There are too many Mysterios in Spider-Man's life! Francis Klum, the third man to wear the fishbowl, has seized control of Peter's high school in a plan of revenge. That was too much for Daniel Berkhart, who decided that Klum was taking his name in vain and, as the second man to don the fishbowl, it was up to him to clean house. What Berkhart doesn't know is that his mentor (and original fishbowl-wearer), Quentin Beck, has returned from the dead at the behest of shadowy paymasters. As Spidey decides which Mysterio to battle, and Flash leads the school-kids to safety, the recently employed, and even more recently abducted, school nurse Ms Arrow faces off against Quentin Beck. What's her secret, anyway?
Flash Thompson finally reaches the front door of the school and sends all of the school kids to the safety of the outside world. Flash has belatedly realised that Peter really is Spider-Man, and he is not about to leave without seeing his hero and the comely nurse Arrow to safety. He turns and sprints back into the building. What a guy!
Meanwhile Spidey is caught between two Mysterios, as Francis Klum and Daniel Berkhart bicker like a couple of fishwives. Hiding Roger (the school principal) in a near-by closet, Spidey tries to work out what to do next. In the end he thinks it's best to sit on the side-lines and let the Mysterios battle it out between themselves. They seem well-matched, it could be a long fight.
Across the school, Ms Arrow is still coming to terms with the sight of Quentin Beck sans dome. Beck reveals that because he committed suicide his soul travelled to a most unpleasant place after death. Certain individuals returned Beck to life to serve some sort of cosmic purpose, but then that is something that Ms Arrow must know all about - after all, isn't she also in the school under false pretences? Ms Arrow doesn't seem to know what Beck is talking about. The original Mysterio is prepared to allow Arrow her secrets.
In the mean time it seems that Berkhart has got the better of Klum, who collapses to the ground. Now Spidey swings into action, to remove the more dangerous Mysterio from the fray. Berkhart is no match for Spider-Man and is taken down with relative ease. However, Klum was only faking! He has real powers, not just the paltry conjuring tricks employed by the Mysterios of the past. Although he could kill Spider-Man in three different ways with his teleportation powers, he decides to be slightly more melodramatic (it is in his idiom, after all). Tossing a knife at Spidey's feet, Klum uses his telekinetic powers to force Spider-Man to stab himself!
But all is not lost, as long as Flash Thompson arrives on the scene. He grabs the knife from Spidey and hurls it at Klum, stabbing him in the shoulder. Incapacitated, Klum plays his last card. He says that he has remotely activated the bomb he mentioned back in issue #11. Our heroes have no choice but to leave Klum, and race to the basement to try and disarm it.
Elsewhere, Quentin Beck tells Ms Arrow that there is a great game taking place. His masters and Ms Arrow's masters have a stake in what happens, and for the game to play out properly, Peter Parker must remain at the school. Arrow again denies any knowledge of what Beck is talking about. She doesn't have any "superiors" she isn't in the school for a sinister purpose. Beck doesn't believe her, and uses his magic to fade from sight.
Flash is having the best day ever. He has single-handedly rescued the kids, and saved Spider-Man's life. All he needs to do now is disarm the bomb and get the girl and he's bowled the perfect game. Spidey is feeling just a little superfluous. He's also worried that Klum isn't done with them; and he is proved right when a noose descends from nowhere and tries to strangle Flash.
Fortunately, Spidey is able to save Flash and disarm the bomb. Spidey boasts that his new spider-powers and super-suit can outwit all of Klum's powers. It's a feeble attempt at a bluff, but he hopes it will keep Klum off their backs long enough to get out of the school. Klum doesn't believe a word of it, and he hurries to intercept Spidey and Flash when he runs into Ms Arrow.
Klum immediately decides to use her as a hostage - as pawn in a much larger game. However, Ms Arrow is having none of this. She pushes Klum away. He gasps and falls to the floor with a gaping chest wound. A large spike has slid out from the underside of Ms Arrow's arm, and she doesn't look particularly surprised that it is there. Another spike appears from her other arm and she moves in for the kill. Klum screams and teleports away.
Seconds later, Flash and Spidey burst through the door. Arrow falls into Flash's arms and pretends to be frightened that Mysterio just tried to kill her. Spidey isn't so sure he heard Arrow scream (he thought it was a guy...). Our heroes head outside, and revive the adults and children put to sleep by Mysterio's noxious mist.
Ms Arrow compliments Flash on his bravery, and kisses him. She says that the two of them have to find a way to convince Peter to stay in the school: they need him here. Looks like Flash is having a 100% successful day, which is more than you can say for Roger, who is still locked in that cupboard.
I've been quite critical of this comic over the last few months. Every story seemed to be part of a crossover, or tying up loose ends from other comics. Friendly wasn't really developing its own identity, it wasn't telling its own stories. That all changes with this issue.
We have the school as an ongoing source of tension and mystery. We have shadowy villains behind the scenes manipulating Peter, Mysterio and Ms Arrow. And most importantly, we have a supporting cast that aren't the Avengers! It's almost enough to make me approve of what's happened to Flash, and it's certainly enough to keep Friendly buoyed up for months.
Everything, I was hoping for from this title is comes together in this issue. I am not saying that everything is perfect. Villains capable of bringing Quentin Beck back from the dead are the not the obvious choice of adversaries for Spider-Man, but it's a strong direction for the title, and it's interesting, and I want to find out what happens next.
Who is the mysterious school nurse, Ms Arrow? Well, it cannot have escaped the attention of readers that the spikes she is sports against Klum are identical to the ones Peter acquired after his recent death. Could Ms Arrow be The Other, who escaped Spidey back in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #22? Or is the clue in her name? Is Ms Arrow actually the mutant Marrow? And if you don't know who Marrow is you can always check out Spider- Man/Marrow #1 from 2001.
One thing is certain: she is not as innocent as she maintained to Quentin Beck. She knows who she is, and she has a plan. It'll be fun finding out what it is.
This is Todd Nauck's last issue (at least for a while). Next issue we have Scott Eaton behind the pencil. Scott drew the Sins Remembered story over in Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 2). I'm not sure if this title is going to get a new regular artist, or whether we'll have a new one for each arc. Whatever happens, I am quite glad that Todd Nauck isn't staying around. He drew a mean Mysterio, but some of the art (e.g. nurse Arrow's face in the closing page of the story) looked a little ragged.
Just a darn good yarn, and one that opens up some interesting possibilities for the future of the title. This is the best arc in Friendly so far. Four webs.
Over at Newsarama, you will find a timely interview with Peter David where he speaks candidly about this title, the Civil War and the unmasking of Spider-Man. It's interesting to read about the changes all these crossovers have made to the stories he planned. It's a very encouraging interview, regarding the future stories and direction of this title. Well worth a look.