This is Part Two of "Sandblasted." Last issue Sandman had come to "Back in Black" Spider-Man for help in clearing his father of murder and they realized that the "victim" was Peter's very own Uncle Ben.
In a "flashback" to the moments at the very end of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #10, we see that there was a witness to the ersatz Uncle Ben's killing of Spider-Man 2211 in the graveyard. A slightly besotted teenager named Dennis finds the deceased futurian and removes his helmet, causing the body to disappear in a flash of light. The cemetery caretaker chases the teen (he brings the helmet with him) away and mistakes the charred ground for art.
Back in the "present," SHIELD agents Jamie Madrox and Agent Sands are talking to a Detective Collins who was in charge of the case against the Sandman's father. The detective admits that Baker's confession was coerced and that Baker is facing the death penalty, sending "Agent Sands" out of character and into Sandman mode. As "Madrox" is trying to stop the attack the holoprojector runs out of juice and Spider-Man is revealed.
Other officers hear the melee and find Spider-Man's fist "stuck" in Sandman's mouth as he is trying to keep Marko from killing the detective. Sandman releases him, Spidey webs up the other officers and they escape through a Sandman-made hole in the wall.
Meanwhile at a local restaurant old friends Flash Thompson and Betty Brant are having a flirtatious dinner. She asks him about "Miss Arrow," who seemed to be jealous of them. Flash says he's asked her out a few times but she's always said no. After a bit more innuendo, Betty leaves to use the bathroom and Flash thinks that the after dinner festivities might be interesting.
Elsewhere Spider-Man warns Sandman not to go flying off the handle if they're going to keep working together. Sandman has a different observation: "Why're you always crouching on stuff? How come you don't just stand up straight?" Spidey answers, "Because I don't look cool just standing up straight." Sandman mentions Uncle Ben, suddenly causing Pete to be angry: "You don't get to mention him."
They both calm down and Spidey decides to keep helping Sandman, who wonders if Peter's "Uncle Ben" is still in the same place he should be. It's time for a trip to Flushing on the "7" line.
Back in the restaurant's ladies' room, Betty inadvertently answers a call from Deb Whitman on her cell phone. After hanging up she realizes that something's crawling on her. That something starts turning into several somethings until there's suddenly a legion of spiders attacking her, causing her to run screaming. She escapes the ladies' room and tells the manager - in full hearing of the rest of the restaurant - "There's maybe a thousand spiders crawling out of the toilet!" Naturally the other diners want their checks.
Betty, Flash and the manager investigate and all the latter can find is drug paraphernalia. Betty denies that it's hers and she and Flash leave before the manager decides to press charges. Watching the scene from a different stall is the enigmatic Miss Arrow.
Spidey and Sandman have a heart to heart as they're approaching their destination. Peter's life is now not that different from Flint Marko's. Peter has no place to hide, physically or emotionally, now that the world knows he's Spider-Man. They look at Uncle Ben's gravestone and it hasn't been disturbed except for a burned portion on part of the grass. Peter's spider-sense goes off but it's not immediate danger that he senses...
He traces the feeling to a van nearby. Inside they find a goth teen in a familiar helmet. Dennis tells them that he got the helmet off the body of Spider-Man 2211 after an old man shot him. Sandman angers Spider-Man by shaping his face into Uncle Ben's but Dennis confirms that that man was the killer.
Spidey puts the helmet on and it activates. On his request it shows him the visual recordings of the last wearer, his final vision being that of his murderer. The helmet also tells Spidey that he can find where "Uncle Ben" is right now.
A good continuation with Peter David's usual witty dialogue. The exchanges between Sandman and Spider-Man are heartfelt and it's ironic that a villain whom he's been fighting all these years is the only one who knows what he's going through.
David yet again uses his seemingly new favorite character in Jamie Madrox, this time as a disguise. And how perfect that Peter gives his associate's name as "Agent Sands."
The Flash-Betty flirtation is a terrific scene as well. They were very close at some point in the past - I'm thinking back to the "Cult of Love" storyline that began in Web of Spider-Man #40 - and Betty's character development seems to have brought her to a fully realized adulthood. She's been through a lot and has made quite a bit of herself. Of course being attacked by a bunch of spiders in the ladies room has probably not happened before.
On the heels of the "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"-esque scene from Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #16, David again introduces an adult theme to this "friendly" book, that being a brief and unsubstantiated drug suspicion against Betty. We know that it was a plant but wonder what Harry Osborn would think.
Artist Todd Nauck is coming into his own with his rendition of the black- suited Spidey. The subtle size changes in the eyes convey a lot of character and the sleekness reminds me of the Ron Frenz era. I'm not sure what happened to the "spider" insignia on page eight or so, panel four, but perhaps there's a "no-prize" explanation.
Improving art and snappy dialogue bring the Uncle Ben mystery another step closer to resolution.
An understated full-page ad with a spare grey web against a white background asks "What would you do...with one more day?"
The back cover features the Red and Blue and Black and White Spideys posed back to back in an ad for Spider-Man 3.