The Superior Spider-Man has boarded the SHIELD helicarrier with the intention of freeing the Chameleon. But he’s not the only infiltrator and not the only one after the Chameleon.
So, the credits page refers to the Russians who took advantage of SpOck’s spider-bot power failure to invade the helicarrier as “the Saints.” Nowhere in Avenging Spider-Man #20 does this name appear. Are we supposed to know who these guys are? Or do we have a two-part story so clumsily cobbled together that we have to learn the villains’ name from the credits page?
I also didn’t know that the various helicarriers have their own names. (I actually didn’t know there were various helicarriers.) This one, we’re told on page one panel one is “Iliao.” I don’t know if this is the first time we’ve seen this name. And I don’t know what it means. Am I supposed to?
In the midst of the helicarrier chaos, Agent Coulson contacts Maria Hill to tell her that he, Hawkeye, the Black Widow and Nick Fury Jr. are engaging the Russians. They also tell Maria that “the power loss was very specific. It didn’t impact the holding cells but the interrogation rooms went down. The Chameleon escaped.” For those of you who didn’t read last issue.
For those of you who did read last issue, you’ll recall that the Hulk confronted Spidey as he tangled with the Russians. We pick up where we left off with Spidey dodging the Hulk, who is about 15 feet tall here, like he is in the movies. How tall is the Hulk supposed to be these days, anyway? Once upon a time, the blurb in the Hulk’s own book listed him as seven feet. What is he now?
Meanwhile, Gleb, the Russian with the death touch, grabs the Hulk. Spidey briefly wonders if he should “let the creature get put out of its misery,” but then Hulk squashes Gleb, rendering the argument moot. The other Russian (whom we now learn is named Boris) radios his cloaked airplane and orders an attack that blows out the side of the helicarrier. Spidey suddenly seems to know who these Russians are because he refers to them as “the Saints,” noting that they were prepared for the attack and found ways to hang on. The Hulk, however, gets sucked out of the helicarrier and falls to earth. Feel like you’re reading a skewed version of the Avengers movie yet?
Now, it appears that the Saints hang on and the Hulk is sucked out because there is terrific air pressure causing this. But the very next panel, that pressure is gone as the Saints stand back up with no trouble and attack Spidey. Boris prepares to thump Spidey with his electric cattle prod but Fury arrives and shoots the prod. This seems to do nothing but announce Fury’s arrival. Perhaps it also distracts the Saints, allowing Spidey and Fury to jaw a bit before the fight resumes. Spidey asks Fury, “Any idea who these people are?” even though he knew they were the Saints in a previous voice-over.
Elsewhere, Maria Hill orders a bombing attack on the air ship, which eludes the bombs by cloaking itself. (I count five heavy-duty bombs. Where do they hit if they don’t hit the plane?) When Maria contacts Coulson to see how he’s doing, he replies, “Well, I’m not dead,” since he wants to remind us that this is not the Avengers movie even though it’s starting to feel like the Avengers movie. Coulson and the others are fighting the Saints’ goons. In the midst of this confusion, the Chameleon escapes in the guise of the doctor who was interviewing him last issue. It quickly becomes clear (on page 9 panel 1 and after) that the Chameleon cut the doctor’s face off and is wearing it as a mask, even though he should have the power to assume the doctor’s face without indulging in such savagery, shouldn’t he? He confronts the Widow, who recognizes him, and tells her, “I need your help!” But then Spidey, Fury, and the Saints come crashing in, separating the Widow from the Chameleon.
