Spider-Man Tangled Web #6

Background

Can too much intelligence be a BAD thing? After an ultra-experimental surgery designed to increase his brain power, the Rhino's going to find out!

Story 'Cornucopia'

  Spider-Man Tangled Web #6
Arc: Part 2 of 'Flowers for Rhino' (1-2)
Editor: Axel Alonso
Writer: Peter Milligan
Pencils: Duncan Fegredo
Inker: Duncan Fegredo
Cover Art: Duncan Fegredo
Articles: Rhino

All things take time, and Rhino's brain-enhancement surgery is no exception. When stuck in a maze by his doctor, he doesn't find a way out, he MAKES a way out. "Hey Doc! Maybe I am getting smarter after all!" The doctor assures him that his intelligence has increased, but Rhino cuts him off. He walked off and left Stella last issue, and now worries that he had hurt her feelings.

Rhino drops in on Stella, who's relaxing with her boyfriend Romeo. Rhino asks for his bodyguard job back, correcting Romeo's grammar at the same time. Romeo ushers Stella off into the next room, then suggests that Rhino ambush the organization that is after her. The Rhino agrees, running off into the city, while Romeo places a phone call. "You might want to pass on this information to a certain webbed individual." Furious that her boyfriend set up the Rhino, Stella decks him with a book and chases after him.

Meanwhile, the Rhino has arrived at the restaurant where the meeting supposedly will take place. Spidey is there, his trap all set. But Rhino has grown smart enough to spot the double-cross, and quickly subdues Spider-Man. ("Funny. Kicking the Spider's butt... it doesn't feel quite as good as I thought it would.") Stella arrives, with Romeo in hot pursuit. Rhino negligently slaps Romeo's car away as the restaurant catches fire. Spider-Man, who had made it to safe ground, shoots Stella a web to pull her away from the flames. Romeo screams at her to follow him. Stella stays with the Rhino, and the two run off together.

Time passes. Rhino has put his intelligence to work in crafting a new citywide crime syndicate. More importantly, he and Stella have fallen in love. ("Admittedly, Stella's grasp of languages and philosophy leave a little to be desired, but love transcends all.") Rhino has it all, and it's beginning to bore him.

One night his doctor calls with the news that his genetically engineered chimpanzee--the test for his brain-enhancement surgery--has committed suicide. The doctor tells Rhino that the effects of the operation don't stop, and that he'll get smarter and smarter until he becomes "too clever for his own good." Rhino scoffs at the statement, but validates it shortly thereafter by breaking up with Stella. ("What did I see in her? Her sluggish brain, her tedious preoccupation with FEELINGS.") As Stella storms off, it finally hits the Rhino that he threw away the only thing he'd ever wanted for no reason.

After a quick meet with Spider-Man to hand over all of the information pertaining to his crime syndicate, Rhino heads back up to the Brooklyn Bridge, contemplating suicide yet again. And, again, another thought hits him. He returns to the doctor, with all the information necessary to REVERSE the brain surgery. And just before it begins, Rhino has one last request: "make me a little MORE stupid than I was before, doctor. Just to be on the safe side...."

Sure enough, as the story ends, Rhino is doing what he does best again. "I'm Rhino. I knock things down. That's what I do. That's who I am."

General Comments

I like the story, I like the theme, but I had trouble with the deus ex machina. The idea that the Rhino's operation could be reversed struck me as unrealistic, even for a comic book. The problem was that it really had to end that way. An unnaturally smart Rhino just doesn't WORK, as the Rhino himself learned to his dismay. Peter Milligan had no choice but to end right where he started, with the Rhino breaking down walls and lacking the intelligence to pronounce the name "Shakespeare." Maybe it would have worked better if the effects of the operation had worn off, but maybe not. In the end, it had to be done, but it weakens the story nonetheless.

That's too bad, because this was another fine effort by Milligan. I love how the Rhino gradually morphs into a super-brain, starting by correcting Romeo's grammar and ending by deducing Spider-Man's secret identity. (Another stretch, actually, but not a significant one.) It's nice to see a perennial loser like the Rhino on top of the world for a change, even briefly. And you get the sense that Rhino, even though he seems to have no memory of his time as a brainiac, is at peace with who he is and who he isn't. Not bad on the character development front at all.

The art in comes off as slightly rough, but it fits a story told from the Rhino's POV. That big lump on the back of his head looks a little strange, though. Pointy head? Bump? Mega zit? You decide! Seriously, and before I forget, seeing Rhino in a three-piece suit was one of the highlights of the story. Nice job there by artist Duncan Fegredo.

Finally, one thing I DID like was that this story doesn't waste time on useless plot expedition. We don't learn the identity of the men Rhino busts out of prison (although I think the brown-haired guy is The Thinker) and the first visit to the doctor's lab doesn't veer into "you, Dr. so-and-so, did such-and-such for me after the whatever incident" territory. Too many comics waste time making sure the reader is aware of every little itty bitty detail, time that is better spent moving the story along. Stick to the good stuff, let us figure out the little things. Are you listening, Marvel?

Overall Rating

I'm sticking with three-and-a-half webs here. A slightly-contriving ending keeps an otherwise excellent story from four-web territory. But well worth reading.