We conclude this three-part arc by Todd DeZago. It's not perfect, but it's some of my favourite stuff out of Sensational Spider-Man to date.
|Cover Art:||Mike Wieringo|
|Reprinted In:||Sensational Spider-Man #23 Kanas City Chiefs Promo|
|Reprinted In:||Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #34|
As Spidey avoids the flesh-deforming spells of Buel ("Would it kill you to just stay put for a moment?!", the Gremlyn Lord yells as he tries to zap the web-slinger.), Doctor Strange polishes off the creature sent to squish his abandoned body (once he figures out that ogre spells won't work on transmogrified gremlyms). Spidey manages to use his web to toss Buel into the dimension of snowsnakes ("More like snow-little-baby- fleshthings-that-don't-wanna-mess=with-Buel-anymore... right, boys?", says the returning villain.), and rejoined by Strange's astral form, they continue the journey through different dimensions before coming to the Sphere of Sara-Kath.
As the Webhead is about to grab the talisman, he is again distracted by a strong pull on his Spider-Sense. This allows Buel to catch up and grab the sphere for himself. The battle begins, with Doctor Strange entering the fray in his physical form by levitating in from outside. (Why didn't he do this to begin with?) And, well, take it from me, the good guys win, OK? And Pete gets to commune with the essence of Uncle Ben.
Sadly, in this final part, the quiet moments, the subplots and the supporting characters that were the strength of the preceding two issues were all forgotten in the concluding chapter.
But what about the story itself? Well, I still loathe magic mixed with Spidey and Buel seems to be one of the dopier of recent villains but there is a certain... style to the gremlyn-lord that makes for enjoyable reading. I mean, who else would say, "It'll be a cold day in Hades when Buel, plasmage and gremlyn-lord is vanquished by some ear, nose, and throat guy!" while fighting Doctor Strange? OK, so only Buel would refer to himself as Buel, but you know what I mean. (And he's right, you know, his disgusting power is rather cool.)
As for Ringo's art... I never thought I would say this but it's starting to grow on me. (Do you think that next, Steve Skroce's work will be...? Naw!) Yes, it's cartoony, yes, it's too manga-influenced but the man draws some great gremlyns and a great Doctor Strange. (Even if Doc looked more and more like Frank Zappa as the story went on.)
But, oh no! What is this I see? Could it be yet another Uncle Ben flashback? This time the poor guy is dragged out for one panel where he is dead on his side on the ground with his back facing the reader. And Ben appears to be flitting around in the "in-between place" at the end. Sorry, Todd, you lose half a web for not letting Ben rest in peace. (But you get that half-web back for the pig in the vest and the bow tie.)
Three webs for a conclusion that didn't quite live up to the promise of the first two parts of the arc.
While it may be that the entity is Ben Parker's spirit, it is more likely the case that it's the spirit of Marvel's writer and editor Mark Gruenwald, who passed away at age 43 in August 1996. Mark's last work was Sensational Spider- Man '96. I believe Spidey was saying goodbye to Mark in this issue. - Mike Fichera