From 1997, this is the second book in the Spider-Man "Doom's Day" team-up trilogy that was started in 1996 with Spider-Man & The Incredible Hulk: Rampage (Doom's Day Book 1). This second volume sees co-author Eric Fein dropped in favour of Pierce Askegren. The second half of the team, Danny Fingeroth, remains on board for this book.
There's a change in heroes this time, with Hulk and Black Cat moving out to make room for "ol' Tin-Head" - Iron Man (and his millionaire alter-ego Tony Stark). Mary Jane still flits in and out through the background, while Flash Thompson is dropped completely after his starring role in the first of the trilogy.
On the side of the bad-guys Doctor Doom is still present (hey, he's in the title, right). As in the first book, Doom's role is (still for now) very much in the background as a "mover of pawns". The major villains are Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and his Hydra organization, and to a lesser extent Spider-Man faces the forces of A.I.M. who as a former faction of Hydra find themselves battling pretty much everybody else. Also caught in the middle are the forces of S.A.F.E., who are a bit like S.H.I.E.L.D. though not quite. S.A.F.E. featured heavily in the first book, and they're back again in this one too.
At 310 or so pages, the book is perhaps 10% longer than the first novel, though still an easily digestible size. So let's start digesting. First up, the plot:
Tony Stark has created the "Infinity Engine", a shuttle-sized space craft which when launched into space and parked at Stark's recently restored "Ad Astra" space platform will beam down an unlimited supply of energy to the planet. This will revolutionise the world the same way that the creation of the wheel did, or so we're told.
Actually, I don't think it's that simple. Consider the fact that there's actually enough food in the world to feed everybody. So why do people still starve to death? Yep, just creating energy isn't sufficient, you have to share and distribute it. Still, creating infinite energy would be a pretty big step, I'll grant you that. So up goes the Infinity Engine, into space, docks with the "Ad Astra".
Now the sub-plot. Peter Parker was at the Stark party when the Engine was revealed. There he met Tony Stark who offered him a job as a lab assistant to Dr. Haberman, who is the scientist who is programming the calibration software. Heh, wanna lay bets that Peter is late to work on his first day because he had to stop as Spidey and rescue somebody? What, no bet? Oh, you know that part of the formula. OK.
Anyhow, Haberman has all the Infinity Engine software on his computer and Hydra come and shoot Haberman and take the software. Peter feels guilty 'cos he didn't save Haberman. Of course, as Spidey, he has a chance to make amends when the Ad Astra and the Infinity Engine are hijacked by Hydra. Like, d'uh, it's totally unguarded and all, did anybody not see that coming?
Naturally Iron Man and Spidey need to go rescue the space-ware from the clutches of Hydra. A.I.M. turn up and try and grab it too, and S.A.F.E. sends up a task force in a commandeered NASA shuttle. Everybody's up there! Doom meddles a bit here and there, but without any real sense of direction. There's lots of space action, and the heroes save the day. In the end, the Infinity Engine is deemed too dangerous to give to mankind, and nothing really changes in the world.
The plot is rather simple, and covers well-travelled ground. There aren't many surprises in the story. To be fair, the writing is actually pretty good, and as sheer entertainment this book succeeds pretty well. The one aspect that I particularly noted was that the techno-babble was greatly improved over the first in the series. That's vitally important when writing about a high-tech space adventure featuring the uber-tech Iron Man.
In fact, all the science is fairly defensible (except perhaps for the final section when we are expected to believe that a gradually decaying orbit that loops around the planet a few times will cause greater impact than a direct descent, which goes against everything I know about gravitational potential energy and how to leak it away through friction).
The characters from S.A.F.E. that were created specifically for this series and were carried over from the first book into this one are all formed from easily recognisable stereotypes. Similarly for the Infinity Engine crew - we immediately understand where everybody fits in to the grand scheme, the brave leader, the sassy smart female scientist, the flashy young pilot, and the lean & mean former security agent. Everybody in this book knows their role, and there's nothing to challenge your mind in any uncomfortable fashion, nothing to stop you enjoying a pleasant read on a rainy afternoon.
As a footnote, the writing team (presumably Fingeroth) keeps a close eye on continuity, and the book is well tied into both the preceeding series of novels (Diane Duane's trilogy) and also into the current and recent Spider-Man and Iron Man continuity. There is a general consensus among Marvel Readers that the novels aren't actually part of formal Marvel continuity, but the writers have been very careful to ensure that those who would like to include this book as continuity have no reason not to do so.
Formulaic, but perfectly good fun in a way that many Spidey novels aren't. I gave Doom's Day Book One a 3.5 web rating, and I'll do the same for this one. But let's see how the trilogy ends before making any final conclusions!