Webspinners Tales of Spider-Man #18

Background

Spider-Man is back in the black suit and is being held captive halfway around the world. Temporarily on loan to Silver Sable and the Sandman, Spidey is attempting to free a dictator from democracy-loving rebels (despite his misgivings). Going up against the Sinister Syndicate is bad enough, but with Doctor Octopus pulling their strings, Spider-Man may have bitten off more than he can chew.

Story Details

  Webspinners Tales of Spider-Man #18
Summary: Silver Sable, Doctor Octopus
Arc: Part 2 of 'Hero of the People' (1-2)
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Co-Plot/Pencils: Ron Frenz
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Inker: Bob McLeod
Cover Art: Ron Frenz

It seems Spider-Man just isn't well-liked anywhere. As this issue opens the local Belgruins are venting their displeasure with a hail of overripe fruit as he sits chained to the statue in the town square. But his public shaming comes to an abrupt end with the appearance of Sandman and the Silver Sable. They make no effort to free Spidey - choosing instead to focus on the mission at hand - but give him the opportunity to break free from his chains and save a little girl from being trampled by the panicked mob.

Inside the palace, the rebel leader searches frantically for his "American friends" only to find them in the king's private storeroom exercising their five-finger discounts. Stunned by their betrayal, the rebel leader has no time to react before Doctor Octopus snaps his neck. Realizing that they have little time to lose, Doc Ock orders the destruction of the palace and the random murder of anyone in their way to serve as a diversion.

The Sinister Syndicate spread out through the palace. Silver Sable, having already knocked out Boomerang during the riot at the beginning of the issue, runs straight into Hydro-Man and incapacitates him through the use of an electrically powered chandelier. Sandman gets the jump on the Rhino, managing to smother him into unconsciousness. And Spidey comes upon the Beetle, who is still reeling from the loss of the rebel he had called a friend. Wistfully remembering how much he liked being seen as a hero, the woolgathering Beetle runs right into Spidey's fist. He reluctantly begins to fight the wall crawler, berating him for saving a murdering tyrant. When Spidey blurts out that he's trying to save the king's daughter, the Beetle responds with: "you think the rebels he hung were childless? Grow up, Spider-Man! Sable's using you to collect a fat paycheck!" Unable to respond to that remark, Spidey notices a small explosive on a nearby support. Beetle takes the opportunity for a graceful escape, telling him that the castle is going to explode unless "you know anyone who wants to play hero."

Arriving in the palace basement - and more than a little perturbed at the way Silver Sable manipulated him into coming in the first place - Spider-Man barely manages to avoid an ambush by Doc Ock . . . only to walk right into a cheap shot from the Speed Demon. Thinking quickly, Spidey manages maneuver Speedy into taking a blow meant for him. He and Octopus continue to struggle while the timer on the detonator slowly ticks down to zero. Speed Demon recovers in time to leave, but Doc Ock is too enraged to think clearly. The palace explodes and Spidey has no choice but to leave him in the collapsing building.

While all this has been going on, the Beetle makes his way to the helicopter that he and his cohorts had already loaded with booty. However, he's barely begun to fly away before Silver Sable - king and child in tow - whips out some sort of bazooka and blows up the huey. Which ends up dumping most of the loot into the waiting crowd, much to the king's chagrin. And the Beetle had already flown too far away to hear the crowd praise him for it.

With the crowd much richer but leaderless, with the man they had come to rescue raging about the loss of his precious money, with Doc Ock presumed dead despite his best efforts, Spider-Man has to voice the question: "you guys ever wonder why we bother?" Staring at the king's daughter, Silver Sable replies: "No. Never."

General Comments

Well done all around and a worthy conclusion to a series that was finally hitting its stride (Howard Mackie-scripted issues notwithstanding.)

The placement of this story in the Spider-Man continuity was flawless. Placing it between ASM #288 and 289 puts it right into one of Spidey's most turbulent periods. Peter's been unsuccessfully trying to give up the webs for months, his personal life is in flux, and he's just failed to have any positive impact on a city-wide gang war. No wonder he'd feel more than a little discouraged by the events of these issues. That discouragement helps the transition from this storyline to the classic Spider-Man vs. Wolverine - which also takes place before ASM #289 but could not have occurred before this story - in which Spider-Man finally hangs up his webs in a fit of rage only to be drawn back once again. And Doc Ock's fit at the end of this story foreshadows his upcoming nervous breakdown in ASM #296. Nice job with the homework, Mr. DeFalco!

One minor gripe I had with this issue (as well as last one) was that the rebels seemed too good. I know that the point of this story was to chronicle Spider-Man's reaction to being manipulated onto the wrong side of the fence, but it would have been a bit more realistic if the rebels weren't quite so firmly on the side of the angels themselves. There are rarely good guys in situations like these, unfortunately, even if the occasional good guy in black spandex gets caught in the middle.

Still, that doesn't detract from a good story, and I would be remiss not to mention the desire on the Beetle's part to be an honest-to-goodness good guy for a change. Maybe there's hope for the poor schmoe yet, but either way it made for a nice touch.

Overall Rating

I'll miss Webspinners. Four and one-half webs.

Footnote

By Aaron Hoffman says...

In general I have objected to Webspinners, because the idea that Marvel needs to add to Spider-Man's past instead of focusing on making a better stories in the present has been the problem with Marvel's decisions going back to the clone story. Having stated that, I think that these two comics are the best Spider-Man stories that I have read in a long long time. I was thrilled to see that Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz would be teaming up again on Spider-Man, and not only that, but they would be picking up where they left off so many years ago because as the comic states: "This story occurs between the events in Amazing Spider-Man #'s 288 and 289." I have always believed that Spider-Man after being a great comic story and then having many good years under Roger Stern and DeFalco/Frenz fell sharply after their departure. First, the readers were given the brutal stories of the death of the Ned Leeds Hobgoblin and Kraven the Hunter. Then McFarlane came in and ushered in the substitution of "cool" art and marketing ploys over solid storytelling and character development. It is great to see some of the golden years return to Spider-Man with these two issues.

The artwork is clean and sufficiently dramatic when needed without being overly sensational on each panel. Spidey is also back in the black cloth costume. Just as Will Harrison noted in last month's review of Webspinners #15 - #16, Peter is hardly ever out of costume in this comic. In fact he is only out of costume for three pages in two issues, yet with his struggle about whether he is doing the right thing by helping return the king to power, we really get a sense of Peter Parker as the man struggling to be moral in impossible situations. We also are privileged to see well-developed multi-dimensional characterization in Silver Sable, the Sandman, the rebel Gregari, Doctor Octopus, and the Beetle. Let me just say the character development of the Beetle is superb. How often in current comics does one have so much depth in a self-contained two-part story.

My only complaints are small. Boomerang was really defeated off panel and disposed off without much of a pay-off. That seemed a little strange almost like a mistake that had to be fixed with the dialogue. Also, it bothers me that DeFalco is trying to be trendy with speech patterns and having the story be at an almost cynical distance from comic book traditions (like when the Rhino knows he must fight the Sandman because it is in the nature of the situation) [Dramatic Irony, a modern comic writing tradition in itself - Ed]. These concepts worked for a little bit on MC-2 but need to be abandoned. Tom DeFalco should just relax and write the great stories and characters he is capable of without trying to be hip. But these are small flaws.

These two comics deserve five webs. Stories like this are why I read Spider-Man. If you are a Spider-man fan you MUST buy these two comics!

Seconded. That books like this should be dropped while Spider-Woman dribbles on is nothing short of criminal.