The participants of The Great Game, sponsors and sponsees alike, have been deceived... but by whom? They live for the fight, and there's still a lot of fight left in them, as Spider-Ben and sundry other unfortunate schmucks discover.
As the story unfolds, we are treated to a veritable smorgasbord of guest stars (thanks to the "Great" Game), including: Polestar (schmuck), Nightwatch (schmuck), El Toro Negro (eventual schmuck), Cardiac (oh, boy), Joystick (who discovers she's a loser), Rocket Racer (plus Silver Surfer board), Prowler (temporarily), Chance (from the Unused Characters Universe), Justin Hammer (plus circular saw), and many others, including - believe it or not - the Scarlet Spider!
This is just the way the Game should end - with heroes, vigilantes, villains and mercenaries each with a different agenda, slugging it out. The story itself is well paced, interspersed with subplots and appearances by members of the aforementioned Legion of Half-Rate Guest-Stars. The dialogue is pretty solid: some of my favorite lines are: "Stupid cow!", uttered by Cardiac after knocking a floozie off him, and Spider-Ben's response, "Tut-tut! Hitting a woman? What, did you find out you were a clone?"
There's also the matter of Robbie and his quite intriguing reactions at the beginning of the story to seeing Peter and "Spider-Man" together. It's long been hinted that he's got the inside scoop on Spidey's secret ID, but the hints were dropping like bricks here. If it's ever revealed that he didn't know about Peter, the editors at Marvel will have their hands full explaining away Robbie's reactions... if they even bother, of course.
Regarding the art, Joe Bennett again performs consistently (compared to his work last issue). The rectangular panels, missing costume webs, and constricting Spidey eyes are here again. The missing webs aren't as noticeable this time, though, since there aren't as many pictures of Ben in costume, and the few there are are generally done well. As for the eyes, I'll accept that it's a handy work-around to the problem of trying to draw emotionally expressive faces covered with cloth, but it's a little annoying--the mask isn't even made of unstable molecules (which wouldn't explain the effect, anyway, but would at least make it more plausible). To Joe's credit, he didn't originate the eye effect. I very much liked the coloring (by Christie Scheele), especially in the scenes with Ben and Betty. The only excessively bright colors appeared during the fight scenes, which made the out-of-costume scenes all the more comfortable for their lightness. The second-last page was particularly nicely colored.
Despite the huge number of characters making appearances (not to mention the regulars at the Dailies Bugle and Grind), the story didn't seem too forced. After all, what better excuse is there to write fight scenes than the Great Game? It's the perfect device for a mainstream title! As much as I hate the Game, I liked this particular issue (not just because it brought an end to the Game, though that's certainly a factor), so someone must be doing something right!
I give this issue a rating of three-point-five webs.
I reckon it's about time "The Game" came to an end. I dislike the whole idea of giving people massive powers and then saying "Well, I can't think of anything interesting do with these people, so let's have them playing games."
Mortal Kombat already has its own comic, and that's as interesting as watching webbing evaporate. We saw the great X-comics melt down into a repetitive sequence of staged battles and in-fighting. We should count ourselves lucky that the Spider-Man titles have finally avoided the same trap.
These 'games' might be fun to play, but they're dull to watch. If Spidey has to fight, let's see it done for some genuine reason - not for some millionaire's entertainment. What would Uncle Ben say about it all?