When I was a kid reading Spidey, there were no comic stores around, and that meant issues were bought by my parents at department stores and newsstands as afterthought, catch as catch can. It also meant reading mere pieces of whole story lines, and missing entire swaths of others. All I had to guide me as to what was out there were Marvel's in-house ads, or Bullpen previews. A couple of covers in those previews stuck in my mind long after publication--those of Spectacular #'s 92 and 93. Who exactly was this character in the gaudy but cool purple outfit, The Answer? I was able to track down both of these issues many years later. With a fresh read, does the story live up to my initial curiosity?
|Cover Art:||Al Milgrom|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #4|
We open in Kingpin's high rise office. Kingpin is asking a shadowy character a series of questions--is he able to gather information? The reply comes back everytime--yes. Kingpin gives The Answer the go-ahead to attack Spider-man, and humble him if possible, to which Answer again replies "yes".
Cut away to Cat and Spidey necking while hanging upside down underneath a rooftop water tower. Cat gives Spidey back his camera, which she grabbed from the scene where they fought Blob last issue. As Cat runs off, Spidey later heads to the Bugle to develop the shots taken by Cat. As Peter he tries to sell Jonah on the pics of Spidey and Cat fighting the Blob. After some bluster, Jonah pawns Pete off on Robbie, saying Robbie handles the editorial duties now. Robbie orders Pete into his office, and sternly lectures Pete for going to Jonah over his head. Pete is able to convince Robbie to run the photos based on the technical flair Felicia was able to bring. He gets a check for them, feeling a little guilt for passing the shots off as his own.
Going home and dodging his landlady, Pete tries to settle in for some sleep. He's suddenly awakened hours later by Cat tapping at his window, frenzied that someone is following her. Pete leaps into action, the symbiote leaving it's place on the chair and enveloping Pete as he makes his way out the skylight to catch up with Cat. When he does, she explains that felt someone watching as she was out on the city during her prowl. Spidey suggests they get up as high as possible on the rooftops so they'll see anyone coming at them. He calls out for whoever is following them to show themselves, wanting to know who they are and why. Their follower says "all very good and appropriate questions," and he is "..The Answer!" and that he's there to test them.
Spidey hands his camera off to Cat and goes to wail on Answer. One shot sends Answer flying, but he's able to glide in midair thanks to his costume. Spidey tries to web him, but he's too fast. When he does catch up, he sends Answer flying into a brick chimney with a punch. Answer gets up, brushes himself off and asks if that's all Spidey's got. He explains that he's got a super stamina that allows him to take Spidey's abuse and adapt, coming back fighting tougher than ever. He lands a barrage of punches on Spider-man when Cat intervenes and gets between them. The Answer says he perceives the best defense against Cat is no offense whatsoever. This catches Cat off-guard, as even Spidey doesn't know about her new bad-luck powers, given to her by Kingpin. The speed he built up against Spidey allows him to avoid Cat's every attack, and by not fighting back Cat's power won't affect him.
Spidey throws a web over Answer while he's distracted fighting Cat, saying his webbing held even the Hulk once. Spidey jumps over to where Cat is on the rooftop, but bangs his knee on the chimney, tearing a hole in the knee of his costume which is promptly mended by the alien symbiote. The Answer notes the costume mending itself, as well as Spidey's sudden clumsiness, and plans to report both to Kingpin. He stands up and tosses Spidey's web net off, saying it doesn't stick to him, and throws it back at Spidey and Cat. Because of Spidey's bum knee, they both end up getting caught in it. Answer says he deduced beforehand that the only way around Spidey's webbing was an ultra-slick material it wouldn't stick to. Spidey asks what he has planned for them, to which Answer replies nothing, for now, but that he learned all he wished to learn and leaves. Spidey and Cat wonder what to do until the webbing desolves, and go back to canoodling.
Finally, Answer is giving his report to Kingpin back at his offices--Spidey's costume seemed almost alive, and Cat was unaware there's more to bad-luck powers than she's realized.
Well that was different. The Answer is an extremely literal, almost postmodern-type villain. His whole existence this issue seems to be solely for plot exposition. On the other hand, he has that cool quality of being able to outsmart Spidey and combat him based on his own methods of attack, sort of like The Taskmaster. I like the idea of a bad guy who can spy on and toy with Spidey. It seems there are precious few villains that Spidey gets to match wits with, also.
More Cat and Spidey relationship stuff--they're definitely in their get-a-room phase in these years. But like real everyday relationships, there's a give and take going on (Pete taking credit for Felicia's pictures, Felicia being more interested in Pete-as-Spidey rather than in Pete himself), as well as a pride that makes two people reluctant to see their own flaws, and oblivious to their own contributions to the ending of the said relationship. The Spidey / Black Cat dynamic was pretty interesting then, much more so than seeing Mary Jane waiting at home alone for Spidey. Cat gets into the action, and has now got herself in deep with Kingpin over her powers.
Also good to see a literal example of Black Cat's powers here as I've never really understood them in relation to other characters.
Pretty good stuff by Al Milgrom. A new villain is introduced and old story threads get addressed. Since it's mostly an issue full of exposition and set up, three point five webs for starters.