Hey! Let’s pay our pal Herman a shocking visit!
The Shocker is after some data from a security firm office. His antics attract Spidey’s attention and the two tussle but Shocker escapes with the firm’s client list. The list is part of his plan to take down the criminal killing vigilante Scourge.
Elsewhere a couple arrive in NYC, seemingly intent upon seeing the Parkers for some important purpose. The woman worries about their presence having a negative impact upon Peter’s life.
Speaking of Mr. Parker he’s at Aunt May’s house in Forest Hills fetching a photo of his parents’ wedding day. Aunt May expresses concern for the risks he takes as a photographer and wants him to give it up. Peter reassures her he’s cautious whilst on the job and heads over to ESU. En route he ponders that May’s concerns are probably due to her recent encounter with the Vulture (see ‘Funeral Arrangements’ from the DeMatteis/Buscema Spec run). When he reaches the campus he hands over the photo to two of his peers who are using it for a computer program that creates a digital image of what people will look like when they are older.
Later Shocker attacks the Daily Bugle but is accosted by Spidey and members of Silver Sable’s Wild Pack (who’re under the hire of Jameson). He gets away again but after talking to Robbie Peter learns that Shocker was after some research data about a space shuttle launch.
Back with the mysterious couple, the pair have opted to put off seeing Peter for a little while but reaffirm they have to go through with meeting him soon enough.
Later at his apartment Peter finishes hours of work cross-referencing the Bugle’s research data on the space shuttle with the client list Shcoker took. From this he has figured out Shocker is after a special air compressor from a place called Moleed labs. He is about to head off when Aunt May drops by to once again express concerns over the risks he takes as a photographer and wanting him to give it up. Peter rebuffs her in order to head off and stop Shocker, but May notes the address Peter highlighted and decides to go there and talk him out of endangering himself, or at least contacting the police to protect him.
At Moleed labs itself, Shocker has bypassed the security and has his hands on the air compressor, intending to use it to make his vibro-shock abilities even more powerful. Spidey attacks him before he has a chance to do this but is caught off guard when he spots Aunt May. While he convinces her to get to safety, Spidey allows Shocker the time he needs to augment the air compressor into his suit and become a far more potent threat.
Realizing his only hope is to damage the air compressor unit Spidey grips onto the tubes, trying to crush them, but he takes close range punishing blows from Shocker whilst he’s at it. Nevertheless the compressor explodes, knocking Shocker out cold.
As the police take him away, Peter catches up to Aunt May and the two have a heart to heart where Peter makes her see he can look after himself but also reassures her that she’s the mother he never had and nothing can change the love he has for her.
Later that night at ESU the computer program completes its work revealing that were Peter’s alive today they’d look…exactly like the mysterious couple we met earlier…
To sum this issue up, it’s… average.
But I don’t mean that in a demeaning way.
Okay, let’s start with worst aspects of the story…the parents subplot.
As many readers may well know (and painfully remember) in the early-mid 1990s Peter Parker’s parents, Richard and Mary were revealed (in ASM #365, the 30th anniversary of Spider-Man) to have been alive imstead of dead. Later on they turned out to be similicra, a kind of artificial life robots created by the Chameleon on the suggestion Harry Osborn. The subplot lasted almost 2 years with little movement and development before a resolution that many found dissatisfying to say the least.
Now in fairness to this issue it’d be wrong to hold all that against it, let alone Michelinie who penned this tale. Putting aside how that baggage is down the line from this issue, Michelinie was mandated to do this parents thing by then editor Danny Fingeroth who didn’t settle for a long time as to whether these guys really were Peter’s parents or not.
This tied the hands of many of the writers, in particular Michelinie who was in charge of handling them the most. You can clearly see him trying to leave his options open during the scenes starring Richard and Mary. They refer to Peter in rather formal and impersonal ways that don’t really make much sense if they really are his parents.
At the same time though they seem rather emotional. Especially Mary, who is reluctant to go through with meeting Peter which is really weird if they aren’t his parents and are on a mission. I won’t dive too deep into what happens later with them but at face value this doesn’t make much sense with where their characters wind up unless you really think about it.
