Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #620

 Posted: Jul 2010
 Staff: Neil McClean (E-Mail)


Mysterio is back, and therefore things are not entirely what they seem. There's a gang war going on in New York between the Maggia and the forces of Mr Negative. Mr Negative is winning largely due to the Maggia's incompetent leadership. Carmine, the Maggia #2, has hired Mysterio to create a replica of the legendary Silvermane. Sort of a PR stunt to improve Maggia morale. This has backfired, as Mysterio has used 'Silvermane' to kill Carmine and take control of the Maggia for himself. He seems to have done this largely for the giggles. Meanwhile Carlie Cooper's long-thought-dead father has resurfaced and revealed that he is working for Mysterio. He's getting a pay off and he wants to make a new life with his daughter. In the middle of all this is Spider-Man, who is proving to be such a thorn in Mr Negative's side that the crime boss is going to use that vial of Spider-Man's blood to stop the wallcrawler permanently.

Story 'Smoke & Mirrors'

Mysterio has managed to con the Maggia in to moving all their cash to the old Empyrean Opera Theatre near the docks. They think they're laying a trap for Mr Negative's forces. Mysterio is setting them all up for a fall, and plans to flee with the cash. As he muses on the delightful irony of it all we cut to a diner and a meeting between Carlie Cooper and her father.

Carlie isn't buying any of this. She can't believe that her father could be capable of all the deceptions that this 'Ray Cooper' is confessing to. She wants proof that he is really who he says he is. Ray says that he was turned bad by the injustice of the system. He didn't earn enough money to pay the medical bills for Carlie's mother. When she died he didn't feel that he owed 'the system' his loyalty anymore. Carlie seems to accept this, and hugs her father. Although this could be an excuse to slip a spider-tracer into his pocket.

After the meeting, Carlie phones Peter Parker. She says leaves a message that he needs to pass on to Spider-Man. She then rebukes him for the way he constantly uses her and the rest of his friends to get what he wants. "I'm done being your go-to-gal."

Meanwhile, Mr Negative is having a mixed day. On the one hand his over-enthusiastic approach to employee relations has fried Hammerhead's nervous system. That's the sort of damage that even your average mad Marvel scientist takes weeks to repair. However, he has received a call from his police informant telling him that the Maggia, Silvermane (and all their money) are hiding at the Old Empyrean Theatre. Mr Negative has a terrible hate on for Silvermane, and takes the bait. And if you're wondering why Mr Negative hates Silvermane so much, then I refer you to the Mr. Negative limited series, where it is revealed that Silvermane turned Martin Li into the abomination we see today.

Now it just so happens that Mr Negative's police informant is none other than Mysterio (you all saw that coming, right?). Mysterio is over at the opera house, congratulating himself on his schemes. Ray Cooper is also here, collecting his pay off. He doesn't trust Mysterio not to double cross him, but Mysterio doesn't seem to care too much about keeping his word to Cooper. He is much too distracted by Spider-Man's untimely arrival at the theatre. How did he find the place. Ray Cooper (and the spider tracer in his pocket) sneaks silently away.

The Maggia goons intercept Spider-Man as he sneaks in through an upstairs window. Trusting in his spider-sense, our hero manages to distinguish fantasy from reality right up until the point when Silvermane shows up. Is this the real Silvermane, or a muppet controlled by Mysterio? Regardless of his origins, a foot to the face seems a reasonable means of introduction.

The fight is cut short, however, by the arrival of Mr Negative and his inner demons. Mr Negative is quick to release The Devil's Breath. This is the nasty mist made from Spidey's blood that will kill him stone dead if he breathes it. Taking a deep breath, Spider-Man fights on, although Mr Negative is amused that he's put an end to the wallcrawler's "incessant babbling".

Meanwhile, puppeteering the fake Silvermane from a safe distance, Mysterio sees that it's time to make his exit. Engineering a battle between the Silvermane muppet and Mr Negative, Mysterio fools everyone into thinking an errant sword stroke has made Silvermane's cyborg body go critical. The dome-headed villain then activates a series of discrete explosives, detonating the opera house and wiping out as many people as possible.

Spidey gets a warning blast from his spider-sense but, unable to warn anyone else, he has no choice but to leap through a handy window. He escapes split seconds before the explosion, and collapses to the ground to catch his breath. It is here that Carlie and Captain Watanbe find him. Spidey explains what is going on, and conveys to Carlie that he didn't see her father inside. Carlie hands Spidey a gas mask from the back of one of the police cars, and the wallcrawler heads back inside to hunt Mysterio.

He finds the villain and his two henchman sneaking away under the cover of the red mist. Spidey leaps forward and engages in a spot of fisticuffs. Mysterio says that he's been interfering in Spidey's life for a while. All thees living people who should be dead (and the dead who should be living) is his doing. Now we know that Mysterio had a hand in the cover-up surrounding Harry's death. Is the villain hinting at more than that, or is he just yanking Spidey's chain?

