Comics : Web of Scarlet Spider #4

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This story is part of an Arc: "Nightmare in Scarlet"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Worst of the Worst

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

FBI agent Joe Wade has been transformed into a new Scarlet Spider courtesy of Dr. Octopus II and her nanotechnology. Against his will he transforms into a maniac that places civilians in jeopardy with his pranks. He confided in his partner Stephanie Briggs about his situation, but he once again transformed into the Scarlet Spider and began to look for more "fun".

He has recently decided to take the participants of a local TV show hostage and announce that he's going to kill one of them. Among the hostages is the mother of Warriors' member Speedball.

In Detail...

Web of Scarlet Spider #4
Feb 1996 : SM Title
Summary: New Warriors
Arc: Part 3 of "Nightmare in Scarlet"
Editor:  Eric Fein
Writer:  Evan Skolnick
Pencils:  Paris Karounos
Inker:  Randy Emberlin
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Articles: Ben Reilly, Joe Wade

FBI agent Stephanie Briggs, the new Spider-Man, and the New Warriors make their way to the television station to help free the hostages and stop the now silvery Scarlet Spider.

Speedball beats them all there as it's his mother's life that is in danger. He distracts the Scarlet Spider long enough for the hostages to escape. When the rest of the Warriors arrive they see Speedball being blasted through a skyscraper window. They save him and disintegrate the falling debris. This leaves Spider-Man to take on his former identity.

During their battle, the Scarlet Spider uses an intense light that blinds Spider-Man. Any advantage he had is quickly lost. The Scarlet Spider punches his sightless enemy off the building and would have fallen to his death if not for Firestar's timely catch.

At this point the Scarlet Spider attacks them, knocking the wind out of Firestar causing them to plummet toward the ground. Justice saves Firestar and Spider-Man but the Scarlet Spider hits the ground, making a significant crater. Moments later, the Scarlet Spider emerges from the hole and prepares to attack the Warriors on the ground.

At this point Briggs steps between Wade and the Warriors and reaches the real Joe Wade beneath the nanotech exterior. She convinces him to push past the pain and revert to his human form. He complies and is taken into custody by Agent Stone. Briggs promises Joe that she'll be with him every step of the way to ensure that Stone doesn't turn him into a lab rat.

The Warriors and Spider-Man exchange their good-byes. As Ben swings away, Justice comments to Firestar that whoever "their" Scarlet Spider was, he wasn't Spider-Man. Firestar - who has figured out that the original Scarlet Spider is now Spider-Man - responds "time will tell".

In General...

Overall a considerable step up in quality from the "Virtual Mortality" and "Cyber-War" arcs. And again, why couldn't the creators have utilized a more straightforward approach as they have in the last two issues of this title? The result is a much better story. You actually want to see how it ends as opposed to wanting it to end!

Overall Rating...

2.5 webs. Issues 3 and 4 of this title are the best of the entire bunch and they're not that great. Here's why: I don't consider them Spider-Man stories. They may feature a spider-like character, but the guy in the suit ain't Peter Parker. Issues after Spectacular Spider-Man #226 (the revelation Peter's a clone) and before Spider-Man #75 (the "oops, we screwed up" issue) are what I consider the "dark days" of Spider-Man. But to be fair, even if the real Spider-Man were involved, I wouldn't like it as the stories are sub-par.

Unlike the Superman and Batman mega-arcs where they were replaced with some new guys, Marvel intended to keep it this way. Why? To be able to tell "Spidey-is-single" stories. There are literally hundreds of these in existence already. In many cases since he and MJ were married, they downplay it when he appears in other titles. There is no reason to do this as good writers can write interesting stories with what they're given. Others enjoy telling stories that have the same structure as old-school arcade games: 2 - 3 "levels" with an increase in speed as you progress.

Radical storylines like this should be handled carefully, i.e. have the hero incapacitated so that the new guy has to step in temporarily. This is why I didn't mind the Batman and Superman arcs: I KNEW THEY WERE COMING BACK. When you chuck a major part of continuity (the character) in favor of short-sighted goals or an inability to create interesting stories with the current status quo, you do your fans a great disservice.