Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #168

Story 'Sleeping Dogs'

This issue starts off with Spidey doing his usual webslinging across town, when he is suddenly called out by She-Hulk, who lurking on a nearby rooftop. She asks for his help with an errand, and despite his spider-sense buzzing in the background (and the fact that he says he's on his way to a class at ESU) he decides to follows her to an old, condemned building. The exchange went a little like this...

Spider-Man: She-Hulk! What are you doing here? She-Hulk: Looking for you. Spider-Man: What do you need me for? She-Hulk: Just follow me to this old abandoned building and don't ask questions.

Spider-Man: Okay.

Once they get to the basement of the aforementioned condemned building, they find a giant stone stopper set into the floor with a plaque that dates back to the 1890s. Again, despite all the sketchy circumstances (breaking and entering, messing with old stuff that they don't know anything about), Spidey still goes along with She-Hulk. Again, I paraphrase...

She-Hulk: I need you to help lift up this old stone stopper because there's a hidden vault underneath it. Spider-Man: Why? Couldn't you just ask Thor to lend a hand, you're on the same team, right? She-Hulk: What did I say about asking questions?

Spider-Man: Fine.

So, with the help of a webline slung over a pipe they have enough leverage to lift up the stopper. She-Hulk then convinces Spidey to slip underneath it into the hidden vault. He finds a really old wooden chest. She-Hulk tells him to go ahead and open the chest. Again, using no commonsense whatsoever (not to speak of his spider-sense, which should be buzzing up a storm considering what's inside the chest) he does what she says. So what's in the chest? Only a great black cloud of death that goes flying off once it's released from its century old prison. Who woulda thought?

Anyway, after the great black cloud of death is gone, She-Hulk drops the webline holding the lid of the vault up, effectively stranding our hero under several tons of rock. Serves him right, if you ask me, for being such a gullible stooge.

Of course, he gets out eventually, in a scene reminiscent of the classic Amazing Spider-Man #33 underwater escape. Naturally, he's miffed at She-Hulk for leaving him down there, and decides to visit the Avengers Mansion to sort it out. Somehow, he trips the alarm and the Avengers (which at this time includes Captain America, Quasar, Sersi, She-Hulk and Thor) come out to see who's attacking them.

Now, instead of talking to them and trying to figure out what's going on, our hero instead sucker punches She-Hulk. She throws some random, heavy piece of equipment at Spidey, but her teammates are able to subdue the two of them before they do any more damage. After he's calmed down, Spidey explains the whole story to them, but after his earlier display, they are reluctant to believe him. Captain America checks their security system, and it tells him She-Hulk has never left the building today.

Here is another chance for everyone to sit down and get to the bottom of things together, but does that happen? No. Spidey just gets upset and leaves in a huff. As he's swinging away, we see a pigeon fly by and land on a nearby rooftop. But this is no ordinary pigeon; this is the Space Phantom in disguise (don't worry, I didn't know who he was at the time either)! The Space Phantom reports in to his Master, confirming that phase one of their plan is complete. It turns out he was the one impersonating She-Hulk in order to trick Spider-Man into releasing the black cloud of death. His Master then tells him it's time to initiate phase two.

We'll have to wait for next issue to see what that entails, however, because we have reached the end of part one.

General Comments

This is the first part of a 3-part Avengers crossover. The usual superhero team-up formula of a stupid misunderstanding leading to a needless fight scene is in full effect here. For all his whining about The Avengers not believing his side of the story, Spidey is pretty quick to judge them too.

Also, Spidey acts way too naive for someone who's been in the superhero biz as long as he has. Why, after all this time, doesn't he trust his spider-sense? The answer is that it's just bad writing.

Plus, there's virtually no supporting characters in this issue. There is the small subplot about MJ and Jason Jerome, a fellow actor who is trying to seduce her away from Peter. Besides that, we don't even see Spidey out of costume.

So, for all the clichés and immature, non-sensical behavior I have to give this issue a rather low rating. It's not a very good beginning for the story arc.

Overall Rating