Here it is. The last four issues of Spider-Man before the landmark, epic, and most controversial storyline in Spidey's history, "Revelations," unfolds.
SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #10, written by Todd Dezago and illustrated by Mike Wieringo and Richard Case, wraps up the Swarm storyline. As the Swarm continues to grow with the addition of thousands and thousands of migrating bees, Spider-Man realizes that the bees are afraid of him. They seem to remember their previous encounter years ago and don't want any part of it.
Back at the Parker homestead, Peter is painting the ceiling of baby May's room, upside down, loving the return of his spider-powers. Unfortunately, his Spider-sense goes off moments before his powers go "out" again, causing him to crash to the floor, paint and all. Mary Jane teases her husband on his erratic powers and offers to kiss him to make him all better.
Spider-Man breaks through the massive swarm structure, which has grown over the research lab and talks to the scientists who fill him in on Swarm's plan. He's using their harmonics generator to communicate telepathically to the bees, while increasing his spectrum, making him and his telepathy stronger. When he gets to a certain point, Swarm will have control over every bee in the world. Spider-Man asks what would happen if the scientists refused to help and Swarm shows him by invading the body of the scientist as a warning.
Spider-Man and the scientists come up with a plan to break up Swarm. They trick Swarm into sending Spider-Man to do some adjustments to the device, telling him that they don't have the manpower or time to make it work. Swarm forces Spider-Man, who could get it done a lot faster, to go and do the adjustments. After he "fixes" the device, Swarm makes Spider-Man turn it on, which he gladly does. Moments later, a shock burst rings out, disrupting the Swarm's vibratory pattern, robbing the bees of their ability to fly and stay in the Swarm. The effect is so powerful that Jean Grey of the X-Men feels its power, as the bees rain down from the sky until it's all over and Swarm is no more.
The issue ends with a scene at Osborn Industries, where Liz Allan Osborn has asked Donald Menken, director of personnel, to come in. Liz has done some investigating on the whole Multivex fiasco and made a list of people that she wants files on, to get to the bottom of the mystery. Menken tells her that the files will be transferred within the hour, but thinks to himself that Liz should be very careful where she keeps digging, in case she discovers something that will cost her.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : This last scene was written by Todd as a favor to me and Tom Brevoort. Tom and I were developing a new three-issue limited series called SPIDER-MAN: HOBGOBLIN LIVES, to be published after the conclusion of the clone saga. HOBGOBLIN LIVES was going to reveal once and for all who the original Hobgoblin really was. The project was being written by Roger Stern, the creator of the Hobgoblin, and without a doubt one of the best Spider-Man writers of all time. I had been trying to lure Roger back to do a Spider-Man project for quite a while. Given the chance to finally resolve the Hobgoblin mystery the way he'd always intended, Roger simply couldn't say no to me. (For those of you who weren't aware, Roger Stern never intended for Ned Leeds to be the Hobgoblin. Roger actually left the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series before revealing the Hobgoblin's true identity. That task ultimately fell to writer Peter David and editor James Owsley, who came up with their own solution, which saw print several years after Roger's departure.) As with the SPIDER-MAN: REDEMPTION limited series, Tom Brevoort allowed me to be the hands-on editor of HOBGOBLIN LIVES, and I got to work very closely with Roger in developing the story.
Back when Roger was the regular writer of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and had first introduced the Hobgoblin, he had a number of characters set up as suspects, any of whom could have possibly turned out to be the super-villain. Among them: Daily Bugle photographer Lance Bannon, J. Jonah Jameson, wealthy businessmen George Vandergill and Roderick Kingsley, and Osborn Industries executive Donald Menken. Over the years, several of these characters had been killed off or deposited in that zone we refer to as "comic book limbo." Lance Bannon, for example, had been killed off pretty definitively in the early 90s. For the HOBGOBLIN LIVES series, Roger hoped to reuse some of the old suspects-at least the ones who were still alive. Because, as it turned out, one of those old suspects was going to revealed as the original Hobgoblin.
