Peter Parker has revealed to the world he is Spider-Man. The act has placed him firmly in the pro-registration trenches of the superhero Civil War that is currently raging through the Marvel Universe. Peter made his momentous decision in Amazing Spider-Man #532, but the fall-out is felt in all the Spider-Titles. In this issue, Peter attempts to return to his teaching job and what passes for his 'normal' life. But the Webbed Wonder's new-found notoriety looks to make this all but impossible.
It is the dead of night in an abandoned warehouse. Francis Klum, the third man to wear the costume of Mysterio, is readying himself to take revenge on Spider- Man. He gloats over how much easier this task has become since Spidey's recent unmasking. But as he gloats, Francis is observed on closed-circuit television by another, even more mysterious figure.
Peter Parker is returning to work, but he is having to battle through a sea of protesters and the press. Eventually he leaps away and enters the school through the roof. He cannot believe how manic his life has become, and how much press-attention he is garnering. MJ and Aunt May are virtual prisoners at Avengers HQ. Could this have been a mistake?
Heading into the school, Peter bumps into Jeremy (one of his students). Jeremy is sporting a black eye that he received in a overly rambunctious dodgeball session. Outraged, Peter storms off to see the coach: Flash Thompson. Flash doesn't believe Peter is Spider-Man, and is convinced that Pete was lying to cover-up Spider-Man's true identity. He can't accept the wimp he used to push around at school could possibly be his idol.
As a crowd of students gathers, Peter tries to cut through Flash's normal rhetoric and ask him to take it easier on his pupils. Of course, Flash isn't listening and instead goads Peter into a game of dodgeball. With his identity made public, all those years pent-up frustration need to be pent up no more. Peter lashes out, Flash takes a ball to the face and goes down with two black eyes. Groggy, and not knowing exactly what happened, Flash is led away by Miss Arrow, the sexy new school nurse.
Peter is sent to the principal's office for bouncing a ball off Flash's face. He phones MJ with the news. She is less sympathetic than May. Peter confesses to his wife that he is going to have to give up being a teacher. Many parents are complaining that Peter's presence in the school puts their children in danger, and Peter can only agree with them.
The principal (Roger) enters the room and reveals that he is a decent and honourable man. He is willing to resist the pressure to fire Peter; he respects the life Peter has chosen and the stand he has made. However, he is still extremely relieved when Peter informs him of his intention to resign. Peter agrees to work for the rest of he day and heads to his first class.
The student body is not of the same opinion as the principal. They don't want him to go. Jeremy thinks that Peter is dumping them. Then Peter's spider-sense flares. Jeremy notices that the corridor outside has gone pitch black. Across the school, the same abrupt darkness puts a stop to Flash hitting on Nurse Arrow. Outside, the ranks of protesting parents and members of the press are forced back by a wall of inky, swirling darkness that suddenly engulfs the school. As the reporters try to convey what is happening at the scene, an unseen force renders them all unconscious.
Inside the school, Mysterio (Francis Klum) makes an announcement. He reveals that he has turned the school into a giant haunted house. The front doors offer the only way out, opening any other window or door will set off a large bomb. In seconds, Peter is in his costume, and leading his class to safety. He recognises the voice giving the announcement, but can't connect it to a name. He should have been paying more attention to his surroundings, because very soon he had the students have become separated in the darkened corridors.
The students are following what they believe to be Spider-Man. But 'Spider- Man' disappears and is quickly replaced by Mysterio, whose sudden appearance panics them, and they flee. The kids quickly run into Flash and Miss Arrow, and Jeremy tries to explain what they saw.
Meanwhile in the school auditorium, Francis Klum is gloating over how well his plan is going. He has separated Spidey from the students, and set everyone roaming around the school in different directions. No-one has even begun to guess his true plan. But Francis is not alone. A new voice chastises him for egotistic ranting. He needs panache and timing if he is going to fill his predecessor's fishbowl. Who is speaking? Why it's the original Mysterio, Quentin Beck! But he's very dead, isn't he?
Well, this is a definite improvement after last issue. Peter David takes the concepts and changes thrown at him by Civil War and runs with them. One of his great strengths as a writer is to squeeze unanticipated potential out of other people's stories, and that is precisely what we see here. This cannot be the story he intended to tell when he dragged Flash Thompson back into the spotlight. PAD's hand has been forced, which makes it very interesting to see where this is heading.
It's a shame to see Peter's teaching job disappear, but it was inevitable. JMS built it up during his initial few arcs over on Amazing Spider-Man, but nothing significant was ever done with it. Rather than using the school as a means to introduce a compelling supporting cast, it was hardly utilised beyond an obstacle for Peter to overcome every time he went out as Spider-Man. After Spidey joined the Avengers, and ceased to have a life as Peter Parker, the school had become obsolete. The outing of Spidey's identity offers a plausible reason to put it to rest.
Plot-wise, it's good to see the ramifications of Peter revealing his identity followed to their logical conclusion. It's only natural that Francis Klum would take immediate advantage of this opportunity. I find it odd that PAD decided to play Klum as comic relief given how he was portrayed in Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do. However, considering how dour that series became toward the end, it's probably a good idea to distance this comic from it.
Todd Nauck is behind the pencil, replacing the talented Mike Wieringo. This is a role Todd has filled once before, as he subbed for Wieringo on a couple of issues of Sensational Spider-Man (Vol. 1). Nauck's art is serviceable: his Mysterio(s) look fantastic, but some of the other characters (MJ, Peter, Spider-Man) are a little rough. Of course, having two inkers can't help his style. I'll give him a couple of issues to see how this pans out.
Despite the entertaining story, I continue to be bothered by the direction of this title. The stories strike me as overly indulgent, and the title is in danger of turning into little more than a soap box for Peter David to 'correct' all the things he perceives are wrong with Spider-Man. In the last eleven issues, we've had PAD's take on the mystical origins of Spidey's powers, he's brought Flash out of his coma, tackled the loose ends from Mark Millar's Marvel Knights run, written a sequel to a story he penned a decade ago and (in this issue) addressed the ambiguity surrounding Mysterio.
While the fan-boy in me is pleased that someone at Marvel cares enough to tackle these issues, enough is enough. We need to move forward. After eleven issues Friendly is still a comic searching for its own identity, and that worries me.
A briskly paced comic with witty banter and genuinely funny moments. Would have been a four-webber if not for the slightly disappointing art. Three and a half webs.