'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the city, Spidey's in trouble! Oh, more's the pity! While shopping around for old Jonah's wife, the web-slinger encounters the fight of his life (okay, not really). Yon Jonah's besieged with youngsters galore, and later encounters the Fantastic Four. There's Flash, and Medusa, and one special guest, with... aw, the hell with it, just read the review, will ya?
Peter Parker is not having the best Christmas Eve. While attending the Daily Bugle Christmas party, Jonah orders him to go out and buy a crystal unicorn for his wife. On the way, he notices some school children that have become separated from their group, and brings them back to the party to keep them safe. He goes to buy them all some toys--Spider-Man action figures, natch--which does not improve Jonah's mood. Neither does the fact that Peter forgot to get Marla her unicorn.
On top of everything else, Mary Jane is coming home for Christmas. But a massive snowstorm diverted her plane to Philadelphia.
Across the city in Four Freedoms Plaza, the Human Torch has also received a Spider-Man action figure, courtesy of the Thing, and is not amused. Neither is the Thing when Torch accidently burns his sweater. Reed Richards, naturally, doesn't even notice. He's too busy searching the city for Medusa using a hideously complex machine. He does, however, find time to give his wife a smooch goodbye as the Invisible Woman, Wasp, and Medusa's cousin Crystal go out for some last-minute shopping.
At a Macy's somewhere in the city, a small, mysterious man enters, vowing that his plan "is in motion." This in spite of the fact that a poster outside the store is advertising the presence of Spider-Man. Not the real Spider-Man, of course, but Flash Thompson, who obviously needs a few bucks for the holidays. While hitting on an elf--and hanging out with a "Santa with the smallest bladder in town"--Flash suddenly lurches at a gesture from the mysterious stranger, who sneaks off with a curiously illiterate security guard.
While the ladies are shopping, a huge jack-in-the-box bursts out from a cache of presents. "This year, you'll give your money to me! And if any of you need encouragement...." Suddenly, a giant snowman explodes, revealing MEDUSA! Saying nothing but "Oop. Aap. Eep," Medusa begins to rob the mall patrons. As does Flash Thompson, still in his Spidey suit. Invisible Woman, the Wasp, and Crystal leap into action. Flash is quickly subdued by the Wasp, but Crystal and Sue have their hands full with Medusa.
Back at the Bugle, Jonah gets word of the robbery at Macy's. Eager to shatter his young guests' hero worship of Spider-Man, he commandeers a horse-drawn carriage and brings them to the store.
The REAL Spider-Man, meanwhile, has arrived on the scene looking for Marla's gift only to find Flash Thompson groggily wielding a chainsaw. Spidey jumps after Medusa, and manages to knock her unconscious through an extraordinary bout of luck. Unfortunately, before he can celebrate, he's throttled by the Thing (who arrived with Mr. Fantastic and the Torch when Invisible Woman called in for help.) The Thing belts him. Across the way, a man in a Santa Claus suit is sneaking out with the stolen property. Spidey lands on him, knocking off his fake beard and exposing him--the mysterious stranger from the beginning of the story--as THE PUPPET MASTER, who had been controlling Medusa and Flash Thompson and forced them to steal.
Of course, seeing Santa Claus decked by Spider-Man has an adverse affect on the young children Jonah brought, and they begin to cry. Guess who ends up playing Santa?
But what about Peter, who went through so much trouble only to end up with a gift for somebody else's wife? Thanks to Jonah, he comes home to find his wife waiting for him. Fade out.
Sigh. Another cartoony issue.
Okay, the story's cute and everything, and I was surprised by the identity of the master villain (it would've helped if I cared by that point), but this is yet another issue of this book that has nothing to do with the original premise, that being a focus on the lives affected by Spider-Man. Instead, we get a Christmas story starring Spider-Man. Not the same thing. And while I have nothing against Christmas stories, I've seen them done better.
When you get down to it, for the kind of story this is (a nice, happy, children's Christmas story) it is done well. I just don't really care for the kind of story this is.
Mostly harmless. Two and one-half webs. (And I'd wish you a merry Christmas, but it's February. Instead, have a happy first screening of "Daredevil.")