The first Roger Stern Spidey story in far too long!
Our second story takes place on an unspecified Earth. Two Spider-Men are clinging to the outside wall of a hospital peering in at a comatose patient. The patient is Peter Parker, bitten by a spider that has given him a hairy, clawed, spider-like left arm. Aunt May and Uncle Ben, looking worried and grim, stand by his bedside. The Spideys are Spider-Man Noir (from the mini-series of the same name) and the Six-Armed Spider-Man (from Amazing Spider-Man #100, September 1971 and What If? (Vol. 2) #42, October 1992). Arms tells Noir that Peter’s allergic reaction to the spider-bite has keep May and Ben at the hospital so long that they weren’t home when their house was burgled. “So this Pete’s condition led to his Uncle Ben not being killed.” Noir wants to leave but Arms reminds him that “this Pete is still a spider-totem, so he’s still a target.” Noir suggests putting Pete “out of his misery” but Arms won’t stand for it. Instead, he finds the hospital lab that has Pete’s bloodwork. (He celebrates this discovery by holding two arms above his head in a triumphant gesture while two other hands work a laptop and another rests on the counter. A great panel.) “Now, if this lab has the chemicals I need, we’re in business,” he thinks.
Still spying on May and Ben and Pete, Noir reflects on how young they look. “In my day, people tried to look older. (Noir is from the 1930s.) In these future worlds, everyone tries to look younger,” he thinks. (A nice observation.) Suddenly Peter starts to convulse in his bed, then transforms into a Man-Spider and awakens. Noir breaks through the window, webs the Man-Spider and drags him up to the roof. Man-Spider breaks free of the webbing. Arms arrives and uses his speed to confuse the Man-Spider, then jumps on Manny’s back. He injects him with a serum from a syringe. The serum seems to have no effect and Manny throws Arms off of him. Noir pulls his gun, preparing to shoot Manny but Arms asks him to wait. Before their eyes, Manny molts and becomes Peter again. Arms scans him and determines that there is “no sign of the spider-essence.” (Thus protecting him from the Inheritors.) “Crazy serum actually worked,” he adds. The two Spideys sense that someone is coming so they hide as a security guard, a doctor, May and Ben arrive. Noir asks Arms about the serum and why he was surprised that it worked. “I’d made a similar serum once before,” Arms explains (in ASM #100), “in an attempt to wipe out my own spider-powers but, well, it just gave me these extra arms instead…Since li’l Pete is younger and the spider DNA hadn’t completely altered his cells, I figured the odds were in his favor.” The two Spideys depart through their dimensional portal, as Peter wakes up, much to May and Ben’s relief and joy. “I don’t know what our superior will think,” Noir reflects, “but I’m calling this a victory. The Inheritors have one less target and, in at least one reality, the Parker family has a happy ending.”
The first story was a blast because of the characters. This one is all about the creative team. Roger Stern ranks #2 on my list of Spider-Man writers. Bob McLeod was a mainstay of 1980s comics, best known at Marvel for the New Mutants. You expect a lot from an experienced duo like this and they deliver. McLeod’s art is as crisp as it was 30 years ago and Stern tells a simple but emotional story using just the right characters. Spider-Man Noir is the tough guy, the one willing to kill young Pete if necessary, which is sure to bring tragedy to the Parker family. Six-Armed Spider-Man, whose entire life was changed by the serum he created, is just the character to whip up a quick cure; after all, he’s been living that serum, he could certainly instantly create it, making what is usually a cheap comic-book gimmick (the instantly-created antidote) believable. And who doesn’t love seeing the Parkers whole and happy? Having the title (“The Luck of the Parkers”) be true rather than ironic is a nice touch (although I’d have preferred as a title the often-used “The Parker Luck”). What more could you ask for?
Stern, McLeod and a happy ending. I’m a sucker for that every time. Five webs. Can we have more Stern Spidey, please?
Only two issues to go. I can’t wait to see what’s next.