Donald Menken hadn't been seen in a comic book since Roger stopped writing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Roger and I agreed that it would be kind of jarring and dramatically ineffective to just drop Menken and the other long-lost suspects into HOBGOBLIN LIVES from out of the clear blue and give them prominent roles in the story. With them having been unseen for so long, many readers would have no idea who they were, and even faithful, longtime readers might have a hard time remembering them and their relevance to the series. We hoped that maybe these characters could start appearing again throughout the main Spider-Man books in the months leading up to HOBGOBLIN LIVES.
I went to Spider-Man editor Ralph Macchio and asked if it would be possible to use the main Spider-Man books, and possibly SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED, to reintroduce some of the characters that Roger had intended to use. Ralph immediately agreed. I had Roger write up a list of the specific characters he wanted reintroduced, and what key information he wanted revealed about them when they made their appearances. Roger came through with the list, and with Ralph's assistance, I was able to coordinate with Todd Dezago and Glenn Herdling (who was going to be writing the next issue of the quarterly UNLIMITED). Todd and Glenn were very cooperative. Todd, as you read above, dealt with Menken, and wrote a very good scene for him with Liz Osborn. Glenn dealt with some of the other characters on Roger's list, and you can read more about that below. But thanks to Todd and Glenn, all of these "suspects" were set up perfectly for their roles in HOBGOBLIN LIVES. ]
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #417, written by Tom DeFalco and illustrated by Ron Garney and Al Williamson, finally reveals the truth behind Judas Traveller and Scrier. Peter Parker wakes up in a cold sweat after having a dream (or is it nightmare?) in which Judas Traveller appears to him, warning him that they've both been betrayed and manipulated. Mary Jane tries to comfort Peter by putting his hand on her belly and telling him that she thinks their daughter is anxious to be born, as she's having a restless night.
The next day, the members of Traveller's Host try to apprehend Chakra, whom they know has been revealing information to Traveller. When Chakra tries to defend her actions, the Host tells her that they all know the truth, that Traveller is not their leader. Chakra is able to get away, but not before Nacht gives them a warning about how their employer is going to be upset with their performance.
At the Daily Grind, Peter pays a visit to Ben and talks about the dream he had. Ben jokes that he prefers to dream about Jenny McCarthy but to each their own. They compare notes on Traveller and his Host. When Ben mentions how it seemed like Traveller could do anything: read minds, time travel and destroy city blocks with a thought, Peter wonders why he would need a team then to back him up. After changing the subject to all things baby, Peter extends a request for Ben to stand up to become May's godfather. Ben gladly accepts and then Peter's pager goes off. Peter explains that he got the pager since Mary Jane entered her third trimester and that he needed it to be accessible to the Daily Bugle for freelance opportunities. Peter calls Robbie, who asks if there's a way they can contact Spider-Man because John Jameson needs him at Ravencroft.
In an abandoned warehouse, Mr. Nacht meets with Gaunt and Scrier, and reports the Host's failure. Gaunt is furious and explains how their employer doesn't even consider death a viable excuse for failure. Their employer wants Traveller neutralized before he can interfere with the employer's plans for Spider-Man. Scrier tells Gaunt to calm himself. They'll find Chakra and Traveller is in no position to save himself now, as the scene cuts to Traveller sleeping in a containment pod.
Spider-Man and Peter Parker arrive at Ravencroft where John Jameson introduces them to a frantic Chakra. She tells them that Traveller is not who they think he is and that the power he holds isn't what it seems. He's in great danger and she needs Spider-Man's help. When Peter says, "We'll help," Spider-Man tells him that he doesn't need the help of someone who's about to become a father. Peter walks home, amazed that Ben ditched him, but laughs, thinking, "Bet the bozo doesn't even realize I planted a spider-tracer on his back." Aunt Anna, who flew into help Mary Jane with the pregnancy, greets Peter at the door.
