The Scorpion, last seen in Spider-Man Unlimited #13, rears his ugly head again. At the end of that issue, he was snuck away by his mysterious employer so that he might receive yet more costume enhancements. The Roxxon Corporation, last seen nowhere (the company works "in the shadows", turns out to be responsible for the Scorpion's new look. Scorpy's elevator still doesn't quite reach the top floor, so to speak, which makes his souped-up powers (and his grudge against Spider-man and the Jamesons) all the deadlier.
Mark Bernardo's a puzzle: there are things about this issue which suggest he's done some kind of research, and other things which suggest he has no previous experience with any of these characters. It's really pretty baffling how he can simultaneously display skill and the lack of it.
One thing he did well was the press conference. Seeing Betty Brant (did she change her name, or what?), Trish Tilby, Megan McLaren, Ken Ellis, and Ben Urich, you might praise him for spending some effort to tie together, on some level, a part of the Marvel Universe. Or you could just say he went fishing and caught three less-well-known names to drop. Either way, the end product is better than the standard snapshot of generic, nameless reporters we see in most other titles.
This isn't really a point for or against the story, since it's almost completely unrelated, but I liked it when Spider-Man crashed the press conference to stop the Scorpion, only to find the Scorpion subduing an apparent psycho: "I knew it! Scorpion's making his move! He's--taking out the threat??" It reminded me of the (funnier) time in Amazing Spider-Man #285 when Spider-Man fought the Punisher: "Flying bricks nailed him...Better stay after him, though...If he gets half the chance, he'll--punch himself in the chest...?!"
Bernardo's inclusion of Trevane, whose name sounds familiar and who I'm sure was a pivotal player in some storyline, and Royton, who also seems to have been pulled out of the nether regions of forgotten characters, is also commendable, if just because it's more continuity than we would have gotten otherwise.
And while not terribly original, Spidey's using the Scorpion's own tail against him after mentally distracting him was still a good strategy, and not completely obvious, as resolutions go. Well, maybe the outthinking was. Other parts of the plot were, such as the planting of the psycho by (spoiler!) Roxxon.
Where the story failed, Bernardo's mistakes were the most obvious. Early on, Peter tells Mary Jane the entire story of the Scorpion, as if she has no idea who this mad super-villain is. He's only been fighting her husband since forever, after all.
The crowd at the press conference is a little too eager to paint Spider-Man as the bad guy and Scorpion as the good guy, considering that Spider-Man was recently vouched for by Prodigy, and has consistently protected the city, while Scorpion and Roxxon are far easier targets for suspicion. Besides, isn't J. Jonah Jameson supposed to be the only civilian in Manhattan who hates Spider-Man? Even during Spider-Hunt, people were only going after Spidey for the money, and not because they honestly believed him to be guilty. Gerard says, "By the time the morning papers hit the streets, he'll be public enemy number one--again." this overnight popularity change is unconvincing, mostly because it isn't done nearly as skillfully (both on the part of the writer and the characters) as the same change in Spider-Hunt was.
Peter's worries about facing the Scorpion certainly sound unfounded. "He's the only foe I've faced who was created specifically to destroy me," he says. Well, I'm not exactly an expert on silver-age comics, or even on early Spider-Man foes, but what the heck was the Spider-Slayer created for?
And the Black Tarantula once beat Spider-Man to a pulp, with Spidey surviving the ordeal only because the Black Tarantula thought killing him would be a waste of energy. Yet Spidey jumps into a room full of armed thugs, an ostensibly more powerful Scorpion, hostages to protect, AND the Black Tarantula, with no more of a plan than to rush in and start punching? That's not the Spider-Man I know.
Speaking of the Scorpion's "improvements", maybe it's just me, but as far as I can remember, most of his abilities are exactly the same as the last time we saw him. Now he seems to have extra strength, some armor plating, and nifty yellow paint on his shoulders...ooh. I know I'm scared! Tax dollars, indeed.
Overall, the art is satisfactory, and apart from a well-rendered face here and there, contains nothing that really stands out. The plot is at its heart a paint-by-numbers one, but made just intricate enough, with just enough cameos and supporting characters, to make you believe there may be one or two improvements where, in reality, there are none...kind of like the "new" Scorpion, when you think about it.