The self-contained July issues continue with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #413, written by Tom DeFalco and illustrated by Mark Bagley and Larry Mahlstedt. This issue begins with Spider-Man trapped in a jar (with the appropriate small air holes punched in the top), being shaken by a little boy. He doesn't remember how he got to be so small, but all of a sudden Spider-Man's become a child's toy.
After the young boy leaves, Spider-Man is able to free himself from the jar, but then has to face off against the wrath of… other toys!?! It seems that Spider-Man is trapped within his own nightmarish version of "Toy Story," with all of the toys wanting him dead. Between the Godzilla-like monster trying to fry him and the attacking ninja turtles and aliens, he's starting to become overwhelmed.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : The Godzilla-like monster also appeared on the cover of the issue, and apparently it looked TOO MUCH like Godzilla, because Marvel was very nearly sued by Toho, the Japanese film company that makes all the Godzilla movies and owns all the rights to the character. They are very protective of the character, and they go after anyone they feel has exploited the property without their permission. That's very understandable and any other character-driven company, including Marvel, would and should do the same exact thing. As I recall, Toho sent a "cease and desist" order to Marvel, and although the issue was already in print and could not be recalled, we had to go back and change the artwork so that if the story was ever reprinted, the monster would look nothing like Godzilla. ]
Back at the Daily Grind, Shirley's ex husband, Garon, makes a surprise appearance. Shirley doesn't seem at all happy to see her ex, even though he just says he's interested in making sure their son Devon is okay. And at the Daily Bugle, Peter's trying to concentrate on his new job, assisting Ben Urich on some gangland stories, but is having some serious headache pains.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Peter's headache pain was part of a subplot that was conceived and suggested by me and my fellow assistant editor, Mark Bernardo. Mark and I worked out the scenario and suggested it to Spider-Man editor Ralph Macchio over a work lunch, and he liked it. Ralph passed the idea on to the writers, who worked it into their issues.
The idea was born out of the fact that we needed to keep things interesting and dramatic during the six months in which we couldn't resolve the clone saga. We knew already that Ben was probably going to end up being bumped off by the end of the run, and Peter was going to return to the role of Spider-Man. Which meant that Peter would need to get his powers back at some point. Since the readers didn't know that Peter was ultimately going to be revealed as the original Spider-Man, I suggested we take advantage of that fact and have some fun with it. I suggested that we make it look like Peter was starting to come down with the first signs of clone degeneration, and that he was going to die. The readers would think that we were finally going to clear the decks, get rid of the clone, and make Ben the one and only Spider-Man, the last Peter Parker standing. Peter's illness would be stretched out over a few issues of each Spider-Man title, get progressively worse, and then it would apparently kill him. But in reality, the "illness" would just be Peter's powers coming back spontaneously - a dramatic way to undo the ending of the SPIDER-MAN: THE FINAL ADVENTURE limited series, in which writer Fabian Nicieza had Peter's powers "blanketed." With both Ben and Peter possessing their powers, the readers wouldn't know what was going to happen next.
Since most of the core Spider-Man writers had expressed their displeasure with Peter having lost his powers in FINAL ADVENTURE, they were amenable to this story line idea, and quickly incorporated it into their books. ]
Later, it's revealed that Spider-Man's tiny adventure is the result of some treachery on the part of Mysterio and his partner, Armada. They created a giant version of a child's room, complete with a giant robot boy. Armada designed some robot pets to destroy Spider-Man, but he's upset that his creatures are being hurt. Mysterio says that it's more fun to toy with Spider-Man, as it shows true artistry. Armada tries to take matters into his own hands and confronts Spider-Man himself. Spider-Man takes control of Armada's armor and rides him into the control room, where he defeats Mysterio. Only this Mysterio turns out to be a robot. Spider-Man doesn't know if the real person was ever even there, but at least he's managed to apprehend Armada again. The issue ends with Peter and Mary Jane getting settled in their new (and Aunt May's old) home, and Peter has another attack, dropping some dishes.
SPIDER-MAN #70, written by Howard Mackie and illustrated by John Romita Jr and Al Williamson, opens with a scene of Fortunato's growing criminal empire. Recently, Wilson Fisk was forced to leave his position as Kingpin of Crime, which led to a huge void in the New York underworld. Fortunato has been building his army, while maintaining a persona of harmless old grocer in a quiet Manhattan neighborhood. Just outside Fortunato's place of business, Peter Parker and Ben Urich are jumping rooftops, trying to get closer. Urich has a lead regarding a high level meeting between rival crime families and he wants to get the scoop.
