Peter Parker, Max Dillon and Charlie Buchanan are all having crises of self esteem. J. Jonah Jameson has been getting under Peter's skin, Max feels small and weak despite being Electro and Charlie is an incompetent street crook. At a fancy party celebrating the grand re-opening of the "Top of New York" hotel, Charlie tried to rob all of the wealthy guests as "Crook-Man." Spider-Man arrived to take away the harmless thief just as Electro put his plan into action: to cause a city wide blackout by absorbing the cities electricity into himself.
Electro finally felt triumphant as the night sky lit up, the energy he had absorbed lighting the top of the hotel like a beacon. The stunt may kill him, but everyone in New York was looking up at him. He wasn't a nobody. They'd remember this moment for the rest of their lives, tell their grandkids about it.
Inside the hotel, Spider-Man was confused about what turned out the lights and worried about the panicking party goers. They were trying to get out of the hotel, thinking that "Crook-Man" had somehow successfully turned out the lights. People began to run to the doors but Spidey stopped them by shining his spider-signal at a wall. He told them it was only a power outage and they needed to calmly leave in an organized fashion. Someone mentioned "Crook-Man's" bomb and Spidey promised that there was no actual bomb. At that moment, someone ran into the room saying that something strange was happening on the roof. The crowd went back to panicking and Spider-Man went to investigate the roof.
Charlie knew he'd made a stupid mistake, thinking he could pull off a crime like this. At least Spider-Man was gone and he could push his way through the crowd to freedom, maybe even grabbing some wallets on the way. He was stopped by Jameson, who tried to make a citizen's arrest but he was stopped by Sarah. As Charlie was admiring her, she told Jonah that if there had been an explosion on the roof, then there may be a fire. Jonah promised they'd leave, after he caught Charlie. She told him to stop trying to impress her for once and get out of the building.
Once Spider-Man got to the roof, he saw that the city was powerless and that Electro was brimming with energy. For once Electro was happy to see his enemy, as Spider-Man had always made him feel like a loser. Now he was the king of New York, the king of the world! Spider-Man could heard that Electro was starting to lose control and he was knocked off the roof by one of Electro's bolts. The shock shook the building and terrified the people inside, putting them into a deeper state of panic. Sarah was separated from Jonah by the crowd and he was clueless as to how to help her.
As Spidey fell towards the street, he tried to catch himself by webbing a gargoyle, which fell right off of the building with him. He wondered if Jonah was right about him but he focused on moving the falling statue away from the street and onto a nearby rooftop. It crashed into an apartment bedroom, leaving Spidey to apologize to the residents.
Electro was in ecstasy, reveling in his victory over Spider-Man and seeing how the people below him were running like insects. At the same time, his head was hurting and limbs were shaking. He had taken too much power and tried to discharge some of it but it didn't work. He tried to disconnect the harness from the hotel's sign but that only worsened the situation. It was all overwhelming to him and he couldn't discharge the excessive electricity. It surrounded him, trapping him as if he were in a cage.
Spider-Man returned and played the confident hero, while knowing that the power that Electro had absorbed made him nearly unbeatable. Electro was initially enraged but after a moment of realization, he asked his enemy for help.
Inside the ballroom, Sarah was lost in the crowd and terrified of the mayhem. She was knocked to the ground and in danger of being trampled when she was pulled up by Charlie. They made eye contact and he introduced himself as Charles H. Buchanan the third. Jonah arrived and immediately took credit for "finding" her. Charlie began to walk away and Sarah stopped him, saying that he was the one that saved her. Jonah said he knew a thing or two about heroism but Sarah stopped him. Reluctantly, Jonah shook Charlie's hand and promised to put him on the front page of the Bugle.
On the roof, Electro was in dread as he again said he'd always been weak and alone. Spider-Man said they could work it through and Electro scoffed. There was no way that Spider-Man knew what it was like to be small and invisible. Electro had made Max feel important and now he'd lost control of him. He was panicking that he'd be trapped alone forever and even planned to end himself but his panic grew as he screamed that he didn't want to die. Spider-Man saw that as Electro became more hysterical, the energy field became more unstable. He tried to empathize with him, telling him that he was just a normal guy too. He'd been an outcast too, only spoken to when someone wanted to insult him. Being Spider-Man made him feel important too but he learned that power wasn't about the mask. He was the power, and Max didn't need Electro. He meant everything he said but admitted how corny it felt and doubted Electro would buy it. Max was stunned that Spider-Man understood and then overjoyed. The energy field began to shrink and it gave Spidey just a shred of hope.
We webbed some gloves for himself and grabbed the electrical cables that were attached to the harness and reattached them to the sign. He told Max to concentrate and let the energy go back into the city. Max was hesitant but Spider-Man encouraged him and said that if he could believe in him despite everything they've been through, then anything was possible. As Max let go, lights began to turn on across New York. As he gave the city it's life back, he got his own back. In shock at the success, Electro thanked Spider-Man despite Peter expecting an attack. Max was still relieved to have finally found someone that understood him after so many years. In shock, Spidey asked if he didn't have to punch him in the jaw and take him to jail. After that night, Max was fine with jail and even called Spidey "pal."
As Max hugged him, a news crew arrived and started taking pictures. Max didn't help by saying he wanted to tell the world how great Spider-Man was and how great he'd been for him. Peter went back downstairs and confronted Jonah with pictures of the confrontation with Electro. Before his boss could chew him out again, Peter threatened to take the photos to the Globe. Reluctantly, Jonah apologized. Ira Klein had been Jonah's college roommate and Jonah had idolized him. He followed Ira around hoping to learn his secrets to success but always lesser than him. The feeling of inadequacy never left him, even after Ira died. Since seeing his daughter, Jonah had been desperate to make her think that he was a great guy. He hoped that Peter could forgive him and hoped that Peter could apologize for dumping the punch bowl onto his head. Peter left, saying that he had to get the pictures in time for the late edition.
Nearby, Charlie was thankful that Jonah offered him a job. He had been out of work for a while and wondered why Jameson would bother to help him. As far as Sarah was concerned, Charlie was the biggest guy in town.
I think that I first read this book quite a few years ago and didn't care for it. It felt like false advertising, with the flashy fight scenes on the covers, yet the hero and villain were completely unaware of each other until the last issue. The issues are made up entirely of dialogue looking into the insecurities of three men. For a much younger man, it probably felt like an utter rip off. Now I appreciate the character study of Max Dillon.
Yes, relating to Max's pain was a little corny but it was a unique way of ending the story. It could have easily been finished with Spidey pulling out the stops and beating Electro with sheer willpower. It's been done before. Maximum Carnage had been the previous story, so this was a nice alternative to the constant violence of that saga.
Sarah is definitely hooking up with the wrong man if she thinks that Charlie is her Mr. Right. The guy has issues.
The ending with Jonah also having feelings of inadequacy was overkill. It was fine that we had the three others to listen to, but JJJ doesn't seem like the type to express that kind of sentiment. He's more the type to rage even harder if you call him out.
It may not be a forgotten classic but it's a solid story.