After clashing with the Avengers--and alienating most of her friends--Spider-Girl comes face to face with another hero whose life has tanked worse than hers. Will their combined strength be enough to take down the Soldiers of the Serpent?
The story begins with two common, ordinary crooks trying to break into a building. They are surprised by a tentacled man in full armor. Ladies and gentlemen: Ollie Osnick--a/k/a The Steel Spider--has returned. The crooks instantly recognize Steel and surrender. Steel flies into a rage. "I was hoping for a little action tonight. I want someone to fight! Something to destroy! IT ISN'T FAIR!" Tears begin to slide down his cheeks.
Back at Midtown High, May Parker's life has become similarly frustrating. Literally running into Courtney Duran in the hallway, May learns that Moose broke his leg on the practice field yesterday and may never be able to play football again--jeopardizing his chance for a college scholarship. "The whole gang went to the hospital last night. Except for you." To make matters worse, J.J. blows off her attempt at a date only to hook up with Nancy Lu for lunch. Frustrated with the mess she has made of her life, May suits up and flies off to make peace with at least ONE group of people she has recently disappointed: the Avengers.
As May flies off, both of her parents are busy trying to find ways to force her to quit the super hero game. MJ--traveling to the sanitarium to speak with Normie Osborn--is quickly disarmed by Normie's apologies and gushing praise regarding May's new career. "I wouldn't want to live in a world without Spider-Girl." "Well, I... I guess... I wouldn't either." Peter, meanwhile, is planning to ask J. Jonah Jameson to fire May so as to limit her exposure to anything that would tempt her back into costume.
Meanwhile, May arrives at Avengers HQ and is quickly met by American Dream, who assures her that everything's cool between them. Both ladies feel like blowing off some steam and decided to go for a patrol around the city. As they talk, May recognizes The Steel Spider, who is currently destroying a rooftop in a fit of rage. As the two land and offer to help, May (who idolized Steel as a child) is shocked to learn that his life has collapsed. His business has failed, his wife walked out on him, and he feels that his super hero career has been a complete failure.
Their conversation is interrupted by a loud explosion. Apparently the Soldiers of the Serpent are at it again, "cleansing" the crime from that particular neighborhood as violently as possible. Spider-Girl and American Dream quickly leap into the fray, after trying to persuade Steel that he has been an inspiration to many. The Soldiers are quickly overrun, but regain the initiative as their giant mechanical snake bursts from the ground, laser cannons armed and ready.
COBRAAAAAA!!!!!!! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Pinned down, the two heroes are saved by the reappearance of Steel, who thrashes the Soldiers' machine in short order. Feeling a little better about himself ("but I still have issues!") Steel leaves the scene arm in arm with Spider-Girl and American Dream, who want to hear all about the time he fought the Septic Sentinel.
The scene switches to the Daily Bugle, where Peter and J. Jonah Jameson are getting reacquainted. Suddenly, a mysterious figure drops into the window. Peter and Jonah, jaws hanging wide open, babble mindlessly as they try to believe what they are seeing.
"The amazing SPIDER-MAN has finally returned!"
Okay, so Ollie has sunk who knows how many dollars into this Steel Spider gig--building his mechanical tentacles and a fancy suit of armor--and he doesn't even blow a few bucks for a few cans of Slim-Fast? Or a girdle, at least? Hard to catch bad guys when you're worried about your not-so-girlish figure.
Last panel aside, this was another sub-par issue. I enjoyed the Steel Spider in his backup story in a Spider-Man annual some years back (anyone have any idea when that was?) but this tale was a little too "been there, done that." Hero is depressed, hero gets pep talk from second hero, hero jumps back into the fray and feels better about life in general. Or, to quote Deadpool, "can-kickin' helps me think." It's been done before and it's been done better. The fact that Ollie's armored costume looked more than a little ridiculous didn't help matters.
The more effective storyline in this issue was Moose's fear about his broken leg. This accident doesn't just keep him out of a few football games, if he loses a chance at a college scholarship it could ruin his future. While reading this story I found myself pulling for Moose not to give up. This book has always had a strong supporting cast and Moose--who first appeared to be the standard schoolyard bully--just might be the most well-developed character of all. Hopefully we will get a chance to see how his recovery progresses.
And as for the last panel: wow. Give Tom DeFalco credit for throwing a major curve ball. So who is THIS Spider-Man and what is he up to? Next issue can't get here fast enough!
Artwise, this issue features Ron Frenz doing some guest pencilling work. Paired with Williamson, Frenz's work is adequate, but slightly cartoony at times. The Steel Spider receives the worst treatment, unfortunately, and his tormented character looks more like the issue's comic relief. A costume redesign is a must if Steel makes another appearance.
Two and a half webs for the story, plus one full web for the issue's cliffhanger. Not only was it totally unexpected, it left me begging for next month's installment.