Vultures! Hybrid Clone Bratty Sister! An untold Reilly story!
Gauntlet Origins: Vulture
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Francis Portela
Colorist: Christopher Sotomayor
Letterer: Rus Wooton
On Vernon C. Rain Prison Barge, Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture, is manhandled from his cafeteria seat and brought before the leader of a local gang of Neo-Nazis known as Purves. He doesn’t take any crap from anyone, demonstrating residual augmented strength from his harness by crushing one of the mouthy one’s hands. Purves points out via a cel phone smuggled in through illegal means that his men on the outside are encircling his daughter and grandson’s home. He goes on to explain that he’s aware of his history, from his initial construction of his harness – which brought up the question of why Toomes chose to exact revenge on his partner instead of gain a measure of payback by patenting the invention – to the time when he used prison tools in workshop to fashion a set of wings that helped him escape. He wants the same done for him in exchange for the lives of his daughter and granddaughter. Toomes agrees to make a list of materials required.
A month later, during a prison riot, Purves is wearing the harness and uses the confusion to get out to the basketball court with Toomes. Via a remote control, Toomes activates the electromagnetic harness, sewn into Purves prison jumpsuit, and he soars away from the Barge. Purves’ men come out from behind the corner, intending to execute Toomes now that his usefulness is over. This execution is stayed off, however, by intervening black prisoners. Via a one-way speaker in the harness, Toomes explains to Purves the reason why he never patented his invention was because when he confronted his partner about the embezzlement claims, he proudly admitted it, almost as if perched from the high ground looking down on him like prey. At that point he vowed to never be at anyone’s mercy ever again, and that HE would be the predator. As Toomes is explaining this, Purves is flying higher up then he wants. Toomes notes that he dropped a line to the African Nation gang, also with men on the outside, that he could take out the Aryan leader if they’d take out the men positioned outside his family’s home (which is carried out gangland style). The harness carries him into the stratusphere as Toomes tells him that the moment he left jail, his power was left behind. The harness acts on an electromagnet, so it’s a simple matter of increasing the polarity so that it’s repelled by the Earth’s own gravitational field. At that point, Purves is dead from lack of oxygen and icing over. All of this confession takes place in Toomes’ cell, and while the guard is telling him it’s lights out, Adrian makes a wish as he sees a falling star – a human-looking one – streak across the sky.
The Spectacular Spider-Girl in Choosing Sides
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Pencils: Ron Frenz
Inks: Sal Buscema
Colorist: Bruno Hang
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
The gangwar continues as Falconi’s Pizza – secretly owned previously by the late Don Rigoletto, passed on to Wilson Fisk, and then to Black Tarantula following the Kingpin’s own death – is destroyed. Two hours later, Captain Ruiz and Detective Drasco discuss the illegal dealings that took place in the back, which only confirm the connection to the gang war. Peter Parker is also present collecting evidence, noting his initial analysis confirms the explosive found matches the kind used previously in similar bombings.
At the Parker home, May “Mayday” Parker finishes stretching from the ceiling while dwelling on her shaky alliance with the Black Tarantula and whether she should take action in the outcome of this gangwar. After showering she is greeted by April, who tries to coax her into getting involved. But MJ, with Ben in her arms, shoots down that idea by reminding them – especially April – that Spider-Girl is currently wanted by the police and may arrest her on sight. April refuses to help feed Ben and uses school as an excuse to get out the door with May and try to work her over on the prospect of the “fun” this gangwar has to offer.
Elsewhere, Man Mountain Marko tries to assure Don Silvio over a game of bowling that with the increased security there is no danger to his person. Silvio points out that he anticipates the opportunity of combating the Black Tarantula again, crushing the very bowling ball in his cybernetically enhanced hands to drive the point across. As for the police, Silvio’s not concerned thanks to a highly-placed snitch in the department, but is weary of wild cards like Spider-Girl.
At Midtown High, April ducks out of talking to Davida and Courtney with May, who inform her that Wes may have discovered Spider-Girl’s secret identity.
Simulatenously, across town at the La Grande Excelsior, Chesbro and Arana debate the million dollar price tag attached to this gangwar with the Black Tarantula. He advises them both to look at the big picture; like natural selection, the war will weed out the weaker criminal syndicates so that the underworld can survive under those still standing. Arana, however, is skeptical, and points out the ensuing collateral damage could include his “precious Spider-Girl.”
Back at Midtown, May catches Eugene Thompson flirting with April and breaks them up quickly. May is about to explain to April that Eugene is her ex for a reason, but when Wes asks to speak to her, she quickly leaves. Wes and April also part ways in a very awkward way. She then changes into her hybrid symbiote mode and cuts school.
April web-slings across town fully sure that May is the clone because she feels the need to answer to everyone and be considerate of what others think. Her train of thought is broken when she comes across a gang shootout. Getting involved she not only attacks the Tarantula’s enemies, but also his subordinates much to their shock! Before she can actually kill someone, the police arrive and she escapes.
