Comics : Web of Spider-Man #57

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This story is part of an Arc: "Skin-Deep"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

We conclude our two part summary of the Skin-Head story as started in Web of Spider-Man #56. This is definitely a true citizen of our "Worst of the World" empire. But read on...

In Detail...

"Flesh And Blood"
Web of Spider-Man #57
Nov 1989 : SMURF 325.650 : SM Title
Summary: Rocket Racer, Skinhead
Arc: Part 2 of "Skin-Deep"
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Alex Saviuk
Inker:  Keith Williams
Cover Art:  Alex Saviuk
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Articles: Glory Grant, Nick Katzenberg, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Rocket Racer

Head Honcho Skin-Head has completely lost it. He transforms into a big fleshy bag, extruding pseudo-pods and varying greatly in mass (completely disregarding the laws of physics) as he chases his former cronies through the junk-yard outside the front of their HQ. He eats and absorbs their flesh, leaving nothing but the dried bones. Eeeeuch! Clearly, the first step to forming a master-race is absorbing everybody who agrees with you. Hmmm... how does that work?

Rocket Racer and Spidey do some research, while the sub-plots progress further (more on that later, let's not get distracted now). Rocket Racer tracks down Eddies father, who turns out to be the son of a staunch Zionist. Yep, Eddie is Jewish. His father is a rabbi, no less. Then we get some moralising about "victims of racism becoming racist." Wow, that's exactly what happened to Rocket Racer when he got picked on that morning - wow, that's deep! Now Rocket Racer just wants to help Eddie.

Well, here's his chance. The amorphous blob of flesh that was formerly "Eddie The Cross" comes crashing through the window. Battle is joined, as Eddie tries (with varying degrees of success) to absorb pretty much everyone in sight into his blobby mass - his dad, Spidey, Nick Katzenburg, a couple of teens making out in a nearby car, plus Rocket Racer. But Spidey saves the day when he spots the shadow of a skeleton inside the fleshy body. He leaps inside the jelly-like substance, and fights with the skeleton. Blech!

Eddie is KO'd. He's a multiple murderer. Should we call the police, or stand around moralising?

So Eddie's dad speculates that Eddie's character was his fault, because he was so proud of being a Jew, he drove his son to extremism. But Spidey and Rocket Racer reject that rather flawed proposition, although they offer nothing in return - except some "Readers Digest" prattle about each of us holding the torch of human dignity.

In General...

So what's wrong with this story? The fundamental issue of racism is certainly worthy of addressing, and Spidey gets around to most issues in time, so why not this one.

As always, it's not what you do, it's that way that you do it. Gerry tackles this issue so "head-on" that he doesn't so much deal with the question as steam-roll it. The characterisations and script are so extreme as to be offensive to those the portray (if being offensive to facist extremists is in fact possible).

Rather than shedding any real light on the issues, Gerry's overpowering stereotypes do nothing more than muddy the waters. By putting up such a cardboard cut-out villain, the story does nothing to educate any young reader about the kind of dangers that society really faces from that direction. To compound matters, the evil of racism is defeated by Spideys fists, rather than by any sort of debate or change in society. A dangerously misleading message if ever I saw one.

By contrast, let's examine the primary sub-plot which arises in Web #57. Mary-Jane's cousin Kristy (who was recently hospitalised with anorexia) escapes from hospital and returns home of her own accord. She claims that there is nothing wrong with her, but Mary-Jane disagrees. Mary-Jane speaks her mind and finally gets through to Kristy.

Wow, racism and anorexia in the same issue. But in the case of the anorexia sub-plot, there's a major difference. The characters and the dialog are far more convincing. Same writer, same problems, just different quality of output. Which kind of cements my belief that Gerry is a good writer who just missed the mark this time - by quite some distance.

Overall Rating...

The art is Alex Saviuk/Keith Williams. Very ho-hum indeed!

As for the plot - well the intentions are good, but the execution is shockingly mis-handled. The main storyline deserves a half-web, but I'm going to bump up the overall rating because of the quality of the underlying sub-plot.

Even so, I truly believe that "Eddie The Cross" as "SKINHEAD The White Redeemer" belongs in the Hall of Shame with the Worst of The Worst.