After a life-changing event in Amazing Spider-Man #538 - which, due to scheduling issues, hasn't come out yet - Spidey is back in the black costume. Confused? You will be. He's also on the run too and May / MJ are nowhere to be seen.
We being with a kid called Ethan Myers, dressed as Spider-Man, being arrested on a rooftop. While being interrogated he tells police he doesn't know anything about Peter Parker. A stranger has pulled up in a car next to him and, after getting in, he believes he was drugged. He started to evolve and, the next thing he knew, he could climb walls Spider-Man-style. The stranger kept him prisoner but continued to feed him and look after him until, that morning, Ethan awoke with a Spidey suit waiting for him.
In his cell that night, Ethan continues to evolve further into a spider. As things begin to get a bit, well, icky, Spider-Man himself breaks in while wearing the black costume and takes Ethan. He tells the guards he's going to take him to the hospital and that they should call ahead and get Mr Fantastic to meet him there.
At the hospital, Mr Fantastic says that Ethan's mutation is fascinating. He tells Spidey he will always be available to help as he takes Ethan away. Spidey meanwhile takes the blanket he had Ethan wrapped in over to Doctor Curt Connors for analysis.
Meanwhile, another 'Spider-Man' misjudges a swing and ends up as pavement pizza as a car pulls up alongside a kid called Jordan Harrison in the city. The window goes down and he tells Jordan he has killed his mother and that, if he doesn't get into the car with him, he'll kill his girlfriend (Madeline) as well. The villain in the car is revealed as Mr Hyde / Dr Calvin Zabo.
First off, Jordan Harrison is the kid from the 'My Science Teacher Is Spider- Man' story in Sensational #28.
Hyde/Zabo hasn't been seen in a Spidey book since the first volume of Spectacular Spider-Man #88 *, where he was mainly a bit-part character as Black Cat tried to secure some powers for herself. He has been around a bit, taking on Thor and Daredevil mainly but also Captain America. He also showed up briefly in New Avengers #2, bemoaning the fact that Daredevil put him in prison and getting smashed in the face by Luke Cage.
It is this self-referencing that has given Aguirre-Sacasa's run that extra bit of lift that so many writers can't keep up with. To any new reader who picked up the issue, Jordan Harrison would mean nothing but for those who have read all of the run, RAS lets us know that he knows that we know.
Anyway, Hyde is out of prison and experimenting on kids by giving them powers akin to Spider-Man's. This certainly has promise and it will be very interesting to see where RAS takes the arc from here. One complaint has to be the timing of the issue. Civil War #7 is still a week away, as is Amazing Spider-Man #538. As yet, we don't know the outcome of the Civil War, or whether the Kingpin's sniper has shot May or MJ or anyone at all. That would be fine - except that Spider-Man's meeting with Mr Fantastic becomes slightly confusing in that you don't really know what context it is set in.
Clearly the authorities are still trying to arrest Spider-Man so he can't have registered. That said, Mr Fantastic doesn't seem to bothered by the whole situation, even though he was on the pro side of the registration act.
None of these factors are RAS's fault. He can only work with the cards he's been dealt and it must have been a decision higher up at Marvel of when to release the book. But it does take an edge from the book. Why is Spider-Man wanted by the police? Why is Mr Fantastic complicit with Spidey's seemingly outlaw status? If the book had come out eight days later none of that would have mattered but, as it stands, it's just a needlessly frustrating plot point.
Despite all that, this is Angel Medina's best issue yet. His pencils have just gotten better and better through his run and, without the burden of drawing MJ, who he does seem to struggle with, his Spidey is, well, Sensational.
A nice set-up from Aguirre-Sacasa - but this issue is hampered by factors away from his control.
* Spiderfan reader Oliver emailed me to point out that Hyde's last appearance was actually Amazing Spider-Man #433. I stand corrected! (Or maybe I'm just trying to blank out those late 90s issues)