This is Part Three of "Sandblasted" and continues the "Back in Black" theme of recent Spider titles. Last issue brought more tantalizing clues about the identity of "Uncle Ben" and this issue promises some closure.
In a flashback to a time shortly after the multiple Mysterio attack on Midtown High (see the "I Hate a Mystery" storyline that concluded in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man 13), a janitor cleaning up the mess finds poor Principal Harrington hiding in the closet where Spider-Man stashed him. The principal asks if the danger is over but the janitor responds by breaking his wooden broom handle and killing him. The janitor licks some blood off the handle and then laments having to clean the whole mess up. But he won't be a janitor for long, he tells himself...
In the present Spider-Man (wearing the helmet of Spider-Man 2211), Sandman and Dennis the stoner kid are traveling in the teen's van in search of the man who looks like Uncle Ben. After some snappy Scooby-Doo allusions - all that's left for Sandman is Scrappy - Sandman worries if they will be in time to save his dad from being wrongly executed. They have plenty of time, says Spider- Man...after all, they have another day or so.
Back at Riker's Island Floyd Baker receives word that his execution has been moved up because his son and Spider-Man tried to rescue them. His son, he wonders? He's told that his son is the Sandman.
Meanwhile after having left their date at the restaurant because of the drug allegations against Betty (after she was attacked by spiders in a bathroom stall), Flash and Betty are tensely driving away. Betty thinks Miss Arrow has something to do with it all and sees her briefly. Her panic causes Flash to crash into a police car. She is arrested in her zeal to point out Miss Arrow even as a legion of spiders disappears into a sewer.
Back in the "Mystery Machine" Spidey's helmet has led them to Midtown High. As he and Sandman prepare to go in the helmet asks Spider-Man what kind of justic should be administered. On a lark Peter picks "poetic justice." Making sure Dennis stays in the van the super-powered rivals have a quick heart-to-heart before heading inside to investigate. As with most of their conversations it doesn't go well...says Spidey, "You know what? You're making me nostalgic for the days when you were just trying to kill me."
The helmet shocks Spidey by telling him that there are over 11,000 entities waiting for them. His utterance of surprise is heard by a rifle-wielding Principal Harrington. Although the helmet tells Spidey that this is the person, the hero's uncertain. Sandman attacks and the principal fires futilely into his sand form. Spidey thinks the helmet has gone haywire until he sees some spiders crawling through a grate.
Suddenly Sandman is attacked by...Sandman? Saying that they could have worked together, the figure then turns into Spider-Man 2211 and hits Spider-Man. He throws the helmet away (where it's viewed by Dennis) and turns back into Principal Harrington. Spidey finally figures it out...it's someone from the future who knew Spider-Man 2211...someone who can change shape...and since there's been a future Spider-Man and future Hobgoblin..."why not a future Chameleon?" As they talk we see that Floyd Baker is taking his last walk to execution...
Chameleon says he can copy others' form by ingesting their DNA. But he had no interest in framing Floyd Baker. The future Uncle Ben was brought to this time period with them and met this Chameleon in an alley, killing him and then taking his form. Baker just happened upon Parker's body and was then found and arrested.
The Chameleon then reveals his true form, a monstrous one at that, even as Floyd Baker is fitted for his electric chair execution. Meanwhile Dennis comes running in with the helmet on and - zoinks! - sees the battle raging. Chameleon reveals that there is another that could not be detected by Peter's spider sense. Dennis hurls the helmet to Spidey who webs it onto the Chameleon's head, saying "Administer justice" just as the switch is pulled on Floyd Baker.
Speaking of "switch," that's exactly what the helmet did. As the priest who gave last rites bemoans the barbarism of the death penalty and wonders about the wrong criminals being executed the warden tells him that they're absolutely sure that the right criminal is being executed. When the electric chair helmet is taken off they have no idea who it is.
Floyd Baker looks around and sees his new surroundings. He's with Spider-Man, Dennis and the Sandman. He won't reveal to him that he knows he's his son. Sandman alludes to the last time they saw each other (as related by Peter David in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man Annual 1). Dennis tells Baker the story, complete with a "and he would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for", when Spidey tells him to quit it. Meanwhile a woman watches from the grating where the spiders disappeared.
A satisfying, tongue-in-cheek conclusion to the fake Uncle Ben and Spider-Man of the future saga. The repartee between Spider-Man and Sandman is hilarious and who can argue with Scooby-Doo parallels?
Peter David continues to be one of the more comic book friendly (as opposed to trade paperback friendly) writers in the business. His flashbacks at the beginning of these last few stories wouldn't make much of a difference in a trade, but in an individual comic book they lend a cohesiveness to the serial aspect of storytelling that's very welcome.
Todd Nauck's art continues to improve and his black-and-white Spider-Man is sleek and strong.
Another classic '70s show is alluded to in the text introduction to the comic. After a rundown of recent events with a lot of "disturbing" wordplay, the text ends, "Disturbed? You won't be after this issue of...Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." Someone is obviously a fan of the great program "Soap."
The future Chameleon reveals that he had already "become" Principal Roger by the time Peter interviewed as Ben Reilly, putting the flashback sequence that opens the comic sometime in between Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man 13 and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man 14.
Alluding to yet another television series, the graffiti on the wall in the flashback to the murder of the alternate Uncle Ben by the chameleon reads "Bad Wolf." This is in reference to the first season of the new Doctor Who series (with Christopher Eccleston) in which the words "Bad Wolf" were a recurrent theme. Quite apropos with the time travel theme, methinks.
Can we pull one more TV show allusion out of the comic? A gang of crimefighters calling themselves the Scooby Gang investigating something weird at a high school? A prison warden who looks like the last Principal of Sunnydale High? A wooden stake used to kill someone and a villain who drinks blood? Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, anyone? No? Okay, stretched too far.
A satisfying conclusion to a fun three-parter (what's that? "Fun" in the present Spidey Universe?).
Spider-Man ads abound in this issue that came out about the same time as Spider-Man 3. From Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to the L.A. Film Festival to video games, personalized DVDs and Spider-Man 2.1, everyone wants Spidey.
And, again, what would you do...with one more day?