On the other side of the building, Mr Negative pulls himself out of the rubble. All in all this is a good day for him. His inner demons are broken, but they'll mend; unlike the Maggia who have been a effectively wiped out by the proceedings. He stalks off with a smug grin on his negative face.

Outside, the fire brigade is keeping Watanbe and the police from entering the burning building. At the back of the crowd Carlie gets a text message on her phone: it's her father. Is she ready to flee with him? Is she?

Meanwhile, Mysterio has given Spidey the slip and escaping the scene on a garbage barge with all the Maggia's money. Of course, Spidey doesn't give up that easily. He pulls himself out of the water in one last attempt to apprehend Mysterio. The unmasked Beck tells Spidey to let him go. All he wanted was one big score and he'll retire to a tropical island. After all only bad guys have died today. No harm done.

Spidey doesn't buy it. Mysterio isn't about wealth or reward, it's all about the performance. He'll be back, and then more people will die. Mysterio shrugs; it was worth a try. As a distraction is fires a missile at the police on the dockside. Spidey snags it with a web line and directs it back to the barge. There's a massive explosion. In the ensuing confusion Mysterio escapes, but he does so without any of his ill-gotten gains. Spidey chalks it up as a partial win.

On the dockside, Spidey talks to Carlie. He tells her that the tracer placed on her father gone silent. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Carlie is very grateful to him, and says that her office is clearing him on any involvement in the Maggia killings. Watanbe is furious: she found evidence that the next 'dirty cop' Mysterio planned to impersonate was Jean DeWolff.

Watanbe says that she likes Spidey, and intends to give him as much support as she can. If he wants anything from the police he should come to her first. Spidey watches Carlie go and remembers everything that Peter Parker has put her through recently. He would be happy to take Watanbe up on that offer. At least it's honest.

On a rooftop in Manhattan Mysterio is relaxing in a deck chair, sipping a cocktail in front of a large billboard plastered with the image of a tropical island. Of course, if it wasn't for Spidey he'd have the money to be on a real tropical island. The master of illusions is making do. He is approached by the Chameleon, who extends Mysterio an invitation to a hunt.

General Comments

"They call me Quentin Beck. The one and only Mysterio. Or maybe the real Beck is dead? I wouldn't trust me on this. I lie about everything." So that's how Slott intends to deal with the mystical resurrection of Beck in I Hate a Mystery: by ignoring it. I'm a little disappointed that Peter David's story isn't being followed up. Perhaps something for the future?

That aside, Slott has wrapped up the three-parter in a solid and enjoyable fashion. We don't have a resolution between Carlie and her father, but that will come next issue. Taking the main plot of Mysterio, Mr Negative and the Maggia, this is a strong finish. Slott is obviously at ease writing these characters, and the story flows from scene to scene very effectively. The segways between scenes are especially well done.

Once again Marcos Martin is on good form this issue. He's swiftly becoming my favourite of the current crop of Spider artists. He is very inventive in his use of panels: the scene with Spidey on the phone to Carlie is extremely effective. The shot of a dripping wet Spider-Man pulling himself up onto the garbage barge is my favourite image from the issue. Very well done.

Despite that fact that we don't see him out of costume for the entire issue, this comic still manages to be about Peter Parker. The new dynamic that is forming between Spider-Man, Carlie and Peter is extremely interesting. It's not the tired old Superman - Lois Lane - Clark Kent triangle, this is something new. I'm very happy with this direction, and the story again underlines Watanbe's role as a close ally of the wallcrawler.

It's not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. After nearly two years, this is the pay off we get from Mr Negative taking some of Spider-Man's blood? It's all a bit of an anticlimax isn't it? Of course, Mr Negative still has half the blood left so they might eek a couple more stories out of this, but I wasn't entirely impressed by this denouement.

Also, from the way the story is written, it's obvious that Watanbe doesn't know about the return of Ray Cooper, or the troubles that has caused Carlie. But then at the end she produces pictures of Jean DeWolff and says that she was "the next dirty cop then planned on resurrecting". Why should she say the "next cop" when she didn't know there had been a first cop? How do a few photos of DeWolff prove anything to Watanbe? And who are the "they" that Watanbe refers to?

Is there more going on here that we think? Or is this scene just as it appears: a chance for Watanbe and Spidey to bond over the death of someone they both cared about, and Slott deciding the emotional impact of the scene was more important than consistency in the narrative? I suspect the latter, but I guess we will see in time.

Overall Rating

The use of the Devil's Breath was a bit of an anticlimax, but there's far more to like than dislike in this issue. The growing relationship between Spidey and the NYPD is extremely promising. Four webs.

 Posted: Jul 2010
 Staff: Neil McClean (E-Mail)