Part 30 As SPIDER-MAN: REDEMPTION heads into its second issue, the Spider-Books get closer and closer to the "big one."
First up is SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #9, written by Todd Dezago and illustrated by Mike Wieringo and Richard Case. The issue begins with an attack by bees on a science lab. As the scientists try to defend themselves, their foe introduces itself as Swarm, a former physician who was devoured by bees until they absorbed his consciousness into their "Hive Mind." Though they wanted to take control of the world and usher in a new age as the planet's dominant species, they felt that by waiting, they could assume control anytime. Unfortunately, the Onslaught attack unleashed a psionic storm, which severed the telepathic bond between the members of the colony. They were drawn to the origin of the storm. They need the help of the scientists to be made complete again through their technology. When the scientists say it's untested and dangerous, the Swarm tells them that the scientists can complete the task or die.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Swarm first appeared in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #'s 36 and 37, back in 1979. The character had not been seen since these first appearances. Swarm was created by writer Bill Mantlo and penciler Jim Mooney, who were the creative team on the book at that time. ]
Peter and Mary Jane are having a better afternoon. They're scheduled for their sonogram, which will tell them the sex of their unborn child. Mary Jane is prepared for the procedure and Peter stands by her side as their doctor shows them the first photograph of their little baby… GIRL.
Ben heads home after a long day's work to find Jimmy 6, the mobster who saved his life (and vice versa) a few weeks ago, in his bathtub with a female friend. Since Ben offered to let him come by anytime Jimmy's decided to take him up on his offer. Ben rushes to get ready since he has a big date with Desiree.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : The moment where Ben walks in to find Jimmy 6 and his bimbo in the bathtub was pretty funny. I remember we were talking about this moment long before it made it into print. Assistant Editor Mark Bernardo particularly got a kick out of the idea when it was first suggested (by Dezago, I believe), and was looking forward to seeing it finally be worked in to one of the books. ]
Unfortunately, shortly into their date, Ben notices the sky filling with bees and realizes that there's a problem. He makes up an excuse to slip away and change into Spider-Man. Since this type of problem is new for him, he decides to just follow the bees, which works as they lead him directly to Swarm.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #416, written by Tom DeFalco and illustrated by Ron Garney and Al Williamson, deals with the aftermath of Onslaught. Pieces of Sentinels litter the streets of New York. The damage to the city is severe. The Avengers and Fantastic Four sacrificed themselves to end the menace of Onslaught. Spider-Man is doing his best to pick up the slack in their absences, but it's difficult, to say the least.
After Spider-Man takes care of a simple robbery, a police officer walks over to thank Spider-Man for his help, which the wall-crawler greatly appreciates. Back at the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson and Joe "Robbie" Robertson make the toughest decision of their careers: cutbacks. Kate Cushing, Jacob Conover and close to 100 others are laid off, and Peter loses his staff position. Feeling guilty for having to put Peter back to freelancing after uprooting the family, the Bugle offers him a generous severance package and paid benefits for a year.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : This issue gave Tom DeFalco an opportunity to work through his feelings about Marvel's most recent layoffs, which occurred in January 1996, shortly after Bob Harras became Editor in Chief. Many of the people who were fired during this round of layoffs had been hired during DeFalco's tenure as EIC, and it could not have been easy for him to see all of these people whom he had brought in now fall by the wayside. In his Daily Bugle scenes, Tom D. worked in a lot of in-jokes and references to what was going on at Marvel, all of which probably went over the heads of people on the outside, but were glaring obvious to anyone who was working (or had been working) at the company. ]
Elsewhere, the Rose is upset that Spider-Man interfered with the robbery earlier in the day, since Rose's men were attempting to rob his rival, Fortunato. Delilah offers to help out, but they're interrupted by Scrier, who informs the Rose that he's the new partner. Scrier later appears to Gaunt and reports on his meeting with the Rose. Though their data shows that the Rose was Richard Fisk, they're not sure if it's the same person now. A now-unmasked but hidden Scrier tells Gaunt that they got lucky having the crime lord's struggles coincide with the demise of so many costumed vigilantes. When Scrier suggests that their mutual employer must be pleased, Gaunt tells him that their boss's attention is focused on a more personal project right now.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : And here we get the first indication that Scrier is not as "mystically powerful" as he had been portrayed in earlier stories. This scene also establishes for the first time that Scrier-whoever he is-is working with Gaunt, who in turn is working with the "mystery mastermind" behind the whole clone saga.
