Peter David I've written about a lot on this site--even though he didn't create many villains or status-shaking storylines during his run besides the Jean DeWolff tale, he's undoubtedly one of the all-time best Spidey writers. This is one of his early arcs for the Spectacular book, with an appearance by the Avenger's Wasp.
Our story opens with the explosion of a pricey Riverside Drive brownstone, once occupied by "a sleeping human being". Perched on a nearby building, Spidey says he can feel the heat from the explosio nearby, and swings off in the direction of the burning building. He thinks about setting up his camera but realizes lives are probably at stake. Getting inside, he gets pictures of the burning corpse, and swings off because it gets too hot. He feels like a ghoul for taking the shots, and thinks not even Joe Robertson would want them at the Bugle. But the next day, Joe congratulates Peter on the pictures, saying he'll buy them, and that he knows who the victim is: Robert Sanchez Jr., a local longshoreman's union leader. Joe goes on to say that Sanchez probably made enemies with Nevell Industries, the cooperation who owns the unionized shipping company NESC. He mentions Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, is one of the principal shareholders in Nevell, and asks wouldn't it be interesting if one of the Avengers is mixed up in Sanchez's death?
Cut to the Nevell building, where protesters are gathered outside. Janet is in a meeting with the shareholders, the only woman among a group of men. They order her to get them coffee, while one of the shareholders brings up another business called Consolidated that's willing to take the shipping company in contention, NESC, off Nevell's hands. As Janet heads into the kitchen, she finds Spider-man standing upside down on the ceiling. He cracks a waitress joke to Wasp, and asks if she resents the treatment. Janet says they'll resent her even more because she makes terrible coffee anyway. She also mentions she left a mini-recorder in her purse while the meetings still going on, and that she knows the Consolidated company is run by a gangster named Granetti who's itching to get their hands on the unionized shipping company . The meeting is being disrupted by Robert Sanchez Jr., who accuses the shareholders of killing his dad, saying the union will not work at Nevell anymore. Spidey leaves, and when Janet comes back the shareholders are all voting on whether or not to sell to Consolidated--Janet's is the lone nay vote. Janet openly voices her concerns with Granetti's mob ties. The shareholders say the allegations are unsubstantiated. Wasp says she'll buy out all the shareholders of NESC herself.
Spidey goes to check up on Granetti himself, meanwhile, arriving outside his house where guards are standing by. He's wondering how he'll get in past the guards when someone fires some laser blasts which Spidey dodges--Paladin. Spidey says he doesn't understand how some people sell their power to the highest bidder. Paladin says he doesn't get people who do freebies all the time, and launches into a flying kick at Spidey. Granetti comes out and stops them, saying he's not paying Paladin to go against Spider-man, and tells Spidey he's trespassing. Spidey tells Granetti to call the cops and they'll find out who has more to hide. Granetti says Paladin will deal with Wasp and end the strife on the Nevell board. Spidey asks if Granetti offed Sanchez, to which Granetti brazenly admits to, mockingly telling Spidey he'll see him in court.
Janet is strolling through Central Park in street clothes when she's attacked by Paladin. It's established pretty quickly that they both know each other previously, possibly romantically. Paladin gets a handful of Janet's street clothes as she shrinks down to size and knocks him around. After making Paladin look bad, they agree to stop brawling and have a seat in a nearby cafe, Janet expanding back to regular size and wearing a little nightie. Paladin orders two rum and cokes while the waiter ogles the half-naked Janet. Several drinks later, Paladin admits that he was sent by Granetti to scare Janet. Paladin says if she doesn't stop interfering, Granetti will kill each member of the board one by one. Spidey arrives, after having planted a tracer on Paladin, who exits. After getting info from Janet, Spidey agrees to protect the board members with her help, but Janet leaves it up to him and goes to get her hair done. The waiters hand Spidey a menu as she walks away.
A definitely quirky tale. The plot with Consolidated, Nevell, Granetti, Paladin and Wasp makes the issue feel overcrowded for sure, but makes for a nice set up. It also means there's little for Spider-man or Pete to do besides play connect-the-dots for the story--they both get rather limited panel time here. Paladin just looks plain dumb in his purple-caped costume (and even pays for his and Wasp's drinks with a platinum credit card that says Paladin on it during a ridiculously cheesy moment--here's hoping he's not appearing in part two).
This is an early Peter David story, and it's definitely tonally off when compared to his later work on the title but it's still full of adult themes. A big part of the problem is the art--it's competent, even passable but doesn't really elevate this story. A more cinematic instead of cartoony vibe was probably needed here--all unhelped by fact that the whole last two-thirds of the book, including the fight scenes, take place during daylight.
What's up with Spider-man swinging into the burning building, snapping a picture of Sanchez's burning corpse and leaving to make a profit on it? It does indeed seem ghoulish and out of character, but I guess there was nothing he could do for the dead man. It came off bad reading it though. Certainly the police would also want to know why and how Peter Parker got that picture.
A whole lot of setup, too much Paladin and Wasp and not enough Spidey. The union man's murder and the Nevell board stuff, as well as Janet dressed down, make this a more mature read. But although it's an intriguing start, it's also a very talky issue and much of the humor falls flat; odd since both dialogue and humor are usually Peter David's strong suits as a writer.