Comics : Spider-Man Tangled Web #4

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Tom Cochrane has worked for the Kingpin for twenty years, earning a good life for himself and his family. But when one of his assignments is spoiled by the Amazing Spider-Man, will Tom get a second chance?

In Detail...

"Severance Package"
Spider-Man Tangled Web #4
Sep 2001 : SM Title
Editor:  Axel Alonso
Writer:  Greg Rucka
Pencils:  Eduardo Risso
Inker:  Eduardo Risso
Cover Art:  Eduardo Risso
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Review
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man TPB (Tangled Web) #1

It's late at night, and the Cochrane household is slowly preparing for bed when the phone rings. Tom Cochrane picks up the phone and is told to turn on the TV. There is a news report playing about the capture of some illegal weapons worth "in the millions of dollars range." The camera briefly pans over the silhouette of a figure sticking to the wall, watching the arrest. Tom sighs, hanging up the phone with a "nice knowing you, too." His wife is concerned, and a little frightened, as Tom admits that the weapon sale was his job. He failed, and now he'll have to answer for that failure.

The phone rings again. This time it's Wilson Fisk. A man named Ritchie will be by to pick him up in about an hour.

As his wife watches incredulously, Tom goes to take a shower, shaving and putting on his best suit. He takes a minute with each of his boys, tucking them back in. He goes down to the kitchen with his wife begging him not to go. "He's going to kill you, Tom, you know that!" "Yeah," Tom says, "yeah, he is. Could I get a cup of coffee before I go?"

Tom slowly sips his coffee, while his wife begs him to fight back, run, go to the cops, ANYTHING. Tom refuses, telling her that this is what he signed on for. The family is set financially. All too soon the doorbell rings, and its Ritchie. Tom kisses his tearful wife goodbye and leaves his home.

As Ritchie drives him, the two talk. Tom asks if that "Chinatown thing" got fixed, and Ritchie admits that it hasn't but that the Kingpin said he'd give him another chance. The car finally arrives at Fisk tower and Ritchie tells Tom he will escort him to the top.

"It won't be necessary, Ritchie." Before the startled kid knows what's happening, Tom bashes his face into the driver's side window, steals his gun, and blows his brains out. "There are no second chances, kid."

Tom walks through the empty lobby, taking the elevator up to the penthouse, and soon finds himself standing before the Kingpin. Fisk asks Tom if he knows why he's here, and Tom admits he saw the bust on the news. He also admits his guilt. He takes out the gun and Kingpin asks if it's Ritchie's. "After what happened with his Chinatown sale, I figured that's why you sent him." The Kingpin nods.

His nerve breaking for a moment, Tom asks the Kingpin for a favor: "please let my family live." The Kingpin doesn't respond, just orders Tom to move to the front of the desk. He tells Tom to attack him, staging the scene to make it look like he's defending himself. Tom does so, and the Kingpin quickly snaps his neck.

After dropping Tom Cochrane's dead body to the floor, the Kingpin pulls out a cellular phone. The man on the other end asks, "do I go in?" "No," Kingpin replies. "Leave the Cochrane family alone. They're done."

In General...

Wow. What a well-written, genuinely unsettling story. I spent the whole thing hoping that Tom would somehow escape and knowing he wouldn't. It's not an easy task to make the reader root for a criminal and a murderer, but writer Greg Rucka does it with seemingly no effort. Nice job.

With this fourth issue, Tangled Web is now focusing on characters peripheral to Spider-Man that happen to be swept up into his world. Spidey himself only makes it onto one panel, and the rest of the book is the sad end of Tom Cochrane, a bad man who truly loves his family and has a sense of responsibility that in some ways rivals Spider-Man's. He knew what would happen if he failed, and now that he has failed he wastes no time trying to run from the consequences. And what makes this story work so well is the maddeningly-calm way Tom goes about his final hour. I felt for the wife, begging him to fight back or do ANYTHING rather than march off to his death. But again, he knows what he agreed to and he knows what would happen to his family if he didn't. So he marches off into the night and never looks back.

Then comes the incident in the car, where Tom not only agrees to let the Kingpin kill him, he does his dirty work by killing the driver, an eighteen-year old kid. What kind of man would willingly submit to be killed, love his family enough to die for them, and yet brutally murder somebody in the process? I don't know, but it makes for a character well worth reading. Even worth mourning.

Finally, the Kingpin's power and authority are well known, but here we get a glimpse of his cunning. He doesn't order Tom to murder Ritchie, nor does he worry that Tom will fail to show up. He just sets up the pieces and let Tom do the work. This man knows his employee well, and that knowledge sets up a scenario that police will never be able to disprove (the "fired man going nuts" deal.) Yet Kingpin clearly respects Tom and treats him thusly even while murdering him. Another well-written character. It's too bad he came off as goofy-looking (the face just did not fit.)

If this is representative of the kind of stories Tangled Web puts out in the near future, this book should have a good, long life.

Overall Rating...

A poorly-drawn Kingpin is the only thing keeping this book from a full five webs. But that's not enough to bring down a first-rate story. Four and a half webs.