Looks like Avenging Spider-Man has a real Avenger as a co-star for the first time since Avenging Spider-Man #10 (unless you count Wolverine two issues ago except that was billed as “Wolverine and the X-Men” which sort of puts him in a non-Avenger capacity). Only trouble is Spidey isn’t the real Spidey. Actually, that’s not trouble, that’s a big part of the fun.
Electro returns to earth via a bolt of lightning, arriving at Far Rockaway. For those of you who forgot (like me), there is one flashback panel showing Thor using his hammer to send Electro into space. There is, unfortunately, no footnote to tell us in which issue that happened. I couldn’t remember and had to look it up. It’s Amazing Spider-Man #683 if case you also can’t remember and planned to look it up. (Why has Marvel mostly dispensed with the helpful footnotes anyway? Can’t they remember either?) Electro, who now has jagged marks on his face that make him look a little like the Molecule Man, does remember and he vows to kill Thor. (Electro, by the way, has had those facial marks for at least a couple of years but I can’t remember when he got them. There is no footnote available to help.) He departs via lightning.
Soon after, Peter Parker arrives on the scene, led there by Electro’s energy signature. He recalls, from when he was Doc Ock, that Thor humiliated Electro. “Surely,” he thinks, “Electro knows better than to take him on again?”
Well, no. At a secret base of A.I.M., Electro asks the villainous scientists of the organization if they can help him kill Thor. They take a moment to examine a bunch of impressive-looking equations and tell him they can.
But when Spider-Man warns Thor about Electro, the God of Thunder laughs. “Mouth breathing, muscle-bound, remnant of a dead civilization,” Spidey thinks of Thor. “Part of me hopes that Electro does find a way to take his revenge. Just so I can watch.” Instead, Spidey tracks Electro’s energy signature and locates him in Lower Manhattan. It is an A.I.M. lab with lots of Tesla coils and something that looks like a giant toilet bowl. The scientists warn Electro that the process they have in mind will turn his electrons to protons and may kill him. Electro doesn’t care, as long as he takes Thor with him. Just then, Spidey arrives and beats up the A.I.M. guys but he is too late. Electro is converted by a quantum field generator and disappears.
Spidey finds Thor at McManus’ Irish Pub and warns him that Electro has “undergone a quantum conversion.” Thor again scoffs until he is brutally assaulted by Electro’s electricity. “To be fair,” thinks Spidey, “I warned him.” Electro, now resembling a photographic negative of his former self, continues to shock Thor, yelling “How do you like me now?!” Spidey thinks, “Quite a bit, actually. Aside from almost dying by his hand, I’m actually almost…proud. Had he only shown this kind of initiative working with the Sinister Six.”
Thor retaliates with lightning from his hammer but misses. Spidey realizes that A.I.M. “found a way to create an anti-matter version of Electro” and understands that “they found a way to kill us all, the idiots.” With that, he grabs a hold of Thor’s hammer to stop him from fighting back. Once Spidey explains that Electro is “an anti-matter version of himself,” Thor understands that any “direct hit of electricity” will cause annihilation. Spidey and Thor flee with Electro pursuing. Spidey asks for time to go to the A.I.M. lab and “rig a field version of [their] q-field generator.” Thor allows Electro to assault him without fighting back to give Spidey his time. As he works, Spidey’s thoughts exhibit his hybrid Peter/Otto personality. “Thor! Had he just listened to me! Unthinking brute. To think that he claims to be a prince or king or whatever! In the end, just another caped fool…Over and over, Electro rains down pain that I cannot even imagine and Thor stands his ground. He’s sacrificing his life to buy me time. I called him arrogant, but he’d die to save these lives. Hmm.”
Spidey finishes his jerry-rigged generator. He tells Thor to fight back. As Thor does so, Spidey activates his machine. Again, his thoughts reflect his dual nature. “And in that flash of light I experience doubt,” he thinks, “If I’m wrong, I just killed millions of people. Least of all myself. But Thor trusted me. A god put his life in my hands. It would be humbling if it were not so appropriate.” The machine works and Electro seems to disappear. Spidey tells Thor that Electro’s “protons were destroyed. Any electrons that survived dispersed.” Thor doesn’t like Spidey’s attitude toward Electro. “[Y]ou speak of him as if he were a problem to be solved,” he says, “[Y]our manner is disrespectful.” This gets Spidey thinking as, later, he sits in Doc Ock’s underwater lair. And, with Electro trapped in a tube alongside the trapped Sandman, Spidey wonders, “How far am I willing to go to get what I want?”
Another intriguing ending as it looks like Spidey-Ock is trying to rebuild the Sinister Six only to be hampered by his emerging conscience. Once again, the Peter-Otto personality dichotomy is the best part of the issue as Chris Yost has a firm grip on how to make it work. Sure, he has SpOck think grand egomaniacal things like, “the arrogant oaf” in reference to Thor and “A god put his life in my hands. It would be humbling if it were not so appropriate,” but it is really the subtler comments, the smooth meshing of Peter and Otto that show Chris’ true grasp. Lines like, “Good luck, Hammer Head,” “For Asgard, you fool!” and “If I’m wrong, I just killed millions of people. Least of all myself.” Lines that you can almost hear the pre-Ock Spidey saying…if you put a little ground glass in his smile or that you can hear the pre-Spidey Ock say…if you give him the capacity to smile.
Beyond that, it’s pretty standard super-hero story-telling. Electro undergoes a hastily-conceived power augmentation which nearly kills a lot of people except that Spidey-Ock tweaks the machine so that it doesn’t. I’m not a big fan of the whole “let’s defeat the bad guy by tweaking some machine without going into details” approach that shows up far too often in comics but the fight and Electro’s threat isn’t really the point here. Rather, the point is to further develop the Peter-Otto personality and to pique our curiosity about what is going on in the underwater lab. And that, this issue does very well.
Marco Checchetto’s artwork is dramatic, expressive, and powerful. But not particularly imaginative. I shouldn’t complain, I suppose, about good, clean, easily-followed art but I do like a little bit more pizzazz and innovation. Something along the lines of page 3 panel 1 with Spidey’s twisted web-swinging posture or page 4 panel 1 with the corner-of-the-ceiling view looking down on Electro and the bank of A.I.M monitors that seem to seque into the monitors in panel 2. I wish there was more of that. And what is the deal with that giant toilet bowl in the A.I.M. lab?
Still the best Spidey team-up stories in quite a while, but, I don’t know, maybe I’m just spoiled now and taking Chris Yost for granted. His work is still a breath of fresh air but it’s a familiar breath. I’m giving this one three webs.