Alistair Smythe and his spider-slayers are back, and taking aim at Mayor J Jonah Jameson and his astronaut son John once again. Smythe attacked the launch site where John was to fly the Vertex Shuttle into orbit, which will meet up with a Horizon Labs (Peter Parker's new employers) space station. Spidey appeared on the scene, and weblined to the shuttle just as it was taking off--but Smythe's locked down the controls and rigged its booster rockets to explode before it leaves the atmosphere--and for good measure, has sent a re-Scorpioned Mac Gargan in a new battle suit to meet up with Spidey.
|Editor In Chief:||Joe Queseda|
|Senior Editor:||Stephen Wacker|
|Script:||Fred Van Lente|
Jameson and his security detail are speeding away from the launch site. In pursuit are a swarm of Alistair Smythe's armored locust army. A group of them set upon Jameson's car, in the back seat of which reside Jay Sr., Glory, and JJJ himself. "A thousand plagues on your house, Jameson", says Smythe over Jameson's mayoral motorcade radio frequency. Smythe promises rage on a biblical scale, and to rain down his wrath upon anyone who dared to call Jameson a friend. Smythe continues to taunt him, saying what would an old testament vengeance be without the death of the first born, and who better to carry out the task then the first of whom Jameson ruined-- Mac Gargan, the Scorpion.
Cut to the side of the racing rocketship, where Smythe has rigged the boosters to explode as they take the shuttle up into orbit. Spidey caught himself a ride last issue as it launched, but found Scorpion had also, and is now trying to smash Spidey with his tail. Spidey says Mac himself will be blown up too, but Gargan says he has his own way out, and what about Spidey? Spidey spots an escape hatch on the side of the shuttle. He begins to formulate a plan, but thinks he'll need help, and uses an in-mask comm link to phone the Avengers. But all he gets is Squirrel Girl, who's busy giving baby Danni Cage a bottle, but answers. Sqirrel Girl explains the Avengers are coming back from a mission but aren't there, Spidey begins to explain the situation, but has to dodge a quick tail swipe from Gargan, losing the call.
Modell and Juergen are walking around the wrecked launch site as the smoke clears. They see Smythe's ship taking off in the sky, and decide to head to the command center to see whether they can hack into the remote systems to regain control of the shuttle. Modell offers whatever help he can, and Juergen says both Modell and Peter Parker could be of help, if Parker decides to show his face again. This leads Modell to realize that Peter missed the Spider-man / Hobgoblin fight at Horizon Labs as well, and his suspicions are raised.
Modell and Juergen find a way to activate the emergency com system and are able to speak to John Jameson on the shuttle. John explains that outside of the com system, all other controls on the shuttle are dead to them, with no real idea what's causing it. Down on the shuttle cockpit's floor, a mini-octopus robot is seen. Over at Doctor Octopus' secret lair, he's monitoring the events, saying if the Vertex Shuttle fails to dock with the Horizon Orbital Platform, he won't be able to "complete the Octahedral in time". He says he refuses to let Smythe's "unresolved Oedipal issues" get in the way of his "last masterpiece". He thinks that Alistair isn't even half the plotter his father Spencer Smythe was, and that Ock "calculates an 88.7% probability he (Alistair) was adopted". Ock's octo- bot tampers with some wiring, and the shuttles controls instantly go back online, affirmed as such by John Jameson to the Horizon scientists on the ground--they protest that they didn't actually do anything, but John doesn't hear, as he fires the shuttle's engines and uncouples the boosters. Gargan is carried away on the side of one of the boosters, and it explodes seconds later. Spidey finds himself in a free fall as the shuttle takes off into the atmosphere.
On his own ship, Smythe is enraged and confused, thinking Spider-man got nowhere near the override. Jameson, still somehow on two-way communication with Smythe, says his son did it, and that John's always been the real hero. Smythe says John better be able to be in two places at once, as the slayer swarm is tracking Jameson's other loved ones and friends in the city at the moment--Aunt May and Marla Jameson at the Day Spa, and Robbie Robertson and the fellow Bugle co-workers.
Spidey attempts to spin a web-parachute to slow his fall, but Gargan manages to catch him in midair, saying his new armor allows him to survive a fall from maximum velocity, but that it's a fall Spidey won't survive. Ms Marvel flys in and knocks Scorpion away, catching Spidey. She explains that Squirrel Girl tracked Spidey's comm location and transmitted the coordinates. Spidey says he takes back all the horrible things he said about her in his head the last minute and a half.
Gargan crashes to Earth, saying he just fell seven miles and the only thing he feels is the overwhelming urge to do it over again, and that too bad the Sentry died, as with his new upgrades Gargan could now probably feed him his cape. Smythe's ship intercepts with Gargan--he asks Gargan what happened, who replies that Ms Marvel showed up. Smythe didn't expect the Avengers so soon, but says he's glad he brought his own insect army with him.