The Chameleon’s doctor-face mask doesn’t do a lick of good. The Saints recognize him. So does Spidey. Boris fires his cattle prod at Chameleon but Spidey saves him. Hawkeye shoots the cattle prod with an explosive arrow, blowing it up. Then the Hulk returns, jumping back up into the helicarrier. (A neat trick.) “Puny Russians,” he says, “Hulk smash!” and wades into the Saints. In the confusion Spidey hustles the Chameleon away. He takes him to a dark cargo hold (or something). When the Chameleon tries to keep up the fiction that he is the SHIELD doctor, Spidey rips the mask off of him. The Chameleon picks up a pen and stabs Spidey in the neck and tries to flee but runs into Gleb. Spidey pummels Gleb into unconsciousness, then knocks out the Chameleon as well. Spotting a teleporter on Gleb’s arm, Spidey activates it, sending Chameleon and Gleb off the helicarrier. He tells the arriving Fury a cock-and-bull story, implying that the two villains teleported to the cloaked air ship, which is now, for some reason, visible and just 100 yards off the starboard side. Maria Hill orders more bombs deployed. These destroy the plane and no one seems at all disturbed that, as far as they know, they have just killed Gleb and the Chameleon. They have certainly killed the pilot. Aren’t these Russian agents? Won’t there be some ramifications from this?
But in actuality, Spidey has set the teleporter to send the two villains to his secret lab. (I guess Otto is enough of a genius to figure out the teleporter and its settings in the seconds he had before Fury showed up.) The two unconscious villains lie on the floor. From the tubes in which they are imprisoned, Electro and the Sandman look on.
Remember last issue’s review when I said I have faith in Chris Yost to pull all of this into a bang-up concluding issue? Unfortunately, that faith was horribly misplaced. There is nothing to recommend in this issue. Okay, maybe one or two things. The art is well-done and Spidey has a few decent lines, such as, “Spider-sense is much less useful when it’s always going off!” But other than that? Eh. Let’s start with the Saints who are named only twice; once in the recap on the credits page and once by Spidey who then doesn’t seem to know them. And why would he remember them? They are nothing more then devices; uninteresting villains who are given a religious mania in order to spice them up. It doesn’t work because we know nothing else about them. We also don’t get any example of the things the Chameleon would know that would make the Russians want to eliminate him. The Chameleon? Really? The guy’s been around since Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Story 2)! If he had any state secrets, you’d think he’d have spilled them by now.
But maybe he’s more likely to start spouting things since he has become crazy enough to cut a doctor’s face off to use as a mask rather than use his disguise powers. This bizarre act explains the eye from last issue’s page 17 panel 6, anyway. It was the Chameleon’s eye within the doctor’s stolen face. But it doesn’t explain why he’d bother. Did the Chameleon get overly influenced by the Joker in the recent “Death in the Family” Batman story? Because there was a whole lot of this face-stealing going on over in those DC books just a few months ago. So much so that it took all the shock right out of the idea. When the Chameleon does it here, it doesn’t feel scary. It feels deriviative.
That same feeling of déjà vu reverberates with the Avengers movie similarities. Coulson, the Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Samuel L. Jackson Fury, and the Hulk are all on the helicarrier. The Hulk falls out. Coulson jokes about being alive. Okay, we get it, we get it. Enough. I’m a big fan of the Marvel movies too but I don’t want to see my comics turning into them.
And finally, even though this is a team-up book, just like last issue, no one really guest-stars here. Yes, there are a lot of team-up types around but they are mostly incidental. Oh, Fury saves Spidey from Boris, I suppose, but there really isn’t any feeling that Spidey needs help. Hulk defeats Boris, I guess, by smooshing him. In any event, we don’t see Boris again after that. (Any repercussions of capturing or killing a trained Russian assassin go unmentioned.) Taskmaster, who showed up for one panel last issue, doesn’t show up this time at all. Why did we see him last issue? Why are we seeing any of these others this issue?
Next issue, the Punisher? Good. An actual team-up guest-star again. Not this mish-mash, throw-enough-characters-in-there-and-maybe-it’s-a-team-up team-up.
Let’s face it. The whole thing’s a mess. The only reason that I can see for this story’s existence is to get the Chameleon to Otto’s secret lab. That could have been done in a one panel voice-over rather than wasting our time with two issues of this tripe. And, what makes it worse, is we know Chris Yost is capable of doing first-class work. Not this time. One web. And that’s being generous.