Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #178

 Posted: 2007
 Staff: Jeremy Roby (E-Mail)


In Web of Spider-Man #66, Harry Osborn puts on his Green Goblin suit and fights by Spidey's side against Tombstone. Turning Spidey's most hated enemy into a good guy didn't go over that well with the fandom, however; they wanted to see the old rivalry stay alive. Well, in this story arc J.M. Dematteis gives them just that. The Green Goblin is set to come back with a vengeance. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. This first part begins with Vermin, and picks up pretty much right after Kraven's Last Hunt.

Story 'Up From The Depths'

The first page of our story introduces the reader to the asylum-cam, a nice 3x4 panel page with the outlines rounded to mimic a television picture. The colors are muted - not totally black and white, but close. It is a technique that will be used a lot throughout the story, as vignettes to convey background info.

This first one introduces us to Vermin, cowering in a corner of a padded cell, being asked questions by someone off-camera. He makes an outburst at the camera and then returns to his corner.

The next page shows us Vermin wandering around in a sewer. Obviously, he's escaped from the asylum he was in previously and is lost in his own dementia. Another unique addition to the story is the captions, which highlight Vermin's (and pretty much ever other character's) inner monologue. These are rambling, rushed, and disjointed; a perfect illustration of what really makes such a psychotic killer tick. In the middle of his rantings, he spots a young black boy standing in the middle of the water, asking him for help. He's lost and he needs to get home.

Cut to the title page, with Spider-Man standing over a table full of pictures showing the victim's of Vermin's escape from the asylum. We're introduced to Dr. Kafka, who turns out to be the one who was treating Vermin (and is the owner of the disembodied voice from the asylum-cam).

Spidey is upset by the escape of one his old foes. Dr. Kakfa tries to explain to him the progress she has made with Vermin, but he doesn't listen to any of it. There's a couple of one panel flashbacks to the Kraven's Last Hunt story intermixed with their conversation. Spidey then swings off, feeling guilty about being so gruff with the doctor AND about having Vermin loose on the streets again.

Meanwhile, Vermin emerges from sewers with his newfound friend in his arms. Fighting the urge to turn on him and eat him, Vermin promises to take his little buddy home.

Meanwhile, Harry Osborn is watching a cartoon with his son, Normie. Their quality time is interrupted, however, by the ghost of Harry's late-but-not-so-great father, Norman Osborn (AKA the original Green Goblin). Norman taunts Harry, telling him he's weak, and that he should be a man. He also goads Harry into yelling at little Normie. Harry then stops after he realizes what he is doing and Norman looks on, frowning.

Next, we're treated to a rather rare shot of MJ in bed, but actually clothed! She hears a creak from the living room, and goes out to investigate, but finds no one there. It turns out it was Spidey, who almost decided to give up on his search for Vermin, but changed his mind and continues on webslinging. This is a nice touch, showing how conflicted Peter is about his duty as a superhero.

The asylum-cam is back. This time Dr. Kafka is hypnotizing Vermin, who is calm until she starts asking him questions about his past. Then he starts screaming about "the bad thing". It turns out that Dr. Kafka is sitting in her office, reviewing tapes of her old sessions. She tries to convince herself that Vermin is an irredeemable monster like Spider-Man says, but she can't turn her back on the man she knows is hidden there somewhere deep down.

While Dr. Kafka is battling her conscience, Spidey is foiling a robbery/assault. He mistakes the perp for Vermin, however, and starts pummeling him mindlessly. Oops!

Somewhere else, Vermin is "acquiring" a vehicle to help him get his little buddy home. They hop in and then take off. Eventually, the find his "home" - a fancy gated mansion. How did Vermin know where to go? Easy, it's his mom and dad's old place. But then who's the kid, you ask? Oh, that's right, he's the proverbial "child within" that all of us have. See how clever that was?

Meanwhile, Peter lies awake in bed, while hold MJ in his arms. In the same apartment building Harry Osborn holds his wife, Liz, in his arms too. He's not having any better luck getting to sleep either. There's no thought balloons or captions on this page, but you know what's keeping them up...

Overall Rating

This is a good start to my favorite artist/writer team-up of the 90s, as well as my favorite run of issues out of all the Spider titles. Not much action, but the story is well told and the characterization is spot on without being gratuitous. It has a very cinematic feel to it.

 Posted: 2007
 Staff: Jeremy Roby (E-Mail)