Ezekiel secret agenda is about to be revealed...
|Writer:||J. Michael Straczynski|
|Pencils:||John Romita, Jr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Jr.|
|Reprinted In:||Amazing Spider-Man (Reprint TPB) #7|
Peter is fast asleep. He's dreaming of his wife, but suddenly the dream goes wrong and MJ starts clutching her throat as spiders start pouring out of her eyes and mouth. As MJ starts talking in an otherworldly voice, the phone rings and wakes Peter up. It's Ezekiel, he tells Pete to turn on the TV. So Pete turns on the TV and sees footage of New York being overrun by millions of spiders, fallinf from the sky and welling up from the ground. Pete is immediately worried about MJ, who's at an audition, so he suits up and swings off.
Meanwhile, at the audition, MJ is getting blown off by the producer when a car covered by spiders smashes into the audition room. Everyone runs, but as MJ exits the building she's scooped up by Spidey. Spidey deposits MJ safely and then swings off to find the centre of the problems. As he's swinging by Ezekiel calls Spidey over and tells him that the Gatekeeper he mentioned last issue is in town. Ezekiel explains that Spidey needs to leave with him or things'll only get worse. Spidey disagrees and goes to help a damsel in immediate distress. After Spidey frees her, the spiders around him gather to form a body (we assume the Gatekeeper). Spidey punches the creature and succeeds in being covered in spiders. The spiders bite him relentlessly and Spidey starts to hallucinate.
A voice (again I assume the Gatekeeper's) tells spidey how bugs are essential to planet and how spider's are the hunters of the bug world. The voice explains that Peter was chosen to recieve spider powers because he was a natural hunter, because of all the pent up anger he carried due to being bullied all his life. As the Gatekeeper explain: "Who could be a better hunter than one who had been prey?". Basically the Gatekeeper outlines how Peter was chosen by mystical powers to recieve his power.
Peter is confused by this because Ezekiel has told him that Peter got his powers by accident and that the Gatekeeper was after him to restore the cosmic balance of things. The gatekeeper reveals that Ezekiel is the pretender who 'stole' the power. The Gatekeeper shows Spidey a flashback of Ezekiel gaining his powers. When Ezkeial recieves them he is told that the mystical powers will try and right things so that there's only one mystical spider-guy and that the only chance he'll have of surviving is diverting those forces towards the true spider-guy, so that Ezekiel will be the only one to survive.
Spidey wakes from his hallucination to find Ezekiel standing menacingly above him. Ezekiel is all beefed up and he explains that the Gatekeeper will only let one survive, so he's going to have to kill Spidey, because he wants it to be him!
This was a pretty enjoyable, except for a couple of things...
This story has great pacing and builds an ominous atmoshpere that makes you feel that this story really matters. The revelations about Ezekiel aren't too mind-blowing, but that are interesting and I guess suprising when you consider the depths of his deception and manipulation. You can see that this was planned out and not just tacked on. It's a satisfactory pay-off and gives reason to some of the things that have been happening in JMS's Spidey run. The art is great, particularly the last shot of Ezekiel at the end, he looks truly menacing and determined. I'm gonna miss John Romita, Jr...
Mixed in with the same revelations that make this story good are revelations that are really stupid and don't fit well. I have never liked this mystical ret-con of Spidey's origin. It just isn't needed and doesn't seem to fit the character. The idea that Spidey is just an ordinary guy who gets bitten by a radioactive spider, with no mystical purpose or destiny, is one of the great things about Spider-Man! I mean it could of been me or you, that's the whole idea. Spidey wasn't chosen because he was special, he's just an everyday guy. That's one of the main things that made Spidey stand out back in Amazing Fantasy #15. That's one of the things that made him different from other superheros and made him so appealing. This shouldn't be messed with for no good reason! But that's exactly what is hammered home this issue. That Spidey was chosen by mystical powers to be gifted with spider powers because there is something special about him. Sure JMS does try and be philosophical and make it compatible with science, but that doesn't change the mystical element being put forward. This is just a silly idea. It doesn't even make sense in and of itself. Supposedly Peter was chosen because he had hunter qualities due to being picked on! How does that make logical sense? Sure he might have pent up anger, but surely wouldn't that make him more likely to snap and go on a vengeance spree instead? This part just makes no sense at all.
Coupled with this is that there's a flashback of the science experiment where Spidey receieves his powers. In the flashback Liz, Harry, Flash and others are pictured as being there. It even shows Flashes pushing Pete into the path of the Spider. This scene is wrong in so many ways and just doesn't fit with any previous origin stories! I'm hoping that this is just sort of hypothetical flashback, showing that theoritically there were plenty of others to choose from, but that Peter was the one best suited. I hope that this is the case, otherwise I can feel quite a few raves coming on...
If you glossed over, or better still removed the silly revelation, then this would be worth 4-5 Webs. As it is I just hope that these aspects of the story are as easily forgotten and discounted as John Byrne's Chapter One!