Comics : X-Man #38
Part 1 / Part 2
Spidey and X-Man Nate Gray are fighting guys in armoured suits. This is part two of the two-part arc.
May 1998 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Arc: Part 2 of "Breaking Point"
Pretty much just twenty-one pages of Spidey and X-Man fighting guys in flying armor, then helping to save innocent bystanders from falling off the damaged bridge. You think maybe the title to this issue was referring to the unsuccessful attempt to disguise the fact that there was no plot?
There are two Marvel scripters that I usually make a point to avoid and one of them is Terry Kavanaugh. Actually, I often admire Terry's daring concepts, his willingness to commit outrageous acts, but his stories never seem to do service to the idea. (In previous Spidey tales, Terry was the guiding force behind the deaths of Calypso and Lance Bannon, both done clumsily in bad storylines. He was also one of the major players in the Spider-Clone saga and, well, we know how that turned out, don't we?) There is also an annoying fuzziness about Terry's writing style so that panel to panel, in the simplest of transitions, it is all too easy for the reader to get lost.
These traits can all be seen in this two-part story. The concept of bringing an alternate world Gwen Stacy to confront Spider-Man could be a potent one. As an old Gwen fan, I am all for any appearances she can get (and if Terry could figure out a way to bring back the real Gwen Stacy for good I would take back everything I said about him) but this one tantalizes, then disappoints. There is the moment of recognition ("P-Peter?") then she winks out of existence leaving us with nothing. (Leaving us with worse than nothing, actually. Instead of nothing, we get a whole extra issue of plotless, boring action.) The concept goes nowhere. It is shock just to shock with no framework, no underlying thought behind it.
As for panel-to-panel fuzziness, here is a good example. These lines come from the splash page of issue #38. "The shock of these dark, dank New York waters hits like a missile. Numbing needles of ice barrage his body like shrapnel, hammering at suddenly brittle skin, stunning every muscle into instant submission. Immediately followed by the impact of his unknown attacker, armored claws first, determined to finish what it started." If you can follow that without reading it three or four times, I salute you. Personally, though, I would just as soon not have to fight with the writer while I'm reading a comic book.
Sometimes, good art can rescue bad writing but that doesn't happen here. Stan Lee has recently complained about the "sameness" of many of today's comic artists. What Stan didn't mention is that these artists are also not very good. Chriscross (and many of the others) doesn't seem to understand that he is illustrating a story. All the explosions and psi-blasts are great but if they don't present a clear narrative (in a tale that already suffers in its transitions in the writing, as I mentioned), then they aren't worth a whole lot. Terry Kavanaugh may tell a muddy story but he gets no help from his undisciplined artist.
One and a half webs. For Gwen's sake.