Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #20

Background

The Sinister Six are back together again, with Sandman being carried around in solid glass form. Doctor Octupus has just beaten Spider-Man and the Hulk half to death and tossed them into the Ohio River. Now, he's leading Electro, Mysterio, Vulture, and Hobgoblin into another dimension to procure powerful weapons. With newly aquired admantium arms, Doc Ock looks to be unstoppable.

This is part three of six in the 'Revenge of the Sinister Six' storyline.

Story 'Showdown'

Part three begins with Nova of the New Warriors. He had found Spider-Man floating in the Ohio River thanks to a tip from the police band radio that is inside of his helmet. Spidey explains what happened and assures Nova he'll be fine, but looks as though he barely survived the beating of his life. The threat of the Sinister Six is more than he can handle alone. Unfortunately, just as Spidey is about to ask Nova for help, the New Warrior flies off to answer a distress signal from his teammates.

The next two pages introduce characters that may give Spidey the help he asked Nova for. Deathlok, the result in merging a man named Michael Collins with a killer cyborg, is in New York investigating the rouge cyborg that Spidey and Ghost Rider had taken down in part one. Apparently, the government is working on a cyborg program and Deathlok wants to get to the bottom of it. Meanwhile, the Sinister Six have caught the attention of Solo (think a more militaristic and hi-tech Punisher), whom has marked them as terrorists and are now targets of his. Last but not least, is the Hulk who has recovered from Doc Ock's beating and vows that 'Inevitably, gentlemen... Hulk WILL smash!'.

Peter has returned home and is working on some web cannons while Mary Jane expresses concern about his health. He assures her that he's fine, but wishes that he had some help against the Sinister Six. He had called the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, who were unavailable, and doesn't know how to get hold of anyone else. She tries to take his mind off things (as any man wishes a super-model wife would do), but has to run off again because of another screen test for the Arnold Shwarzenheimer movie.

Spider-Man goes swinging after the Sinister Six prepared with a huge cannister of web fluid on his back for the cannons he designed. Solo catches his attention at the Daily Bugle and asks for his help to kill the Sinister Six. This is not the kind of help Spidey wants so he refuses, but not until Solo is able to plant a tracer of his own on the web-crawler.

Spider-Man tracks the Sinister Six to a private research facility that experiments in other dimensions. His plan is to sneak up on the team and blanket the entire place in webbing. It's a desperate plan and he knows it. Unfortunately, he's spotted by Doc Ock before he can act. Spidey unloads both cannons, but the Doc blocks the attack with his admantium arms and then proceeds to tear open the web fluid containers on the hero's back.

Spidey seems already beaten when Solo teleports onto the scene with guns blazing. Doc Ock doesn't have time for this and sics Mysterio on the heroes, but he is gunned down and killed instantly. Spidey goes after Ock, while Solo shoots down Hobgoblin, Vulture, and Electro in order. The warehouse explodes and Spider-Man takes off with the Sinister Six beaten? Solo remains to see a struggling Doctor Octupus clinging to life. The vigilante is going to put one more bullet in the villian not realizing that the entire thing is an illusion created by Mysterio. The Sinister Six are alive and well in a fuctioning research facility as Solo prepares to put a bullet in a beaten Spider-Man.

General Comments

More guest-stars. Nova's brief appearance at the beginning of the issue can only mark his return later. Deathlok investigating the bizzare cyborg battle in part one makes sense. Also, Solo's involvement is welcome. I don't think he's a match for the Sinister Six, but it's a change from the Punisher.

The story doesn't progress much, but remember that this would have been the end of part two if it weren't for Larsen's troubles. It almost exists solely to introduce guest-stars that will be involved in the inevitable final battle with the Sinister Six.

Three things that I really liked though. First, was Spider-Man's initial talk with Solo. He calls the vigilante his 'SECOND favorite intense, gun-toting, loner.' Second, was Peter's admission that he may be on his own against the Sinister Six, and thus, the creation of his 'web cannons'. Nice to see the hero admit when he's out of his league and improvise. Lastly, was Mysterio's illusion that got the best of Solo at the end of the issue. Until then, Mysterio was largely a character in a lame outfit being punched in the background.

Overall Rating

Nothing really new added to the story except new characters that may affect the final battle. The art is great as always and Spidey's ineraction with Solo is very funny. Larsen may be a bad storyteller as a whole, but has a knack for action scenes and a much better hand on Spider-Man's witty banter than McFarlane ever did.

Footnote

This issue was Solo's fifth appearance in Spider-Man to date (I'm still looking to see if he appeared in any other books before then), and he would continue to appear in a handful of issues after this series. Marvel thought enough of the character to give him his own mini-series, Solo #1-4, two and a half years later.

This was, to my knowledge, the first appearance of the Deathlok character in a Spider-Man title. At the time, Deathlok was going through his second version with Marvel and had a book of his own. The Michael Collins' Deathlok was created in Deathlok #1 (1990). Finally, Nova had been appearing rather frequently in Spider-Man books during this time. He seemed to be a favorite character of Mark Bagley in Amazing Spider-Man and appeared in issues #351, 352, 354, 355, 356, 357, and 358.