Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #9

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This story is part of an Arc: "Scorpio Rising"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This review was first published on: 1 Jan 2017.

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.

What with Mr. Negative and the War Goblins and whatnot, Peter hasn’t been able to focus on the looming threat of Zodiac. But with his schedule clear, it’s time for Spider-Man to get proactive!

In Detail...

"One-Way Trip"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #9
May 2016 : SM Title
Arc: Part 1 of "Scorpio Rising"
Editor:  Nick Lowe
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inker:  Cam Smith
Cover Art:  Alex Ross
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Marte Gracia
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Review

We open at Parker Industries New York, a.k.a. the Baxter Building, where a surly Nick Fury (seems redundant to describe him that way) wants to meet with Peter Parker to talk Zodiac. Spider-Man buttonholes Fury in the lobby and escorts him to the PI rocket launch bay, which is apparently a thing, and the two blast off for orbit in the Arachno-Rocket. As they travel, Spider-Man tells Nick that once in space, they’ll use SHIELD satellites to pinpoint Scorpio’s location… a task that will have to be done manually, since Zodiac hacked the SHIELD satellite control software back in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #5.

Meanwhile, we readers visit Scorpio in his secret base, where he’s taking a meeting with Gemini. Last time we saw a meeting like this, the caption box referred to it as being in ‘Location Unknown’, but this time the caption box tells us we’re in Paris, France. Thanks, caption box!

Gemini - not the pair captured in ASM #5, but a new set of twins - is here to cast Scorpio’s horoscope. They can see one day into the future, but they’re new to this game, and so they didn’t catch that Spider-Man came up with a new plan just beyond the range of their vision (if that’s the word I want). They predict that Spider-Man will use the SHIELD satellites, find Scorpio, and take back the Orrery, which we readers can infer was the prize that the Zodiac stole from the British Museum. Apparently the same program that Scorpio used to find the Orrery in the first place is still loaded into the satellites, and Spider-Man can use the manual override to run the program again, locating the Orrery’s new location, and Scorpio with it.

Scorpio is most displeased, but he has a plan.

In low-Earth orbit, Spider-Man and Fury, each in a custom spacesuit, are spacewalking from their rocket to a nearby SHIELD satellite. Even as Spidey begins manipulating the satellite controls, Scorpio sends the other satellites on a collision course with the pair! The collision will destroy the equipment and, not incidentally, kill our heroes.

Question - if Scorpio has enough control over the satellites to move them in space, why doesn’t he just erase the program he installed? Don’t ask me.

Fury uses his laser pistol to blast the incoming satellites - “Man, this hurts! Every SHIELD satellite! These things cost $26 million a pop”- while the web-slinger gets the information he needs. The Orrery, it seems, is in downtown Paris (which, thanks to the caption box, we readers already knew).

Second question - it’s a world-wide satellite network, right? That means that at least half the satellites are on the other side of Earth. Can they really get to Spidey and Nick that fast? Surely that means that Nick isn’t destroying every SHIELD satellite, as his dialogue suggests. But again, don’t ask me.

Never mind that, here comes a big satellite, far too large for Nick’s blaster to deal with. How will our heroes handle this problem? Perhaps they should simply leave the area; they have the information they need, after all. But for some reason that’s not an option, so Spider-Man does the only thing he can: he remotely sends the Arachno-Rocket into a collision with the incoming satellite. The impact destroys both objects. So Nick and Spidey are alive, but they have no way back to Earth.

A blase Spider-Man thinks that ain’t no thang. Nick can just spacewalk over to the conveniently-nearby International Space Station and call for a ride (Uber, I presume). Meanwhile, Spider-Man plans to make Earthfall directly to Paris.

Whoa. This should be good.

Back on Earth, Gemini is freaking out. Spider-Man is still coming, and Scorpio isn’t happy. “Impossible! This is Spider-Man we’re talking about. Not Thor!” But before they can work out what’s going on, the Orrery comes to life with a “HMNNNN”. Apparently the Alignment, whatever that may be, is happening, and the secret of the Zodiac will be revealed. What’s more, says Gemini, “there is a new constellation in the sky! A thirteenth sign! The sign of the Spider!”

In a nice splash page, we see Spider-Man entering Earth atmosphere, the Spider constellation limned behind him. He’s having second thoughts about his impulsive plan to return to Earth without a vehicle. Web-chutes can slow him down, he thinks, and his spider-armour is tough. Will this be enough? He’s uncertain.

In a tense sequence of pages, we see that it’s not: web-chute after web-chute fails, leaving Spider-Man coming in quick and hot: not at terminal velocity, but still fast enough to kill him. And he’s out of traditional web-fluid. What to do?

Emergency web-foam to the rescue! Surrounding himself with enough fluid to make a big cushion, he impacts Paris like a missile… but lives.

“Yes! I’m one big bruise. Suit’s a wreck. But I did it…! Fell all the way from space and survived!”

But maybe not for long. From outside, his web-cushion is burned away. It’s Scorpio, Zodiac Key in hand, looming over a Spider-Man too weak to stand. “Nice try. You had a brief window of time, Spider. The tiniest chance of getting the drop on me. But that window’s closed. I’m a day ahead of you, so I know… you don’t make it to tomorrow!”

In General...

The previous Zodiac storylines in this book have been over-the-top, cartoony action, like the Roger Moore James Bond era was. This issue is no exception: in fact, Moonraker seems an apt comparison here. The story moves quickly enough to be a fun romp. It’s only in the sober aftermath that the reader notices the plot holes. Aside from the few I pointed out in the recap above, the principal one is this: why does Spider-Man feel such urgency to get to Paris right away? Zodiac’s been at large for days at this point while Peter Parker attended to other concerns, so what’s another one? There just doesn’t seem to be any reason for Spidey to attempt something so ludicrously dangerous as an unplanned orbital insertion without a vehicle, and Peter behaving so rashly doesn’t seem like him: it’s more of an Iron Man or Hawkeye move.

Overall Rating...

Quippy comedy and an interesting problem - surviving Earthfall - are good. Weak plotting is bad. It all evens out to three webs.

Footnote...

I didn’t mention it in the recap, but we briefly see Anna Maria macking up her new boyfriend; Otto Octavius discovering it from his perch inside the Living Brain; and Peter interrupting all that to call for a pickup in Paris and a delivery of fresh web-fluid. It’s a nice way of keeping the subplots on the boil while advancing the main story. Whatever you say about Dan Slott’s story choices, you must admit that the narrative that serves those choices is always well constructed.