Hydra is back, revitalized by new leadership, and has launched attacks against New York. Spider-Man and the New Avengers fought off Hydra's super-powered enforcers, but the threat of the new Hydra remains...
Peter Parker's figured out that Hydra's attack in the previous issue was merely a ruse, a feint to cover their real plans, and consults on the case with Steve Rogers. Peter theorizes on what might have happened to Hydra, to change their goals, and their leadership.
Mary Jane's new play is about to open. Mary Jane receives roses from Peter, sitting front and centre. The play goes very well, and Peter and Mary Jane mingle at the after party. While at the party, MJ encounters Vincent Chambliss, a sleazy tabloid photographer. He's been trying to get pictures of MJ for days, and keeps hounding her. At the party, Peter notices two questionable individuals.
Peter leaves the party and dresses up as Spider-Man, and tracks the individuals he noticed at the party. He finds one of the guys following another, and the guy following is wearing a ring with a Hydra symbol on it. The guy spots him thanks to a cat knocking over a plant, and starts shooting at Spider-Man. Spider-Man dodges the gunfire, when the shooter is struck by a motorist. The man the other had been following, Lascombe, thanks Spider-Man, and attests to the fact that the collision was a total accident. Lascombe talks to Spider-Man, and then enters his home, as Peter wonders why his spider-sense is still ringing.
Mary Jane returns home from the party, and is about to enter Stark Tower when she is accosted by Chambliss, who says he saw Peter leave the party hurridly, and now he has MJ arriving at Stark Tower at such a late hour. He asks her who she's there to see, and MJ is forced to lie. She realizes she can't tell Lascombe she lives there without possibly revealing that Peter is Spider-Man, and the New Avengers operate out of there, so she lies and says she's there to see Tony Stark.
Lascombe enters his home and talks to his butler, about the unfortunate loss of his bodyguard, who was the man killed outside his place. He looks at a Hydra Uniform, and then enters into the underground Hydrabase. He speaks with representatives of foreign interests about Hydra's big plan, to deposit anthrax, typhus and botulism into the Ogalla Aquifer, which stretches across 8 states, which would kill millions within 48 hours.
Peter gets home late, and gets into bed with MJ, who is still awake and unable to sleep. She gets up early in the morning, to get the newspaper, to find Wolverine holding it. He throws it at her, makes a glib comment, and MJ sees the headline- "Married Model In Love Nest Tryst With Tony Stark."
I must say that I'm a fan of the direction Straczynski is taking this book in. He's brought the book to some interesting places during his run, and his work with Spider-Man, and his interactions with the New Avengers, are great reading. What really works for this issue is that Straczynski gets Peter Parker, and knows how to write for him. His Parker uses his brains, and above all else, has established a good crime-fighting sense. He is the one who figures out that the fight last issue was more than likely merely a ruse. He can be a detective when he needs to be, and he's been at the game long enough that he's picked up some great skills on the job, and Straczynski relates this quite well.
The conversation with Captain America was great because it's nice to see Peter relating to these heroes without always hiding behind the insecurities that he does in New Avengers. There, he's awkward and always cracking jokes, but here, we get to see another side of him, the confident mature super hero side, which is all too often forgotten when he's put together with other heroes, especially larger groups or teams.
There's some development of Mary Jane's plotline, regarding her off-broadway production, which shows how Straczynski takes his time with his subplots, and doesn't forget about them. The introduction of a paparazzi hounding MJ is an inspired touch which I'm surprised hasn't been used more often, seeing as her status in the Marvel Universe is a pretty well-known one.
Hydra is really being used effectively here, they're not just losers in green outfits, but instead a highly organized and effective organization with lofty goals, but the solid planning to pull it off.
The art wasn't as strong in this issue, some of the shots seemed to lack some of the clarity and definition that is normally found in Deodato Jr.'s work. It's still some pretty strong stuff, however.
An enjoyable story, good script, steady pacing and some inspired artwork make this an easy 4-webs-worthy story. A good read, and accessible.