Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 2) #4

Story 'Betrayals'

After his recent return to prominence after a few month's obscurity, Spider-Man decides to pay a visit to the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. While the two superpals are lounging around in Four Freedoms Plaza, Spidey learns that Ben Grimm, the mighty Thing, is keeping his old foe, the Sandman, under constant watch. Through this, Spidey learns that Sandman is presently guarding the body of one Senator Ward.

Due to a sudden power outage across New York, Peter calls his loving wife at home, only to learn that Jill Stacy, the Parkers' friend, is stuck alone in a hotel lobby in the city. Peter goes to check on her, but also finds the Trapster sneaking suspiciously through the lobby. Spider-Man pursues him as he makes his way to Senator Ward's room, and manages to intervene as he and the Sandman seem to be teaming up against the presidential hopeful. The FF arrive at the scene shortly after Sandy starts causin' trouble, and the five of them use their combined powers to make short work of the villains, but Sandman and Trappy get away.

In a short epilogue, it is revealed that the assassination attempt was actually planned by Senator Ward, with help from the Wizard, to draw attention away from the Senator's ... questionable past.

Of course, the story is continued in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 2) Annual 1999.

General Comments

Truth be told, I liked this book. True, there was nothing to develop the characters (except that we now know that Jill Stacy has a fear of the dark because of a bad childhood experience), but neither Norman Osborn nor the Gathering of Five ceremony was mentioned. There were a few prize moments with the FF, too, like when Pete and Johnny are kicking back to watch TV, and Johnny starts ogling a commercial featuring MJ.

This book is also technically solid. The art is clean, and each character is distinctive and recognizable. The action scenes have balance and focus. And this ish especially, despite the blackout, seems colorful and energetic. The dialogue flows smoothly, and characters get from point A to point B without any obvious lapses in logic. All in all, a welcome relief after two issues (only two? It seemed like more) of Gathering of Five carry-over.

Editor: Hey, I agree that this was pretty solid. I would like to suggest though that Peter coming homing having forgotten that it's Valentine's Day and not really seeming to care is pretty out of character. Clearly this is an attempt to set up Jill as a competitive romantic interest... but it's rather heavy-handed and poorly depicted.

Note only that - but Jill claims that this is the "Best Valentine's Day she's ever had", when Peter abandoned her to "make a phone call, it might take a while..." and go and beat up on some villains for half the mag. Well, it looks like Jill doesn't get much action if she places this in the "Sparkling Romance" category. I'm starting to wonder if Howard Mackie needs to get out of the office a little more these days!

And... what's the deal with Sandman turning instantly more evil than he ever was, wanting to kill everyone just to hide the evidence. Sheesh. All that time spent reforming his character, and some editorial type just does a hand-waving switcheroo. Yeah, this is the new Marvel age of character in comics. Not.

Overall Rating

Three and a half webs.