Spider-Man Unlimited (Vol. 3) #14 (Story 2)

Background

Spider-Man Unlimited seems to focus on stories that aren't important to current continuity, but may (or may not) be worth telling anyway. Written and drawn by guest writers and artists.

Story 'S.C.U.D.S.'

In a small apartment in New York City, an alarm clock goes off at quarter to six. The radio news talks of a fight between Doctor Octopus and Spider-Man the night prior that left an inordinate amount of property damage. A fist slams down on the clock, turning it off, and Artie thinks of how much he hates his job.

With the local news yammering in the background about the fight and the wreckage it left, Artie has his morning cup of coffee and makes his way to work, all the while dreading his workday. He makes his way to the New York Department of Sanitation and changes into his work clothes, a co-worker informing him that they've got "a real mess" to take care of. He hears over dispatch radio that the Spider-Man cleanup crew is to report to the scene of the battle. Artie works for the S.C.U.D.S--Superhuman Cleanup Department of Sanitation.

At a convenience store near the site, Artie removes webbing from the area as the owner complains. Artie assures him that the damages will be reported and that the city will cover what it can. On the road outside, Artie takes down the details of a young man's car flipped over on its side. He also investigates a gaping hole in the asphalt in the middle of the street, and garbage spilled all over the place. He assures everyone that everything is going in his report and will be taken care of.

Rappelling down the side of a building, Artie (with the help of others), cleans the webbing off. As he drives to the next side, he wishes the wall-crawler would take a vacation and ponders getting another job. When he arrives at his next work site, his heart sinks even lower, as he sees the mess of sand and ice bridges littering the area. He collects a sample as he figures that Spider-Man teamed up with Iceman against Sandman, then gets to work cleaning the area before the ice melts.

As Artie drinks a couple beers at a bar, he thinks about how he spends twelve hours a day cleaning up after the messy web-slinger and gets not so much as a "thank you." As he leaves the bar to walk home, he's pulled into an alley by a mugger and threatened. He pleads with them momentarily, until a web-strand pulls his attacker's accomplice away. Attacker and victim both look up to find a wisecracking Spidey, who proceeds to easily subdue the attacker, cracking jokes the entire time. Spidey swings off afterward without a word to Artie, who kicks his webbed-up attacker in the gut for good measure before heading home.

Upon returning home, Artie is outraged that Spider-Man didn't even acknowledge him. He feels that he is like Spidey's maid, always cleaning up after him, and Spidey didn't even recognize him. As Artie puts away his jacket, however, he notices something on the balcony. He walks outside to find a gift basket hanging from a web, full of all sorts of goodies and a note--one that read, "Artie--Thanks for all the work you do. Hope you like the cheese. It's from France. Merry X-Mas. -Spidey".

Artie puts down the basket, claiming to himself that it means nothing, and that soon he'll have everything he needs...as we get a nice view of Artie's closet, full of pumpkin bombs, octopus arms, and various other weapons and equipment obviously taken from his worksites.

General Comments

Something didn't sit well with me with this story. The idea itself was a good one...having a sanitation worker dedicated to cleaning up after Spider-Man become embittered is very down-to-earth and interesting. However, I just don't think this story was executed as well as it could have been.

First of all, I'm pretty peeved that cleaning up Spider-Man's webbing was conveyed as such a huge deal in this story, when forty years of continuity has shown that Spidey's web dissolves in an hour. One could argue that his new organic webbing does NOT dissolve in an hour, but that's a pretty big assumption in my eyes, as no one has ever really addressed that. But what really bothered me was the ending. For me, once I finished the story, it seemed that the entire thing was just buildup for that one twist, which I feel was unnecessary. The notion of a division of the sanitation department of New York devoted entirely to the cleanup of superhero battles is interesting enough, even if it were to end simply with Artie being content with his gift-basket. I probably would have been content with Artie having his collection of super-villain hardware and then renouncing it upon his reception of the gift-basket, but something about his denial of Spidey's gift rubs me the wrong way. I'm thinking it's the fact that I'm sure Artie's story will never again be picked up, and we still have this half-crazed sanitation worker collecting weapons in a plot to kill our hero. I guess I feel we need more closure on this Artie guy, and the fact that I'm almost positive we won't get it makes this story's twist unfulfilling to me.

Overall Rating

Two webs. Good art, not a bad story, but I'm way too disappointed with an ending that could have easily been better.