Not long ago, during Spider-Man's fight with the son of Kraven the Hunter, Norman Osborn commissioned Dr. Jonas Mueller (a.k.a. Professor Angst) to conduct an "experiment." Guess who's the lab rat?
The issue begins with poor Spidey slumped over in a metal chair with wires trailing from practically every part of his body. According to Professor Angst, who sits nearby with his bodyguard Sir, the device to which Spider-Man is connected amplifies his anxiety to the point where it "thrusts through your mind like a flaming dagger." But, Angst's employer being the caring soul that he is, Angst announces that Spider-Man will not die, just have the limits of his endurance tested.
While writhing in agony, Peter's mind returns to earlier events. After turning in some photos from an AIDS hospice, Norman Osborn can't help taunting him about the death of Joey Z, which Spider-Man is blamed for. This is interrupted by Joe Robertson storming through the news room, looked for Jonah. A few seconds later, about enough time for a man to yell "I quit!", Robbie re-emerges and makes a public announcement to that effect, despite Peter's effort to convince him otherwise. Furious, Peter then charges into Jonah's office only to get kicked out. Jonah's bluster immediately crumbles though, and as he opens a drawer containing a gun and an ammo clip he mutters: "This is your fault, Osborn ... but the day is coming when justice will be served!"
After a quick shot of the present, in which Spider-Man is comforted by the vision of Aunt May, the scene returns to the newsroom. Mary Jane has arrived, ready for their lunch date. They mention how Aunt Anna took MJ's revelation that Peter was Spider-Man (she didn't believe it) but are interrupted by Ben Urich, who has an appointment with Mr. Osborn. Urich clearly expects to be fired for the book he wrote exposing Norman as the Green Goblin, but Osborn instead tells Urich that he wants him to expose the "true" Goblin and clear his name.
Another brief interlude ensues as Spider-Man is pushed beyond his limit and breaks free of his restraints. In his weakened state, however, he is quickly overpowered and drugged into unconsciousness. Returning to the Bugle one last time, Sir has broken into Norman's office and is pretending to threaten his safety when Peter, dressed appropriately, breaks through the window, grabs Sir, and promptly leaves with him, discovering a waiting helicopter. Grabbing onto the waiting rope ladder, the two are flown out over the city with Spidey dealing Sir both blows and quips, neither of which have any real effect.
Eventually, Sir beats Spider-Man up the ladder and the helicopter extends to electrified metal tentacles down towards Spidey, who cannot escape before being zapped. The back story now complete, the next page shows Angst kneeling over an unconscious Spider-Man with a syringe full of liquid that will erase his memory. Spidey, however, has just been playing possum and easily throws Angst into a nearby wall. He cries out to Sir for help, but Sir views that as a sign of weakness and leaves. Unfortunately, Spider-Man can't turn Angst into the police, not being held in high esteem lately, and as such he leaves him on the floor, promising that Angst will fall with Osborn.
I just hope this Angst character isn't a member of my HMO. Sheesh! This issue was an example of J.M. DeMatteis' talent of creating a creepy, psychologically intense story. Unfortunately, this particular one feels a bit stale. I've been a Spidey fan for more than a few years now, and it seems like every so often some freak's got the Wall Crawler at his mercy and trying to break his spirit. Of course, Spidey always overcomes him in the end and all is well. DeMatteis did a good job with an old plot, but let's let this plot device rest in peace for awhile.
Also, while I thoroughly enjoy watching Norman Osborn manipulate Spider-Man's life at will, if this goes on for TOO much longer it's going to start to seem a tad ludicrous. I guess every diabolical villain feels the need to toy with the hero's life, and if it's not resolved fairly soon this time around I think Osborn will just turn into the stereotypical nemesis. The events at the Daily Bugle were interesting, although they were mostly a launching pad for future plotlines until Sir finally makes his appearance. And what's Jonah doing with a handgun in his drawer? This could be interesting....
No major quibbles with or praises for the art, although I did like the center panel on page 20 when Spider-Man's got Angst by the throat. Spidey looked seriously mad even through the mask. I do have one question, though. How come Jacob Conover looks so much younger than he did?
We've been down this road before, but J.M. almost makes it seem like a brand new drive. Three webs.