At our last cliffhanger, Spider-Woman was battling what appeared to be the Rhino with a great vocabulary, accidentally released from the Meridian Institute. But then, he grew Doc Ock's tentacles from his sides. Just who is she up against?
Madam Web and Charlotte interrogated Dr. Meridian to get to the bottom of the release of the rampaging Rhino while Mattie continued her fight on the streets. (Madam Web must be lying as she proclaims her shock at finding a super villain at the institute - didn't she just drop off Charlotte there?) Spider-Woman's attempt to clobber "Rhino" earned her a metal tentacle in the back.
Back at the doctor's office, Dr. Meridian spilled the beans and revealed the origin of who Spider-Woman is facing. Over 30 years earlier, Dr. Meridian took Brian Leighton as a client in his psychiatric profession. Brian was a boy designated as a "projecting exomorph" - one who can reshape his environment by the power of his mind. As the boy grew older, he withdrew deeper into the reality he created in his own mind. When Brain was 20, Dr. Meridian discovered that the boy was mentally that of a small child, with no sense of right and wrong. Essentially, his morality was primitive and the boy out of touch with the real world. By Mattie passing by (with her own psychic abilities), he reached out and latched onto her experiences as a superhero, exciting him to create a new reality based on her memories.
The fight continued with Brian now adding the powers of Venom to his body. When things were starting to look desperate for Spider-Woman, Madam Web pulled the three of them into Brian's mind. Brian kicked Madam Web out of his mindscape, while Spider-Woman transformed herself into a giant robot. While Brian and the robot Spider-Woman battled in the imaginary world, Madam Web realized that Brian's mind was filled with images from an adult's world - yet he's still a child. With a mental order from Madam Web, Jessica punched out Dr. Meridian, breaking the link between the doctor and the boy. Brian was not an "ancient evil", but feeding off the fears and negative thoughts that lived in Meridian's own mind. Madam Web suggested she sever the mental link between the two, and close down the projection generating functions of the boy.
Though I enjoyed Erik Larson's contribution to part 1, I'm a fan of Bart Sears' art, despite his often-exaggerated facial expressions. I appreciate the efforts that go into his poses and layout. I also appreciated Byrne's writing efforts on these two issues. Yes, it's reminiscent of the X-Men's Proteus story as far as Brian's reality warping powers, but this remains an original tale with a decent plot. I thought Brian was an offbeat adversary for Spider-Woman. However, I still feel Spider-Woman remains a shallow character in the Marvel Universe.
Two and a half webs.