Quentin Beck (aka Mysterio) has been employed by the Maggia to fake the deaths of prominent members of the Family. Bruno Karnelli thought he was in charge of the entire show, but now Silvermane's back and he's taking the fight to Mr Negative. Also back from the dead is Ray Cooper, father of Carlie Cooper. He's confronting his daughter in the back of the same meat packing plant where Silvermane, Hammerhead and their respective forces are fighting. Coincidence? Don't worry though, Spidey is on his way. He's just come from a dressing down by Anti-May (long story) so he's not in the best of moods.
Flashback time! Carlie's a teenager and she's visiting her father at work. Ray Cooper is a respected forensic scientist. He's autotopsying the scarred body of police informer Lou Cossi. Also present are Captain George Stacey, and officers Watanbe and DeWolff. Ray waxes lyrical about the nature of his work, inspiring his daughter to follow in his footsteps.v
Cut to the present. Carlie is hidden in the back room of meat-packing factory holding a gun on her father. How can he be here? He died in a drink driving accident years ago. The doctor pronounced him dead; Carlie never saw the body. Ray says that it was all special effects. He had help to fake his own death. He says that he's working with the Maggia. That they needed his help to pull all this off. Carlie can't believe it. Her father was crooked? They are interrupted by the wail of sirens. Ray wants to continue talking, but he can't be seen by the police. He leads Carlie away.
Meanwhile the fight between the resurrected Maggia and Mr Negative's unkillable Inner Demons continues. Silvermane turns his ire on Hammerhead. What is he doing here? How could he turn his back on the Maggia to work with the enemy? Hammerhead can't take this sort of dilemma. He crashes through a wall and high-tails it out there. Spidey tags him with a tracer, as he swings into join the cops outside.
The police are led by Captain Watanbe (yes the same Watanbe from Carlie's flashback). She doesn't want to arrest Spidey, she's happy for his help. Spidey is perplexed. The police always want to arrest him. Watanbe says that Jean DeWolff always spoke very well of Spider-Man. That sort of recommendation is good enough for her.
Inside Watanbe can't quite believe her eyes. She's not prepared for a bunch of mobsters back from the dead, as well as the unkillable servants of Mr Negative. She tries to arrest them all, as Spidey leaps into the fray, tangling with Silvermane. But can this really be Silvermane back from the dead? Even if he isn't, the mobsters still prefer him to Bruno. But isn't it about time Dan Slott pulled back the curtain and told us what's really going on?
No, it's not really Silvermane. It's a robot controlled by Mysterio. It seems when the mobster Carmine wanted to find a way to supplant Bruno, Mysterio offered him a fool proof plan. Have Silvermane return seemingly from the dead and take over. Then Carmine rules through 'Silvermane'. Of course that doesn't explain the other mobsters supposedly back from the dead, I guess we'll get to them later.
Mysterio has a plan to wrong-foot Spidey, and it has something to do with one of the Maggia agents called Lou. Now I have to say, this "Lou" looks an awful lot like the Lou Cossi who was on a gurney in Carlie's flashback at the beginning of the issue, but it could just be my suspicious mind at work.
Lou starts firing at Spidey who dodges the gun fire and plants a solid fist in his jaw. Lou goes sailing through the air, off a balcony and lands on the ground. He's dead: the webhead killed him? Spidey is dumbstruck. That couldn't have happened. There's no way that could have happened. Watanbe doesn't believe it either, even though she saw it with her own eyes. She quite decently gives the confused Spidey a chance to escape, and pursue the two factions of bad guys who are also fleeing the scene. Watanbe has seen too many inexplicable things this evening to take anything on face value. Smart woman. I like her. Let's hope Marvel don't kill her off any time soon.
Watanbe tells her men to find Carlie and see if she's all right. Carlie is in the shadows with her father. He apologises - this is not the way he wanted to reacquaint himself with his daughter. He disappears, leaving Carlie free to head back to the other officers. Watanbe wants her to babysit Lou's body back to the morgue. Something "hinky" is going on, and Watanbe wants to get to the bottom of it. There's something more than "hinky" going on as far as Carlie is concerned. She recognises the body. This is indeed the Lou Cossi her father autopsied years ago. But how?
Meanwhile in Queens, Evil Aunt May (or Anti-May as I will now be calling her) is putting her foot down. She's away from town for a couple of months, only to discover that while she was away Harry Osborn and a bunch of relatives she's only just met burned her house down? Supervillain attacks notwithstanding you have to say that she has a point. She throws the lot of them out of her house and storms out. If they're homeless they can sleep in the FEAST shelter.
Of course, the FEAST shelter isn't that safe. Mr Negative is there right now, torturing Hammerhead for fleeing from his enemies. It seems that Dr Tramma placed an "obedience device" inside Hammerhead's new skull. I guess if you're a supervillain like Negative that such a device is the sort of optional extra you install in all your henchmen. Mr Negative is tired of Spider-Man's attention, and wants to deal with him once and for all. He reaches for the blood that he took from the wallcrawler. Finally, pay-back on this plot line after 71 issues. And you thought they forgot all about it!
