Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #340

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2008.


Spoiler alert! If you haven't read Amazing Spider-Man #336, please do so now. This review will reference the events in that issue. When you have read the review – or you're not worried about having the ending revealed – please continue.

In Detail...

"The Hero Subtracter"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #340
Oct 1990 : SMURF 340.500 : SM Title
Summary: The Femme Fatales in Female Trouble
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Erik Larsen
Inker:  Mike Machlan, Randy Emberlin
Cover Art:  Erik Larsen
Staff Only
 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #11
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Bloodlust, Chameleon, Jameson, J. Jonah, Knockout, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Mindblast, Whiplash

While shopping for socks at a department store, Peter witnesses a payroll robbery in progress. After he changes to Spider-Man, he captures the thieves one-by-one. The apparent leader of the group makes his way to the back alley. When Spider-Man catches up to him, the leader has what looks like a hand grenade and prepares to use it.

Throwing a garbage can at the leader to separate him from the grenade fails and takes both of them into the escape van. Realizing his mistake, Spidey leaps into the van to save the leader, webbing the grenade as he enters. The object explodes and Spidey quickly discovers that is was a tear gas grenade as the fumes fill up the back of the van. The mohawked leader takes cheap shots at Spidey for his actions in between coughing and sniffling. Spidey pulls the sarcastic punk out of the van and knocks him out, leaving him for the police. He grabs his automatic camera from its hiding place and leaves, hoping to eventually sell the pics to J. Jonah Jameson.

Spidey web-swings his way home, sniffing and coughing along the way. He thinks about his recent encounter with The Sinister Six and wonders if the gas Hobgoblin sprayed him with will have any adverse effects on his radioactive blood. As he drops in through his bathroom skylight, Mary Jane subtly warns him that Aunt May has stopped by for a visit.

He hides his costume and looks at himself in the mirror, noticing his red puffy eyes caused by the tear gas. When he comes out of the bathroom, he makes the excuse to Aunt May that he has a cold. May initially overreacts and insists that he see Doc Bromwell about it tomorrow. She then catches herself and explains that since Nathan's death, she doesn't want anything to happen to him since he is all she has left.

Later that night, Peter is obsessing over May's comments in relation to the gas that the Hobgoblin used on him. MJ tells him to use his contacts at ESU to run some tests and find out either way; just do something about it. Peter agrees and promises to do just that tomorrow.

When tomorrow comes, he first stops by Jonah's new publication, News Digest, that he created to compete with Thomas Fireheart (Puma) after he bought the Bugle out from under Jonah. When he arrives, he overhears Jonah not-so- politely ordering Dr. Turner to leave his office. Turner wanted Jameson to contact Spider-Man so that he could use his new equipment to analyze Spider- Man's powers.

Outside Turner is thinking to himself that he'll have to find another way to contact Spider-Man when the subject in question appears offering his services.

At Turner's lab, he takes a sample of Spider-Man's blood and explains that his machine will analyze his DNA and reprogram itself accordingly to thoroughly scan his unique physiology. Turner activates the machine and Spider-Man is bathed in a powerful light that sets off his spider-sense. As he leaps from the beam, he is unable to stick to the nearby wall. This proves to be temporary as he quickly regains his adhesion power. He quickly leaves, instructing a startled Turner to dismantle the machine. Turner wants to continue the analysis and knows who he can contact to convince Spider-Man to return.

The next day – at the request of the mayor – Spider-Man appears at JFK to meet the ambassador from a newly-freed Baltic country visiting New York. His one request is to meet one of the "costumed heroes", so the mayor naturally complies.

Once the ambassador exits the plane, he is attacked by four women, each taking turns identifying themselves. Mindblast, wearing pink spandex with an exposed brain and "tractor beam" blasts. Knockout, an armored woman with augmented strength. Whiplash, mistress of the electric whip. Bloodlust, a cheap Sabretooth knock-off. They inform him that they are collectively known as The Femme Fatales. They attack the police, prompting Spider-Man to become involved.

The four of them almost prove to be too much for Spider-Man as he is constantly on the defensive, receiving a slashed calf and bicep from Bloodlust. The jet is also damaged, leaking fuel onto the tarmac.

Mindblast uses her tractor beam to suspend Spider-Man in mid-air over the leaking fuel. Knockout produces a lighter and prepares to ignite the fuel underneath Spider-Man. Spider-Man webs part of a nearby pole and slams it into Mindblast freeing him before the plane explodes. The remaining Femmes hear the police reinforcments approaching and leave with the unconscious Mindblast.

When Peter returns home he has a long talk with MJ. He knows that his reactions were slower than normal due to excessive worrying (even for him) about what would happen to May and MJ if he were killed. He needs her advice on a very important decision. Their conversation lasts until the next morning.

He returns to Dr. Turner's office in costume and asks him to use his machine to remove his powers permanently.

In General...

The Femme Fatales are analogous to the Female Furies in the Superman books. If you look closely, there's a parallel between Whiplash / Lashina, Knockout / Stompa, Bloodlust / Mad Harriet, and Mindblast / ... ok, she doesn't fit the pattern. Whatever. Three out of four ain't bad. In any event, you had Spider- Man fighting some of Superman's enemies from Apokolips. I just noticed this and decided to share.

This is obviously going to be the lead-in for the next arc titled – not surprisingly - "Powerless". While I usually avoid referencing the next issue, in this instance, you know exactly what's coming, so I'm not giving anything away.

The motivations behind this decision are very clear, almost to the point of being in a flashing neon sign: "Spider-Man: No More". I think I can state that nobody really expects this to last; "The Amazing Peter Parker" doesn't have quite the same ring to it. We know what's coming, so let's see what Michelinie and Larsen can do with it.

Overall Rating...

2.5 webs. This issue's sole purpose was to setup the reason for Peter giving up his powers in the next issue. Overall it didn't really convince me. Yes, it pushed the buttons in the correct sequence, but it came across as forced and little more than a bridge from point A to point B.

Another reason for a below average score is the simple fact that this issue's villains essentially walked up to him, introduced themselves, then tried to kill him. I'm Mindblast. I'm Whiplash. This is Bloodlust. I'm Knockout. Annette. Cubby. Tommy. Cheryl. That is a ridiculous way to introduce them.

Finally, I'm not sure how Spidey won the "meet the visiting dignitary award". The mayor selected him? Is he a secret fan or did the Fantastic Four just say no?


Hobgoblin IV (Macendale) exposed Spider-Man to the gaseous compound created by Dr. Octopus in Amazing Spider-Man #338. This compound turned out to be little more than a version of antabuse for cocaine users.

Nathan fought off the Vulture when he tried to kidnap May. His heroic actions, however, ultimately caused his death. Nathan held onto the Vulture as he flew away and fell from a significant height, causing his heart to fail. Spider-Man stopped his descent but it was too late.

Jonah lost the Bugle to Thomas Fireheart in Spectacular Spider-Man #157.

Spidey (and Wolverine) met up with this incarnation of Whiplash in Marvel Comics Presents #49