The secret of the mysterious Nurse Arrow has been revealed! She is Ero: a creature made up of thousands of spiders, who has been sent to this reality by the Great Weaver to kill Spider-Man, and thus balance the cosmic books following Spidey's unlikely resurrection some months ago. While on Earth, Ero felt the uncontrollable need to reproduce, and chose Flash Thompson has her vessel. Flash was relieved when Spidey interrupted Ero's connubial intentions, but now the webbed wonder has taken Flash's place, and he's helpless! Meanwhile, Jonah and Robbie had a big argument and Jonah has fired Robbie from the Daily Bugle.
Joe Robertson returns home to give his wife the bad news. She takes it surprisingly well. Shouldn't Joe be glad to be rid of Jonah after all these years? Joe's son, Randy, doesn't see things that way. Surely Peter Parker is to blame for all this mess! If he hadn't revealed his identity to the world, then Jonah wouldn't have gone off the deep end and bought that video in the first place; and if that hadn't happened Robbie wouldn't have given Jonah that dressing down, and Jonah wouldn't have fired him! Yeah, Randy. It's all Pete's fault. You go and have a lie down in a dark room with a damp flannel.
Meanwhile, back in the church, Ero is still trying to force-feed Spider-Man a pulsating egg-sac. Lovely image, isn't it? Spidey is too disgusted even to resort to his trademark humour. She mercilessly mocks his lack of mirth. All looks bleak when suddenly shots ring out. Blam! Ero's egg sac is destroyed. Blam! Ero is hit in the chest! Blam! In the head! Blam! In the shoulder! Blam in the arms! Blam! In the legs! Who has come to Spidey's rescue? Deadpool? Cable? The Punisher? No! It's Betty Brant dressed in army fatigues and carrying a massive shotgun. Did anyone see that coming?
Flash makes a mental note never to get on Betty's bad side, as she opens a much needed can of 'whupass' on the situation. Ero's form breaks down into its thousands of constituent spiders and retreats through a broken window. As Spidey gets slowly to his feet he asks Betty how she managed to hurt Ero with a gun. It seems that Betty was packing silver bullets: "I'm a reporter for the Daily Bugle. I've seen stuff that would freak out Kolchak. Girl's gotta be prepared." Classic.
However, her actions come at a price. The half-human Ero appears in the window, to mark Betty as prey for all time! Then she exits into the night cackling maniacally. Of course, Spidey isn't going to let something like stand. Despite feeling a bit wobbly, he pulls on his mask and sets off in pursuit of Ero. Betty runs after him. It seems everyone has forgotten about poor Flash.
Ero is on the retreat now. She has created a large sail out of webbing and is drifting off through the air. She wants to go, lick her wounds and plot her revenge against Betty and Spider-Man. Spidey won't let her do that. He catches up with her, and cuts the lines to the sail with his handy stinger. The two of them plummet earthwards, crash through a glass roof and land in an arboretum of some kind.
All Ero's talk of predator and prey gave Spider-Man idea. This arboretum is the aviary of the Central Park Zoo. Ero is horrified as all manner of tropical birds descend from the trees and devour her. Peter just watches from the sidelines until he is sure that she is gone. By the time the birds have gorged themselves, there is only one spider left. Peter steps on it contemptuously.
Back at Flash's apartment, Flash, Betty and Peter are recuperating after the events of the evening. Flash makes some unsubtle references to tantric energy that fortunately go over everyone's head. Betty puts an end to any conversation. She has listened to all the messages left on her phone, and announces that JJJ has fired Robbie over an argument about Peter! Peter isn't standing for this. He is going to have a long overdue chat with Jolly Jonah Jameson.
Despite my misgivings for the first two parts of this arc, I enjoyed this issue a lot. All the earlier problems are still there, but this comic was written with such energy and the story unfolds at such a frenetic pace that they just matter less.
Peter David has taken a very tongue-in-cheek approach to this story. This treads the thin line between a solid superhero yarn that brings a smile to the face, and a story that puts such an effort into making the reader laugh that it utterly undermines the drama. Fortunately, PAD doesn't cross the line - although some of Flash's asides come close to it. I laughed out loud when Betty took down Ero - "That's for making me afraid of toilets!" - but I still felt the stab of horror when Spidey watched Ero being devoured.
For all the dark and vengeful goings-on over in Amazing Spider-Man at the moment, it was this scene in this issue that truly illustrated how the events of the civil war have changed Peter. There was an unsettling cold callousness to Peter's actions. There was a time when Peter Parker wouldn't have entertained the idea of 'killing' anyone - not even a supernatural menace like Ero. He's changed. And top marks to Todd Nauck for managing to draw a sinister Peter Parker. I didn't think such a thing was possible.
In the rest of the issue, PAD continues to do sterling work on the supporting cast. It was good to see Martha and Randy Robertson back in print. Throwaway lines like "Please don't tell me Tombstone is back..." really adds to the story for long-term readers such as myself. It's a nice touch.
And next issue it's Spidey versus JJJ. Again. I can see now why the 'Robbie getting fired' plot appeared last issue. None of the other spider-writers have really given face time to a direct confrontation between Spider-Man and Jameson since Peter revealed his identity. With the upcoming "Brand New Day" hinting at a new status quo for the webslinger, this might be the last chance anyone has to address the point. I am glad that Peter David is the one to tackle it.
A definite step up from last issue. It's still not going to win any awards, but this was a lot of fun. I'm going to miss Friendly. Three and half webs.
The letters page announces what readers of the Newsarama boards have known for some time. Peter David and Todd Nauck will be leaving the title with issue #23. Issue #24 will be part of the One More Day crossover, and will be the last issue of this title. Meanwhile Sensational Spider-Man is being cancelled as well, and from October Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) will be the only Spider-Man title and it will be shipping three times per month with rotating creative teams. Personally, I think this is a good idea, but I'll take the opportunity to discuss it at a later date.