Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #257

Background

Hunted by everyone and their mothers, Peter Parker is forced to quit being Spider-Man! But a man with his sense of responsibility cannot be stopped from serving his city....

Story 'Prodigy'

Things kick off with the rooftop exit of Ambassador Hazram Chaliz being interrupted by lots of men with big guns. Working under someone named "Conundrum," the terrorists herd the ambassador and his wife into a waiting helicopter. Their takeoff is aborted by a man decked out in a shiny gold and silver armored costume. (Five demerits for anyone wondering who's wearing the outfit!) With bullets ricocheting off his chest like spitballs, the man now calling himself Prodigy disposes of the terrorists in short order and life is good again. Billy Walters, who was assigned to cover the Ambassador's exit, tries to get some information on New York's newest crime fighter, but all he gets is a corny answer about evil never resting "and neither does PRODIGY!" And with that, he's gone.

Billy is compensated with a front page story and gets kudos from both Jonah Jameson and Norman Osborn, who of course wants to find a way to use Prodigy against our favorite wall-crawler (Get a hobby, Norm!)

The scene shifts again to a really creepy-looking building "somewhere in the city" with a really creepy-looking guy named Conundrum. His face is nothing more than a set of shifting blocks that form faces and other interesting patterns. He apparently has no idea who or what he is, but by putting together a jigsaw puzzle realizes that his next task is to acquire "the fabled Hand of Mumthazi", which is a big honkin' ruby. As it happens, the assault on the Ambassador earlier was nothing more than a decoy for him to kidnap the Ambassador's daughter, Tabriaz. And Conundrum will spare her life only if her father gives him the ruby. Unbeknownst to Conundrum, though, that pesky Jack O'Lantern has already stolen the ruby.

Peter Parker (this is his book, after all), after a quick de-costuming in a back alley, runs into Aunt Anna on the street. Anna is still feeling guilty about accusing Peter of infidelity a few issues ago, and finally explains what caused her reaction. It seems Anna had designs on acting when she was younger, and married a radio writer named Jacob Hilliard out in California. The marriage failed almost from the beginning, and Anna soon had an affair with a singer. Disgusted with herself, she broke it off with both men and returned to New York.

Later that evening at the Sufindian Embassy, Ambassador Chaliz is meeting with Norman Osborn and trying to figure a way to recover his daughter when Prodigy appears. Peter had earlier seen the ambassador's televised statement that the Hand had been stolen and came to help. Receiving a note from the ambassador stating a meeting place, Prodigy leaps off into the night, eventually arriving at an old broken-down pub named "Maguire's". Jack O'Lantern has been there for awhile arguing with Conundrum, who still wants the Hand. Jack, however, wants only the girl, to Conundrum's shock. "The Old Man often said your romantic streak was going to kill you one day." After a brief scuffle in which Jack alludes to teaching Conundrum "quite a few of your tricks", Prodigy smashes through the wall and bashes their heads together. Imagine his surprise when his discovers that not only are their costumes now empty, Conundrum and Jack O'Lantern now tower over the suddenly tiny Prodigy!

General Comments

Writer J.M. DeMatteis is on a roll here, with a great mix of the old, spiced up with some fresh new characters.

Overall Rating

Four webs.