After Deadpool apparently helps Spidey emerge from a hypnosis-induced nightmare, he reveals that he was the cause of it all and used Spidey to help him break his employer out of prison. His employer? The Hypno-Hustler.
It turns out that the Hypno-Hustler’s prison roommate is the Tinkerer who has souped up the Hustler’s equipment. “Now you will only see me as a foe to be reckoned with,” the Hustler tells Spidey as he seems to become taller, broader, and wearing brass knuckles that say “Super Funk” and a costume that sparkles, as KC and the Sunshine Band plays in the background. He attacks Spidey who reminds the reader that the Hustler “relied on back-up singers to hypnotize people” (in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #24, November 1978) but now can directly access his brain. “Feel the funk, fool!” says the Hustler. Spidey ridicules the outdated slang and tries to prevent the Hustler from exiting the cell. But HH has a secret weapon. Not his “nifty goggles” as Spidey suggests, but Deadpool whose gunshots scare the wall-crawler away. Touching a button on his “nifty goggles,” HH tells Spidey, “You will now see everyone in this prison as your worst nightmare,” as the Bee Gees plays. “Ya know, that music isn’t exactly helping your threats,” says Deadpool, who prepares to follow Spidey. “With that transmitter you implanted on his mask, my powers can reach Spider-Man wherever he is, dig?” Hustler tells Deadpool. “Seriously, dude,” replies Deadpool, “It’s the 21st century. Nobody says ‘dig’.”
Meanwhile, Spidey wall crawls through the prison, discovering the cell doors open. Under the Hustler’s influence, Spidey sees the convicts as the Green Goblin, Morlun, Kraven, Tombstone, Doc Ock, Kingpin, Sandman, Dr. Doom, Lizard, Venom, JJJ (!), and Vulture. (Not sure how the Vulture is flying when he isn’t really the Vulture. Is Spidey hallucinating the guy in the air when he’s really on the ground?) The villains attack; Spidey trying to remind himself that the attackers are real, “They’re just not who they appear to be.” While fighting the Goblin, Spidey sees the name Fred Myers on the cell and realizes the Goblin is really Boomerang, then sees “Van Vile” on Morlun’s cell and realizes he’s the Painter. Not exactly imposing opponents.
In the prison’s security room, the Hustler tells Deadpool he must kill Spidey in order to earn his prize (which, you may recall from last issue is a promise to kill him). Deadpool, who reveals HH’s plan is to kill him by hypnotizing his heart to stop, pulls a gun on his partner. But HH uses his goggles (and Van McCoy playing “The Hustle” in the background) to implant the command “Kill Spider-Man” in Deadpool’s mind.
Deadpool arrives in the cell block just as Spidey finishes knocking out all the inmates. He attacks Spidey but is able to resist somewhat because “being schizophrenic [HH] only hypnotized one of me.” (“This must be what Lindsay Lohan feels like,” he says.) Spidey tries various words to see if they will break the hypnosis. He succeeds with “Ryan Reynolds.”
As this is going on, HH “boogie[s] into the locker room” and grabs his possessions including a mood ring, pet rock, socks with toes and a picture of the Fonz running for President. Deadpool arrives with Spider-Man skewered on his sword. HH is so surprised that he “actually engineered the death of Spider-Man” that he decides he must see it with his own eyes and removes his goggles. The apparently-dead Spidey kicks him in the jaw and then removes his mask to reveal that he is Deadpool in Spidey’s costume, able to survive the sword through his body because of his healing factor. Spidey in Deadpool’s costume joins in and they knock the Hustler out. Spidey webs Deadpool’s feet to the floor, saying “I can’t let you leave here knowing my secret identity.” Deadpool tells him that he never actually learned Peter’s secret i.d. because “I wasn’t actually in your mind.” But Spidey doesn’t want to take the chance. He triggers the Hustler’s goggles and leaves Deadpool in the cell, imagining that he is Dr. Frank N. Furter doing the Time Warp in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Writer Kevin Shinick seemed like he was trying too hard last issue. This time he eases off and lets the story flow. Yes, there are still bad Deadpool jokes and overdone cultural references from both the 70s (the Fonz, mood rings) and the present (Lindsay Lohan, Ryan Reynolds) but they don’t seem as forced. (Okay, the Ryan Reynolds line and the Fonzie bit are forced but somehow don’t seem as annoying as last issue’s references.) I enjoyed the Hustler and his unrepentant embrace of the 70s. (And it is clear that he’s from the 70s and not just channeling the 70s. I’ve never been a fan of the sliding time-scale of Marvel’s characters; pretending that they’ve only been around for seven years when we all know they’ve been around since the 60s. This story ignores that and I’m cool with that, dig?) I loved the Hustler’s 70s slang. I was around in the 70s and I hated Disco but I love it in this story. (I also saw “The Rocky Horror Show” in its original London theatre production back in 1974 and I loved seeing the Time Warp in this story.) I also love the use of the Tinkerer who spends the whole issue in his bunk reading and reveals that the Hustler used his hypnosis so that, “I haven’t had a cigarette in five weeks.” And, is that the Rachel Welch “One Million BC” poster hanging on the Hustler’s wall? Love that, too. The swap of uniforms is clever but Spidey stumbling on “Ryan Reynolds” as a hypnosis-release word was silly, the joke of the Hustler wondering if Fonzie ever made it to the White House was lame and the “Censored by the man” sword through Deadpool was a joke that not only ruined a good full-page illustration but starts the story’s climax on a completely wrong note. Oh, and the notion that the Hustler must remove his goggles to see Spidey’s death with his own eyes is disappointing. Would the Hustler really remove his greatest weapon, even if he thinks Spidey is dead? Still, more good than bad here from Kevin Shinick.
Last time, I wondered if Aaron Kuder’s artwork was cartoony because he was drawing Spidey’s loopy dream or because that is his regular drawing style. This time his work still seems cartoony but moodier and works very well here. Nothing exceptional in panel placement or storytelling but I’d still like to see more of Aaron’s work.
In fact, I’d like to see Kevin and Aaron work together again. Unfortunately, they are not the new creative team on this book. On the letter page, the Hustler butts in and says, “That’s it? Two issues and I’m done? Hear that? That’s the sound a’ readers dropping this book, Jive Turkey!” I’m afraid he’s right about readers dropping the book because the “two issues and done” also applies to Kevin and Aaron. If this series continues as a try-out for rotating creative teams, it’s in trouble. On the plus side, the next creative team is teaming Spidey with Devil Dinosaur!
Better than last time but not as good as we’ve seen. Three and a half webs.