Throughout the clone saga, Tom DeFalco had proposed on a number of occasions that at some point, there should be a scene where Scrier reveals to the audience that he was just a guy in a mask. At various times, Tom D. suggested that Scrier turn out to be the Jackal or Harry Osborn wearing a Scrier costume, and that all of the "awesome power" displayed by both Scrier and Judas Traveller was just clever trickery. I took this to mean that DeFalco felt the exact same way that I did-that characters like Traveller and Scrier, at least the way they had been presented in their earlier appearances, really had no place in the world of Spider-Man. It was clear that Tom D. wanted to "debunk" the two characters, and as we headed to the end of the clone saga, he finally got his chance. However, Tom only got to scratch the surface of the whole Traveller/Scrier thing. I eventually got to elaborate quite a bit on it, and added many of my own ideas, when I wrote the OSBORN JOURNAL one-shot that provided the entire back story to the clone saga and Norman Osborn's return. ]
Spider-Man is letting off some steam after the news at the Bugle when he runs into a couple of kids arguing over mutants and how they're responsible for the deaths of the other heroes. Spider-Man picks them up and swings them through the city. He talks of their heroic deeds and explains that assigning blame only diminishes their sacrifice. He says the best way to honor them is to live their lives as the heroes would. The kids ask Spider-Man how he carries on and he admits that sometimes it's difficult, especially in times like this, but he tries to do his best and knows that his friends will always be close by, right in his heart.
Peter goes back home and sees Mary Jane, who's more concerned about Peter than the lack of a job. She shows off a baby outfit to lift Peter's spirits and suggests that they name the baby "May" in honor of Peter's aunt. Peter apologizes for the way he was acting and tells MJ that no matter what happens, they'll always find a way to get through their troubles, together.
Elsewhere, Chakra is reporting to Judas Traveller. She informs Traveller about Scrier's duplicity and Traveller says that he suspected as much. If what he was worried about now is truly at hand, then "dark days are ahead for both the true Spider-Man and Judas Traveller and his Host."
SPIDER-MAN #73, written by Howard Mackie and illustrated by John Romita Jr and Al Williamson, begins with Peter Parker spying on a huge gathering of crime bosses, including Hammerhead, Tombstone, Silvermane, Slug and the Rose. They agree that Fortunato must die for them to go on and take over the city's power.
Meanwhile, Ben Reilly is having some mob problems of his own, dealing with his new roommate, Jimmy 6. There's a knock on the door, and Jimmy 6 hides in a closet, thinking it may be one of the other families looking for him. Ben's relieved to see that it's only Peter, but when Pete starts talking about what he saw at the crime meeting, Jimmy 6 comes out, gun pointed, and asks him to start talking.
After Peter explains, Jimmy gets ready and says that he needs to warn Fortunato. Ben asks why he would do that, after Fortunato's put a hit out on him, and Jimmy explains that he owes the old man. Jimmy leaves and Peter questions Ben on why he didn't try to follow him or put a tracer on him. Ben jokes that he isn't an amateur and slipped a tracer on him earlier. Peter says that he'd love to come with Ben to help, but Ben tells him to go home and be a father and that he'll take care of things.
Jimmy arrives at Fortunato's compound and easily makes it through the security systems that he helped to design. Thinking that Jimmy is here to kill Fortunato, Spider-Man shows up and tries to intervene. At the same time, the crime alliance's hit squad makes their entrance and tries to take out Fortunato. Jimmy and Spider-Man take care of most of the squad, but the superhuman Tombstone is still on his feet. Spider-Man asks Jimmy why he came here, if not to kill the old man, and Jimmy reveals that Fortunato is his father.