Disgusted that everyone thinks she’s Spider-Girl, April stops at the nearest roof and is approached by Marko. Based on what he saw, he thinks he can use someone like her and offers her a job. She listens to his proposal.
Back at school, news of the latest gangland shooting spreads into May’s class. Against her own better judgment May decides she can’t stay on the sidelines any longer.
At Midtown South Police Station, Ruiz and Drasco go over the report of the Spider-Girl lookalike breaking up the shootout. She tells him to leave the report on his desk to review and closes the door, swearing she doesn’t need “masks” in the middle of this war. She turns the light on and finds Spider-Girl hanging from the ceiling, offering her help. She pulls a gun on her and tells her she’s under arrest.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Ben Reilly in Nobody
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils: Chad Hardin
Inks: Wayne Faucher with Rob Campanella
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
SEVEN YEARS AGO. At a Portland middle school, a goatee-sporting Ben Reilly – under the alias of quiet custodian Henry Jones – is given needless grief by his supervisor, Jack, and forces himself to take it, even if the jobs he’s given are the most disgusting. As he cleans a toilet he goes over his life – being cloned by Warren, meeting Janine, and then losing Janine – and is snapped out of his daze by Jack who shoves his head into the toilet. Ben rises in rage, startling Jack, but then restrains himself and washes his face.
After work, at a local tavern, Reilly tries to drown his sorrows in a beer, but knows, like Peter, he can’t stomach much alchohol. He leaves for home, walking through a suburban neighborhood, when his spider-sense goes off. He tries to ignore it, reminding himself it’s Parker’s destiny, not his…but ultimately he can’t.
The source of the danger is a robbery at a local house that’s gone wrong. The father’s been shot in the head, bleeding to death, and his wife and daughter Cheryl are being held at gunpoint by the anguished theif at finding only fifty dollars in the piggy bank. She tells him to check upstairs on the dresser, remembering Samuel usually leaves extra cash there. The mother tells Cheryl to stay put while the theif drags her upstairs to look for it while his partner keeps Cheryl covered.
Upstairs, only finding $150, the theif loses his temper at being fooled by an informant. He decides to take advantage of the situation and throws the woman on the bed. But before he can make a move, two hands come out of the darkness and render him unconscious. Ben warns the woman to stay quiet.
Downstairs, his partners decide he’s taking too long upstairs and want to leave, prepared to take Cheryl along as a hostage. The one called Karl decides to finish what they started and picks up a lamp to smash it on Cheryl’s father’s head. Ben, clinging to the ceiling, disarms him and drags him into the darkness. His partner pulls his gun at the shadows, now scared out of his mind. His gun goes off as Ben, still upside down, grabs him and subdues him. Getting to the ground, Reilly gently wipes the tears away from Cheryl’s face and promises her that she’s going to be okay now that the police are on their way.
The next day, Ben’s cursing himself for getting involved when he’s supposed to keep a low profile. Then Jack comes and starts to hassle him again. Reilly grins and decides to quit…after stuffing a garbage bin over Jack’s head. On his bike on his way out of town, he realizes that regardless of how painful Cheryl’s life may be from this point, at least she’ll have the chance to live it. As for him, he realizes that being a deluded fool like Parker is better than being a nobody.
- Toomes’ craftiness and explanation of his motivations
- Flashback that’s true and to the point for Vulture
- The danger of May being exposed
- Seeing at least ONE thing about the clone saga not being affected by OMD events
- The predictability of May’s inevitable involvement
- Chad Hardin’s design of Ben Reilly
- Clicheed burglars-turned-murderers-turned rapists
- Failure to see how Toomes fits in to “The Gauntlet”
Okay, people, this is a first for me. Normally I’m good at fleshing out a plot or a single issue without any backstories. Juggling three stories will take some getting used to, but I want to thank Brad for giving me the chance to expand my criteria. Now that that’s out of the way, in the words of Judge Mills Lane “Let’s get it on!”
