Recently Spider-Girl took on Carolyn Trainer (a/k/a "Doctor Octopus") with the help of the Black Tarantula. Doc Ock beat her to a pulp and spared her life on a whim. Now she has returned, and with her the Black Tarantula. May Parker barely survived her first encounter... will she be so lucky a second time?
The story opens with Doctor Octopus breaking into a chop shop "with all the subtlety of a nuclear missile." The chop shop belongs to an up and coming crime boss Richard Valentine, who prefers the handle "Handsome Richie." Her terms are simple: she will give Richie personal protection and access to her technology in return for cash. He asks to think it over and Doc Ock leaves with a thinly veiled threat.
At the Parker household, Spider-Girl is temporarily on hold due to a costume in bad need of washing (if not fumigating). Peter, of course, is not exactly bummed out by the news as he's afraid May will take on the new Doctor Octopus. May assures him she has no interest in fighting her, but the choice is taken out of her hands when, at school, she receives a call from the Black Tarantula's diminutive servant Chesbro. He tells her about Doc Ock's recruitment pitch, and also informs her that a European crime cartel is making inquiries regarding Normie Osborn. Shaken, May decides to give Normie a heads- up, but there is the problem of her still-wet costume.
After throwing her outfit in the dryer for a half hour, Spider-Girl swings over to the hospital and notices that her costume has shrunk. She arrives to find Brenda Drago, who tells her that she is deeply in love with Normie and wants to propose. Biting her tongue, Spider-Girl tells her to go for it and leaves before Normie gets back.
Trying not to think about what just happened, May decides to recover the tracking device she placed on Jack Jameson several issues back. No luck. Spider-Girl realizes he's probably looking for Doc Ock and heads over to Handsome Richie's warehouse. Doc Ock ambushes her as she tries to web her costume back together, and throws her through the warehouse window.
Richie's men attack, but are no match for Spider-Girl, who pummels them all into submission (splitting her too-small costume in several places in the process.) Spider-Girl confronts Richie, who folds like a house of cards. "You can tell your boss that Handsome Richie is anxious to do business with her. I didn't know you were working with Lady Octopus until you suddenly crashed in here. Honest!" Realizing she's been used, Spider-Girl heads back outside to confront said super-villainess, who again beats her to within an inch of her life and departs. Spider-Girl's cellphone rings; it's Chesbro calling again to offer the support of the Black Tarantula. Spider-Girl asks him about the threat on Normie Osborn. "I only know that the threat to young Osborn comes from someone whose reach has often extended beyond the grave." He hangs up, asking BT why he is interested in Spider-Girl. "She may be of use in our attempts to assimiliate the New York underworld. And, besides... she is rather enticing, no?"
Speaking of enticing, and speaking of Normie Osborn, Brenda Drago proposes to him that night in the hospital. His response: "we need to talk."
Now that is the kind of story I'm looking for! I was hoping Doc Ock (or is it officially "Lady Octopus" now?) would be made into a major Spider-Girl villain and this makes two battles where Ock has clearly beaten May. I like how she didn't just beat May, but used her to further her own ends (just like the Black Tarantula? May better start worrying about who she's doing business with!) This should be good stuff. Handsome Richie was a doof but if taken in small doses he shouldn't be over the top.
And I had to laugh at May's costume problems. Nice homage to a similar problem Peter had to face way back when; typical Parker luck! Good thing Richie got his henchmen from "Rent-A-Thug" or she might have had some real problems there.
As for this European crime cartel? Sounds an awful lot like the work of the Scriers, to me (since this series has no qualms about delving into Clone Saga continuity, after all.) And where there are Scriers...? That line about "reaching beyond the grave" is a fairly strong hint that Normie's grandpa might be on his way back, although I hope not. Could be interesting, but another "Normie in peril" plot? First Alison Mongrain, then Mr. Nobody, now someone else? The poor guy should give some serious thought to entering the witness protection program!
A good, self-contained issue that plants some needs for future storylines. Well worth the cash.
Not an instant classic but better than most. Four webs.