Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #158

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This story is part of an Arc: "Cosmic Spider-Man/Acts of Vengeance"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8 / Part 9 / Part 10

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

The major villains in the Marvel Universe have agreed to work together and exchange enemies in order to defeat them once and for all.

Spider-Man found out the hard way that the strategy has some merit after being beaten by Graviton.

However this isn't over yet.

In Detail...

"The Paste And The Power"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #158
Dec 1989 : SMURF 326.600 : SM Title
Summary: Acts of Vengeance, Spidey Goes Cosmic
Arc: Part 2 of "Cosmic Spider-Man/Acts of Vengeance"
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  Sal Buscema
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 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Cosmic Adventures (TPB)
Articles: Doctor Doom, Jameson, J. Jonah, Nick Katzenberg, Kingpin, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

While on his way to meet Mary Jane for dinner at a seafood restaurant on the east side of Manhattan, Spider-Man is attacked by the Trapster. The various projectile weapons used by Trapster (paste, grease, gum-balls) prove to be more than Spider-Man can handle as he finds himself coated in paste and falling through the skylight of his destination.

As the paste hardens, he sees MJ out of his unobstructed eye and stumbles toward her in some effort to ask for help and ends up falling through a window into the East River. After he touches bottom, he manages to shatter his casing and resurface. Thankful to be alive, he heads home with a grateful Mary Jane close behind.

Across town, the Kingpin is offered an invitation to join the Acts of Vengeance campaign. He is taken to the central meeting location where he sees the elite crowd of Dr. Doom, Magneto, and the Wizard. The Trapster has contacted them to inform them that he killed Spider-Man. Kingpin refuses to believe such a claim without proof. Furious at his treatment, Trapster agrees to get the proof the Kingpin requres.

We cut to Philadelphia where Joe Robertson is attending an appeal hearing for his prison sentence. His recent - and unwilling - participation in a prison break lessens his chance of receiving a commuted or reduced sentence. Stuart McPhee the brother of Lemuel "Brusier" McPhee, whom Joe befriended in prison before his murder arrives at the hearing to inform his family of the potential for a presidential pardon.

At ESU Peter is working side-by-side with Dr. Max Lubisch on his mysterious extra-dimensional energy source project. His suspicious answers to Peter's precautionary questions leave Peter feeling less comfortable working with him. As the experiment progresses, the analysis machine begins to overload the electrical grid. Peter notices this but Lubisch couldn't care less. Peter's spider-sense goes off in time to push Lubisch out of the path of an incoming energy blast, taking the full brunt himself.

After taking a moment to check on the unconscious Lubisch, Peter notices some changes as a result of his exposure to the energy field. Looking out the window, he sees downed power lines threatening students. He changes to Spider- Man with the intention of securing the loose wires. When a power line twists toward a group of students, he instinctively reaches out for the wire. In what should have been his final act of heroism, he - and all watching - are amazed that Spider-Man is still alive. Spider-Man leaves to assess his new lease on life.

He finds that not only his strength has been enhanced, but also his hearing and spider-sense have also been augmented. He can now hear a spider walking on a window two blocks away, a dripping faucet in the chemistry lab, and Trapster complaining about fishing Spider-Man's body out of the East River.

In the mood for some payback, Spider-Man quickly finds Trapster and defeats him using some other new powers. They include the ability to mentally control his webbing and fire energy bolts from his fingers. He ultimately sets off all of the glue cartridges on Trapster's bandolier, encasing him in his own paste.

Despite his much deserved victory, the last several minutes have left him in a state of panic. He's not sure how he knew he had these powers, but he used them easily.

In General...

I can accept Spider-Man being defeated by Graviton. Clearly that would be a challenge. But Trapster? He'd give a good fight for a page, but ultimately Trapster shouldn't pose much of a threat. I can understand being caught by surprise, but this is a bit extreme.

If Spider-Man had been coated with the adhesive in a mid-air, causing him to fall into the East River (or allowing Trapster to push him in), I would have chalked it up to dumb luck and left it alone. However in this case another approach was chosen.

The "coat him with paste in mid-air and falling" part happened. I can see where he might fall into the restaurant where he was meeting MJ. But to have him walk through the restaurant and fall through a window into the river stretches the believability too much. If he can't move and is suffocating, the last thing he needs to do is move. Well, move around and cause himself to fall through a window into the East River. We all know Spider-Man has a lot of stamina, but this is a ridiculous way to remind us of it.

The issue improved after that opening sequence. I'm of two minds on the rematch. Part of me is appalled that they would imply Spider-Man needs these new powers to beat Trapster. The other part is glad that these new powers weren't put to the test on their first outing. A serious threat might require a bit more than a mental constructs and low-level energy bolts.

Overall Rating...

2.5 webs. Slightly better than the Graviton issue, but not too much. Instead of starting out good and working its way down, this issue starts off bad and redeems itself by the end.

One continuity problem that stuck out at me is the involvement of the Kingpin. In part 1, Graviton described the Kingpin contacting him to participate in the AOV campaign. In this issue (part 2), Kingpin is just joining. There's a communication breakdown here.

Once we get past those problems, Conway regains his footing and delivers a good story.

Footnote...

Spider-Man has fought the Trapster in Amazing Spider-Man #212, Amazing Spider-Man #213, Spectacular Spider-Man #39, Spectacular Spider-Man #40, Spectacular Spider-Man #42, and Fantastic Four #218.

Joe Robertson was sentenced to prison in Spectacular Spider-Man #150 for a misprision of felony.