The turf war between the Maggia and Mr Negative is over and, thanks to Mysterio, Mr Negative has won. However, there's still the small matter of the vial of Spidey's blood that Mr Negative has in his lair. With it he can create a gas that can kill Spidey at any time. The wallcrawler considers this a bad thing. Meanwhile, Peter's Parker's potential paramour Carlie Cooper has troubles of her own. Her crooked cop of a father, Ray Cooper, is back from the dead with a big bag of money. He wants to start a new life with his daughter. Will Carlie turn her back on her principles to be with her father? Let's read on and find out!
Chinatown, New York. It's a few hours after the end of last issue, and Spidey has quite sensibly asked for the Black Cat's help in stealing that vial of his blood back from Mr Negative. She's happy to help, although little upset that Spidey doesn't trust her to swap the real vial for a fake one on her own. She works better alone, and she doesn't believe that Spidey is there to protect her. She thinks that he's there to keep an eye on her, and make sure she doesn't steal anything else. He can be such a drag at times!
Meanwhile in Forest Hills, Aunt May is throwing the remainder of her Reilly relatives out of her house and back to Boston. This leaves the destitute Harry Osborn with nowhere to live either. He tries to appeal to May's good side but, after her encounter with Mr Negative, Anti-May doesn't have a good side. She is cold, and sarcastic and leaves Harry on the street.
Across town, Carlie Cooper is working late at the ruin of the Empyrean Opera House. She has collected a sample of the Devil's Breath. She wants to take it back to the lab and analyse it. Captain Watanbe isn't sure the NYPD can be trusted with a gas that can kill Spider-Man, but Carlie only wants to do good with it. Then she receives a call from her father. He's made arrangements for them both to leave the United States. Carlie arranges a quiet spot to meet him.
Back at Mr Negative's swanky residence in Chinatown, and Spidey has to use all of his willpower to resist the amorous advances of the Black Cat. Doesn't she know there's a time and a place for these things? The pair head through the complex web of security, but the Inner Demons have been tipped off to an intruder. The Cat remains unseen, as she propels Spider-Man forward to fight them. She was wrong about working alone. Spidey is going to make a wonderful distraction for her larceny.
Over in Brooklyn, Mary Jane Watson gets a knock on her apartment door. Who would call on her at this hour? She expects a dishevelled Peter Parker, fresh from a fight with some outrageous villain or another. However, it is not Peter but Harry Osborn! He has nowhere else to go, can he crash with her? MJ says yes of course - she doesn't want Harry sleeping in the back of the Coffee Bean again - but she senses that (given their history) this is not the best of ideas.
Meanwhile, Spidey is happily pounding away on the Inner Demons. Everything is going pretty well until Mr Negative himself shows up. Spidey is brimming with confidence. He knows that Mr Negative's powers work by creating a negative charge in people and objects, even in himself to give him superhuman strength. Negative used that power once to bring out Spider-Man's dark side (in the Mr. Negative limited series) but the trick won't work twice. So all he's got is his superhuman strength, and Spidey's faced his fair share of strong foes - after all, how strong could Mr Negative be? The villain answers this question by punting Spidey out of his home, across the street, through an apartment building and into a dark alley. Pretty strong, it would seem.
In a storage vault in Tribecca, Carlie is rooting through her dead mother's things. She tells her father than if she is going to flee the country, there are some things that she cannot bear to part with. He sees the logic, but is eager to get going. He becomes a little suspicious when Carlie closes the shutters and seals them both in. He's even more suspicious when she puts on a gas mask, and starts waving a vial of red smoke at him.
Carlie tells her father than this is the Devil's Breath, that Mr Negative used to try and kill Spider-Man. She says that she has modified it with her own blood so that it will now only kill people of her bloodline. Carlie can see two possibilities: either this Ray Cooper is an imposter and the gas won't affect him, or he really is her biological father in which case the gas will kill him. If he dies, she doesn't care because the man she thought he was died years ago.
Ray goes nuts. He calls his daughter a "@#$%!" (which we all know must be pretty bad). He then tries to wrestle the mask off her, but it is too late. The Devil's Breath has got to him. He collapses to the floor, but he is unconscious, not dead. The vial was full of knock-out gas. Carlie has her answer, and she also knows how much her father really thinks of her. She radios in to Watanbe: she's found another corrupt cop. "No. No one special".
