Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #12

 Posted: 2006
 Staff: Neil McClean (E-Mail)


Francis Klum, the third man to don the mantle of Mysterio, has been plotting vegeance against Spider-Man for some time. After Peter revealed his secret identity to the world in Civil War #2, Klum decided to strike. Now Klum has control Midtown High and has separated Peter from his students. However, his gloating has been interrupted by the arrival of another Mysterio, claiming to be the long dead Quentin Beck. Meanwhile, lantern-jawed amnesiac Flash Thompson is hitting on Ms Arrow, the attractive school nurse. Well, a man has to get his priorities right...

Story Details

Ouside Midtown High, the police are doing their best to keep a crowd of hysterical parents at bay. This task is complicated by the sudden appearance of Mysterio! But this is not Francis Klum, nor is it Quentin Beck; this is Daniel Berkhart, the second Mysterio and apprentice of the original. It seems that Berkhart thinks Klum is sullying the good name of Mysterio and is here to set things right. By-passing the police, he marches right into the magical darkness that surrounds the school with the intention of aiding Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man is searching the corridors of the school for his lost students. After failing to draw out the bad guy with the power of his over- acting, Spidey and the school principal (Roger) are set upon by a swarm of animatronic bats. The bats have MJ prisoner, and Spidey charges off to her rescue - with Roger in hot pursuit.

In the auditorium, Mysterium (Klum) tries to kill the 'imposter' by teleporting inside him and blowing him apart from within - hey, it's worked for him before. But the second Mysterio is ready, and uses his own bag of tricks to thwart Klum. Klum cannot believe that this new Mysterio is Question Beck - Quentin Beck is dead! "Quentin Beck doesn't disagree," says the newcomer cryptically. The second Myterio tells Klum, that Daniel Berkhart has arrived at the school, and that Klum has the opportunity to destroy Berkhart and take on the mantle of Mysterio all for himself. The Mysterio that purports to be Beck adds that his "new associates" are very interested in the outcome of this clash.

In another part of the school, the student, nurse Arrow and Flash are within sight of the exit. The corridor is eerily quiet and filled with cobwebs. Telling the others to stay put, Flash makes a run for the door, hoping to spring any traps. He makes it with ease and bursts through the exit, only to find himself entering the same corridor behind nurse Arrow and the kids. Huh? Reasoning, that the corridor must be safe, Flash leads everyone forward. Suddenly, the floor falls away and Flash finds himself falling into the many- tentacles embrace of a huge Lovercraftian horror. "Nuts!" he yells.

Back with the webslinger, Spidey discovers MJ in the clutches of Dracula! Of course, it can't possibly be real: MJ is at Avengers tower under mega- security. The MJ he is seeing isn't wearing a wedding ring. Spidey plays it cool, and calls his adversary's bluff. He walks away, MJ's cries for help ringing in his ears. Roger can't believe Peter would do such a thing, but our hero is pretty sure he's dealing with Mysterio and what he saw wasn't real. However, Roger's words do make Peter doubt his resolve enough to make a call to Avengers tower. He is relieved that both MJ and Aunt May are safe, and after determing what is for dinner and saving Roger from a falling anvil, he continues the hunt for Mysterio.

In the meantime, Flash calls nurse Arrow to escape with the children. Jeremy doesn't listen, and uses his illegal pocket knife to stab one of the tentacles and free Flash. Under the circumstances, Flash decides to ignore Jeremy's breach of the school rules. However, all is not going their way. Nurse Arrow is grabbed by an unseen assailant and pulled into a locker! By the time Flash has wrenched the door open, the good nurse is gone.

Spidey and Roger are heading down another corridor, and Spidey calls out to Mysterio - taunting him into a confrontation. Klum duely appears and the pair engage in an embarassing display of macho posturing that is only capped by the arrival of another Mysterio. This is Daniel Berkhart, ready to help Spidey give Francis Klum a damn-good thrashing. Spider-Man is quite understandably baffled by this.

Elsewhere in the school, nurse Arrow is thrown from a locker into an empty corridor. She finds herself face to bowl with the Quentin Beck Mysterio. Beck hints that nurse Arrow might be more than she seems, and is not the innocent bystander she appears. Arrow quips that the reports of Beck's death must have been greatly exaggerated. "Actually," says Beck removing his helmet to reveal only half a face, "not that greatly, no."

General Comments

Before we begin, I think it's time for Mysterio 101. The original Mysterio was a man called Quentin Beck who committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in Daredevil (Vol. 2) #7. Daniel Berkhart was the second Mysterio. He was a pupil of Quentin Beck who permanently took over the role after Beck died. He is still at large. Francis Klum is the brother of Garrison Klum. He suffered abuse at the hands of his brother for years before killing him to save the life of the Black Cat in Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #6. Francis later bought a Mysterio suit from the Kingpin to revenge himself on Spider-Man. Everyone with me? Good. Now, let's press on.

For an issue that largely consists of the main characters running aimlessly in circles, this is tremendously entertaining stuff. Peter David is playing this one for laughs and the tone suits the book perfectly. The dialogue this month is particularly sharp with the comedy double-acts of Peter and Roger, Flash and Arrow and (particularly) Klum and Beck are all laugh-out-loud funny. It's a welcome change to the relentless tone set by Amazing Spider-Man over the last few issues.

Yet, beyond the comedy there is an interesting story going on. How is Beck back from the dead, and why is he taking an interest in Klum and Berkhart? Who are his mysterious associates? What is it that makes nurse Arrow less innocent than she appears? There's plenty going on for a three-issue story arc, and I can't see how it's all going to be tied together which makes me anticipate the final part even more.

Overall Rating

A funny and well-orchestrated little story. I won't pretend that my misgivings regarding this title have gone away, but for an issue as good as this I am prepared to overlook them. Four webs.

 Posted: 2006
 Staff: Neil McClean (E-Mail)