Having escaped from the clutches of Morgan le Fey, Jessica Drew can return her attention to solving the mystery of her father's murder. With the help of her new lover, SHIELD agent Jerry Hunt, the case should be easy to break...
It's the second of July, and Jessica, Jerry, and Magnus are taking a stroll through the Los Angeles Zoo. Whenever Jerry's around, I can't help but comment on his wardrobe. On this day he's in a pale orange leisure suit with a black shirt, which hangs open to his sternum. Dyn-o-mite!
Jessica, looking good in blue jeans, yellow turtleneck sweater, and pink scarf, is taking some well-deserved R&R. Now that she and Jerry are a couple, they can't keep their hands off of one another. You'd think that Magnus would feel like a third wheel, but no. (Magnus just can't avoid coming off as creepy, no matter what he does.) Jerry has a present for his new girlfriend: he's booked some computer time at SHIELD. "Our computers," he observes, "can sort out all the information about Jessica's father. It may finally pinpoint his murderer." Why is Jerry so concerned? Because "once Jessica's last tie with the past is over... then there's something very important I want to ask her." Jerry Hunt: king of the fast movers. Jessica doesn't mind, though, as she rewards him with a lover's kiss.
Cut to SHIELD labs, where "one billion dollars worth of circuits and tubes" is working on the mystery. Said circuits and tubes take up the entire room, and outputs its answer on a little piece of tape. (Hey, it's 1978. I bet the technicians use this computer to play Zork when they're off duty.) The little piece of tape that the computer spits out reads "Pyrotechnics." The technician doesn't know what that means, but we do.
Cut to the boardroom of Pyrotechnics, Inc., at 8:15 AM (!) on July second where Congressman Wyatt is pounding the table, demanding of his board members that they get rid of Spider-Woman. He doesn't like that she's prowling around, or that she attacked him twice, or that she's connected them all to Jonathan Drew's death. Spider-Woman, who is clinging to the wall just outside the window, hears everything, and mentally exults that "Wyatt is behind my father's death. I thought so all along!"
Hmm. The plot is moving awfully quickly for this book, but not in a direction that makes any sense. Not that we readers have much to go on, but as recently as issue #3 Pyrotechnics, Congressman Wyatt, and Brother Grimm were independent operators. Now they're all in cahoots. Sounds like Wolfman is tying up all of his loose ends into a big old ball that he can slam-dunk into the trash bin. (He's in such a hurry to do it that he's forgotten that the evil corporation's name is "Pyro-Technics," with a hyphen.)
You could cut the backstory that follows with a knife. Jessica shadows Wyatt to an army base; Jerry infiltrates Pyrotechnics to rifle through its files; Magnus stands around making unhelpfully cryptic remarks, pointlessly expanding Spider- Woman's origin. Jessica, finally evincing some frustration with her buffoonish sidekicks, yells at Magnus (the look on his face is priceless) and tells Jerry to "shut up" before taking off on her own. Magnus and Jerry stay behind, chastened and willing to let Jessica "meet her destiny-- face-to- face! "
Jessica's no longer interested in subtlety. In panel one of page 17, she smashes through Wyatt's door and uses her hypnotic whammy on him to force him to reveal everything he knows about Jonathan Drew. (Trivia lovers, take note: this is the second and last time Spider-Woman uses her spider-hypnosis). On panel five of page 17, she smashes through the window of Pyrotechnics boardroom. She sure does love smashing through doors! With her venom blasts she puts the fear of God into the cowering Pyrotechnics administrators, but she's so busy intimidating them that she fails to notice Brother Grimm sneaking up behind her. One whiff of his gas and she's down for the count.
So much for Brother Grimm; he gets all of one panel in this issue. I'm not even sure what he's doing here, but Wolfman had to tie him into the Jonathan Drew-Pyrotechnics business somehow, I guess.
