Comics : Ultimate Spider-Man #154

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This review was first published on: Jun 2011.

Background...

During the very first superhero lesson Spider-Man has with Iron Man, a huge energy surge is picked up happening in Soho. Arriving there Spidey and Iron Man witness the Black Cat hand over the Zodiac Key, the ancient artifact that caused both the energy surge and the destruction of an entire city block, over to Mysterio.

In Detail...

Ultimate Spider-Man #154
May 2011 : SM Title
Editor:  Mark Paniccia
Writer:  Brian Michael Bendis
Artist:  David Lafuente, Elena Casagrande, Sara Pichelli
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Review

Mary Jane has come to visit Peter at night but finds Gwen instead. Gwen proceeds to tell a shocked MJ that she’s back and that everything is cool with her and Peter. Mary Jane, looking a little chest fallen, says that that’s ok, which sends Gwen into laughter calling MJ the worse liar there is. She then tells MJ that she and Peter are just going to stay friends and that that is all.

A visibly happier MJ asks if Peter is around but Gwen says that he’s not, that he is busy being Spider-Man and getting trained by The Iron Man. This whole superhero training regime thing is all new to her because she hasn’t been around for a few issues (and she probably doesn’t read my reviews). MJ does agree that Peter having a little training is a really good idea though.

Before they can get too into all that, there is a huge flash of energy that skyrockets up from the city. In the instant that the flash occurrs Gwen and Mary Jane both grab a hold of each other for support without realizing that they did it until afterwards when it becomes really awkward. They both are hopeful that whatever is happening in the city that Peter is not involved. Yeah right.

In Soho where the energy blast originated from, Mysterio is standing over the Black Cat with an electrical beam colliding with one from Iron Man hovering in the sky. They break away and Iron Man turns to Spider-Man telling him he needs to run away because he just used everything his suit had against Mysterio’s attack and that there is nothing left he can do. While Mysterio gloats from his newfound power the Black Cat kicks him from below in the face and Spider-Man follows up with another, which sends Mysterio to the ground. Before the Black Cat can warn them of the Zodiac Key, Mysterio sends a blast out that hits Iron Man with a direct shot that breaks his armor and sends him falling to the ground beaten.

With Mysterio still lying on the ground Spider-Man snags the Zodiac Key with a web line and pulls it out of Mysterio’s grasp and into his own hands. The Black Cat starts freaking out telling Spider-Man that he must drop the key or he’ll kill them all with but a mere thought. Mysterio gets up, holds a gun to Spidey’s head and tell him to hand over the key. Spider-Man makes a joke about not thinking about the Stay Puff Marshmallow man and quickly takes care of both the Black Cat and Mysterio with his spider-like agility.

Spider-Man, after beating up both the Black Cat and Mysterio, now wants some answers about what has happened there and what the Zodiac Key actually is. Before he can get any answers he apparently opens up a vortex in the sky that starts sucking everything up into it. As the Black Cat tells him that she warned him, Spider-Man whispers “please stop”, which of course stops the vortex. Realizing the potential devastation that the Zodiac Key can cause, Spider-Man drops it to the ground and falls to his knees holding his head (a bit of an unwarranted, overly emotional response to the moment).

With the Zodiac Key on the ground the three people get into a big fisticuffs trying to keep it out of each other’s hands. As the dust settles who should be standing over the key but Mysterio. I’m not really sure how he could take out Spider-Man and the Black Cat in a fight without using any kind of illusion power but whatever. Some times it’s best not to ask. And wasn’t it just a minute ago that Spider-Man was easily able to beat up both Mysterio and the Black Cat when they were trying to get the key from him? Why all of a sudden is Mysterio now able to best him in a fight?

Just as Mysterio bends down to pick up the Zodiac Key Tony Stark, sans armor, jumps on his back, slams his hand through Mysterio’s head down into his neck and pulls out Mysterio’s heart / battery. The robot then falls down deactivated. So Mysterio wasn’t really there at all but was pulling a Dr. Doom with his own Mysterio-bot. Iron Man then proceeds to praise Spider-Man’s actions and that after how Spidey presented himself Iron Man wants him now working for him.

Stark then takes off (he’s got his boots from his armor still on, the rest of his armor was destroyed, but thankfully his boots survived) with the Zodiac Key, after making a few passes at Felicia, saying he needs to do some research on the Key to find out more about it, leaving Spider-Man and the Black Cat standing in the middle of the rubble. Stark did mention an emergency crew would be sent to start taking care of any survivors soon. Without waiting for permission Spidey makes his way into the devastation to start helping anyone he can find. He then turns back and asks Felicia if she’s going to help or not – she does.

Later, sitting up in bed in the dark Mary Jane is wide-awake with her thoughts. She goes to her window and finds Peter there on her roof without his mask on. She asks if he’s all right and he tells her not really; that tonight was a really bad night. Taking his hand, MJ leads him inside her room.

In General...

Mary Jane has come looking for Peter only to find that Gwen is back and that Gwen then gets MJ up to speed on everything that has been going on between her and Peter and Peter/Spider-Man and Iron Man. As they are talking they both see a huge beam of light go off inside the city.

At that very beam of light Iron Man and Mysterio are directing a beam of energy at each other but Iron Man doesn’t have enough to stop Mysterio and tells Spider-Man to take off. Obviously being who he is, he decides to stay. After Mysterio destroys Iron Man’s armor Spider-Man manages to get the Zodiac Key away from him with the Black Cat’s help and within the very few seconds he has it he opens up a vortex in the sky that threatens to suck up everyone and everything nearby. Realizing how powerful the key he is holding is, he drops it to the ground.

Mysterio goes to pick it up but Stark jumps onto his back and, after realizing that Mysterio isn’t actually a real person, jams his fist down Mysterio’s neck and pulls out his battery. Iron Man leaves with the Key and Spider-Man and the Black Cat hang back and start helping with any survivors.

After all that Spider-Man heads to Mary Jane’s house for a shoulder to cry on.

Overall Rating...

I still think Bendis is great at dialogue but this story just was not very good. At one point Spider-Man is able to best both the Black Cat and Mysterio effortlessly, and then the very next he can’t hold his own and gets his butt handed to him. What could have happened in the matter of seconds that could have accounted for this? Another problem in the story was if Mysterio was just a robot being controlled remotely, how could it have used the Zodiac Key at all. It was revealed to us that the Zodiac Key grants the request of whoever is holding it? If it happens to be a robot, wouldn’t it sort of be powerless.

These kinds of holes in the story can be easily forgiven. This is a comic after all. But after the few issues of build-up it took to get us here, there was no payoff. The Black Cat tries using the key and destroys a city block, and then Spider-Man takes it away from robot Mysterio and lets Iron Man take it back to his lab for testing. It took two issues to finally get to the Zodiac Key and then when we finally do, nothing is done with it at all. Maybe it’ll be used in a future storyline but for now it just feels like a wasted opportunity and a letdown finish to a drawn out story.