Tombstone doesn't care about who's who, as long as he can kill Fortunato, but Spider-Man isn't about to let that happen. The two fight to a standstill when, all of a sudden, an electrical blast takes them both out. Fortunato tells Jimmy to call a meeting and reveals his new allies: Hydra.
SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #239, written by Todd Dezago and illustrated by Luke Ross and John Stanisci, wraps up the Lizard storyline. Curt Connors's wife, Martha, wakes up to find Spider-Man and her husband (now the Lizard again) fighting in the lab next to their home. Spider-Man realizes that the Lizard only did what he did to protect his family. It was a noble sacrifice on Connors's part, but that doesn't matter much when the Lizard is trying to kill him now.
Spider-Man tries to take the fight outside, to protect Connors's family, but in doing so he's put the Lizard on his true home turf, in the swamp. The Lizard is a bit different now, though, he seemingly has control over all the reptiles in the swamp and orders them to attack. Even though he has an advanced metabolism, the more Spider-Man gets bitten by various snakes, the greater danger he's in. Things get worse when Billy Connors comes out to try and talk some sense into the creature that is his dad.
The Lizard claims that the boy is Connors' weakness and he'll have no part of it, but when a tree starts to fall in Billy's direction, the Lizard leaps towards him. He manages to get Billy out of the way, but gets pinned under the huge tree. A weakened Spider-Man doesn't have the strength to pull the tree off and the water is rising, which will drown the Lizard in minutes. To make things worse, the Lizard used his telepathic ability to "freeze" the reptiles near Billy. If the Lizard dies, the link will be broken and Billy will die.
Spider-Man tells the Lizard to change back to Connors, which would mean there is no arm where the tree has fallen, leaving Connors free to get out from under the massive object. As the water rises above the Lizard's head, suddenly the reptiles back off. Moments later, Dr. Connors comes out of the water. After reuniting with Billy, Connors gives Spider-Man an anti-venom which helps quicken his recovery.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : With Norman Osborn firmly set as the mastermind behind the clone saga, Mark Bernardo and I agreed that it should be figured out just how much of a role Norman secretly played in Spider-Man's life during all that time that he was believed to be dead. If he could manipulate all the clone-related stuff from afar, were there any other important events that occurred directly because of his actions-or his failure to act? For example, if Norman was alive and watching everything from the shadows, why did he let his son Harry die? Why did he let the first Hobgoblin come into being-especially since Hobgoblin #1 broke into Norman's secret hideout and stole his personal journals? Stuff like that.
Mark and I would discuss this stuff a lot, sometimes in the presence of my boss, Tom Brevoort. I recall that Tom B., who's always placed great value on Marvel continuity and has always tried not to blatantly disregard it, kind of shook his head and shrugged his shoulders in our discussions. As I remember it, Brevoort didn't think Norman's return could ever possibly work anyway, at least from a continuity standpoint, so any efforts to make it work with the rest of Spider-Man's history was ultimately a futile effort. Brevoort felt that there was just no way that Norman could have been alive all that time, considering all that happened in the world of Spider-Man since his apparent death. Tom B. felt that if Norman could manipulate Spider-Man's life from afar, for so long, to such an extent, then so much of what had occurred in the books over the years would never have happened, or would have happened very differently. So Brevoort's attitude was to just go with the flow and forge ahead and not get too bogged down in the background details, because there was simply no way that we'd ever be able to address and fix every continuity conundrum raised by Norman's return.
Brevoort's attitude was certainly justified, and there was another major reason why: None of the core writers had extensive, encyclopedic knowledge of every facet of Spider-Man's history, and they weren't about to go back and start rereading every single Spider-Man story ever published from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #122 to the present. Besides, realistically speaking, how much of this background information would ever make it into print in the comics, anyway? The worst thing we could do as storytellers would be to get to the final chapter of the clone saga and bog it down in a long series of flashbacks explaining everything Norman did since his apparent death, and how it all worked with the concurrent events in Spider-Man's life. By being so slavish to continuity, we would end up stopping the main, present-day story dead in its tracks. And no one wanted that. But still, there were so many nagging questions that needed to be addressed! Hell, there was enough material to fill a whole separate book! But now I'm getting ahead of myself… ]