Cue the big finale! Jessica wakes up, a prisoner (sigh) of Congressman Wyatt and his Pyrotechnics cronies. Trapped in her cell, she asks her captor what is going on, and in classic B-movie villain fashion, he lets forth a flood of exposition. "No harm in telling you, seeing that you will soon be dead... besides, your father is responsible for today's happening." It turns out that Jonathan Drew, while working for the British Museum, let slip that, thanks to his research into spiders and such, he'd developed a vaccine against radiation poisoning. Wyatt and Pyrotechnics heard about this and arranged to kidnap Drew, force him to perfect the vaccine, and then killed him. Why did they want this vaccine? Because now they can use their "neutron device" which will kill everyone in a given area except those inoculated against its effects.
As Wyatt monologues, a battalion of soldiers arrives outside. Wyatt explains that the soldiers, now fortified with injections of vaccine thanks to Pyrotechnics, will be able to conquer the world! Or at least the country. But wait! The soldiers pouring out of the trucks aren't Wyatt's men... they're SHIELD commandos! Led by Jerry Hunt, the commandos storm the base, ruining Wyatt's plans.
But Wyatt has one last trick up his sleeve. As Jerry Hunt bursts into the room to arrest Wyatt, the congressman lunges for a button on a nearby console. Jessica warns Jerry that "If he presses that button, he'll have doomed us both!" I don't know how Jessica knows that, but it doesn't matter. Jerry solves this problem with his machine gun, shooting Wyatt in the back, but too late: Wyatt's hit the destruct button. Before the congressman expires, he explains the motive behind his plot. It's not a complicated motive. He had money and power, but he wanted more. From Wyatt's earlier appearances, we readers might have thought he was driven by an unfulfilling marriage and by his own debts, but no. Those motives take more than a sentence to explicate, and our story doesn't have time for that.
(A parenthetical aside: that explains why Wyatt was willing to betray his oath of office and try to carry out a coup d'etat, but it doesn't explain why so many American soldiers were willing to do so. And while we're on the subject of plot holes, neither is there an explanation of how Jerry knew where Jessica was, or that she was in trouble, or that he'd need a bunch of soldiers to save the day.)
Having wrapped up all the loose ends, at least to Mr. Wolfman's satisfaction, Jessica and Jerry flee the base before it blows up in a gigantic explosion. And I mean really gigantic: it looks more like a planet blowing up. Methinks they cribbed a stock explosion page from some other story. At any rate, explosions make everything all better.
In the epilogue Nick Fury congratulates our heroes on a job well done, and asks Jessica if apprehending her father's murderer has "made up for his death." Jessica explains that while that was a nice achievement, an even more important achievement is that she can now "live in peace-- because I found the man I love!"
That's right, according to Spider-Woman, who is supposedly Marvel's super-feminist, solving her father's murder and averting civil war in the United States is less important to her than finding a man to love. Ick.
And that's not even the worse offense in this book, either. The cover displays Spider-Woman in an active pose, smashing through a door in an effort to stop Wyatt from blowing up the army base. But when we reach this scene inside the book, Spider-Woman is helplessly imprisoned in a cell; it's soldier-boy Jerry Hunt who stops Wyatt, by spraying him with bullets. The key dramatic moment of the entire issue, and arguably of the whole last five issues, and it's Spider-Woman's boyfriend who is at centre stage.
It's almost worth it, though, for the earlier section, where Jessica finally gets angry and tells Magnus and Jerry to shut up. We need more moments like that in this book.
The story moves briskly, and long-standing plot threads are finally tied up, which is good. What's bad is that that story does not, in the end, make much sense. What's worse is the misogyny: Jessica gets captured and imprisoned yet again, forcing her boyfriend to save her... but that's okay, because as far as she's concerned, snagging a boyfriend is the most important thing she's done recently. Still, 1-for-3 isn't bad, given this title's recent track record.
Tune in next issue for the new direction Marv Wolfman has been hyping for months!
But don't get too attached... it's also his last issue.