Ms Marvel spots Jameson's motorcade, and launches Spidey on a webline to crash into the insect drones. Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jewel drop in and begin to pound on the bugs. JJJ says he wants the real Avengers to protect his wife, family and friends, not the New Avengers, and this reminds Spidey that Aunt May had a spa date that day with Marla Jameson. He hitches a ride on the Avengers jet, piloted by Mockingbird and Ben Grimm. He instructs the fliers, Ms Marvel and Jewel, to go to the Bugle to help while they run in the ship to the spa.
At said day spa, May and Marla are being pampered as the Mayoral security detail look on, when Smythe's slayers crash through the wall. Security calls a code blue, and Mandroids waiting in a truck outside run in to deal with the slayers.
At the Bugle, Randy Robertson is asking Norah if she's finally free tonight. Norah apologizes, saying Phil Urich has a lead on the Hobgoblin they're both going to run down. Phil's standing there, saying it'll be another tedious stakeout, all alone with Randy's girlfriend, with nothing to do but to get to know eachother. Annoyed, Randy askes where Phil's getting all his Hobgoblin leads, anyway? Alla sudden, slayers crash through the Daily Bugle wall. One of the bugs is a former Bugle employee who lost her pulitzer after Robbie and Jonah discovered her award-winning expose was a fake. As she approaches, Randy calls out for his Dad. Phil tells him "don't do it Robertson, don't be a hero", and that to trust him, "there's no profit in it", with a shot of Phil's face turning half-Hobgoblin like Peter's does half-into Spidey.
Spidey, the Thing and Mockingbird arrive at the spa. The heroes have difficulty landing shots on the insect pests. Spidey realizes that Smythe has found some way to hone in on the same frequency his Spider-sense uses, much like Chameleon and Doctor Doom had in the past, and somehow put that sixth sense into the slayers. He thinks he can whip up something in the Horizon Lab to counteract it. After making The Thing promise that he'll keep May and Marla safe, he swings off to the labs. He changes into his civvies, thinking Peter Parker will slip right in and right out, and no one will be the wiser. As soon as he walks in, he's cornered by Max Modell, who says he wants to have a little talk with Pete "about you and Spider-man."
The action is almost non-stop here, as things happen at a most continuous clip. While I'm not the biggest advocate of Spidey being an Avenger, when facing such absurd odds as Smythe, his slayer insect army, and the Scorpion (with Doc Ock and the next Sinister Six waiting in the wings), it's nice to have the backup to even things out. Was hoping for more of a face-off between Mac Gargan, now the Scorpion again, and Spidey, but it looks like it'll have to wait until next issue instead. This issue's cliffhanger teases whether or not Max Modell, Peter's new employer and head of Horizon Labs, has finally put two and two together and figured out that Parker and Spider-man are one in the same. While I'm skeptical that's the case, it could be an interesting turn of events and take the Modell / Parker relationship in unexpected directions.
It's great as well to see Fred Van Lente come back as a guest-scripter to Dan Slott's story plotting this issue. If there's one skill Van Lente definitely has as a writer, it's the voicing of the villains and the convincing portrayal of their motivation; this issue, Smythe threatens "a thousand plagues" on Jameson's house and is taunting to kill his first born son, getting all biblical on his ass. Doc Ock disparges Smythe's villainistic abilities, thinking that there's a high-probability Alistair was adopted. Phil Urich tells Randy Robertson not to try to be a hero, that "there's no profit in it", which seemingly gives us a rare bit of insight as to what's going on with him, more so than issue after issue of sub-Joker Philgoblin antics (does that line mean he's now fully a Jason Macendale-styled mercenary?). I don't know how much or any of this dialogue was actually penned by Slott in his outline, but with writing this strong, Van Lente can come back to guest-write anytime (his Looter backup story is turning out really fun as well).
But credit where it's certainly due, Slott has seemingly set up a near-perfect status quo for Peter Parker and Spider-man, where Parker's finally able to better fuse his scientific abilities with his super-heroics, make money, and to be able to afford his own place to live. There's a new cast of characters and foils in the Horizon Labs gang. We still get the Bugle in the form of the Robertsons and Norah but with a warped, evil mirror image of Peter in Phil Urich. One good thing Slott is exploring is how Peter is now related to J Jonah Jameson by marriage, so there's new emphasis on family along with the risk of that extended family getting endangered. And last but certainly not least, Caselli's art here delivers on the great potential of of last issue. It's really good, readable stuff, and here's hoping this high level of quality can be maintained.
This issue is bursting at the seams with so much action and intrigue that you may be exhausted after you read it. I'm also glad to say that the book feels much more grounded now that one writer has taken over (this month's fill-in not withstanding). There seems to be real consequences for things that are happening.
And speaking of consequences, a death close to Pete is being telegraphed in the current ads and solicits, and with Spider-man already spreading himself so thin this issue in trying to be everywhere, the tension in this storyline is high. Will it be Marla, John or Jay Sr. the next to die, Robbie Robertson or someone else?
The thought just occured that in the event of a death he can't prevent as Spider-man, Peter won't have Carlie's shoulder to cry on, or at least he won't be able to be consoled by her knowing his heroic deeds as Spider-man as Mary Jane would. The Parker luck would dictate that Pete would get his wish regarding Carlie knowing him as Pete first, but the tragedy would be that he can't share his victories or angst as Spider-man with her.