Spidey is swinging after the fleeing Maggia. As you can imagine, Peter is beating himself up about killing a guy. Man, no one does guilt better than Spidey. He's being watched by Carmine through a pat pending Mysterio spy cam. It seems the master of illusion has another plan for Spider-Man – something to push him closer to the edge.
Spidey is jumped by a bunch of mobsters, led by none other than the Big Man himself. Faster than Spidey can say "Didn't you die in Amazing Spider-Man #52?", it all goes to hell and Spidey finds himself responsible for the death of another nine men. And the Big Man isn't Frederick Foswell after all, it's Spidey's friend George Stacey. Wait a minute…. do you think that Mysterio's overplayed his hand here?
Well, Spidey certainly does. There's just too many inexplicable things going on for it to be anyone else. Spidey uses the camera that the George Stacey goon is wearing to challenge Mysterio, and then swings off to get some solid leads to go on. No more tricks. Carmine is worried that Spidey now knows that Mysterio is behind this, but Mysterio himself is apparently unconcerned. It's very easy to be enigmatic when you're wearing a fish-bowl on your head.
Spidey swings by the city morgue. Knowing that Mysterio is this week's villain has given him hope that he may not be responsible for a man's death after all. Carlie can confirm this. The man isn't dead, he's been given a drug that makes him appear to be dead. If she'd performed the autopsy than she would have killed him. Is that why her father came back to warn her? Did he only get involved in all this because the same thing happened to him?
Spidey is perplexed? Carlie's father? Carlie opens up to Spider-Man and tells her everything that happened. Spidey advises her not to jump to conclusions. This man may not even be her father. He asks Carlie to plant a spider-tracer on this Ray Cooper the next time she sees it. It's their best chance to get to the bottom of what's going on.
At Maggia HQ, the Mysterio-controlled Silvermane reveals his plan to his loyal minions. He wants to take all the money they have and put it in one place. When Mr Negative's goons come to get it, then they'll wipe them all out. Everyone likes this plan because Silvermane thought of it. But Carmine is distressed. This isn't his plan. What's Mysterio up to? Choking Carmine to death and taking control of the Maggia, that's what!
Well, this is a trip down memory lane! Captain Stacey, Frederick Foswell and Jean DeWolff? I didn't think I'd ever see all of them together in the pages of the same comic. I appreciate Slott's attempts to retrospectively implant Carlie into Spidey's history. If she's going to be a major supporting character for the next six hundred issues then this adds a welcome depth. Plus it's the sort of harmless retcon that only adds to the story. Goodness knows that we've had enough harmful retcons in the last few years that I can tell the difference.
One of the things I found interesting with this issue was the way Spider-Man is regarded by the police. Watanbe is happy to take Jean DeWolff's recommendation and trust Spidey over the evidence of her own senses. Arguably she is too trusting of him. Carlie is also happy to deal with Spider-Man and feed him information, even very personal information. In fact, she seems far more relaxed in Spider-Man's company than she does in Peter Parker's.
Having a police captain who is too trusting in Spider-Man is something that hasn't been done before - or at least it hasn't been done to death. I'm encouraged to see some genuinely new ideas in this arc. I'm looking forward to seeing where all this is going.
And then there is Mysterio. Still no word on the current status of Quentin beck and whether the current creative teams are following through with Peter David's supernatural take on the character. However, as everything is smoke and mirrors with Mysterio I suspect Slott will be able to get away without explicitly addressing this point. It would be nice if he did, though.
I appreciate the way the narrative here attempts to fox the expectations of the reader. The return of Silvermane in the last issue was a big deal, and one may gripe about the off-hand way a once major player has returned from the dead. Now we discover that this is not the case, and Silvermane is a robot controlled by Mysterio. There is still some ambiguity on the other resurrected mobsters. Did Mysterio arrange for all of them to fake their own deaths, or was this all a part of the late Carmine's plan? Are they all robots? Hopefully, the next issue will make this clear.
If anything detracts from this issue slightly for me, it's the way Mr Negative decides to deal with Spider-Man. After leaving the plot fallow for 71 issues, now seems like an arbitrary time to use the blood he collected. After waiting so long for a resolution to this plot, I hope the denouement is something significant and spectacular.
However, that's a small criticism. On the whole this is a really good issue. Marcos Martin's art is tip-top. The faces of the characters are much less cartoony than they were in earlier issues, and he does draw a lovely Mysterio. I am also completely enamoured with the new Aunt May.
I've always felt sorry for Aunt May. Everyone she cares about drops dead, except for Peter who has spent his entire adult life lying to her. She's been on death's door for the last fifty years, and through all that time she's been little more than a meek doormat of a character. This is why Anti-May is such a breath of fresh air. It's about time that May got a backbone and told people where to get off. A grumpy old May, brimming with vim and sarcasm! That's what I want to see!
Note to Slott and the rest of the web-heads: never change Aunt May back. She is much more fun like this.
I was going to give this four webs like last issue, but reading it again made me appreciate it more. Let's call this four and a half webs: and I want more Anti-May.