Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #7

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Dark Kingdom"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This review was first published on: 10 Jul 2016.

Background...

Parker Industries (PI) is now a worldwide success. PI’s CEO, Peter Parker, is now a globetrotting mogul who still finds time to fight crime as Spider-Man.

Cloak and Dagger have been corrupted by Martin “Mr. Negative” Li’s corrupting touch, switching their moral intuitions, as well as their dark/light orientations - though their powers remain unchanged: Cloak still teleports, for instance, he just emits a lot of light when he does so. They’ve just teleported Mr. Negative into Peter Parker’s lab, and the crimelord has tagged Peter himself with his corrupting touch...

In Detail...

"Opposing Forces"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #7
Apr 2016 : SM Title
Summary: Cloak, Dagger, Mr. Negative, Regent
Arc: Part 2 of "The Dark Kingdom"
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Matteo Buffagni
Cover Art:  Alex Ross
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Marte Gracia
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Cloak teleports the foursome to Negative’s lair, where the latter explains to a dutiful, subservient Parker what the plan is. The following day, Parker Industries will host a gala for noted Chinese magnate Shen Quinghao. We readers met him last issue, though his name was spelled Qinghao then. At the gala, Parker will intoxicate Quinghao with a dose of Negative’s Shade narcotic, which has similar properties to Negative’s touch. Under the influence of Shade, Quinghao will reveal his true nature for the world to see.

Wait, I thought Shade made you the opposite of what you really are? So if Quinghao is actually vicious but conceals it well, doesn’t that mean that under the influence of Shade he’d become virtuous and unable to hide it? Oh well, I suppose Negative knows how his drug works better than I do.

Plan explained, Cloak teleports Parker back to PI, where our hero surreptitiously tags Cloak with a micro-spider-tracer before the henchman departs. Yes, it seems Peter was only playacting the effects of Negative’s corrupting touch; that touch only works on an individual once, and Parker, dressed as Spider-Man, already suffered it in Dark Reign: Mr. Negative. Armed with new intelligence about his foe, and the advantage that Negative complacently believes Parker to be his servant, Peter sets about thwarting Negative’s plan.

In Dr. Wu’s lab, Wu (Peter’s top biochemist) and Lian (Peter’s automotive engineer and girlfriend) are discussing how Wu had to set aside his cancer research to help Spider-Man with a project. Neither is impressed by this: Wu is grumpy, Lian surprisingly agitated. Peter drops by to provide the Shade dose to Wu; having a fresh, pure sample will help his research. Lian tries to get Peter’s full attention but he dismisses her, eager to get after Cloak.

Web-swinging across town, Spider-Man takes advantage of his in-mask mobile phone to check in on his supporting cast. He makes sure that Quinghao is safe (why wouldn’t he be? Negative’s whole plan relies on him being complacent enough to show up at the gala tomorrow… sloppy thinking, Pete); checks in with local police; and even checks in on the other arms of his corporate empire, but to little avail: Anna Maria is too busy to talk to him, given how overloaded she is as new managing director of the London office, and Harry, managing director in New York, isn’t picking up his phone.

Why not? Because he’s out for family night with his ex, Liz Allan, their son Normie, and his son by Lily Hollister, Stanley. The evening has gone pretty well; both adults were emotionally present and available, and the kids got along, even if Normie is a bit jealous of his half-brother. As they leave the restaurant, they are almost run over by a reckless driver, but new superhero Regent appears to save the day. The upshot of this is that Liz and Harry see Regent in person, and find him impressive; and Normie grimly but privately notes that his father saved Stanley and relied on Liz to save him. Hmm. Given Normie’s dark heritage, as well as whatever shenanigans Liz Allan has been up to with respect to that heritage, I think dark clouds are gathering around poor Harry and Stanley.

Back in Shanghai, Negative is forced to chain himself up, as he’s about to transform back into Martin Li. While he waits that unpleasant interlude out, he sends Cloak and Dagger to check in on his drug lab. Spider-Man, listening in on his spider-tracer hears the whole thing, and recognizes that while he no longer knows Negative’s location, he does know where the drug lab is, and it’s nearby, disguised as a cleaning-supply company.

Spidey and the police raid the joint, with the officers freeing the slave labourers while our hero tangles with Cloak and Dagger. “Even before Mister Negative turned us,” Cloak snaps, “we never found any of it”, i.e., Spidey’s quips, “funny. Honestly, none of it.”

The truth hurts, but Spidey rises above it and demands that the duo stand down. “We’ve got you outnumbered. There are no good moves you can make here.”

Really? Can’t Cloak just teleport them away? That seems like a good move. But he has a better one, namely to flood the area with Shade, dosing a number of police officers and thereby changing their allegiance. Spidey desperately webs them all up so they don’t do anything they’ll regret later, but in the process he is nailed by Dagger’s, er, dagger, knocking him to the ground. As she closes in for the kill, Spidey turns the tables, using his webbing to kick up more Shade cards, dosing Dagger. Rather than flipping her allegiance, it instead overloads her connection to the Darkforce Dimension, incapacitating her with such pain that Cloak is obliged to teleport her away, so that his light power can soothe her.

“I know it doesn’t feel like it, but I won this round,” Spider-Man thinks. He’s still got a tracer on Cloak. He’s got lots more pure Shade doses to hasten the work of finding a cure. He’s got the neighbourhood of Negative’s base of operations, and he’s got Negative under the delusion that Peter Parker is his servant. Everything’s coming up Spider-Man!

Or is it? Back at Negative’s base, a shivering Martin Li watches a video that his evil self recorded earlier, explaining that the current objective is to destroy Shen Quinghao, who is a humanitarian today but once was a slaver and crime lord who blighted Li’s early life. That’s a plan that even the normally-well-behaved Li can get behind.

So that’s one thing going against Spider-Man: his enemy isn’t as debilitated as he may seem. Here’s another: his girlfriend has betrayed him. It seems Lian's mother is dying of cancer, and she (Lian) was selling PI’s security codes to the Zodiac to buy her more time, which explains perhaps why Zodiac’s raid on PI back in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #1 was so successful. Now, needing more time again, she barters with the only thing she has: the life of Spider-Man. How will she kill him? She’ll use his own Spider-Mobile to do it!

In General...

Not much to say about this one. The story moves briskly, and manages to combine superheroic action with good story-telling: Negative and Parker both plan well and use their resources efficiently, and writer Dan Slott efficiently mixes up protagonist scenes with attention both to other characters and to sub-plots.

Overall Rating...

Professional story-telling all around, but no fireworks. Three webs.