Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #311

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

Peter has decided to return to E.S.U. and get a master's degree. This will allow him to compete for better jobs in New York, allow Mary Jane to continue her successful modeling career, and remain close to their respective families, geographically speaking.

His research grant requires him to work with Dr. Evan Swann. Last issue, he discovered Swann being blackmailed by the Tinkerer to use university money to purchase experimental components for him to develop advanced weapon systems for Killer Shrike. Shrike is defeated and arrested as is Dr. Swann.

This issue is part of the X-Men spawned, company-wide "Inferno" crossover. In a nutshell demons from another dimension are trying to take over New York. They're having all kinds of demon fun tormenting humans while their boss N'astirh is trying to ensure they stay there. There's more involved in this crossover, but let's just leave it at this. From what I have been able to determine, you need a degree in X-ology to understand exactly how this started. The Amazing Spider-Man Inferno issues deal with the peripheral aspects of the invasion being fought in the X-books.

In Detail...

"Mysteries Of The Dead"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #311
Jan 1989 : SMURF 311.500 : SM Title
Summary: Return of Mysterio
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Todd McFarlane
Inker:  Todd McFarlane
Cover Art:  Todd McFarlane
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 Reprinted In: Legends Vol. 2: Todd McFarlane (TPB)
Articles: Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Hobgoblin IV (Macendale), Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Lizard, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Mysterio I (Beck)

Peter is swinging around Manhattan to take pictures of the demonic invasion to sell them to Jonah in order to pay for his return to graduate school.

The stone lion statues in front of the 42nd Street branch of the New York public library begin attacking the crowd. After destroying the statues - sort of - Peter hears a scream from a nearby alley. Through the fog, he can see a mugging in progress by "Peanuts" Mulroony, a small-time thief. He sets his camera to take pictures and saves Mulroony's intended targets - an out of town couple - from being mugged or worse.

The situation quickly deteriorates when a wall morphs into a rock creature and attacks Spider-Man. Mulroony escapes in the confusion. While Spider-Man tries to stop the creature, the out of town man tries to repay Spider-Man for his help and attacks the creature. Almost on reflex, the creature crushes the man under its giant fist. Spider-Man ultimately shatters the rock creature with a nearby unoccupied car but it does little to assuage his feelings of guilt over the man's death. The police arrive and take his statement. Spider- Man leaves to allow them to clean up the rubble. When he returns home, he explains everything to MJ who is unable to find the words to comfort her husband.

Peter is understandably depressed the next day. He walks out of his class because he can't get the images from last night out of his mind. That night Peter insists they honor MJ's commitment to attend a publicity event for Le Derriere jeans at Mustand Ed's. They have selected her as the new spokesmodel. Some time after they arrive at Ed's, Peter assists in bouncing an unruly customer. MJ uses this opportunity to remind him that even without his powers he would have tried to help out in a time of need, just like the man in the alley. This doesn't completely shake him out of his funk, but it does help him come to terms with the man's death.

He later returns to the alley from last night to retrieve his camera (he didn't feel like dealing with it at the time). He realizes that there is not a trace of the fight from the prior night. He mentally plays back the scene from the prior night and realizes he's been tricked.

He tracks down Mulroony to a dive bar near the docks and asks him to tell him who hired him and where to find him. Mulroony wisely complies with the request.

He makes his way to an unnamed warehouse where he confirms that Mysterio staged the entire illusion to undermine his confidence to defeat him personally at a later time. After a brief chase through the warehouse, Spider-Man captures Mysterio and turns him over to the police.

Harry's having nightmares about the Green Goblin. He wakes up in the middle of the night to check on his son, unaware that the Hobgoblin has his house under surveillance.

In General...

I think Mysterio is one of the best Spider-Man villians - fish bowl, eye shaped claps, and all. This story showcased some of the more subtle aspects of the character, which I thought worked well for the most part.

In general This could have been extended to a second issue without losing any of the quality.

The story also illustrates MJ's maturity, eventually helping him come to terms with the accidental death of a bystander - even though it turned out to be an illusion. I doubt that Peter would have been able to work through that alone.

Overall Rating...

3.5 webs. The use of Mysterio in the Inferno crossover was a good idea, but condensing it to a single issue made it seem a bit rushed toward the end. I respect people for telling self-contained stories, however there's nothing wrong with a good two-parter if you have a good idea such as this.

The cover is a slight give-away, which makes the grand reveal of the story a bit less grand.

Ignoring these items and the fact that once his schemes are revealed, Mysterio's skills are never a match for Spider-Man, the story is enjoyable. He's better suited for manipulation as was shown here.

Footnote...

The Hobgobin subplot continues in Spectacular Spider-Man #146