Former Sensational Spider-Man scripter Todd Dezago takes over the Marvel Age writing from Daniel Quantz with this issue. Let's see how he does adapting the old Lee/Ditko magic to the present day.
The shady fellows from Roxxon have put together a little show-and-tell for Midtown High School. They introduce the Living Brain who, in this incarnation, looks like a cross between ET, Gumby, the Chameleon's original mask, and the water creature from The Abyss. He can stretch and create shapes like Plastic Man, is programmed to do really annoying things like talk in street lingo ("Yo, yo, yo, what up, my homeys?" he says.) and can answer almost any question. Peter Parker knows Roxxon's "shrouded history" so he asks if the Brain is also a weapon. The nervous scientists deny it and show the students a remote that has a big yellow button with "Def" written on it. Liz Allan wants to know if the Brain can tell who Spider-Man really is but the Brain has insufficient data. In elaborating on this answer, however, the Brain reveals that it can use its deductive abilities for gambling purposes and this gets two of the students thinking. "Cha-ching!" says one. "Dude, we would make some mad cash if we could tap that robot for just one day!" says the other.
So, when the demonstration is over, the two approach the Brain and yell at it to tell them how to make money. When there is no response, one student picks up the remote and decides that the "Def" button has turned off the Brain's hearing. (Making him "def"... get it?) He pushes the button which puts the Brain on the rampage since the button actually stands for "Defense Mode" and the Roxxon guys were lying about the military uses of their invention. Spider- Man steps in and defeats the Brain by leading him to the area of the High School where cell phones can't get a signal. The Brain can't access his data site and shuts down.
First off, this isn't the Living Brain, all right? Not this dopey little Gumby clone. And no one is going to convince me otherwise.
But now that I've gotten that out of the way, I have to admit that this is easily the best Marvel Age yet. I have always felt that it was the concept at fault and not Daniel Quantz's adaptations and yet Todd Dezago steps in and does it exactly right the first time. Perhaps it's Todd's good fortune that he gets to begin with one of the lesser Lee/Ditko efforts of the early Spider-Man era but whatever the reason, he manages to update the story very nicely without disemboweling it. With a few carefully placed tweaks, he even manages to improve it. In the original story, the Brain does answer the question of Spider-Man's identity but spits it out on a ticker tape in mathematical symbols that require translation, which always seemed completely ridiculous to me. (After all, what kind of demonstration can it be when you can't give the students the answer?) Here, the "insufficient data" is logical and serves to lead into the notion of using the Brain for money. In the original, the men who activate the Brain are two "technicians" who just happen to be along and happen to be crooked. They set the Brain on the rampage by bumping into its control panel and short-circuiting it, which always seemed like pretty shoddy construction. Here, the dim-bulb students are much more effective and while the "Def" button is silly, it still wonderfully serves the purpose. Making the Brain a product of the sleazy Roxxon company, who would certainly lie about any military applications, is an inspired addition. Even the foreshadowed solution of using the cell phone black-out area works better than the original in which Spidey merely turns the Brain off by pressing the control switches.
These are devalued "Marvel Age" webs, remember but still...five webs.