During the Superior Spider-Man Interregnum, Otto Octavius founded a new tech start-up, Parker Industries. Now that Peter’s back in control of his own body again, it’s on him to lead the company. After the events of “Spider-Verse”, Peter has grown as a leader and is committed to the task!
In an extended sequence, Peter battles the Iguana, who hasn’t been seen since 1979 (!), in a three part arc that began in Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #32. If you don’t have the time to go back and read up on the Iguana, all we need to know is that he’s a poor man’s Lizard: green, scaly, and ranting about the reptiles inheriting the Earth. Amusingly, Peter thinks so little of the Iguana that he takes a number of mobile calls over his in-mask mouthpiece while battling the villain.
(“Wait. Are you on the phone?!” asks the Iguana. “This! This is why homo sapiens must be exterminated! No manners!")
In order, the calls that Peter takes are from Aunt May, Anna Maria, and Sajani. These calls serve the expository purpose of reminding us readers, who have been wading through Spider-Verse since issue #9, just What Is Up with Peter these days: namely that Peter still has an Aunt May who loves him, but who thinks that he’s still dating Anna Maria; that Peter has his own company, the business of which he’s been over-delegating to Anna Maria and Sajani; and that the company has put aside a promising nanotech business line to pursue a government contract to build a prison for supervillains, what with the two local facilities being closed. (The closures happened in Superior Spider-Man #13 and Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 3) #1 (story 2), True Believer!)
Amusingly, Peter stands up for the project to a frustrated Sajani. “A lot of these guys have changed into something monstrous they can’t understand. Something that fills them with pain and rage! They need our help! Our understanding! Our compassion!” Each of those last sentences is punctuated by Spider-Man giving the Iguana a mighty blow across the face, finally knocking the beast out.
Across town, Liz Allen, CEO of Alchemax, is closing her pitch to the (New York?) Department of Corrections. It’s a good one, and leads the Corrections spokesman to reply that “This is all quite impressive. We’re weighing proposals from several bidders… but so far, this is the most promising.”
Wow. Giant monologuing iguanas I can suspend my disbelief for, but not this. As it happens, in my day job I do exactly what this guy does, namely tender large public-works contracts to private-sector bidders. And if I ever did what Corrections Spokesman just did, namely tell a bidder who the other bidding entities were, and that this one bid was better than all the others seen so far… well, I’d be opening my employer to a few lawsuits, which my employer would lose. I don’t imagine I’d be on the job much longer.
Let’s stipulate that the Department of Corrections has looser standards than my employer does, either in its public-procurement regulations, or in the calibre of employer it hires, and move along.
As the Alchemax bidding team, consisting of Liz Allen, Tiberius Stone, and Mark ‘the supervillain formerly known as the Molten Man, but he got better and reformed’ Raxton, leaves, they encounter the Parker Industries team waiting in the hallway outside. (Seriously, NY Department of Corrections? Seriously? That might not be worth a lawsuit, but it’s really unprofessional.) Stone, Peter’s former colleague at Horizon Labs, can’t resist needling the Parker Industries crew for Peter’s absence, even as our hero arrives, hair and suit equally rumpled.
Liz takes it upon herself to fix Peter’s tie, sighing that Peter hasn't changed since high school, always stumbling into class late and disheveled. Peter remarks that, nonetheless, he was still valedictorian, because his work spoke for itself. As he and the team enter the conference room, he smiles “take care, Liz!”
It’s a nice moment, and recalls that these two have known each other a long time, and even were friends in the past. It’s also a reminder that, contra Stone’s behaviour, people in the same industry tend to be polite to each other and even do them small favours, if only because you never know where your next job offer is going to come from. Of course, because this is a comic book, the moment can’t last. Liz watches the Parker Industries team go, she murmurs something about how Peter often managed to come out on top. “I wish there was some way to throw a monkey wrench into his plans…”
Behind her, Raxton and Stone smirk coldly.
Hmm. Does Liz know how her subordinates interpreted that remark? Or was she counting on it, and hoping to evade accountability by phrasing it that way? “Will no one rid me of this turbulent business competitor?”
Later, at what I guessed was the Bar With No Name but turns out to be the Slide-Away Casino, we see Stone and Raxton bringing a briefcase full of cash into a barroom of supervillains. They’re meeting with one in particular, at a quiet table off to one side . “Your fee,” says Stone, “and there’ll be another case just like this when you’re done.”
“You want me to steal plans? Sabotage a project…?” says their off-panel interlocutor.
“We’re after a little more,” says Raxton. “We want Parker out of business… permanently.”
“Not a problem,” says the Ghost.
TO BE CONTINUED!
Not a lot happens in this brief (14 page only!) story. It sets up the rest of the arc nicely: the Ghost should be a real problem for Spider-Man, as he’s a foe you can’t punch or web up. That alone will make a welcome change from the Inheritor bruisers that have filled the antagonist card for the past few issues. In that vein, it’s nice to take a breather after the cosmic craziness of ‘Spider-Verse’ and keep the stakes low for a while. Everything’s relative, of course: even if the fate of the multiverse isn't at stake, the question of whether Parker Industries can make a go of it is a real concern for Peter, Anna Maria, and Sajani.
Liz Allen remains an interesting cipher. In this issue, she seems superficially pleasant while remaining professional, just as she did when she took over Horizon Labs in Superior Spider-Man #17. But there were strong hints in Superior Spider-Man #30 and Superior Spider-Man #31 that there’s something sinister lurking behind that facade. I wonder when we’ll find out what it is.
I had thought that Mark Raxton was on a better path. Is this return to criminality the result of bad companions? More circumstantial evidence that something rotten is going on with Liz.
What’s here - the fight with the Iguana, the reminders about the status quo, the impending threat from Alchemax - are all fine. Too bad it’s so short. I know that’s to make room for a Black Cat back-up story, but it leaves the main story without room to breathe. Let’s start with three webs, drop half a web for brevity, and award two-and-a-half.
Looks like I have to resuscitate the awards for cover accuracy I was giving out when I was reviewing the Ultimate Doomsday mini-series! Just like in those titles, the cover features a variety of characters staring in horror at something unseen. Only three of the five - Peter, Sajani, and Anna Maria - appear in the issue: the other two, namely the Living Brain and who I think is the now-adult Clayton ‘formerly the supervillain known as Clash’ Cole, who joined Parker Industries in back in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 3) #8. The caption, “Peril at Parker Industries!” isn't fair: the peril is coming, but it hasn't arrived yet. Despite the fact that we've devoted more than a third of the issue to a Black Cat back-up, there’s no mention of that on the cover. I hereby declare this cover to be Totally Inaccurate.