Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #357

Background

The Secret Empire is attempting to build an army of cyborg enhanced super- beings, the first of which will be Nova of the New Warriors. Midnight, the Secret Empire's first test subject, has rebelled against the ruling elite and taken control of the organization. Currently, Midnight and the better part of the Secret Empire is on the run pursued by Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Night Thrasher, and Darkhawk.

After their last confrantation with the Secret Empire, the heroes were left behind with Nova kidnapped and the extremely weakened Punisher missing.

This is part five of the six-part saga "Round Robin".

Story 'A Bagel With Nova!'

Spider-Man and company can only watch as Midnight and the Secret Empire escape once again with Nova. However, this time the Punisher is missing and has snuck on board the Empire's ship in an attempt to infiltrate their organization. He subdues a security guard and poses as No. 3 before passing out in an abandoned hallway.

Meanwhile, Moon Knight and Night Thrasher engage in a brief argument fueled by frustration. Moon Knight is upset that he ever trusted Jeff Wilde, while Night Thrasher is questioning his own leadership of the New Warriors now that Nova has been abducted. Spider-Man breaks it up and advises everyone to go home until they have a new lead on the Secret Empire.

Spider-Man goes home to find MJ asleep on the couch with dinner in the fridge. Moon Knight returns home and puts aside his responsibilities to the Moon God, Khonshu, and spends time with his girlfriend, Marlene. Night Thrasher returns to New Warriors headquarters and takes out his frustration in a workout as his teammate, Silhoutte, tries to consul him.

In the Secret Empire's makeshift headquarters, Midnight is being rebuilt as the Punisher awakens and searches the corridors for Nova. In his guise as No. 3, the Punisher is allowed entry into Nova's experimentation room and he sabatoges Nova's restraints. Punisher leaves to attend a meeting with the ruling elite and Midnight as Nova breaks free of his bonds and raises an alarm.

With the alarm sounded, Punisher convinces the ruling elite to attack Midnight since everything has gone wrong since he took charge. The soldiers are taken care of easily (with Dr. Franklin observing the scuffle, waiting for his own opportunity). Punisher's disguise is revealed and he barely escapes an attacking Midnight just as Nova sends a distress signal to Night Thrasher.

The super-hero phone tree is put into effect as Night Thrasher calls Moon Knight, and Moon Knight calls Spider-Man. The heroes making their way toward the Secret Empire's hideaway also attracts the attention of Darkhawk, who tags along.

Punisher and Nova aren't doing so well in their condition against the Secret Empire's limitless cannon fodder and Midnight. Punisher mentions the hopeful arrival of the 'cavalry' as Spider-Man bursts through a window and attacks Midnight. In a sequence which sums up the series rather well, Midnight looks up and screams, "Spider-Man! Again?!", to which Peter answers, "No. Not again... more like still!!"

Our group of random heroes are now together again to fight off the threat of the Secret Empire. Spider-Man, Nova, Night Thrasher, Punisher, Moon Knight and Darkhawk face off against the Empire's endless legion of foot soldiers, Midnight, and a newly armored Eliot Franklin in his old Wreckingball gear.

The final battle ensues with the heroes taking an early upper hand. Moon Knight closes in on his former partner Midnight, but is stopped short as he goes in for the kill. Midnight's nurse Lynn tosses Moon Knight aside easily and reveals her own cyborg enhanced body. The issue ends with the focus on Lynn, who has obviously been the Secret Empire's real weapon all along.

General Comments

The final battle is set-up for part six and the mystery behind Midnight's nurse is finally revealed. Eliot Franklin has also entered the fray which makes this an interesting match up for the finale. Especially when you consider that the Spidey's team consists of mostly 'street' heroes with no real powers.

Each of the characters in Spider-Man's makeshift 'super-team' are pretty well written. Moon Knight's focus never leaves the fact that this is HIS ex- partner their hunting down. Night Thrasher shows plausible guilt in one of his teammates being abducted when he is leading the New Warriors. Even Punisher has some good undercover op moments that allow him to add to the combined abilities of this mixed bunch.

Overall Rating

Sides have been clearly drawn and the brawl you've been promised since part one is set for the final chapter. Midnight presents a confused, powerful antagonist that keeps the story going even if the limitless supplies of the Secret Empire seem unbelievable at times. They always seem to have one more hideaway with a thousand foot soldiers waiting to strike.

The best part of this series is the random team that has come together to stop the Secret Empire. I realize that Marvel may have been pushing these characters into the limelight at the time, but they are a fun group of loners to put together.

Footnote

Look at Bagley's art during this series and his work on New Warriors that was published at the same time and you'll see the definition of a work ethic. Recently, artists need more than the month deadline to complete their issues and a number of books are late, if not embarrassingly late. Bagley put out quality work on two books a month for over a year at Marvel. He should be teaching technique and storytelling classes to the new artists in the industry.

He put out 25 issues of New Warriors that were published from July 1990 to July 1992 (none of which arrived late), while putting out 8 issues of Amazing Spider-Man published from Septemeber 1991 to January 1992.