Comics : Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #21

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This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Back in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #3 Spider-Man was killed at the hands of Morlun. Obviously, that wasn't the end of the story. Spidey bargained with the Great Weaver (a mystical spider god thing), and was reborn with new powers and abilities. However, his resurrection came at a price. Spidey wasn't supposed to come back from the dead, so an "Other" was created to kill him. It was very portentous. Dr Strange said ominous things. The Other took on a human form and a job at the high school where Peter worked. The Other (aka Nurse Arrow aka Ero) was out to kill Peter, but also had the uncontrollable urge to reproduce (with Flash Thompson of all people). Spidey finally worked out what was going on, but was too late to prevent Arrow from making off with Flash.

In Detail...

"Consuming Passions"
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #21
Aug 2007 : SM Title
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Writer:  Peter David
Pencils:  Todd Nauck
Inker:  Robert Campanella
Cover Art:  Todd Nauck
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Articles: Miss Arrow

Spidey is sitting in Flash's truck trying to use his enhanced spider-sense to track down Ero. He is not having much success. Ignoring the persistent police officer who is trying to arrest him, Spidey picks up Flash's mobile phone and takes a call from Betty. He fills her in on what has been happening, and between the two of them they manage to work out where Ero would have gone: the church where Spidey saw the empty cocoon back in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #14.

The police man continues to attempt Spidey's arrest, and the webslinger loses his cool. What with his death, the civil war and Aunt May lying in a hospital bed he wishes he could just give up. But then "Captain America gave up and he wound up on a slab!" Unfortunately, this tirade is captured on film by a dodgy looking character. More on him later.

Meanwhile, Flash Thompson awakes to find himself suspended from the ceiling of a church, bound in webbing. Ero is near-by, hanging upside down in a peculiarly Spidey-like manner. Flash's famous over-the-top bravado doesn't fail him, and he is confident that it is only a matter of time before Spider- Man arrives and kicks Ero into next week.

Suddenly, Ero doubles up in pain and drops to the floor. She reaches her hand into a stomach (remember that her human appearance is only an illusion, and she is actually made up of hundreds of tiny spiders!) and pulls out a pulsating egg sac. She holds her millions of unborn offspring up to Flash, and introduces them to their "Daddy".

Now Flash may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but even he knows that he couldn't have become anyone's "Daddy" - at least not recently. This, however, is precisely the reason why Ero chose him the first place. Flash has been in a coma for months, and the fact he hasn't 'had his oats' in all that time means he has built up a tremendous amount of tantric energy. This translates into more babies. Her plan is to shove the egg sac down Flash's throat, the resulting young will eat him (better him than her, Ero thinks) and will then grow into hundreds of versions of Ero herself. All the better to hunt down Spider-Man! It's a convoluted plan that is completely stymied by Flash simply refusing to open his mouth.

At which Spider-Man arrives, plucking the egg sac from Ero's hand and sticking into a near-by wall. Ero dives from the ceiling to attack him, the trademark stingers shooting from her wrists. Spidey leaps to meet her, his own stingers drawn. The fight is on.

Meanwhile at the Daily Bugle, Jonah is watching Spider-Man's verbal lambasting of that police officer from earlier in the issue. The dodgy character uploaded it to an Internet site called U-Tube. Jonah is happy to leap at the chance to run a story that makes Spider-Man look bad, and tells Robbie to get the video guy on the phone. But Robbie refuses. He explodes into his own tirade against Jonah and all the horrible, and undeserved things he has said about Spider-Man (and super-heroes in general) over the years. It is as though all the pent up rage and frustration of a life time serving under Jonah finally has an outlet. Peter is their friend. They all must have known about his dual identity deep down, but they chose not to see it. They all pushed Peter into the terrible position he is in now: why should they make it any worse?

Spider-Man and Ero are continuing their battle. Ero reveals that Spider-Man's stingers only appear when he faces "... someone like me, someone whose being is rooted in primal forces of chaos and darkness." However, Spidey is in no mood to be talked down to by verbose super-villains, he pressed the attack and stabs Ero through the chest with his stinger.

Which, when you think about it isn't going to do her any harm - she is just made of spiders right? Taking the blow easily, Ero now presses her advantage and stabs Spidey in the shoulder. He is flesh and blood, and poison from the stinger quickly begins to sap his strength. Ero overpowers Spidey and sends him crashing to the ground.

Standing over the webswinger, grinning in victory, an idea occurs to Ero. Why bother to involve Flash in any of this at all? Why not simply put her egg sac into Spider-Man? He hasn't got the same tantric energy as Flash (she's probably seen pictures of MJ) but their birth would still kill him, and she would have achieved her goal. Ero bends forward, egg sac in hand.

Back at the Bugle, Robbie comes to see Jonah in his office. He apologises to the publisher - not for the sentiment, but for lambasting him in front of the staff. That was unprofessional. Jonah is glad of the apology, but still tells Robbie that he's fired.

In General...

Well, the subplot with Jonah and Robbie comes completely out of the blue. It seems an odd time to be introducing more plots into the comic, considering we only have another two issues of Peter David after the this one. However, this comic is written with a business-like attention to detail. PAD is out to tie up loose ends from his run, as well as those from the other Spider-titles that no-one else seems inclined to touch with a ten foot pole. He is making some narrative leaps, but I am certain the scene will take us somewhere, albeit briefly.

After last month's painful railroading of the plot, the narrative in this issue is less contrived - although how Spidey locates Ero is straining at the bounds of credulity. However, this is a story that has be told, and I'm glad it's being told by Peter David who litters the issue with some great dialogue and five star one-liners. The fact that the story of The Other is being told here in Friendly and not in the flagship title tells me that there is one more shot to be fired in the mystical spider-totem plot. That, I suspect, will be in the One More Day arc coming to all the Spider-Man titles in September.

On its own, this is not a great issue. It's one of the closing acts in a plot that's been running on and off for the last six years, but the plot is not a good fit for Spidey's character and therefore hasn't been particularly inspiring. The story suffers from having been altered to take into account the events of Civil War and JMS's run on Amazing, and from being rushed into print before this comic is cancelled. The art is also below par: this is not Todd Nauck's best work.

All-in-all this is not a great coda for Peter David's run on the title. Bearing in mind the editorial dictates driving Spider-Man, the writing is as good as you could reasonably expect; it's just a shame that we find ourselves in this position in the first place.

Overall Rating...

Better than last issue, but only just. Peter David's workman-like approach tidies away the loose ends for the future, but doesn't make for a particularly satisfying read in the present. Two and a half webs.