A friend from Peter's childhood has asked for Peter's help with an experiment involving Vibrainium, and has ended up getting into deep trouble, trapped inside a Vibranium suit. Believing that Peter betrayed him, Charlie breaks into May Parker's home in Forest Hills...
Spider-Man swings through New York, having just gotten MJ and May to a hotel to keep them safe. He panics when he hears a newcast saying that Charlie has killed a couple. He sees his smoke coming from his apartment, and then crashes inside and confronts Charlie. Peter narrowly escapes by webbing the ceiling down on Charlie, and punches his way through the floorboards to another apartment, getting to street level and then passing out.
In a dreamstate, Peter is in his high school class room, alongside Charlie, and his and Charlie's younger selves. The two Charlies and the younger Peter yell at him and blame him for ruining their lives, when the teacher turns into Tony Stark, and tells Peter about the chemical properties of Vibranium. Peter figures out how to stop Charlie, when he wakes up.
Upon waking up, Spider-Man hightails it to Stark Industries, where he tells Tony his plan, and then calls MJ and May to see if they're alright. After doing so, Spidey follows the sirens in order to find Charlie. Charlie is lashing out all around him, so Spider-Man swoops down and gives him a target. Spidey webs up two cars, pulls them together and smashes them around Charlie. He webs up the resulting metal mess, and carries the large and heavy websack to Stark Industries, smashing through one of the floors in order to get in.
Charlie escapes from the websack, but Spider-Man kicks him into a chamber which Peter uses to increase the pressure inside, which freezes the Vibranium around Charlie. Peter flashes back to when Charlie left the high school, and how Charlie hoped that he wouldn't always feel so helpless, as the scene shifts to the present, and Charlie trapped inside the chamber.
Tony Stark congratulates Peter on his non-lethal solution, when Mary Jane calls and tells Peter that Charlie burned down Aunt May's house...
This issue finishes off this storyline quite well. The pacing of the script is very solid, with no real lull period to drag it down. Peter Parker is written extremely well here, as he charges into battle with the confidence of a seasoned superhero, yet awkwardly and humourously asks for help from Tony Stark.
Charlie is very well characterized here, as he acts out against Spider-Man, believing that Peter betrayed him to Spider-Man. His anger is misdirected yet at the same time very much in keeping with the character as Straczynski has thus far written him. Peter uses his brains in order to defeat Charlie here, which is something that is sometimes forgotten in this title. Peter is a scientist, a thinker, and although he fights with his fists, ultimately his real super power is his scientific mind, which here is used to great effect, to stop Charlie.
The ending of this issue sets up the new Spider-Man status-quo, spinning out of New Avengers, which will find Spider-Man moving into Stark Tower, and becoming a member of a unit, and not just a solo operator anymore. The use of the destruction of Aunt May's house doesn't feel like a hollow plot device, but instead as a more realized plot evolution.
The theme of helplessness that has been utilized in the past few issues is again used with Charlie, and it works extremely well. The page with the flashback Charlie and current Charlie, both horrified about being trapped and helpless, really resonates with the reader, and is sad and lacking some optimism. It's not a happy ending, for anyone, and Straczynski doesn't shy away from the strong emotions in this issue.
The art by Deodato Jr. is just jaw-dropping. Spider-Man looks phenomenal, and the facial expressions of May and Charlie are perfect snapshots of pure unadulterated human emotion. The action scenes are clear and easy to follow, packed with power and excitement.
This is a fitting ending to the story of Charlie, and how his overeagerness and paranoia leads to his eventual downfall. It's a sad yet poignant tale, and also sets up the new Spidey-status-quo fairly well as well. A good ending to a good storyline.