Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #18

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This story is part of an Arc: "Champions, Angel & Iceman"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

When last we saw our intrepid mutant and non-mutant heroes in Spectacular Spider-Man #17, the armored Rampage had been revealed to be a brainwashed Iceman. Spider-Man and the Angel must defeat Iceman without injuring their amazing friend.

In Detail...

"My Friend, My Foe?"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #18
May 1978 : SMURF 180.750 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "Champions, Angel & Iceman"
Editor:  Archie Goodwin
Writer:  Bill Mantlo
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  David Hunt
Cover Art:  Sal Buscema
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Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Champions Classic #2
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #229 (Story 1)
 Reprinted In: Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #1
 Partially Reprinted In: Spider-Man Comics Weekly (UK) #303
Articles: Flash Thompson, Sha Shan, White Tiger

After last issue's revelation Iceman is still under the homicidal hypnotic suggestion of the now-unconscious Stuart Clarke and has Spider-Man and the Angel on the run with his ice darts. Spidey also notes that the hypnotized hero is using his powers to keep the temperature down so that he and Angel have to concentrate on keeping warm as well.

Spider-Man plans to ambush Iceman when he comes through a doorway but Angel hesitates in fear for his friend's safety. Instead they work together to drop a security door down that was built to withstand even Hercules' strength, Spider-Man noting that even the wiring for the doorway was cheap in this disastrous building.

As Iceman tries to break through, the Angel tells Spider-Man exactly how all this came to be. After the Champions' break-up a guilt-ridden Iceman went to visit the injured Stuart Clarke in the hospital where he'd been kept since his battles with the super-team. Clarke apparently awakens from his coma with Iceman present and gases the teen with a hypnosis-inducing drug. He orders Iceman to "kidnap" him from the hospital as the first step toward his revenge. Searching for the missing Iceman, Angel stumbles upon Clarke and Iceman-as- Rampage in the Champions building itself.

Meanwhile Iceman has gotten through the door and presses his attack on his friends. A large mace-like ice ball keeps Spidey on the run as Iceman grabs Angel by the throat and begins to lower his body temperature. The ball misses Spider-Man but crashes through the window, plummeting toward the ground below before the webslinger catches it with some webbing.

Spider-Man separates Iceman from Angel and tries to reason with Bobby to no avail. Their battle takes them out the window as well even as three mysterious figures representing the construction company of the building offer a deal to the recovered millionaire.

Outside Spidey directs the fight toward a car wash, thinking correctly that the steam will shock Iceman back to his senses. After awakening (and with a quick web mask from Spider-Man in case his identity was a secret) Drake reveals that he remembers nothing after going to the hospital.

Back in the Champions building an incensed Angel sends the three contractors on their way with a hurricane-like flapping of his wings after they have promised to repair what they've done. As Angel sees to Clarke Iceman announces that he's leaving. "I've always been looked at as a little league super hero...and I've never liked it...for awhile, where the Iceman walks, he walks...alone."

Spidey leaves too, trying to catch a plane back to New York. However, true to the Parker form, the camera with which he was taking shots of his fight with Iceman was broken in the melee. At least he wired his previous shots to the Bugle and will be able to pay for Aunt May's latest medicine.

Meanwhile back at ESU Flash Thompson and Sha Shan are enjoying the happiness of finally being free and together after their recent troubles. But an errant frisbee thrown by art major Holly Gillis threatens the oblivious couple. It's intercepted, however, by another student named Hector Ayala, whom we know better as the White Tiger. Holly is thankful and another friendship is formed.

Later Peter's plane nears New York when a bolt of lightning disturbs the craft. The plane is fine but Peter noticed they were passing over Attica at the time and that the bolt came from the ground. Down below some prison guards notice the destruction and wonder if anything could have survived, even as a super-charged light bulb dims down to its normal intensity.

In General...

Part two of the Angel/Iceman crossover has a better overall feel to it even if the art and coloring get a little sloppy in places. Apparently Angel's red costume isn't easy to keep within the lines.

It's always interesting to see what creators try to do with "limbo" characters, those like Angel and Iceman here who might need new direction. The story tries to give them a new status quo, with the Angel perhaps trying to save what's left of the Champions legacy by restoring the building and the Iceman stalking off alone to try to find some self-respect. However since both characters' next appearance is together in the excellent Incredible Hulk Annual #7 it didn't seem as though Marvel editorial though much of mutant characters being on their own.

As written in the Champions series, Stuart Clarke wasn't really much of a sympathetic character and it's odd that Bill Mantlo has Bobby Drake feel sorry for and visit him repeatedly. It's a deus ex machina (can one use that term for the beginning of a story?) that doesn't quite ring true.

A highlight of this issue is the quick scene at ESU, as we learn that Sha Shan is adjusting to her new life by enrolling in the college. Flash will be there as well and we meet Holly Gillis and Hector Ayala (the White Tiger) in two pages that signal a nice new supporting cast for Peter.

The plane scene is also effective and perhaps understated. We'll be reintroduced to the villain behind the explosion in the next two issues but the cliffhanger here could certainly have left readers wondering. The understated part is exactly what could Peter have done had the plane been permanently disabled...his potential vulnerability was not explored, probably due to space issues.

Mantlo actually writes Iceman's powers pretty well, beside the obligatory rolling ice mace-ball of death. Spider-Man's aside that "he's lowered the temperature around us so that we have to expend precious energy just trying to stay warm" reveals an interesting application to Bobby's powers that was explored a bit after his return to the X-Men years later. It's telling that Bobby is more effective when not in full control of his actions than when he is and reveals a lack of self-confidence that I think has given writers trouble when trying to carve a character out of Iceman.

Overall Rating...

A neater conclusion to the Angel/Iceman story with some nice subplot hints.

Footnote...

Full confession: I've reviewed this issue using Marvel Tales #229, since I don't have the original issue. The reprint features a Todd McFarlane cover and was part of the mutant reprints series going on in that title. Oddly enough the next issue of Marvel Tales reprints Amazing Spider-Man #203 which features Spidey and the Dazzler taking on Lightmaster, the villain who was alluded to in the cliffhanger at the end of this issue. But that's a few appearances down the road for Lightmaster. This issue of Marvel Tales also has a backup story featuring Spider-Ham taking on the Punfisher and Tombenstain (!).

Thor #271 was also published in May, 1978, so I've dug that out of mothballs to see what interesting extras might have been included in that month. Not much of interest besides a Hulk Hostess ad ("Leave Me Alone"). A preview of the new look Ms. Marvel appeared on the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page.

According to our very own SMURF codes, Spidey appears next in the very next issue, Spectacular Spider-Man #19.