Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spectacular Spider-Man 32-42 and Annuals

Originally posted Feb. 19, 2009

Issue 32-34

Coming off the great Carrion storyline (despite a lackluster final issue) Bill Mantlo starts from the beginning again, in that he sets this series up with a whole new cast of supporting characters. This issue does a great job of setting that up, we see all the old characters Flash, Sha-Shan, Glory, Hector, etc. so at least they get a nice send off.

Once again the primary focus of the title is the ESU College. However, Peter Parker is starting graduate school and is now a Teacher’s assistant and so the new cast is the other TAs, the Grad secretary Debra Whitman and Grad professors Sloan and Curt Connors. (It’s about time he officially joined the supporting cast.) All of these characters help to give Spectacular a distinctive feel.

The first storyline is about the Iguana! The Iguana is a regular iguana until he gets zapped with Curt Connors’ “Enervartor.” (Reminds me of the Interocitor from “This Island Earth”) The Iguana turns into a man-lizard with a healthy dose of Connor’s memories and the Lizard’s hatred of mankind. The story really picks up when Iggy goes after Connor’s family and Connors decides that the only way to stop the Iguana is to become the Lizard again.

This seems reasonable as long as you don’t think about it too much. The more I thought about it, it’s just as likely the Lizard would say “I hate Spider-Man and I don’t like the Iguana, but I’ll go take over the world and kill whichever of them survives.” But instead the Lizard attacks the Iguana and Spidey goes to Connor’s lab and builds a backpack Enervartor that saves the day! Overall this is a solid arc and probably the best of this bunch.

Issue 35

The cover says off-beat that’s code for guest writer. The issue isn’t so bad, it concerns the Mindworm, who takes Spider-man through some kind of adventure in dreamland. In the end, Mindworm turns out to not be an evil guy, hooray!

Issue 36-37

This is a cool storyline. Prof. Sloan accidentally recreates the villain Swarm. It’s interesting because it’s one of the first times I remember in which Spider-man spars with a villain and almost immediately goes, “okay, this guy is out of my league, can someone get the FF?” I mean Spider-Man goes up against the Hulk every once and a while and doesn’t give up. But the fact that he feels so outclassed makes it even cooler that in the end Spider-man faces Swarm alone and wins.

ASM Annual 13

Okay admit it, when you read the note on the bottom of the cover page that says “Don’t dare peek at the surprise ending” you couldn’t help but peek could you? I know I peeked. I peeked after I realized where they must have been going, I knew they couldn’t have someone out there with Spider-Man’s secret identity.

Anyway, the thing that I really liked about this issue is how Peter goes undercover as a hood. It’s something I’ve seen both Daredevil and Batman and even Sherlock Holmes do from time to time, but I don’t recall Spider-Man ever doing that before. And it was perfect how Doc Ock comes in and immediately recognizes Parker, but just assumes he’s working for the paper.

I loved the villain gallery pages at the end of the annual. I guess a lot of the big name villains like the Green Goblin or Doc Ock were in the gallery of previous annuals and so would have been redundant. So we get Molten Man, The Looter, the Rhino, the Shocker, etc. The one thing that struck me was that the Rhino is thought of as a Spider-Man villain and yet at this point he’d appeared in 2 Spider-Man issues, but 8 Hulk issues. Sounds like a Hulk villain to me. (My comments on the Looter will be saved for his appearance in SSP 41)

SSM Annual 1

Can someone explain to me why Doc Ock is all gold on the cover? I wouldn’t have even known reading the issue in glorious B+W, except that it appears in color on the back cover. The story has to do with a nuclear submarine not gold.

Do you think Bill Mantlo and Rich Buckler who did this Annual talked to Marv Wolfman and John Byrne who did the other Annual? I wonder if it was just, “Okay Marv you write a Doc Ock story where his arm is torn off, but he gets away and Bill, you write one where Spider-Man beats him.” Or do you think it was more collaborative?