Elsewhere, Spider-Man and Chakra are checking out an abandoned gym, uncertain that Traveller is there, but Chakra can feel him. Spider-Man wonders how much help he can be to a being that had power at a near cosmic level, but Chakra tells him that it was all an illusion. Judas Traveller possesses some psionic powers, but his primary talent was the ability to alter people's perceptions of reality. She explains that many of the manifestations he witnessed were a result of technology supplied by Scrier. When Spider-Man mentions how he wondered how Scrier fit into the equation, Chakra begins to tell him that unlike Traveller, Scrier is far more than he appears. Before she can say any more, the members of the Host come in, attacking.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : According my notes from when these issues were being written, it was Tom DeFalco's idea that the noted criminal psychologist Judas Traveller had an uncanny ability to alter people's perceptions of reality. Later on, when I wrote THE OSBORN JOURNAL, I went one step further and established that Traveller was a mutant, and that this power of his, which had long been dormant within him, had been unleashed after he suffered a nervous breakdown several years ago. ]
Back at the Rose's base of operations, he and Delilah are paid a visit by Scrier. Scrier wants an answer on his suggestion of an alliance between his organization and the Rose's. The Rose responds that his European contacts dug up a lot of information on Scrier and his "so-called" organization and he didn't like what he had found. Rose explains that he doesn't like surprises or being lied to. "You said you were Scrier, but you didn't tell me the whole truth… Scrier isn't an individual-it's the name of your entire organization."
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : I believe Tom DeFalco suggested that Scrier's ability to seemingly pop up anywhere, at any time, could be explained away by establishing that there was more than one Scrier, that he was really just a whole bunch of normal guys dressed up in identical costumes. I took that idea and added a lot to it. At a lunch meeting with Spider-Man editor Ralph Macchio, my boss Tom Brevoort, and Spider-Man writers Howard Mackie, Todd Dezago and DeFalco, I suggested that the group of Scriers be more than just a criminal organization, that they be something of a cult. I suggested that this group originate from Europe, and that Norman Osborn became aware of them and involved with them during the time when he was over there following his "death" in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #122. I saw the Scrier cult as a group that was made of men bent on achieving power, wealth, and control, and that it bore many similarities to the Mafia, the Ku Klux Klan and the Hellfire Club.
Ralph pointed out that we probably shouldn't COMPLETELY debunk Scrier. He mentioned that writer J.M. DeMatteis, who helped create the character, had future plans for Scrier in another Marvel title (I believe it was THE SILVER SURFER), and was going to be portraying him pretty much the same way he had been portrayed before-as a mystical being of great power. To accommodate DeMatteis's plans, I suggested that the cult of Scrier was originally inspired by an ancient, legendary, powerful being of the same name who may or may not have actually existed. ]
While Rose explains in more detail the information he's received, Spider-Man and Chakra face off against an army of Scriers. They start to get a little overwhelmed until Peter, appearing in street clothes with a mask and gloves, arrives telling Spider-Man, "Family should never ask for help."
Rose reveals all that he has learned about the Scriers to the one who stands before him. The Scrier is a secret cabal which was inspired by a mystical being who was the inspiration for their attire. The cult was almost wiped out of existence until 5 or 6 years earlier when an unknown mastermind took over, with dreams of becoming the European version of the Kingpin of Crime. The mysterious new leader honed their fighting skills, and espionage techniques and gave the Scriers sophisticated armaments. Rose tells Scrier although their organization is impressive, he's not sure they have what it takes to make it in the American market.
