1988 marked the 50th anniversary of Superman. Despite their friendly rivalry with DC Comics, it's very difficult to ignore the fact that without Big Blue, there wouldn't be a Spider-Man. In honor of this milestone, the editorial staff commissioned the cover homage to Action Comics #1.
Peter and Mary Jane have returned from the Los Angeles leg of the promotion tour for "Webs" a book of Peter's Spider-Man photos. While in L.A. Peter was able to help clear the wife of the Prowler by retrieving the undoctored accounting legers proving she was set up as the scapegoat for her employer's stock manipulation scandal.
Prior to leaving for LA, Mary Jane struck up a conversation with the owner of Bedford Towers, Jonathon Caesar.
|Cover Art:||Todd McFarlane|
|Reprinted In:||Legends Vol. 2: Todd McFarlane (TPB)|
The story switches scenes (and subplots) frequently so this is going to be a series of quick cuts.
On Friday morning Humbug intends to steal the rare paintings on loan to ESU's art department to finance his research. However he is unfamiliar with any of the buildings of his ex-employer other than the physics building and accidentally breaks into the girls' locker room, which is occupied. They kick him out.
Later that day while he and MJ are entertaining Aunt May, Peter realizes he hasn't turned in the application form for his assistantship grant yet and it's due tonight. Excusing himself and changing to Spider-Man, he arrives at ESU to stop Humbug from stealing highly conductive ceramic samples from the sonics laboratory. He then files his application and returns to Caesar's party in time to save MJ from the unwanted advances of a drunken party-goer. Caesar has him removed and apologizes for his guest's behavior.
As they leave the party, MJ explains to Caesar that Peter has a book signing in Chicago and she has a modeling gig on Monday, so they want to spend as much time together before then. Caesar wishes them well and begins to plan her abduction.
Humbug's powers are derived from various insect sounds he's recorded and channels through a specialized glove as an offensive weapon. This would work if he wasn't so inept. As a master criminal, he makes a great entomologist. He reminds me of Michael Bolton (not the singer) from "Office Space". He wrote a computer virus that was supposed to take fractions of a cent and transfer them to a separate account to avoid any red flags, but he put a decimal point in the wrong place and ended up with hundreds of thousands of dollars overnight causing quite a panic. Same principal here. He has good ideas but he is just a screw-up.
Mitty is quite possibly the nerdiest villain Spider-Man has. He was the weird little kid that collected bugs his entire life and probably ate paste. One is left to wonder if Peter may have turned out in a similar fashion if a certain spider hadn't altered his life. Not the life of crime part, the "science above all else" one. Humbug's status as a D-List villain is secured here, being played for laughs as he should be. If Spider-Man didn't come along and capture him, I'm sure he would have fouled up his second robbery attempt somehow. He usually manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Jonathan Caesar subplot reminds us that having a hot wife can bring about unforseen problems. Obsessed rich men intent on taking what they want being high on the list right now. Plus that was a sleazy move giving a married woman a very large (and expensive) bouquet of flowers for no reason in front of her husband. There's a time and place for that. Birthday? Maybe. Academy Award? Definitely. Just returned from a long trip? NO! This does set the stage for the next few issues.
This was mostly a springboard issue, starting lots of subplots for later development with Humbug as comedic relief. Not bad, but not great either.