Ever since the beginning of “Big Time”, the reconstituted Sinister Six - Sandman, Rhino, Mysterio, Chameleon, Electro, and their leader, Doctor Octopus - have been laying the groundwork for a truly evil scheme. This issue helps to set up just how dangerous the Six are.
What, no background on what Spidey’s up to? Not necessary for this issue, because Spidey doesn’t appear in it (except on the cover). This is an all-Sinister-Six story!
The Intelligencia, a cabal of the smartest super-villains (“think The Big Bang Theory, but evil”, says Mysterio) has developed a superweapon they intend to use to conquer the Earth. It’s a gravitic cannon that launches anything it hits into orbit. This concerns Doctor Octopus, though he’s tight-lipped on why. For whatever reason, the Six plan to forcefully intervene in the Intelligencia’s plans.
Before that happens, we get a a quick check-in on where the Six’s heads are at these days:
Speaking of the Chameleon, he’s infiltrated the Intelligencia, and sends the Six a report that the gravitic cannon is ready to deploy. If the Six are going to do something about it, they’d better act immediately.
Immediately it is. Loading themselves into a macro-Octobot (of the sort seen at the beginning of “Big Time” back in ASM #648), the Six smash into the Intelligencia’s Arctic base and start beating down the Intelligencia. For the record, the latter consists of MODOK, the Mad Thinker, the Wizard, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, and Klaw.
Wait, Klaw? How does he qualify as one of the world’s smartest supervillains?
He doesn’t, of course. But for whatever reason, his membership in the group proved useful to the Six, because it’s his guise that the Chameleon has adopted. So the Intelligencia is already a man down.
Cue the big fight scene! I won’t go over the whole thing in detail, but here are some highlights.
Electro challenges the Mad Thinker, which is a mistake, since it was the Thinker that recently upgraded Electro’s powers in ASM #613. Consequently, it’s simple for the Thinker to temporarily suppress all of those powers. “You made a big mistake, Thinker!” retorts Electro. “You thought if I’m not Electro, I’m nobody. But I ain’t! I’m Max Dillon! A regular Joe!” And he knows how to fight like a regular Joe, which apparently means kicking your opponent in the crotch. With the Thinker folded up in pain, Dillon tosses the Thinker into the path of the gravitic cannon, lofting the Thinker into orbit.
The Sandman engages the Wizard. Neither of these two feels like fighting, as they’re old friends and colleagues from their Frightful Four days. In fact, once the Wizard hears that Sandman has only teamed up with Ock in order to get his child back, the Wizard offers to handle this problem personally, no strings attached. The Sandman is eager, but unfortunately for him, this conversation distracted both of them for long enough for Ock to blast the Wizard with the gravitic cannon, leaving the Sandman stuck playing for Ock’s team.
The Rhino fights the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Android, a character that writer Dan Slott used extensively in his run on She-Hulk. While the Android is a match for the Rhino physically, as the Rhino says, “it may copy my power, but not the pain and rage that fuels it!” Indeed, the Rhino’s emotional turmoil is key to his victory: he’s perfectly happy to sacrifice himself in order to win, and carries the Android into the gravitic beam in person. Even as the Rhino is being launched into space, however, the Sandman reaches out and pulls him back. “I already lost one friend today!” says the Sandman, “I ain’t losin’ you too...! You and me, pal. We’re seeing this through to the end!”
Meanwhile, Ock and Mysterio take out MODOK and the Red Ghost. How they do it isn’t particularly memorable, so let’s just stipulate that the Six win this one. It’s a decisive victory: Ock even lets everyone live once MODOK submits and admits that Octavius is smarter than he is.
As MODOK and the remainder of his forces leave, with MODOK muttering about revenge, Ock blows up the gravitic cannon and, for good measure, the rest of the Intelligencia’s base also. Ock’s team is nonplussed by this. “Why’d we even bother?” asks Mysterio. “Yeah,” says Sandman, “I mean c’mon, we’re the Sinister Six. Saving the world? That’s more of an Avengers thing.”
“We did this, because we had to,” says Ock. “After all, we couldn’t let the Intelligencia take over the world in 2011. Not when we’re taking it over in 2012!”
Hmm, a specific year reference in a comic? My, how this scene will be dated in the years to come.
It’s a fun story, and it’s nice to see the Sinister Six flex their muscles a bit. Villains that have personality and depth to them are more effective as characters, especially when you’ve seen them triumph over adversity.
Six is a big number, so perhaps it’s no surprise that not all of the team get the full treatment. The Rhino and the Sandman benefit the most, with the hints that each is driven by his own personal demons, and that the Sandman - as befits a former Avenger (or close enough) - still thinks in terms of loyalty and friendship, while the Rhino is just lashing out in bitterness at a world that hurt him. I’m fine with the Rhino’s motives being kept in the dark for now, but I’d prefer to see the Sandman’s explicated a little more. If he wants his daughter back, can’t he just go take her? She’s living in a foster home, not the Vault or Ryker’s Island. Someone with the Sandman’s abilities and resources should be able to simply go get her. So why does he need help from Ock or the Wizard? I hope this will be cleared up down the road.
There are hints of character to some others. There’s a suggestion that Electro still sees himself, in some sense, as ‘sticking up for the little guy’, a role that some naive New Yorkers assigned to him back in ASM #612, but it’s not much to hang a character on. By the same token, Ock is driven by his fear of death, and his desire to prove himself as a great world-historical figure in the little time he has left. At least, that’s how I interpret his actions in this story. Sandman and Mysterio are surely right that the Avengers could have handled the Intellegensia. If Ock simply wanted them out of the way, one anonymous phone call could have done it. So I conclude what Ock wanted was, as he implied earlier in the issue, to dish out some payback to a clique that had no time for him. The closer Ock gets to death, the more he has to prove.
As for Mysterio and the Chameleon, their motivations aren’t explored. This story treats them as ciphers, but like I said, six is a big number. Perhaps they’ll get a turn in the spotlight in some future issue.
For all that I enjoyed this issue, I have to call shenanigans on the fact that the titular amazing Spider-Man doesn’t appear at all in the story; he makes a cameo appearance on the cover, and that’s it. In a just world, Marvel would have released this story as a standalone Sinister Six one-shot, and not stiffed casual customers looking for a Spider-Man story in the one place they can reasonably expect to find one. There’s nothing in here that advances the overall ASM story, no clues to Ock’s plan or necessary beats in the Six’s character arc (no, I don’t count Ock wearing his new exo-suit). There’s no reason it couldn’t have been released separately, other than the fact that it wouldn’t have sold as well that way.
It’s a fine story, and a fun one, but lack of Spidey in his own title holds it back. Four webs.