Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #613

Background

Electro is having a pretty bad time of it. After joining up with the Hood, and subsequently getting his lights punched out by Wolverine in New Avengers #48, he has discovered that his powers are behaving extremely erratically. One moment he's supercharged, and the next he can't even power a 12 watt night-light. These changes are making him dangerous ill. Now the Mad Thinker says that he can 'fix' Electro, but he needs a whole sack of cash to do it. Sadly, Electro is flat broke after losing all his ill-gotten gains on the stock market. Damn this global recession.

So what's a hard-working supervillain to do? Get a job? Rob a bank? No! How about post viral videos on the Internet about how life has screwed him over? How about encourage the impressionable masses to take up arms against Wall Street? How about blaming Dexter Bennett, who has managed to prop up his ailing newspaper with tax payer's money? And when Spider-Man turns up to stop him, how zapping him and then throwing him to the mercies of a vicious mob? Yeah, I guess that would work.

Story 'Shock Treatment!'

  Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #613
Arc: Part 2 of 'Power to the People' (1-2-3)
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paul Azaceta
Articles: Electro

Spidey attempts to reason with the crowd that is trying to kill him, but he's been in this sort of situation often enough to know when to cut his losses. Our webbed hero sneaks away into the sewer when no-one is looking, and then crawls off to find his street clothes and camera. The photo-journalist in him can smell a story in this.

Also retreating from the scene is Electro. He's on the phone to the Thinker begging for help. His power is becoming too much for him. He's too powerful now, and the energy is killing him. The Thinker is not sympathetic. Why is Electro raising a mob, when he should be raising money? The Thinker is thinking about not performing the operation at all. Electro destroys his phone in his rage.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker rushes back to get a lead on Electro and to take some photos into the bargain. The people in the mob are not cooperative, and a shouting match soon ensues.

Peter's photos don't make it to the front page of the DB!. The headline here concentrates on Electro's threats against Dexter Bennett. Bennett himself is in his apartment surrounded by security guards. He doesn't feel remotely safe, which demonstrates a certain degree of common sense on Bennett's part.

Electro strikes when Bennett is in the bath. In addition to subjecting Bennett to a stomach churning tirade of puns based loosely on the theme of electricity, he accuses Bennett of stealing money from the poor. Bennett is confused. Okay, the bail-out for the DB! has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, but he's small potatoes compared the banks, why come after him? Why? Well, it seems Electro has not completely forgotten his supervillain roots. He wants to shake Bennett down for the million dollars the Thinker needs. With his life and the fate of newspaper at stake, Bennett folds quicker than a cheap picnic table.

Back at his apartment, Peter has invented a device that can sniff out the massive power surges that follow Electro around like a bad smell. He tests it by plugging all his appliances into one power outlet and overloading the apartment's circuit. As you can imagine, that doesn't do much to endear him with Michelle.

At his secret base the Mad Thinker is simulating the effects of his latest great scheme. It's got something to do with destroying New York city with giant flying Warspheres, or simply "Tuesday" as it's known in the Marvel Universe. The Thinker's assistant Annie is distracted. She doesn't have her mind on the genocidal work at hand because Electro's been looking at her funny. Can't the Thinker just cut him loose? Sadly for Annie it is not to be, as Electro chooses this moment to show up with a million dollars. The Thinker has never been one to refuse a million dollars.

Random interlude: as Spidey swings across New York searching for Electro, newlyweds Jay and May Jameson turn up at Peter's apartment to surprise him. They encounter a fuming Michelle who is trying to blow-dry her hair with no electricity. Deciding their not ready for this level of reality, the pair decide to quickly return to their honeymoon.

Meanwhile, the Mad Thinker has got Electro wired into the sort of big honking technological doo-hickey that only the Mad Thinker could invent. Annie is still sulking, but she hopes Electro might be a little less dangerous after this procedure. The Thinker doesn't think so! He's not stabilising Electro's powers, he's ramping them up to the nth degree! All the more power for his other insane schemes. Hey, he's a supervillain too, you know.

Of course, this degree of supervillain-ry makes Spidey's new power surge detector light up like a Christmas tree. Within minutes he has found the Mad Thinker's hide out. Of course, in true blundering Spidey-fashion, in apprehending the Thinker he destabilises the machine that was 'saving' Electro.

Thinks go very wrong, very quickly. Electro escapes and quickly begins to wipe the floor with Spidey. He can even transmit himself electrically along Spidey's webline, effectively teleporting next to him and giving Spidey a nasty shock. The Thinker and Annie decide that discretion is better part of valour and sneak out of harm's way. They return a few minutes later, when Electro has gone, the place is on fire and Spider-Man is unconscious. The Thinker picks up the million dollars and heads to the exit. Annie half-thinks of doing the right thing and saving Spidey, but in the end she leaves him to fry.

A little later at the DB! Bennett is dragged in front of Electro's latest webcast. He is juiced up with electrical power, but wants even more. He urges that everyone listening to him turn on all the electrical appliances in they own. He's going to drain the power and use it to go after 'the man'. Yeah, he's coming for Dexter Bennett and the DB!, and with Spidey out of the picture, this must be the end-of-issue cliff-hanger!

General Comments

"Hey! It's the Mad Thinker! Wow! If Electro's gotta be teamed up with somebody, I can't tell you how relieved I am it's only you!"

Waid's script this issue is full of sizzling one-liners and snappy asides. And it's not just Spider-Man who gets a chance to snark at the camera; even Dexter Bennett and Electro have their moments. However, it's the Mad Thinker who really steals the show for me. His deadpan delivery of lines so over-the-top they'd make Fu Manchu blush, along with his strangely intriguing relationship with Annie, make this one a winner.

This is a very solid middle act in Waid's three part tale, and much better than the last issue. It's nice to see that despite whinging to the contrary, Electro hasn't changed that much. Life has dealt him a bad hand, but rather than changing him for the better it's just moved him to kick those less fortunate than himself. Electro's exploitation of New Yorkers is every bit as bad as the bankers and wall street; but if he sees it, then he doesn't care.

Coming on the heels of Fred Van Lente's take on the Chameleon, this tale may appear a little light-weight: Electro isn't being reinvented in such a masterful fashion. But it's Electro's chronic lack of depth that makes him appealing, and keeps this story moving on at brisk pace. Waid fooled us into thinking Electro had been reinvented as a tragic, lovelorn victim, but the old Max Dillon was still there under the surface. Given a chance he'll blackmail a million dollars out of Dexter Bennett, and then turn on him ten minutes later. Going after the DB! at the end of the issue is nothing short of pure spite.

So, only good things to say about this issue. Azaceta's art is really growing on me, my initial misgivings are now nothing more than a distant memory. I do hope that Mark Wais has plans for the Mad Thinker and Annie. There's definitely a story there that needs to be told.

Overall Rating

An enjoyable read that pushes all the right buttons. A well-deserved four webs, and I'm looking forward to the conclusion.