This issue begins the era of Mark Bagley as the regular artist on Amazing Spider-Man. Up to this point the artist had only three (I believe) fill-in issues under his belt, and was attempting to fill the impressive shoes of both Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen. During this issue, Bagley was also working on his fifteenth issue of the New Warriors with Fabian Nicieza.
During the second half of 1991, Marvel was having some success with a few of its newer characters which included Bagley's New Warriors. They constantly made guest appearances in one another's titles and Amazing Spider-Man was the 'primetime' format to introduce them to new readers.
ASM #351 begins an eight issue span in which guest stars dominate the Spider- Man universe. Nova of the New Warriors was the first in this two-part series titled "Return of the Tri-Sentinel".
The new storyline begins quickly as Spider-Man is swinging through the city and looking for some excitement when he runs into Nova of the New Warriors. Nova is tracking down a lead he stumbled onto earlier in his civilian identity and finds paydirt at a building which had housed 'artificial vibranium experiments' (Web of Spider-Man Annual #7). Nova and Spidey jump onto the scene only to be stopped by two hoodlums with a baton launcher and a sonic grenade. Their tech is so good that the getaway van avoids Spider-Man's spider-sense when he goes after them.
In a page of detective work, Spider-Man figures that the box stolen during the fight was from where Roxxon performed their experiments and that it contained 'antarctic vibranium'.
That night Peter and MJ visit Aunt May's for dinner and then plan for a night dancing with friends. As they leave May's, however, Peter gets a tingle from a spider-tracer he had accidentily hit Nova with and notices him flying above. Despite MJ's hurt feelings, Peter tells her dancing will have to wait and watches her storm off.
Spider-Man catches up with Nova and after admitting he needs the young hero's help instead of vice versa, the two are flying around North Jersey in search of the van Spidey had planted a tracer on. They finally find it at a very well-guarded facility built into the side of a mountain. The two break in and split up to search the facility for any signs of... well, badguys I guess. Spidey turns down a few corridors to find through an air shaft a huge room housing the Tri-Sentinel. He's unsure of whether it's a replica or the original that he fought with cosmic powers in Amazing Spider-Man #329.
Nova stumbles onto a room of scientists who are discussing a 'demonstration disc'. As they leave, Nova decides to take the disc in an attempt to prove he doesn't need Spidey's help to solve this mystery. Naturally, he springs the alarms and the guards are on alert. Nova is taken rather quickly while Spider- Man fights his way through grunts until the boss, Carlton Drake, shows himself.
Apparently, Drake had big plans for the Tri-Sentinel and its role in his Life Foundation. Spider-Man warns Drake not to trust the Sentinel, but he scoffs at the notion and explains the failsafes he had placed within the robot. In what is supposed to be a display of the robot's power, Spidey's fears come to light as Drake cannot control the Tri-Sentinel the minute after its activated.
Loki created the monster and now that it has been activated its going to destroy as Loki designed it to do. Spider-Man and Nova pursue it outside of the facility. As Nova is trapped within coils sprung from the Tri-Sentinel's hand on the outside, Spidey gets trapped within an energy bubble while trying to break into the inside.
A decent story with great art as Mark Bagley gets off to a nice start as the regular penciler on Amazing. It must have helped him involving a character he's become familiar with in his work on the New Warriors. The dialouge between Nova and Spider-Man is entertaining at times, and you get a sense of Nova being the novice to Spider-Man's mentor.
The Drake Foundation seems like just one of a thousand evil organizations that are prepared to wreak havoc on New York in the Spider-Man books. Hopefully, Drake himself can add something new to this corporate monstrosity. The return of the Tri-Sentinel is a nice touch, but I can't help but notice that the combined powers of Nova and Spider-Man are nearly identical to those he had during his time as Cosmic Spidey. His identity during the first run-in with the Tri-Sentinel.
The storyline is okay and the interaction between Spider-Man and Nova was good. The selling point is the art. In several interviews Bagley has admitted that Amazing was his dream job, but that he held off on taking it until he thought he was ready. With more than a dozen New Warriors issues, and a handful of fill-ins under his belt he made the right choice. Though the art is still rough at this stage, you can see his passion for the character that would build into a career of nearly 175 issues of Spider-Man.
Bagley's work ethic during this period must have been incredible. He was pushing out a monthly New Warriors book and starting work on Amazing while it was going into a bi-weekly storyline. I've read in interviews that he finally decided to give up New Warriors because he needed to focus on the quality of Amazing and not the quantity of his work.