Outside the Daily Grind, Ben Reilly finishes up a hard day's work and gets caught in a firefight between some high tech assassins and a large looking brute of a guy named Jimmy. Jimmy pushes Ben out of the way as they open fine. Then, Ben slips away and Spider-Man comes back to deal with the would-be assassins. When he asks Jimmy what the story is, the man gets defensive and tells Spider-Man to butt out.
Cut to Hong Kong and the offices of investigators Stacy and Cheung. Arthur Stacy is looking at a stack of photos of Spider-Man. He thought he could forget the past, but as he explains aloud to a family picture (of his brother George and niece Gwen Stacy), he can't.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Arthur Stacy was first seen waaaaay back in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Volume One) #'s 93 and 95. Although Howard Mackie would establish him as Captain Stacy's younger, more reckless brother, Arthur was originally presented as the OLDER brother, and there was no reference to him being a private investigator. Arthur was only seen in those two issues, in the aftermath of Captain Stacy's death (in ASM #90). Arthur was reintroduced at the insistence of Editor in Chief Bob Harras, who remembered those two brief appearances and wanted to work the Stacy family (or rather, what was left of it) back into the Spider-Man mythos.
With regards to the contradiction about who was the older brother, I'm not sure what it stems from. It might have been an intentional change on Howard Mackie's part. Howard might have felt that making Arthur the younger brother would give the character a more interesting backstory to play with, and he didn't want to be hampered by decades-old continuity that only the most die-hard fans would remember. Or, it might have been a case of Howard simply having not read the original stories and just making a mistake. In the end, as far as I know, we didn't get any letters asking for a No-Prize, so I guess this adjustment to the continuity wasn't particularly earth-shattering for anyone.
Peter and Urich make it into the theater, where Hammerhead seems ready to take control of New York's underworld. Then, he's attacked and almost killed, but Peter flashes the camera to divert attention. Urich isn't too happy about now having to run back across rooftops and hail a cab to get the hell out of Dodge, but Peter seems to be reveling in the action.
Spider-Man comes back to deal with some of the other gangsters that got away, in a few great-looking scenes done up by JR Jr. He was hitting a real visual stride here, with the return to the classic gang war stories that fans always loved. Spider-Man again tries to help Jimmy, who's too proud to want or ask for it. A little while later, Ben Reilly comes back and asks to help Jimmy as a favor for saving his life earlier.
Peter rushes home to tell MJ about his exciting evening with Urich, but ends up passing out on the floor, and he's not breathing. MJ makes a frantic 911 call.
SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #236, written by Todd Dezago and illustrated by Sal Buscema, sees Peter on a gurney inside a hospital, being rushed to the emergency room. The doctors have been trying to stabilize him, but they're clueless as to what's caused Peter to fall ill all of a sudden. Mary Jane worries that she may know the truth. Peter could be suffering from Clone Degeneration.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man has his hands full with Dragon Man, who's been brought back by Dr. Jonas Harrow with some help from the now incapacitated Will o' the Wisp. Soon, the local security forces are coming to Spider-Man's aid, but at the expense of Dragon Man. Though he's a powerful being, the Dragon doesn't fully comprehend the situation he's in. Spider-Man redirects the guards and takes on Dragon Man himself, calming him down long enough for Wisp to regain his strength and knock out the beast.
Spider-Man and Wisp then ride Dragon Man back to Harrow's labs, and destroy his projects. Wisp, free to make his own decisions again, looks forward to living his own life for a change. The Dragon Man flies off, but Spider-Man chooses to let him have his freedom and a shot at a second chance.
Back at the hospital, the doctors inform Mary Jane that Peter's condition is deteriorating and that there's nothing they can do to stop it.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : I was really pleased with the way the "Peter is Dying" sub-plot was developing, and was happy to be making what I felt was a significant, positive contribution to the books. I don't remember what the reaction was from the readers, whether we fooled them or not into thinking that we were really going to get rid of Peter, but I thought the Spider-Man writers did a really nice job with this particular story line.