In honor of Spider-Man’s 50th anniversary, a handful of his previously-abandoned ancillary titles have been reinstated under Marvel’s new ‘Point One’ umbrella. The concept behind these relaunches is to share an ‘untold tale’ from some point in Spidey’s history. In this installment, the Sensational Spider-Man title is resurrected with #33.1 and the ‘untold tale’ comes from Spider-Man’s Brand New Day era shortly after J. Jonah was elected mayor of New York City.
As Spider-Man battles the latest incarnation of the Vulture (aka Jimmy Natale) through the streets of New York, officer Carlie Cooper coincidentally finds herself in the middle of the ruckus. Carlie was on a lunch date at the time, but quickly ditched her beau to pursue Spidey and the Vulture. During the chase, the Vulture uses his acid generating & spitting power to melt a cable that suspended a cargo freight high above the ground. The freight crashes to the ground in front of Carlie and she quickly discovers that it is filled with…people?? More specifically, victims of human trafficking.
Soon after, Carlie’s lieutenant (aka her boss) chews her out for working outside of her jurisdiction and for the fact that the Frontline newspaper published a story featuring her as the poster child for the rescue. The photos were taken by none other than Peter Parker. Whilst the lieutenant berates her, Carlie is officially removed from the case by Special Agents Charles Devonshire and Vito Casio from the FBI. The Feds arrived to garner any evidence that she possessed since they were now taking over the investigation.
Of course the resilient Carlie Cooper does not back off the case and continues her own investigation, she’s quite ambitious as her goal is to make detective. Carlie decides to dig deeper into the company that owned the cargo freight, Redray Shipping, which happens to be a Ukranian company. That detail becomes more intriguing as Spidey’s own investigation suggests that the Russian Mafia-linked ‘legitmate businessman’, Balik Vorski, is reputed to be involved with human smuggling.
However, Carlie’s extracurricular policing is completely shut down by her boss because it turns out that Agent Devonshire had been spying on her to ensure she didn’t continue her investigation. Moreover, Vorski gets wise to Carlie’s snooping as well so he puts a hit out on her. Some random thug takes the job, but doesn’t deliver on Coooper because he’s caught by the web-slinger. Unfortunately, Spidey’s efforts did not save her. At that moment, an unsuspecting Carlie Cooper was snatched from the sidewalk and quickly found herself face to face with the Vulture…
In my opinion, untold tales are a tough-sell to fans in the first place, but an untold tale about characters that are rather forgettable is a recipe for disaster. Carlie walked out on Peter after the events of Spider-Island and the Vulture is currently presumed dead (killed by the Punisher of all people!). My point is that we know the limits to this story (ie, Carlie certainly won’t be killed or harmed in any way possible and the Vulture will not end up in custody), so our imagination is completely capped. Not to mention that neither of these characters are currently relevant in the Spiderverse, yet they made their debut less than 5 years ago!
Shouldn’t there be some sort of statute of limitations on an untold tale? How about something like the original source material must be at least 20 years old before you can write an untold tale about it? What's sad is that I’m actually a huge supporter of untold tale-like stories, Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man was a really fun series, in my opinion. But that series explored the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man and helped flesh out some of those old stories. Point being, I respect Tom DeFalco a lot, I just don’t understand how he could build suspense into a story with THIS timeline featuring THESE characters.
DeFalco does deserve some blame for this mess though because the story itself is a little sloppy with a couple of real head-scratchers. I had trouble understanding the lieutenant’s beef with Carlie over the fact that the press (ie, the Frontline newspaper) published a story with her saving the victims of human trafficking. How could the police dept not look good from that? People were rescued from a being trapped inside a cargo freight, where’s the downside?
And while we’re on the subject of the cargo freight, I have to wonder about that entire scene as well. By my estimation, that cargo freight was at least 3 stories high before it came crashing down to the paved parking lot below. The force of the crash was enough to destroy the integrity of the freight, yet the victims walked out with relatively minor injuries. I understand the hypocrisy of discussing the preposterous physics of a falling cargo freight whilst a bird-man fights a Spider-Man high above the streets. But still, couldn’t there have been a more clever way to have Carlie uncover the human trafficking victims without invoking some sort of absurd fall from the sky? If the steel container holding the victims didn’t survive the fall, how did the victims inside the freight survive??
While we’re on the subject of the victims, one small nitpick. When they emerged from the cargo freight, one of them exclaimed, ‘Dios mio!’. Which stands out as being odd since it was later explained in the story that the victims were of Russian descent. Perhaps there was Spanish-speaking prisoner in the group, but still it was an extraneous detail that made the overall story seem even more distasteful.
At the end of the day this was basically a Carlie Cooper story and, honestly, who cares?
See above for my rationale. I cannot believe there is already untold tales for the Brand New Day era, which, mind you, we're basically still in. And if DeFalco were to write an untold tale for Spidey, I’d prefer it come from the 90’s Spiderverse. 1 web for the rating, I can’t believe this story has two parts!