As Joy and Pete are driving into Belfast, all they can see is devastation. Pete's spider-sense warns him of danger and he brakes hard across Joy in the car while a petrol bomb flies across their path. Terrorists with guns show up but are eventually fought off my the military police and Pete and Joy manage to drive their way into the middle of the city. Welcome to Northern Ireland, I guess.
Joy is still on the trail of Roxxon and takes Pete off to their HQ. They are also on the looking for the mysterious 'black hoods' gang who the military police warned them about. After stumbling across a fire in a block of flats, Pete and Joy meet a guy called Liam, whose flat it was. He says he's running from the Black Hoods. Liam says the Hoods killed his brother and are now after him.
He takes them to a pub and introduces them as American reporters. One of the patrons tells them that the Hoods have been causing trouble in the area but no-one knows why. Joy thinks Roxxon is involved because the Hoods don't seem like 'traditional' terrorists. As they leave, a gang with rifles surround them - looks like they've been talking a bit too loudly in the pub.
The gang blindfold them and take them to the Roxxon building where they are met by a chap called Ian Forbes. Forbes tells them that the Pentagon terminated a defence contract with Roxxon and so they decided to try and sell their weapons to the British government to use in Ireland. He demonstrates the use of a tank (that has a tendency to overheat) to them.He then introduces 003 - a British secret serviceman.
His plan is to cause unrest through the Black Hoods in Ireland, then some 'well-placed' politicians in London will call for greater force to be used and so Roxxon come in and sell their weapons. As they are locked up, Liam shows up. Pete and Joy want to get more evidence against Roxxon, so split up as they escape. Pete does a quick change to Spidey and does some arse- whupping. He finds out Forbes and 003 are escaping via helicopter on the roof.
On the roof, Liam and Joy have been recaptured. Spidey saves them and manages to get a tracer on the helicopter. Liam shoots one of the gang who is threatening them but finds out it is his brother, called Rory. The last thing we see is the helicopter exploding while a shadowy figure in a Roxxon building says Forbes had been too careless.
This provides a nice blend between reality and fiction as it takes a real issue of the time and mixes it with a fictional element to create a pretty good story. The plot moves nicely away from the London part of the tale (issue 20) and advances the action across the Irish waters. The fact that it doesn't try to delve too deeply into the troubles and instead takes a writer-created slant on the fact-based scenario works incredibly well. It give the story a much-harder edge without making the book too political.
We still have the mystery surrounding Roxxon, which looks like it could run - especially with Joy still in the picture. Joy MUST now know that Peter is Spider-Man though. There's no way she can't. First of all her suspicions were aroused during the 'Missing In Action' series (issues16-18) but after seeing Spidey turn up in IRELAND, how can she not know?
This is something that should be addressed. Joy has to mention it to Pete, else the credibility of the stories will begin to ebb away. An investigative reporter, whether she intended to write a story or not, would want to ask Pete what the truth was. Even if he lies and comes up with an amazing cover story, then at least the issue has been touched upon.
The ending of the Liam/Rory subplot is fairly poignant towards the end but it's hard to feel too much for either of them simply because there's little background to their characters. This isn't necessarily a bad thing- it's just the way it is.
It is also good to see Pete building upon his recent experiences. He decides not to tackle the Black Hoods gang in one scene, not because it'll break his cover in front of Joy, but because he doesn't want to potentially put her in harm's way. This is some nice character development that has been buildling over a year (real-time) or so now. Pete is maturing through the stories and isn't just a care-free teen who will jump in and think about consequences later.
The one, minor, point of contention is trying to see quite where it fits into the continuity with the other two books. It's tough to see how Pete would be able to go halfway around the world when Flash has just escaped from jail and is still thought to be the Hobgoblin (in Amazing).
All-in-all another nice effort from the Web team. Plenty of character development, lots of ongoing plot lines and a good, exclusive character in Joy. For the first time, the consistent excellence in Web has put it on an almost-even keel with Amazing and Spectacular. Whereas the other two are progressing the larger stories, Web is doing its own thing and looking at the characters themselves.