Scrier responds with threats against Rose, revealing that he too knows the other's secrets. Scrier's research indicates that Rose is known by many names: Richard Fisk, the Schemer and Blood Rose. The Rose responds that the list is interesting, all identities of the same man, but not necessarily him and that Scrier can't prove otherwise. When Scrier returns to the warehouse with news of Rose declining the invitation, Gaunt snaps his neck, again reiterating that their employer has zero tolerance for failure.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : The Rose of these stories, as some of you probably know, turned out not to be Richard Fisk after all. But Fisk was certainly the original Rose. I have to say, having just read the last few issues of DAREDEVIL, I am quite intrigued by Brian Michael Bendis's portrayal of Richard Fisk. It's radically different from what we've seen in the past, and shows just how far from grace Richard Fisk had fallen. You'd never think that the weak-willed, desolate, sad sack of a man depicted by Bendis could ever have been one of New York City's most powerful crime lords. ]
Back at the abandoned gym, the two Spider-Men and Chakra are able to hold the Scriers off long enough to find Judas Traveller in a containment pod at the bottom of the swimming pool. Spider-Peter is able to free him and that's when things get really strange. Traveller is tired of being used and manipulated and launches into a powerful "mind bend" which takes out all of the Scriers, weakens himself and even dazes Peter and Ben. Traveller and Chakra want to make their exit as quickly as possible, but not before passing on a warning to Peter and Ben. "Beware. The madman behind Scrier… the monster who pulled my strings has also orchestrated against you." The Spider-Men aren't sure what he means but have a feeling that things are about to get real bad.
SPIDER-MAN #74, written by Howard Mackie and illustrated by John Romita Jr and Al Williamson, concludes the Fortunato/Mob War storyline. The issue opens with Daredevil catching a bank robber who wears a suit of armor. Though the armor is high tech and could be difficult for Daredevil to win against, the wearer is an amateur and is easily beaten. Daredevil offers to put in a good word for the crook if he reveals where he got the armor. Reluctantly, the crook spills the beans about something her heard on the street and informs Daredevil that Fortunato will be executing Spider-Man in front of everyone who's everyone in crime.
Back at Fortunato's estate, the old man gives a speech in front of dozens of other mob bosses and his Hydra partners. He speaks of how costumed heroes have always been a threat to their business, but promises that won't be the case now. As a sign of faith, he reveals that he's captured Spider-Man, one of the last of the heroes (after the events of ONSLAUGHT), and will unmask and then kill him. Then there's a great two-page splash of Spider-Man, bound in front of everyone.
Fortunato also brings out Tombstone, who's shackled, and says that he will have to pay for his indiscretion, as well as several civilians taken from territories controlled by each of the crime bosses. Fortunato's belief is that if civilians are harmed, people will turn against the mob bosses and any other incidents by the bosses against Fortunato will result in more bloodshed. He orders his son, Jimmy 6, to give the bosses their weapons to do the executions themselves.
Jimmy refuses, saying this is why he left his father in the first place. He realizes that Tombstone knew the risks when he got into "the life" but the innocents don't deserve to be harmed. While Jimmy is stalling, Spider-Man is mustering every bit of strength he has to break free from his bindings. It's another great shot by Romita Jr. Spider-Man strikes fast, hitting the gunmen with stingers, giving him time to get the innocent hostages to safety.
Daredevil arrives and helps Spider-Man with the hostages, and then with the Hydra agents. There's a good moment where they talk about the death of the heroes and whether they can live up to increased needs and expectations with them gone. Spider-Man puts it simply: all we can do is what we do best, and do it more often. Daredevil, Spider-Man and the hostages reach the end of the road, a heavily barricaded gate. With Hydra closing in on them, there's not enough time to destroy the gate and save the hostages. Spidey and DD prepare to face off against Hydra on their own, but then Jimmy 6 shows up with a Hydra Gun Ship. He sets the copter down, lets the passengers, Daredevil and Spider-Man board, and gets back in the air, leaving Hydra behind.
Spider-Man realizes that Tombstone is still down there. Even though Tombstone is a criminal and probably deserves what Hydra has in store for him, Spider-Man can't let him get killed like that. He swings down from the copter and grabs up Tombstone, bringing him back up. Before he can get inside with him, Spider-Man's web line is cut by a Hydra shot. Daredevil thinks quickly, and uses his own billy club rope to snag both Spider-Man and Tombstone. After being thanked by Spider-Man, Daredevil says not to bother since he wasn't looking forward to being the only hero left in town. Spider-Man replies that he has a feeling, "I think things are going to get easier from here on. No, really."
SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #14 doesn't come out until the following month, but for the sake of the flow of the column and continuity, we're covering it now. Written by Glenn Herdling and illustrated by Joe Bennett, Joe Pimentel and Tim Dzon, this issue wraps up the "Great Game" storyline started way back when the Scarlet Spider titles were launched.
Appropriately enough, the story opens with the Scarlet Spider's line being ripped by a sniper shot and him falling to his death. The killer earns 2000 points to squashing the Spider, and Ken Ellis and Peter Parker are called to the morgue for their report. Peter's understandably shaken until the doctor says they've determined that the Scarlet Spider was definitely… Asian.
While the Bugle team debates whether the Scarlet Spider is the real deal or not (only Peter knows the truth), Jameson tells Peter to get pictures of the Scarlet Spider's murderer, the only person who had motive: Spider-Man. At that moment, Spider-Man comes into the office and lets everyone know that he's just fine. He notices the look on Robbie's face and asks if seeing him and Peter together makes him jealous.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : This was a subtle reference to the fact that Robbie had begun to suspect that Peter Parker was really Spider-Man. This suspicion really came to the fore in the SPIDER-MAN: THE FINAL ADVENTURE limited series. By seeing Peter and Spider-Man together in the same place at the same time, Robbie's suspicions would have to be squelched - at least for the time being. ]
Later on, Ben and Peter touch base and Ben informs his "cousin" that he thinks the Scarlet Spider impostor's death has something to do with the Great Game. When Peter realizes that Ben knows James Johnsmeyer is one of the sponsors, he accuses Ben of being irresponsible. The two debate procedure but are interrupted by Betty Brant, who ends up joining them for lunch, and then making a date with Ben later.
Ben's relationship with Betty is a major subplot in this book. They go on a date, share several quiet moments together and even share a kiss. Ben goes so far as to ask for Peter's blessing to continue seeing her, since they have a shared past as well. Another important moment in this book is a cameo during J. Jonah Jameson's party (which Betty and Ben attend) by a person who will later be revealed as the original, true Hobgoblin, in a mini-series several months from now.
[ GLENN'S COMMENTS : Thanks to Glenn Herdling's cooperation, two of the suspects from the forthcoming HOBGOBLIN LIVES limited series were worked into the party scene. As Andrew mentioned, one of them was revealed to be the original Hobgoblin. Which one? If you don't know by now, find yourself the back issues of the limited series, or the trade paperback collecting the whole thing, and read it. I think you'll like it!
Much like Tom DeFalco had done in several issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, Glenn Herdling worked his dismay over Marvel's financial situation-and the manner in which the company was being run-into the dialogue of his story. During the party scene, Jameson has an encounter with businessman Roderick Kingsley, who offers his advice on how to reinvigorate the failing Daily Bugle. Kingsley says, "Sell the majority of your shares to the public!" (That, of course, is what Ron Perelman had done with Marvel in 1991, and what is believed by many experts to be what ultimately led to the company going bankrupt in 1996.) Jameson replies, "I'd never take the Bugle public, Kingsley-because I know that its long-term integrity would suffer under corporate connivers like you, who dream up ridiculous little 'schemes' which only produce short-term gains!" Yep, that pretty sums up what was going on at Marvel. If only J. Jonah Jameson could have been our owner… ]
Spider-Man is an unwilling participant in the game, but he does what he has to do to put an end to Johnsmeyer once and for all. In the end, Johnsmeyer is arrested, even though he was only a pawn for the untouchable Justin Hammer. Peter and Ben make peace with the way they debated procedure earlier on.
Later that night, Spider-Man visits Jameson in his office. Jameson's just received a check for $50,000 for winning the game. Spider-Man deduced earlier that Jameson sponsored him. Since the rules of the game call for the sponsor to share the winnings with the player, Spider-Man tells Jameson to give his share to a critical patient at Mercy Hospital, Hobie Brown (the Prowler) who was almost killed.