can figure out what's going on, the Feds turn up and take over the case, leaving Spidey with nothing more than a vague recollection that he has seen those breathing-mask outfits some time before.
Even more curiously, there are army types all over Empire State University when Peter turns up, seems like there's been some sort of disturbance in a basement research lab investigating something related to compost, or such. But how come Captain America is there, if we're just talking compost? Well, Spidey does a little snooping, and overhears the word "Caroline". He drops the name in front of Cap Am, and finally gets let in on the deal. It seems that there's some EMP weapon which can basically destroy the electronic devices in most of the world, or the U.S., which is basically the same thing.
Of course, all those G21 farmers in Africa aren't gonna be affected. In fact, it would probably be a bit of a strategic leveller. Heck, don't let Greenpeace get that idea! Let's move on, before those anti-globalisation protesters start reading SpiderFan.Org for ideas!
Anyhow, it turns out that the ESU lab was in fact where the Caroline project was developed. Somebody has stolen all the info, and is clearly up to no good! The finger points at Doctor Doom, but before they can follow that trail too far, Cap Am and Spidey decide to hop into an Avengers Quinjet and go check out one of the two Caroline launch facilities.
When they arrive there, they find Doc Ock's guys are already there. Yep, for those of you who are familiar with the ASM #31 "Master Planner" storyline, it is indeed the same breathing-apparatus outfits from that story that Ock has recyled for his henchmen this time around. Spidey and Cap fail to stop Ock from launching the first of the two Caroline EMP missiles, and wham, there goes everything electronic from Alaska, to Central Europe.
Now, given that this missile was launched from Kansas, and was detonated in less than a minute, in clear sight of Spidey and Cap, then I have NO idea how come the centre of the damage zone was somewhere over Russia. Clearly, Mr. Delrio wanted a big effect, but he didn't want Americans to think they were in any danger. So... a little abuse of the fundamental laws of physics, and wham, Americans no longer need to suffer hurt from the weapons, illegal under international law, which they had themselves created. Hey, it's a nice idea! If only the consequences of all such illegal military activities could be so easily deflected onto the populations of other countries!
But back in the story, while Europe has been (illogically) devastated, Cap and the web-spinner still hope to save the civilized world... i.e., the U.S. So Cap drops Spidey off at the base in New Mexico, while the star-spangled hero himself heads into orbit to go shut down the master satellite. With luck, one of them will disrupt the second blast. Somehow, this is painted as though it would make everything alright. Now, in practical terms, a good 50% of the world's population... China, Japan, former USSR, Germany, France, the Middle East... all those countries have had all their technology destroyed.
Of course, Cap and Spidey don't mention this! The important thing is to save the U.S. (and Mexico and Canada, I guess, if they have to) from suffering the effects of this abominable U.S. Army creation. Sure, Doc Ock is the guy pushing the button... but the buttons, the weapons, and the launch systems were all created in a covert Army project. The sheer impact of this blinkered aspect of the story cannot be over-emphasized at this point!
From here, the story moves into a fairly ordinary climax sequence. Cap is in space, rapidly running out of air, and battling the orbiting satellite's laser-defence system. Spidey gets captured by Ock, who then explains his fairly obvious plan to destroy the world's technology, and then emerge with his own forces and his own protected equipment, finding the world to be easy pickings.
Naturally, Ock bolts Spidey onto the side of the launch tube. Spidey escapes, and fights Ock's troops, losing, until Cap returns in the nick of time, and the second missile is stopped! Yay! The White House is saved! Disneyland is saved! The Home Shopping Network is saved! Shame about Asia, Europe, and the Northern Pacific, but hey, ya can't have anything. Nothing more is said about those countries struggling as their civilizations collapse. Nope, Spidey and Cap Am will receive great coverage for their patriotism on Fox News, and then I guess it's time to watch Buffy on cable. Thank goodness the popcorn machine didn't get destroyed!
Putting aside some of the gaping plot holes in the story, the writing itself isn't too bad this time. The scene where the Captain was stuck up in space actually had me a little worried for the poor guy! It was a cool idea to bring back the "Master Planner". On the other hand, there were a few ideas that just seemed to be window-dressing. For example, there was a whole chapter describing the security on the approach to Ock's headquarters. Sure, it was a cool description, but it didn't move the story along one jot.
Also, the sideline with Doctor Doom being framed as the bad guy, that just didn't seem to go anywhere. Doom didn't have much input, and Spidey and the Cap quickly figured out who the right villain was. What's more, the idea of having the government's most deadly weapons research lab in a basement at ESU came across as a pretty lame excuse just to get Peter involved. Sure, the idea of misdirection is quite cool, but in practice, governments just don't do things like that. Plus, why go to ALL the point of protecting the research lab, when the actual finished missile systems themselves are in bases in the middle of the desert, populated by hundreds of GI Joes?!
So, the writing was adequate, but the plot was full of holes. Plus, the final insult is the point I have thoroughly belaboured already... the overwhelmingly offensive idea that it's OK if the U.S. Army's weapon destroys half the world, as long as the damage to the U.S. itself is limited to a few guys in Anchorage.
There's more bad here than there is good, we definitely need a sub-average rating. Let's go with two webs here.