I really liked the scene where Peter Parker takes Doc Ock’s arm to the lab at ESU and then it starts beating the tar out of him when the doc starts to give it mental directions again.

The Doc’s Octosphere had a picture of an Octopus on it and that gave me pause for a minute. I was thinking, “That’s more of a DC thing, like something the Penguin would do.” However, then I realized that in the Master Planner storyline of ASM 30-33 Ock had an underwater base. I’d never put two and two together that Ock had a whole underwater theme going on. Shows you how much I pay attention sometimes. Also I want to state for the record that the Doc only has 6 arms and so Marvel isn’t helping children learn to count by associating him with an octopus.

I liked the ending where it really looked like Doc Ock died. He didn’t appear in Spider-Man for 2 years after this so I’m sure a lot of folks at the time may have believed he was gone. I think it’s a good strategy to not overuse the guy that might Spidey’s arch-foe. Keep him in reserve so all his appearances seem more significant.

Issue 38

Another Morbius issue. I know there are people that like Morbius, but I don’t. I think he’s a cheap Marvel Universe attempt to cash in on the popularity of Dracula and Vampires. Oh and it just so happens to be a Halloween issue too; get it, vampires on Halloween. Arg!!

The best thing I can say about this issue is that it sets up the next issue where Spider-Man faces his friend Chip Martin that has turned into the Schizoid-Man. Oh also it’s great that Morbius is turned back human, too bad he doesn’t stay that way.

Issue 39

Kind of a weird issue, it spends so much time setting up the next issue’s Spider-Lizard storyline, previewing the Frightful Four storyline, and explaining how Chip Martin became the Schizoid Man, that it doesn’t have much time to get off the ground. Plus Spider-Man is acting a bit out of character because of the influence of the Lizard DNA. So all in all an okay issue, but one that is really rushed. If they’d taken more time with it Chip might have made a more interesting villain instead of a throw-away.

Issue 40

Spider-Man has become a Spider-Lizard and he stalks the city. This is more like a 50’s Marvel Monster story or an issue of the Hulk then an issue of Spider-Man but it works because Doctor Connors who we so often see turning into the Lizard and being saved by Spider-Man anchors the issue and is given his chance to be a hero and save Spider-Man for once.

When Spider-Man is changed back he hides his face from Connors and asks about his mask. This makes Connors looks really dumb because he should be able to recognize Peter Parker’s voice by now. Then Spider-Man webs his face, making a web mask. This mask is interesting because sometimes it seems like you can see all of the features of Peter’s face making the mask useless, Other times it seems that you can’t see anything through the mask, which leads me to wonder how Spider-Man can see through it. Plus, the fact that at one point Spider-Man lifts the web mask just over his lips so that he can give Connor’s mouth-to-mouth. Wouldn’t a web mask be really sticky and hard to take off?

Issue 41

Another fill-in story. This one belongs firmly in Marvel Team-Ups since it features Spider-Man teaming up with Giant-Man aka Black Goliath aka William Foster.

The villain is The Looter aka Meteor Man. He’s the one Ditko era villain that really never got off the ground. He’s kind of the one that got away. Like Calendar Man for Batman or Miracle Man for the FF.

The issue starts off with Spider-Man sneaking into one of his professor’s office and slipping his late paper into the prof’s pile. (Of course the paper is still stick with webbing) This goofy scene fits in fine with the wacky theme of the rest of the issue.

I thought about this issue about a day after I read it because I realized that Meteor Man really is insane. He got super-strength from a meteor and all he can think about is finding other meteors so he can get stronger.

What about using the strength you already have to do something? How strong will be strong enough? Do you have any other goals to speak of? What kind of a life’s goal is finding more strength from more meteors? When does the cycle end?

I do like the scene where Spider-Man and Giant Man look at Meteor Man’s equations and immediately says, “this guy’s math is crazy.” It’s not every super-hero that has Graduate or Doctoral degrees.

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