This issue marks Spider-Man's return to his own comic book, as previous issues have highlighted Aunt May's guilt and S.H.I.E.L.D. Espionage Agent Sharon Carter's struggle against genetic mutations.
A few months ago, Spider-Man was able to take down the criminal empire of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Spidey scored this victory by breaking into Fisk Towers and stealing security footage that showed Fisk killing one of his underlings. To do this, our hero had to beat the combined might of the ultra-strong Fisk, Electro, and the un-powered but dangerous combination of Fancy Dan (a short guy who's great with guns), Montana (a crooked cowboy complete with lasso), and Ox (a strong man in his own right).
The story broke when Spidey left the surveillance footage on the desk of Daily Bugle Ace Reporter Ben Urich. As a result, Kingpin had to leave the country to avoid arrest.
|Writer:||Brian Michael Bendis|
|Cover Art:||Mark Bagley|
Back in full costume, Peter complains that there's no crime to fight until a gunshot echoes into the darkness. It turns out the Enforcers are back, collecting for the Kingpin. Spider-Man easily beats the Enforcers, encasing them in webbing just as the police sirens are within earshot.
The Enforcers later find themselves in Fisk's office, being scolded by both Kingpin and his lawyer for their lack of discretion. Kingpin's lawyer gives them one more chance to do their job and dismisses them. Now alone, Kingpin expresses his desire to find out who Spider-Man his (having unmasked him previously, he already knows that Spider-Man is just a kid, although not his name), as well as get at the politicians and judges he bribed to get back into the country and be cleared of murder.
Cut to an anti-vigilante ad vilifying Spider-Man and endorsing Sam Bullit for District Attorney. (Sergeant Bullit was previously seen in Issue 30, saying vigilantes would no longer be tolerated in New York City). Peter is looking into the office of Bugle Published J. Jonah Jameson, who is gleefully endorsing Bullit in his paper.
Back in his basement "lair", Peter laments on the floor when dutiful girlfriend and confidant Mary Jane comes in with a list of all the people who know Peter is Spider-Man. Already stressed about the anti-Spidey political platform, Peter lashes out at MJ but then apologizes. MJ advises Peter to follow the money trail, find out who's funding Bullit and thus pulling the strings.
While webslinging, Peter finds another anti-Spidey ad on the side of a bus. He also finds his adoring public has turned on him yet again, with one lady even throwing a bottle at him. Spider-Man catches it and states: "I didn't try to hurt you...and I didn't call you names even though you wore that hat out in public."
The breaking point for Peter comes when he sees the Bugle headline that proudly announces that the Kingpin has been cleared of the murder charge despite the mountain of evidence against him. Peter finds himself in the middle of an argument between Jonah and Robbie, his Editor, where Robbie questions Jonah's endorsement. Jonah explains that every time he plays the Spider-Man card, sales and revenue go up. Peter openly challenges Jonah's decision as well, saying they should go after the exonerated murderer Kingpin instead of picking on a hero.
Jonah snaps right back at Peter, firing him on the spot.
Peter is dazed, Robbie looks sympathetic, Ben Urich looks mad and Betty Brant looks somewhat pleased. But Peter sits in his chair, astonished and dejected, absorbing the price he paid for speaking his mind.
After months of dealing with mutants and mutations, it's nice to see a more grounded story centering around the more grounded concepts of greed and corruption. Everyone can associate with wealthy criminals buying their freedom while politicians single out scapegoats.
But how do you fight someone as Teflon as the Kingpin of crime? He beat a murder rap, and now it's suggested that he's bankrolling a D.A. candidate running on an anti-Spidey platform. What's worse, Jonah has severed Peter's link to the media by firing him. I somewhat expect Robbie and Urich will go to bat for Peter, but this remains a jarring disruption in this book's status quo, particularly since it seems Peter will have to find another way to deal with the Kingpin this time around.
I also enjoyed how the book finally addressed that way too many people know who Spider-Man is. The fact that so many people know is a more realistic take on a teenaged super-hero. One can only imagine the unnerving consequences of the Kingpin finding out. I mean, Peter's allies in the hero world can protect him from genetic threats like Norman Osborn and Doctor Octopus, but I doubt Nick Fury and the Ultimates can do much when it comes to the Kingpin.
The story reads with the usual wit, intrigue, and Parker misfortunes that have become characteristic of the title. The book as a whole, which looks and reads great, remains a modern classic and a almost-guaranteed good read month-in, month-out. Still, you get used to it after a while, and this issue is about as innovative and fresh as the ones that have come before it.
This new story has a promising beginning, and seems just the kind of arc this book needs to usher in Issue 50. A good read, but the jury's still out on whether the story will turn out to be great or merely solid. How will Spider-Man overcome the odds this time? Only one way to find out!