Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #22

Background

Despite rampant mistrust amongst the members, the Sinister Six have returned and aquired extremely powerful weapons from another dimension. Their goal is nothing short of world domination and, thus far, Spider-Man has been unable to stop them despite three separate attempts. The first, with help from the Hulk, was thwarted by Doctor Octupus' newly acquired admantium arms. The two heroes were beaten nearly to death and tossed aside as the Sinister Six regrouped. The second, with help from the vigilante Solo, was put to a stop by the illusions of Mysterio. Both Spider-Man and Solo were lucky to get out of the encounter alive.

The third, and most recent, attempt was aided by Deathlok and Care Labs. Care Labs was responsible for healing Spidey after his last encounter, but Deathlok warned him of the company's alterior motives. The two agreed to help one another, but again Spidey is too late and can only watch as the Sinister Six evade him again with a stockpile of other-worldly weapons.

Story 'The Sixth Member'

Part five opens up with the Sinister Six running excercises with their new weapons in an abandoned warehouse. Doctor Octupus wants to see what his partners are capable of with the new firepower, but the Vulture isn't buying it. He argues that they are all supposed to be partners in this and not the Doc's lackeys. Electro tries to calm him down, but Vulture is on to him immediately as an inside man for Doc Ock.

Meanwhile, Peter wakes up at home with Mary Jane. Apparently, his crash through the skylight didn't freak her out that much since he's in bed and out of costume. He explains all of what has happened so far, including the cybernetic arm cast, and wants to rest. That is, until he notices her doing something out of the ordinary.

The next six pages dance between the Sinister Six preparing for world domination and Peter and MJ catching up in their personal lives. The back and forth is rather effective.

Vulture is extremely untrusting of the other members despite attempts by Electro and Mysterio to calm him down. Doc Ock has already turned the Sandman into glass, Hobgoblin is an unstable religious fanatic, and Mysterio is waiting for the opportunity to unleash his full power. Regardless, the team is planning to hijack a satellite control center controlled by Hydra. Before leaving, however, Doc Ock smashes the team's liability, the glass statue that was the Sandman, into pieces.

Mary Jane is busy sewing Peter a new Spider-Man costume since the only one left, that he hasn't destroyed, is the black costume. They discuss his costume design and one another's taste in music in a very fun manner that points out the old-fashionedness of Peter compared to the cutting edge of Mary Jane. It brings along the fact that M.J. got the part she was going after in the new Arnold Schwarzenheimer movie. Peter can't stand the idea of her doing nude scenes that everyone will see, while M.J. sees it as just a stepping stone in her career. News of the Sinister Six arrival at the Hydra base and a new costume end the conversation. M.J. is upset about Peter's reaction, but won't push the issue because it's so close to his birthday and the odds he's up against with the Sinister Six.

In the meantime, Solo has recovered from his injuries and is prepared to go back after the Sinister Six. Also, Deathlok has been found by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents amongst the wreckage of Care Labs. He is unable to move because of Electro's blast in part four, but is conducting self-repair routines that will have him back online in less than an hour.

The Sinister Six have arrived at the Hydra base and are wiping through security with ease. Spider-Man arrives to find that the Hulk, Sleepwalker, and Ghost Rider are already outside and ready to rumble. Spidey makes a crack at Wolverine for missing the reunion of the 'New Fantastic Four' before the four heroes break into the Hydra facility.

More heroes don't mean results in this battle. Electro takes out Sleepwalker with a concentrated shot. Ghost Rider is continuously sidetracked by Hobgoblin, Doc Ock's random attacks, and robots brought back from another dimension. Hulk goes after Doc Ock immediately for a rematch, but is blown aside by a gigantic cannon fired by the Doctor. Spider-Man is avoiding numerous gunshots only to have his cyborg cast evaporated by one of Doc Ock's robots. His arm is okay, but the heroes are outmatched again.

There is a small rally by our heroes, but Sleepwalker is eliminated because his human host, Rick Sheridan, wakes up. Then, Hulk and Ghost Rider are quickly taken out of action by Gog, the Sinister Six's new recruit and a monster the size of Giant-Man potential, who crushes them both under one hand.

Spider-Man is left with the entire Sinister Six focused on him. This includes their new member, Gog, who has Hulk and Ghost Rider unconscious. Even against these odds he jokes, 'I'll tell you what... let's call it a draw.'

General Comments

The first half was the calm before the storm. The Sinister Six discuss their relationships and mistrust while planning world domination. Meanwhile, the hero of the book catches up with his wife and what he's been missing as Spider- Man. It's well-written and well-timed.

Super-villians like these are built as loners, not as a team. It's nice to see the oldest member, the Vulture, accusing everyone else. He's got the experience to know better. Regardless, they all have to work together because their goal has grown beyond any one of them. Doc Ock needs these lesser super- villians just as much as they need him. They're at the point of no return.

Peter's problems with M.J. may not be life and death like those with the Sinister Six, but they're no less important to him which is great. The Sinister Six obtaining limitless weaponry from another dimension is the equivalent to Mary Jane accepting a nude lead role in a Hollywood movie in Peter Parker's mind. Proper time is given to both disasters which is great.

In the second half, we see the super community take arms once again to take on the Sinister Six. Solo and Deathlok are healing, while Hulk, Sleepwalker, and Ghost Rider are ready to fight again. It's set-up for one hell of a finale.

Overall Rating

The 'calm before the storm' moments are great with Peter and M.J. Not to mention, the craziness that has become the Sinister Six and their goals. Larsen does a really nice job of telling Peter's personal story while constantly building the Sinister Six threat toward Spider-Man.

Footnote

Guest-stars have been a dime a dozen during this storyline. The new character in this issue is Sleepwalker, who met Spidey for the first time in Sleepwalker #5 and 6. Less then eight months later the dream deprived hero makes an appearance in a Spider-Man title, during a Sinister Six storyline no less.

This continues the trend of new characters spawned by Marvel during the early 90's and their appearances in Spider-Man books to lend authenticity to the characters. The 'Round Robin' arc during Amazing Spider-Man #353-358 and this storyline in Spider-Man #18-23 had guest-starred TEN characters. All of which had a hard time getting their titles into the top 50 chart, or off the ground at all. New Warriors, Moon Knight, Punisher, Darkhawk, Deathlok, Hulk, Sleepwalker, and Ghost Rider all starred in these two storylines.

Makes you wonder what Erik Larsen would have done with the Sinister Six if he wasn't required to guest-star a different character every five panels.