When we last left our hero, he was investigating a series of electrical disturbances that had been ravaging Manhattan. He suspected Mendel Stromm was behind them, and managed to deduce his whereabouts. But when Spidey infiltrated Stromm's headquarters, he was shocked to find only Stromm's head...
|Inker:||Dan Green, Rodney Ramos|
|Cover Art:||Kaare Andrews|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man TPB (PPSM) #2|
To open this issue, Spider-Man remarks on how you shouldn't get dragged down by your job, otherwise it'll get the better of you. The perfect example of this is Mendel Stromm, who has been reduced to nothing more than a disembodied head because of his work with robots. Spidey accuses Stromm of being responsible for the electrical problems across the city, and Stromm explains that it was, in fact, his machine controlling them. It seems that Stromm sought to create a robot that he would be able to control with his thoughts. But his work went to far, and his machine wanted to be one with Stromm, and in doing so, destroyed his body, leaving him nothing but a living head. Stromm explains that the small measure of control that he has over the machine is the only thing stopping it from reproducing and overrunning all of the networks in the world. And he explains that the only way that Spidey can stop the machine is by killing Stromm.
Meanwhile, Glory Grant has dragged Randy Robertson away for a thrilling day of shoe-shopping. Back at evil machine headquarters, Spidey explains that he won't kill. Stromm goes on to explain that if the machine takes over, he will be subjected to tortures for as long as the machine lives, and then the machine will take over all sorts of different computers that will threaten people's lives. Stromm says that if Spider-Man doesn't kill him, at least a thousand people will die.
In Forest Hills, May Parker and her very troubled nephew watch the story of the worsening electrical disruptions across the city on the news. As Aunt May turns off the television, Peter finally manages to ask her about the topic of euthanasia. May tells him a story of when she was a little girl. Her Uncle Horace had been taken ill with cancer, and was in a great deal of pain. One night, her uncle took his own life with a revolver. May went out to see her troubled father afterwards, and begged her to please go back inside. May realized what had actually happened, for her Uncle Horace hadn't owned a revolver...
Peter then logs onto a private chatroom to talk to Stromm. Pete explains that he'll help, and Stromm goes on to say that he'll need to introduce a virus to the robot. Stromm uploads a copy of the machine's operating system, and Pete enlists the aid of Randy's friend Shea to create a virus for it.
Sometime later, Spider-Man makes his way back to the relay station, where he finds the machine laying low, waiting for him. The machine sends everything it has at Spidey, and the web-slinger tears through it, making his way to Stromm who has been possessed even further and is the verge of being overwhelmed. Spidey puts the virus disk into the machine, and it falls, defeated. But Spidey reveals that he couldn't actually kill Stromm. He actually had Shea create a loop program that will keep the machine disabled and Stromm unconscious until they can come up with a better solution. And we see a digitized Stromm, alone in the computer world...
Okay, okay, I know I sort of joked around about the last issue because of the recent series of goofy villains, but I'm sorry, I take it back. This is really heavy stuff. Mr. Jenkins' story is a moving one, as is often the case, and I'm sure that many readers can identify with the euthanasia issue. Aunt May's story was particularly touching. The script also has some comical moments, like Randy and Glory going shopping, and some genuinely funny Spidey quips. The art is also great all the way through, particularly the way Mr. Buckingham makes a disembodied head so expressive. And the scene with Stromm being torn apart by the machine was downright creepy.
Also, here's something else that I just now noticed about this issue: last issue, Peter talked about how the line between good and evil was starting to blur, and how he was in danger of crossing it. If he'd killed Stromm this issue, he would've crossed that line, and that's part of why he was so determined to find another way. Another nice touch by Mr. Jenkins.
This was great stuff. A moving, dramatic story, and a nice examination of Peter Parker's morality. I think this was the best issue from Paul & Mark yet.