We’ll start in order of sequence. Gauntlet Origins: Vulture gave us insight as to the dual nature of Adrian Toomes. There’s the vengeance-crazed birdman of Alcatraz that we’re all familiar with that’s not intimidated by anyone. And then there’s the other side of him that’s only gained some notoriety as of late: His family life. I don’t know which writer is responsible for giving him a daughter and grandson, but whoever did I fully give credit to them. Though it doesn’t erase the sins he’s committed in the past, in particular what he’s done to Peter’s family, it gives Adrian additional depth. The story in which he stole in order to give his grandson the money for cancer treatments showed redeeming values that have been missing from Vulture for a while. I don’t know if this is because they’ve got a new Vulture devoid of any humanity flying around, but to be honest nothing beats the original. Bringing them in as Purves’ bargaining chip was brilliantly performed. Bringing in the question of Toomes’ religion puts this in the category of the age-old oppression of Jews at the hands of neo-Nazis rather than blackmail. I like how, told through the eyes of Purves, the origin of the Vulture is briefly touched on, and brings up contemporary options that Toomes could have taken, such as patent his harness and profit from that point. I don’t think till now his single-mindedness had been examined in such a way. It’s funny how you never think of these things, the plausibility of taking an alternatre route, until someone speaks up. The wings fashioned for Purves symbolizes an ironic metaphor for freedom that Toomes touches on perfectly. Behind bars Purves had power; now that he was free, that power, that protection, was lost to him and his gang, for he placed his fate in the hands of one just as ruthless and perhaps more scrupulous. I would have liked it, though, if this story was 23 pages long rather than 11. It had the right amount of potential and is one of the strongest stories in the issue. Also, while I liked the homage splash to the first confrontation between Spider-Man and the Vulture, I have this thing about chronology. To show a passage of time, Portela could have put the original emblem on Spidey’s chest and that electromagnetic device he cooked up to beat Toomes’ harness. As for Vulture himself, he could have colored the wings a lighter shade of green as had been the original design. But yes I’m splitting hairs, I know. I just thought I’d put it out there for those who might agree with me. Lastly, getting back to Vulture 3.0 (not 2.0; that title goes to the late Blackie Gaxton), how does Toomes fit in to the Gauntlet? I was expecting Kraven’s daughter to spring him or the new guy coming to cement his place by taking out his predecessor. Or better yet, have this entire Aryan fiasco be one of their tests. Disappointment on that front. But in terms of character, Van Lente nailed it.
Now on to the second story, this one featuring the spectacular Spider-Girl. For this one, I feel there are three plots working before the reader: April’s straddling the line between hero and vigilante, the escalating gangwar, and the conflict of interest May finds herself in. DeFalco makes April work as the Anti-May because every second word out of her mouth is just horrid. You just know that this sister act is not going to work out and will end badly. Hell, she already GLADLY replaced May when she was believed to be dead. Tom’s writing this girl as a kid with all the power but no sense of responsibility at all. She lives only for the thrill of the hunt, the indulgence of every temptation, and survival of the fittest. In a way, the relationship between May and April could very well evolve to the same emotional level as Eddie Brock and Peter on the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon. As for May herself, she truly is her father’s daughter for she’s divided between what’s right for May and what is the right thing to do for Spider-Girl. And at the same time she has to deal with the fact that her ex is flirting with her promiscuous “cousin,” while Wes could be on to her double ID…which shouldn’t be a bad thing. I mean, Wes would make a better confidante than Thompson. Props on DeFalco for maintaining the status quo of Thompson Jr. carrying on the pompous ass tradition. And yes I said JUNIOR; Flash’s real name is Eugene for those who don’t know. Then there’s the gang war. For this subplot, though a major plotpoint, it’s still the weakest subject in this story. This is probably due to the limited space. None of the major players in this subplot are given adequate screen time. It’s almost on the par of a newspaper strip. Hopefully this will change when The Spectacular Spider-Girl hits the newsstands. The cliffhanger ending is an interesting parallel to the relationship between Spider-Man and Captain Stacy; where he gladly accepted the webhead’s help and gave him benefit of the doubt, Captain Ruiz doesn’t want anything to do with Spider-Girl, especially after April’s antics. Putting May at odds with her father’s boss makes for good story. DeFalco’s writing is the main reason why I still read Spider-Girl stories. While I still miss Pat Olliffe’s pencils, Frenz and Buscema’s work gives the stories that old-school Spidey feel that’s needed.
Sadly, this is where we come to the weakest story in the book. While it’s good to see Ben Reilly alive and well, albeit several years back, taking grief and kicking butt as any Spider-Man should, this story’s quality is beneath him. His plight isn’t lost on the reader, and having DeMatteis – the mastermind behind the Clone Saga – write it was a good move on the editor’s part. But he just felt like a bit player. And I don’t really approve of Chad’s design of Ben. He looked nothing LIKE Parker, and this was with short hair and a goatee. As to the main conflict of the piece – staying below the radar vs getting involved – this read like a “Smallville” episode because you KNOW this foreshadows his return to the webs. The robbery/murder would have made more sense if the father’s job would have had some inkling to a large income for these losers to sieze. Oh, and just for fun JM threw in an attempted rape to make these guys more slimier. Dude, we get it: they’re bad guys. There’s no need to keep accentuating the volatility of the situation for the mother and the child. Again, you’re trying to cram too much into so little screen time. However, I did like the last bit at the end involving Jack; that Flash-wannabe definitely had that trash can coming.
Overall, we had some good story points and weak plotpoints, but it was a good issue based on nostalgia and creativity. I feel privileged to be taking on Web and look for 110% from me in this review and my other in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. Late!
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Webs
COVER: 4 out of 5 Webs
I’ve always been a fan of Jelena Djurdjevic’s renderings. She doesn’t disappoint here. Her work on Toomes is iconic, almost regal, and organic. The badass look in his eyes is amazing. I’d give this a full five stars if not for one little fact: relevance to the interiors. From the cover you expect this issue to be totally dedicated to The Vulture, and yet you find an 11-page plot. Yes this cover makes you WANT to pick it up, but the payoff has to be as attractive as the exterior cover. But I’m not knocking the work. As an artist myself I commend her on her use of photorealistic proportions and color. Keep it up!