Into the back issue box #32

Today ... the weirdest entry yet!  Well, okay, not the weirdest, but it certainly has a gigantic lack of information right in the middle of it, which is kind of weird.

Let's see ... the rules of these posts are, as always, just a click away!

Web of Spider-Man #22 ("Profit of Doom").  Published by Marvel, January 1987.


I have no idea who wrote this comic.  I have no idea who drew this comic.  There is nothing in this comic to indicate who wrote, drew, lettered, colored, or edited this puppy.  This is a comic book published by freakin' Marvel, and there are no credits anywhere.  Is it me, or is that just a tad strange?  If I had to guess, I would have said Alex Saviuk on art, because I know he did quite a bit of the series, but the hair on one of the characters looked vaguely familiar ... I did some checking, and discovered the credits: Len Kaminski and Jim Shooter wrote it, Art Nichols inked it, and Marc Silvestri drew the confounded thing.  Ah ha!  Marc Silvestri, you can never hide the way you draw hair, young man, even at the very beginning of your career!

So, one mystery solved.  That was fun.  What about the issue over which these fine gentlemen labored and for which they received no credit?  Well, we begin in Belfast, which looks, as a word balloon coming out of a car tells us, "like Berlin -- during World War II!"  Who says this?  Why, it's Peter Parker (although we don't know that yet), whos' driving around with a foxy blonde.  She's the reporter, he's the photojournalist, and I suppose they're going to get in wacky adventures in war-torn Northern Ireland.  Peter's "spider-sense" tingles, warning him of an attack by hooded bad dudes.  We learn that the reporter's name is Joy, and she covered the war in Beirut.  One of the bad dudes sees them, but before he can shoot them all to hell, Peter uses his flash bulb to temporarily blind the dude.  Before he can recover, the soldiers cut him down, which makes Peter sad.


The soldiers make Joy and Peter get out of the car and open the "boot" (or, as one of them explains, "The rear o' the car, man!  The troonk!") so they can make sure they're not "more of those bloody Black Hoods."  When they're satisfied they are actually reporters, the soldiers send them on their way.  On the next page we get some exposition, as Joy explains that she has to call "Jonah" at "Now" (which we learn later is a magazine), while Peter calls his Aunt May in Queens.  In the brief phone call, we find out that May is running a boarding home and she's losing tenants.  We don't learn any more about it, but presumably it's a long-running storyline.  Joy comes to get Peter and tells him they're going to track down the Black Hoods.


As they walk the streets, Peter asks her what she knows.  All she can say is that the Black Hoods have something to do with Roxxon.  We find out eventually that Roxxon is some kind of multinational corporation, which in the world of comics makes them evil.  Joy and Peter discovered that Roxxon was up to "illicit activities" in Appalachia, so Joy did some digging, and believes they're mixed up in this.  However, armored vehicles drive by at that moment, so they follow.  They reach an apartment complex which has an upper floor burning, and Joy narrates that if this is the work of the Black Hoods, she doesn't know what they're trying to accomplish - all they're doing is scaring the locals.  As Peter takes pictures, a suspicious-looking dude stumbles against trash cans near them, and when that draws the attention of a soldier, he begs them to cover for him.  Peter claims he knocked over the trash can, allowing the guy to escape.  They track him down, and he says he was hiding from the Black Hoods.  Liam (for that is his name) tells them that a month ago, his brother disappeared, and he believes the Black Hoods killed him.  He's been trying to prove it, and they're after him because of it.  He takes them to a pub, where some of the locals tell them more about the Black Hoods.  They simply bomb and kill, and never tell anyone - the police, the press - what they want.  They don't discriminate, either - they kill Catholics and Protestants, police, soldiers, and children.  While Joy and Peter learn all this, a suspicious patron leaves the bar.  As Joy speculates that Roxxon is behind this, Peter wonders how they would profit from all the death and destruction.  Silly Peter!  His spider-sense goes off again, and the Black Hoods show up and kidnap them.  Peter thinks to himself that he could easily take them out if he could act as Spider-Man, but he doesn't want Joy to get hurt.  If we hadn't figured out who he is by now, what with the "spider-sense" and all, this clinches it.