Back at Mr Negative's home, the Black Cat reaches the safe and switches the vial of Spider-Man's blood for some pig's blood. There's far more than blood in the safe, but Felicia knows that for the plan to work, she must leave everything else untouched. She reflects that Spidey should really trust her.
Mr Negative has tracked his way to the alley where he casually flicked Spider-Man. The wallcrawler is not there, but Negative can sense him. He says that he lives by a code of honour: now that Spider-Man has invaded his home, he can never let him rest. But Spidey has an answer to this. Anything Mr Negative has planned for him, Spidey can take and return with interest, because Negative invaded him home first: he came to New York.
The issue ends with a series of interest vignettes. In Central Park West, Jay Jameson is on the phone to May's sister. News that May threw all her Boston relatives on the street travels fast. Jay is unhappy. Finding May's long lost relatives was his wedding gift to her. May is unrepentant. Yes, there's trouble in paradise.
The following morning, MJ awakes to the smell of sizzling bacon. Maybe having Harry around the apartment may not be such a bad thing after all. About this time, a bruised and blackened Peter Parker is walking back to his apartment. Carlie is waiting on his door step. With Ray out of the picture she intends to take charge of her life. She was intending to lay into Peter for treating her badly, although it looks as though someone has beaten her to it.
Upstairs in the apartment, Michelle is her usual charming self. However, Carlie thinks she has a point. Carlie likes Peter, but her recent experiences have taught that sometimes she sees what she wants to see in people. She doesn't want someone yanking her around and treating her like a doormat. She offers Peter one more chance, and advises him to take his time and make it count.
Finally, we pop over to Phelcorp Pharmaceuticals and a beleaguered scientists named Curt Connors. Curt is under pressure from his boss (a wonderfully two-dimensional Mr King) for results that will make Phelcorp money. Curt says not to worry. He has something that will take them to the bleeding edge. We can all see where this is going, can't we?
Every so often, the Spider-Office turns out a comic that is not part of a specific story, but designed to forward a number of unrelated plots. Over the course of twenty-two pages the pieces are moved around the chess board, characters are repositioned and we are primed for the next wave of Spidey's adventures. I quite like issues like this, as they give us a chance to reflect on where the comic has been, and where it's likely to go next. And I haven't seen this type of issue written as well as this in quite some time.
In this issue we finally resolve the plot of Spidey's blood, we despatch May's Bostonian kin, we sew the seeds of problems between May and Jay, we push MJ and Harry into dangerously close proximity, we resolve the plot of Ray Cooper's return, and we begin to see a way forward between Peter and Carlie. That's a lot of plot for one issue, but Slott juggles everything expertly, and he is aided by very solid performance by Michael Lark behind the pencil.
The highlight of the issue was Carlie's confrontation with her father. The scene highlighted Carlie's strength of character and moral centre. She has grown, and continues to grow, in new and interesting directions since stepping out of the shadow of Lily Hollister. I had just a little sympathy with Ray Cooper, right up to the point where he was willing to kill his daughter to save his own life. An excellent resolution to the storyline, and one that only took four issues to get to. In an age of multi-issue plots, and thrice-monthly issues, I appreciate the brevity.
The closing scenes between Mr Negative and Spider-Man undoubtedly foreshadow a final confrontation between the two of them. Mr Negative is the most successful new villain in the Brand New Day launch, and I hope that he goes out with a bang. Logically, Spidey should just go to the Avengers and ask Thor to sit on him, but it will be extremely satisfying to see Spidey take Negative down. Of course, removing Mr Negative also means removing Martin Li and his FEAST centres. That will cause no end of recriminations on Peter's part, I am sure.
Aside from wondering why Spidey didn't try to steal his blood back 70 issues ago, there's really nothing 'negative' to say about this issue. If every comic I read was this good, I would be a happy man.
A superior little issue, that advances numerous plot threads, and leaves us hungry for more. It's issues like this that remind me why I'm enjoying the thrice-monthly Amazing so much. Four and a half webs.