More than a third of the way done already? Boy time flies, and it's a short one this time around, too. "Time Bomb" is the two-part story that finally reveals whether Kaine was crazy, seeing the future or just a possible future with all his visions of Mary Jane's death. It also reveals the identity of the person who could be responsible for her death.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : "Time Bomb" was designed by Spider-Man Group Editor in Chief Bob Budiansky and the core Spider-Man writers to set the stage for the big switchover to Ben Reilly. By now, I think all of you are well aware of my feelings about how the clone saga had become horribly overextended, so I won't belabor that point here. The one saving grace about the "Time Bomb" story line was that it was only two issues long, rather than the usual month-long monstrosity that spanned all four Spider-Man titles. ]
Part 1 is featured in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #228, written by Tom DeFalco and Todd Dezago and illustrated by Sal Buscema and Bill Sienkiewicz. It begins with a dream: Kaine is following Mary Jane, telling her that she can't outrun her destiny and that she's going to die. Spider-Man arrives and pushes back on Kaine, promising that while he still draws breath, Peter won't allow Kaine to kill Mary Jane. That's when Kaine reveals that it isn't he who's going to kill her, but Peter himself. And then Peter wakes up, screaming.
Throughout the night and into the day, Peter begins to "see" the Jackal everywhere: in mirrors, in place of other people and anywhere else. He doesn't know whether it's clone degeneration kicking in or something else. All he cares about is finding an answer before it's too late.
While Spider-Man swings throughout the city, trying to figure out what the hell is going on, Mary Jane goes for her first modeling gig for a new line of maternity wear.
Spider-Man continues to web swing and contemplates calling on Ben's friend, Seward Trainer, but then gets a powerful headache that sends him crashing onto a rooftop. An image of the Jackal appears, telling Peter that he's initiated the first genetic implant that he ever programmed into his clone mind. The trigger words were "When the dream ends, the nightmare begins," which is what the Jackal screamed as he fell towards his death. The command was that Peter would kill the person he loved most.
When Mary Jane returns home, Peter is sitting there in costume, telling her to run. She's not sure why he's telling her that, but he manages to tell her the whole story while fighting back the Jackal's commands. He warns her to contact the Avengers or Fantastic Four or anyone else that could stop him before he succeeds in his mission. Mary Jane gets away and has enough time to make an emergency call to the New Warriors, asking for the Scarlet Spider. MJ refuses to call the FF or Avengers because they'd have to fight or hurt or possibly kill Peter. Ben would know what to do.
A cat-and-mouse game begins in the subway system. Mary Jane boards a train, which takes off before Spider-Man can stop it. He eventually catches up to her, though. Spider-Man holds Mary Jane as the New Warriors arrive and tell him to back off. He tells them that he has to kill her and begs them to stop him.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : You may recall that I described several weeks ago how skittish Marvel became about showing any violence - real or perceived - against women in the books, following the scene in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #226 in which Peter supposedly slapped Mary Jane in a fit of rage. Yet this story line, which revolves around Peter (unwillingly) threatening Mary Jane's life, was still done. It's pretty safe to say that "Time Bomb" was too far along in terms of story and art when the doo-doo hit the fan over SPECTACULAR #226 for the story line to be significantly changed or canceled altogether. However, the cover of SPECTACULAR #228, which shows an unmasked Spider-Man menacing Mary Jane, was extensively revised so that Peter would not look TOO threatening. I believe he originally had one of his hands clenched in a fist while his other hand was gripping Mary Jane's wrist. In the final version, his hand is not clenched in a fist. ]
"Time Bomb" concludes in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #129, written by Tom DeFalco and Todd Dezago and illustrated b Steven Butler and Randy Emberlin. The Scarlet Spider arrives at New Warriors headquarters and is told that the team went out to rescue a woman who called on the phone.
The New Warriors do their best to prevent Spider-Man from achieving his objective. As he fights them off and continues after Mary Jane, he tells them to do whatever they have to, even if it means killing him, to stop him from reaching Mary Jane. MJ escapes and runs into the Scarlet Spider. She tells him what's happened to Peter and Scarlet promises to keep Peter down. Mary Jane tries to sneak off in a cab, but the frightened driver runs out of the car, leaving MJ to get behind the wheel and make her own getaway.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Obviously, this story was another opportunity for us to strengthen the ties of the NEW WARRIORS book to the Spider-Man line, so yeah, we took advantage of it. These opportunities were few and far between, after all, and the crossing over significantly helped the New Warriors in terms of exposure. We had the Scarlet Spider appearing fairly regularly in NEW WARRIORS at that time, but his involvement with the team wasn't really reflected in the Spider-Man books. That's not a gripe, by the way. Let's face it: the New Warriors were peripheral at best to the goings-on in Spider-Man's life, and it would have been very awkward to keep referring to them or have them regularly show up in Spider-Man's solo books. It's a situation not unlike the one with the Batman and the JLA. At any rate, having the Warriors show up in the core Spider-Man books during a major story could only help them and give them a greater degree of credibility with readers. ]
Spider-Man is relentless in his pursuit of Mary Jane. He follows her, trying to figure out where she's ultimately going. They wind up in the old house of Peter's late Aunt May. Mary Jane is casually sitting in a living room chair, surrounded by pictures of family. She tells Spider-Man that she has faith in them, in him, but she forgives him if he can't control the programming and would prefer to die in that house full of memories than anywhere else. Memories come back, flooding Peter until he breaks down. The Jackal's programming is shattered. The villain has lost. Peter and Mary Jane hold each other tight as the Scarlet Spider (who was close by as backup, just in case) looks on from a distance.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : The main thrust behind "Time Bomb" was to give Peter a reason to give up being Spider-Man and leave New York with Mary Jane. After all, the fact that he was apparently the clone did not necessarily mean that he had to give up the super hero identity he had held for the past years - especially if Ben wasn't going to stake his own claim to the Spider-Man role. I'm not sure that "Time Bomb" completely accomplished this goal. Other than having Peter place MJ in jeopardy and have to overcome some retconned mental programming from the Jackal, there's nothing in this story that clearly leads Peter and MJ to decide to leave New York. At this point, though, I was just glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and was looking forward to seeing the new era of Spider-Man begin. But the ghost of "Age of Apocalypse" was still upon us, and Marvel's marketing department reared its ugly head once again. ]