Peter and Joy end up in the Roxxon building, where the bad guy, Ian Forbes, explains his diabolical and dastardly plan, like a good Bond villain.  He shows them the "AK-X Antipersonnel Particle Beam Cannon," which Roxxon built for the American military.  When the Pentagon cancelled their contract, Roxxon was forced "to seek alternative methods to recover" their investment.  He gives them a demonstration, and tells them a nice fact: it tends to overheat an explode, with a blast radius of 500 feet.  Even the Pentagon didn't want that!  The board of directors tried to market it in the Middle East, but "thanks to the American government," Roxxon had to shut down virtually all of its interests in that region.  Remember the good old days when people thought the government WASN'T in bed with big business, even though they were?  So Roxxon tried the English government.  With the help of Duncan O'Neill, Agent 003 of the British Secret Service (man, Bond should have killed that dude!), they created the Black Hoods to create chaos in Northern Ireland.  With the help of key members of Parliament and O'Neill, who's been an employee of Roxxon longer than he's been a member of the Secret Service, they fan the flames until the government buys the AK-X.  Oh, the mad genius of such a scheme!  Forbes tells his goon squad to take them away, instead of, you know, shooting them in the head.  Sheesh.


Peter is trying to figure out a way to get away from Joy so he can presto chango to Spider-Man, and he gets his chance when Liam rescues them.  Yes, Liam, armed only with a club, managed to break into the Roxxon facility, maneuver past the guards, and rescue Peter and Joy.  Now that's security!  Joy and Peter want to get proof of Roxxon's plan, so Peter suggests they split up.  He goes alone, so he can change into his costume (interestingly enough, as he's changing, he's thinking that it's a good thing Joy suggested they split up, even though the word balloon is coming from his mouth).  He gets into his spiffy black togs and heads to the vast room where the weapon is housed.  He beats up some goons and manages to avoid the blasts from the AK-X when a bad guy fires it at him.  When he's taken care of all the bad guys, he asks one of them where Duncan is, but Duncan is fleeing on a helicopter that's about to land on the roof.  Spidey climbs the building and see Forbes about to get on the 'copter with Joy and Liam.  He springs into action and rescues the prisoners, but Forbes escapes.  Spidey throws a "spider-tracer" onto the helicopter and turns back to the prisoners.  A Black Hood is about to shoot Joy, but Liam comes up behind him and shoots him.  As they're about to leave, the Black Hood calls Liam's name.  No points for you if you figured out that it's actually Rory, Liam's brother!  Oh, the family drama!  Oh, the irony!  Spidey goes back and "rescues" Peter, and later, as the troops burst into the Roxxon building, Joy mentions that Forbes and O'Neill won't stand trial because they're too well-connected.  Peter's sense of justice is outraged by this, but Joy tells him life isn't fair.  As a coda, Forbes' helicopter explodes over the Atlantic Ocean, because he failed his masters at SPECTRE - I mean, Roxxon.  An executive says Forbes was just costing them too much with his scheme and they couldn't afford him any longer.  So a small measure of justice is served.


This is pretty much a perfect comic book to hook a new reader.  It tells a story in one issue, it's uncomplicated, and we get enough information about the principals to be invested in it.  It's kind of a simplistic story, but that's fine.  We might expect to see more of Spider-Man, but what Kaminski and Shooter do nicely is show us Peter Parker as a hero as much as Spider-Man.  We get to see Peter in his job and how he tries to help people even when he's not swinging around.  We also get to see how difficult it is for people with secret identities to get away so they can put on their costumes.  It's nicely done by the writers, because most of the time writers don't really put much thought into the change - some deus ex machina comes up that allows the hero to slip away.  Of course, Joy is a pretty dumb reporter if she can't figure out that Spider-Man seems to show up a lot where Peter is, but that's something we have to deal with in superhero comics.  It's also nice to see that the English and Irish soldiers in the employ of Roxxon don't know who Spidey is.  Why would they, necessarily?  Sure, some people internationally would know who he is, but certainly not everyone.


As you can tell, the story is simplistic, but at least it acknowledges that there are more complexities to the world than just beating the bad guy.  The fact that the Pentagon wouldn terminate Roxxon's contract for the reason given is kind of laughable in light of what we know about the government's relationship with conglomerates, but the idea of a multinational corporation sowing the seeds of disaster in order to profit off of it is handled well, as is the fact that Forbes is above the law but not above the bottom line.  Even in a straight-forward story such as this, there's some nuances that make it more interesting than it might appear.  A first-time comic book reader would not be able to dismiss this as simple adolescent wish-fulfillment, even if they don't think the problems in Northern Ireland are handled all that well.


All in all, this is certainly a comic book that would bring back readers.  It's clearly-drawn (Silvestri hadn't discovered the magic of cross-hatching yet, I guess), it's exciting, it hints at a broader story in Peter's life, and it has nice characterization.  It's a fairly standard comic book, but it's certainly interesting enough to make you wonder more about Peter's life.  And that's kind of the point.

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