This issue is cover-dated March 2010. Mysterio is the focus of the origin story here, preparing for his Gauntlet story in Amazing Spider-Man #618-620 by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin. Mysterio first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #13 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (cover pictured to the right).
Production: Paul Acerios
Editor: Tom Brennan
Supervising Editor: Stephen Wacker
Cover Artist: Jelena Djurdjevic
“GAUNTLET ORIGINS: MYSTERIO”
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Barry Kitson
Color Art: Jeremy Cox
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
THE STORY: Quentin Beck talks to his SFX mentor, Ray Bradhaus, about not believing in the powers of “the Marvels” and Bradhaus’ own impressive special effects career, specifically an effect with a demon on a wall. Beck gasses Bradhaus, changing into Mysterio, then briefly reminisces on his being blacklisted following an actor catching on fire from one of his own effects. He then goes into Bradhaus’ rather impressive dungeon in search of the secret of that demon effect, only to be attacked by the demon. When said demon disappears, Beck thinks he’s beaten the effect and now no longer needs anything from his mentor. Meanwhile, Dr. Strange revives Bradhaus and they reveal that the demon was real, and was beaten by Strange, not Mysterio.
MY THOUGHTS: Ok, so there’s nothing really wrong with this story on the face of it if you like a little supernatural story starring Mysterio, but once again I find myself asking – what’s the point? I’m going to revisit my three criteria I used last issue for the Rhino origin story. 1) Did this story present useful information? As with the Rhino, it seems to be a bit of a primer only for someone who’s never ever heard of Mysterio, ever. So maybe that is the target audience for these issues. Brand new to Spider-Man and don’t know who this guy coming up in the Gauntlet is? Here’s a tiny bit of info so you can feel like you’re slightly in the know. Though there’s really nothing here you couldn’t get from the Gauntlet story in ASM. It pretty much just tells us Mysterio’s an effects guy – which EVERY Mysterio story tells you – and that he was blacklisted for burning an actor…which doesn’t actually matter. 2) Does this story add to the upcoming Gauntlet story? This is a flat-out no. I can’t see anything here that could be considered to enrich Slott’s concurrent story. This is totally separate and unrelated in every way. 3) Does it offer entertainment value on its own? This is where this story really wins over the Rhino story. While I don’t think it really offers anything as a Gauntlet prelude, when looked at on its own I really have no problem with it. It’s a decent little Mysterio story with references to his first plot (impersonating Spider-Man) that includes some good examples of his ingenuity. And, as usual, Barry Kitson’s art is gorgeous. It’s a crime that he’s not one of the permanent artists on ASM right now or a regular on one of the satellite books. If there’s one thing I miss about the Brand New Day era, it’s Kitson’s art. He draws beautiful looking characters with dynamic action every single time.
I also want to take a minute here to talk about that cover (though it won’t factor into this story’s specific grade). Jelena Djurdjevic is an excellent artist and has done many beautiful covers in her career, but this Mysterio cover might just be my favorite. She makes Mysterio mysterious – and creepy! The eyes on his costume look like very real eyes, and with the eyes on his actual face in shadow, that makes it all the more creepy. If we saw images like this more often, maybe people would stop making fun of the fishbowl.
GRADE: 3 webs out of 5. A decent little short, but it loses points for failing to support the story it’s supposed to be a prelude to.
“THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-GIRL in THEY FIRST MAKE MAD”
Pencils: Ron Frenz
Inks: Sal Buscema
Colorist: Bruno Hang
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
THE STORY: Spider-Girl battles Fury the Goblin Queen while Darkdevil battles symbiotic Spider-Girl clone April. April reveals that there’s a bomb around her neck controlled by Fury, so she may not have actually fully switched sides. At Cafe Indigo, did Wes just figure out that May is Spider-Girl? At the police station, Rene DeSantos is taken from local authorities to be held by Kaine’s government team. Meanwhile, Black Tarantula pulls his associates Arana and Chesbro out of the rubble from last issue’s explosion. Back at the big brawl, April slips the bomb off her neck and tosses it at Fury, saving the day. Kaine says Fury will be dropped in a deep dark hole somewhere. April and May swing off into the night together.
MY THOUGHTS: Another solid chapter from the excellent classic Spidey team of DeFalco, Frenz, and Buscema. This chapter actually feels much stronger, though, because it doesn’t feel so cluttered and busy. There’s still plenty going on, but I didn’t get whiplash from seemingly unrelated things popping up all over the place. The one-page check-in with Black Tarantula even felt less out of place this time since the possibility of a mob war was mentioned elsewhere in the issue. All in all this was just a solidly entertaining story with flawless art (which I could praise all day but can’t really add much to what I said last issue). I’m definitely hooked for what’s to come.
GRADE: 4.5 webs out of 5. I can’t quite bring myself to give this a perfect score because I know this team has bigger and better stories in them, but there are no flaws in the way this one was told.
“HAMMERHEAD in WESTERN PROMISES”
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Eric Canete
Color Art: Andres Mossa
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
THE STORY: Hammerhead is sent by Mr. Negative to take out a Russian called The General. Hammerhead instead makes The General an offer to get out of the country, because the General once helped Hammerhead’s dad get out of Russia. Hammerhead mentions that Mr. Negative won’t always be in charge and he might call on his friends one day.
MY THOUGHTS: Unlike the Gauntlet Origins stories in this series, this Hammerhead short comes over a year AFTER the character’s return in Amazing Spider-Man. And it sure seems like it’s setting up some things to come, but it’s been nearly three years since this issue’s release now and it has still come to nothing. It’s not a bad little story, it just seems in want of a point. I certainly wouldn’t have minded seeing some mob war material by Frank Tieri pop up in Amazing Spider-Man or a satellite title – he’s a writer that is right in his wheelhouse with this sort of thing.
As for the art, I still don’t find Eric Canete’s style aesthetically pleasing, but he does tell the story adequately and his characters do act pretty well, so I can’t fault him too much just because his style isn’t to my taste. Definitely better stuff here than in his Spidey/Deadpool team-up issue in ASM #611.
GRADE: 3 webs out of 5. Not bad, but seems to be a lead-in to absolutely nothing.