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! The first order of business is to win a fat public-works contract from New York State to build a prison for supervillains. Unfortunately, his rivals at Alchemax, eager to win the contract for themselves, have hired the anti-corporate spy and saboteur, the Ghost, to disrupt Parker Industries and make its bid fail.
We open at Aunt May’s apartment, where she and husband Jay are hosting Peter and Anna Maria for dinner. Aunt May begins hinting she hopes that wedding bells are in the future for the young couple, and Peter begins to freak out; Anna Maria was Otto’s girlfriend, not his, but he can’t explain that without exposing his secret identity. Before he can tell a clumsy lie, Anna Maria capably explains that she and Peter have broken up. Aunt May is disappointed, but accepts that working together and dating aren't a good combination.
After the meal, Anna Maria asks Peter to web-swing them both to Parker Industries, which she thinks is fine because she and Spider-Man have a previous association. Thus there’s no threat to Peter’s secret identity on that score.
“Maybe we should stop a couple blocks away from the office. Spidey and Parker are supposed to be on the outs.”
“Oh, please,” says Anna Maria. “No one bought that. Not even for a minute. You really thought you’d be able to pull that off?”
Meanwhile, at the Labs, Sajani is bitching again about the infeasibility of building a supervillain prison, and the harm that will be done to the firm’s rep when someone breaks out. Unfortunately, she’s chosen to complain to Clayton ‘the former supervilllain known as Clash’ Cole, who’s unsympathetic to her prejudice. Her bad evening is about to get worse: the security system is ‘glitching’ on and off, despite the upgrades Sajani ordered (she’s still smarting from the time the Black Cat broke in and abducted her from the premises, back in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 3) #4.) And then Peter and Anna Maria turn up, and let everyone know that the two of them are broken up, and that Parker Industries are back making tech for Spider-Man. To say Sajani is displeased by this would be an understatement.
Of course, the reason that the security system is glitching is because the Ghost has infiltrated the building. The Ghost hates late-stage capitalism and its institutions; as he explains himself in inner monologue, he’d have taken the contract against Parker Industries for free, because he despises its attempt to expand the prison-industrial complex. “Not that I’ll refuse the money,” he muses. “Even a Ghost has to eat.” Last time I saw the Ghost was when he was part of Luke Cage’s Thunderbolts, i.e., the work-release Thunderbolts, but I suppose he’s gotten out of prison by fair means or foul and is back to his old tricks. He’s a brilliant hacker and technologist, and wears a battlesuit that makes him invisible or intangible as he desires.
He uses his leet skillz to take down all phones and Internet, as well as using the building’s security measures to put the whole facility into lockdown. When a security guard attempts to intervene, the Ghost phases right through his chest, delivering what appears to be a fatal blow. “There are no innocents here,” he thinks. “Everyone is complicit”, from the CEO down to the “lowliest security guard”. With the guard down, the Ghost unleashes the new tech that Parker Industries has developed for its super-prison on the leadership team assembled in the beta-testing labs.
As Peter, Sajani, Clayton, and Anna Maria watch in horror, the ‘hard light smart walls’ spring up, and the ‘security orbs’ and ‘SWAT-bots’ come to life with maximum aggressiveness. The Ghost himself monologues over the internal coms about the impending demise of Parker Industries.
Despite being out of costume, Peter springs into action, using his spider-sense and agility to knock his colleagues out of harm’s way, in such a fashion that the rampaging tech uses its weapons on itself. “I’m really risking myself here, but there’s no other option,” he thinks. Anna provides helpful cover by claiming she’s interfering with their guidance systems - a lie, but one that gives Peter plausible deniability to do feats what would otherwise seem impossible for a normal man.
As he battles, he orders the Living Brain to escort the others to safety. The Brain does so, taking damage along the way. Consequently, Anna tells Sajani on the down-low that they have to keep the Brain safe, as it holds the only backup of their secret nanotechnology project, their contingency plan for Parker Industries in case the supervillain project fails. If the Brain and the main computer are destroyed, Parker Industries will be impossible to salvage. Sajani realizes that, with all her plans on the line, she’ll have to resolve this crisis herself.
Fortunately for the Parker Industries crew, there’s a secret entrance to the facility that isn’t wired into the main security network; it’s the one that Spider-Man uses when ‘he visits to pick up the gear that Peter makes for him’. Peter hangs back to ‘seal the entrance’, and uses the opportunity to change into mufti. He travels to the security hub where the Ghost lurks, ignorant of the fact that Sajani got there ahead of him. She braced the Ghost herself to offer him a deal: “don’t hurt anyone, leave the rest of our projects alone, and I’ll show you the best, fastest way to wreck the prison stuff beyond repair.”
It’s a smart move. She knows the Ghost is a corporate saboteur, and has deduced correctly he was hired to torpedo the prison contract. But what you don’t know can kill you. The Ghost explains that he doesn’t “sabotage corporations for the money. I do it because I hate them. And I want them dead.”
As Spidey bursts in, the Ghost has Sajani in his grasp, his intangible fist seemingly phased into her chest. It seems Sajani will be shortly as dead as the security guard.
This story clocks in a brisk 14 pages, as it has to make room for a recap page, a pair of letter pages, and a six-page Black Cat backup tale. For all its brevity, it does a good job. We have some nice character moments with Aunt May and Anna Maria, some fun superheroic action, and a suspenseful cliffhanger. Each of these feels fresh, too. The brisk way that Anna Maria cuts through Peter’s soap-opera dramatics by simply telling people the information they need to know, rather than permitting him to tell clumsy lies, is not only amusing, but also treads territory that we haven’t been on since the Peter-MJ marriage, if even then; it’s good for Peter to have a girlfriend who acts like a partner instead of a dupe. The action sequence, where Peter and Anna Maria have to work together to save everyone and defeat the bad guys while Peter remains firmly in his civilian ID, was a nice twist on the good old killer robot rampage. Even Sajani’s botched negotiation with the Ghost feels less like a heel turn and more like Sajani acting like the protagonist of her own story, which is hard to pull off in a compressed medium like comics.
This is good stuff. It’s worth four webs, with a half-web dropped because it’s so brief.