The point is Michelinie was trying here to allow himself the opportunity to resolve things either way that Fingeroth decides.
It does make their true motives and even true identities rather more mysterious though, so kudos to him for making a little lemonade out of the crappy lemons he was handed in that regard.
What really doesn’t work with them at all is that the issue is way too obvious about who they are. It’s not that this is a poorly executed mystery or reveal, this just…isn’t a mystery at all. And it would be far more effective if it was. Ironically this is the opposite problem to what many people criticise Michelinie over in regards to his unveiling of Venom. There the complaint (justified or not) was that Eddie Brock was never set up. Here, the story set up the parents to the point where the reveal next issue really doesn’t mean all that much beyond the subplot the readers know about catching up to the main plot following Peter himself.
Okay, in fairness that’s a fault of next issue more than this one, and honestly it’s more that we could’ve gotten something more impactful rather than something that was just eyebrow raising. In isolation this issue all but comes out and proclaims these guys are Peter’s parents but leaves a little doubt. With that in play the issue ends in such a way that readers would need to wonder where this is going so…not that bad really. A compromise might have been that we got the same scenes we got but their faces were obscured.
What works waaaaaaay less and is unquestionably the worst part of the issue is the stuff with Aunt May.
It’s not that it doesn’t make sense so much as it’s just pretty typical and cliché. Really the only reason it’s here is to reaffirm to the characters and readers that Peter and May have a child/parent relationship and so with the ‘return’ of Peter’s ‘parents’ that’s going to be tested.
It’s not that May’s actions in context of recent referenced events (like the Vulture storyline, how convenient that he’d be mentioned) are illogical or unjustified it’s just…kinda lame is all. I think there were better ways to remind the readers that May loved Peter like a son and he loves her like a mother.
And honestly…those are the only legitimate criticisms I have for this issue.
Everything else was…fine.
Not great, not brilliant writing, or something that develops the characters just….fine.
Essentially it’s just a standard meat and potatoes Spider-Man adventure where a colourful super villain has a crime they want to commit and Spidey has to track them down and stop them before or during said crime.
There is nothing special about this type of story. It’s been done a thousand times in Spider-Man and a million times in superhero stories in general.
And the reason for that is because…it works. Fundamentally it’s the bedrock of what superhero comics are. Good guy with super powers uses them altruistically to stop bad guy with super powers from using their powers for nefarious means.
Sure, doing this all the time is a bad thing, but honestly not doing it enough also has a detrimental effect. Consider how in modern Spider-Man every arc is something big. In ASM Volume 4 we went from showcasing Spider-Man being in charge of a global tech conglomerate to him saving the world from Zodiac, to his new girlfriend betraying him, to a crossover with Iron Man featuring Mary Jane and the Regent popping up in the 616 universe, to Aunt May’s husband dying, to the return of Ben Reilly, to Norman Osborn trying to take over Silver Sable’s home country.
There is no breather, there is no real status quo that just exists as the characters life. It’s just hopping from one noteworthy event to the next. Consider the Ditko and Romita runs where things happened to progress Peter’s life and subplots but in a quasi-believable almost day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month time frame. He wasn’t lifting machinery off his back, graduating, meeting Mary Jane, witnessing Captain Stacy die or dealing with Harry’s drug addiction every arc.
This issue, like many of the issues from that era are just…a day in the life mostly.
There is nothing big or special going on. It’s just an average day for Spider-Man albeit with something big on the horizon with his parents.
Doing stories like this work well for superhero serials and especially Spider-Man as they make the world feel more realistic, as though there isn’t some big crisis happening all the time and engrains into you that these sorts of adventures are just…his life. This is what he does day-to-day most of the time. Usually it isn’t something seismic or world threatening.
To this end the Shocker works great. Great design, fun powers, basic working man super criminal type of guy, nobody who’s a big deal. Much like Spider-Man he’s just doing his thing, living his life although it’s one of criminality.
I think that is part of the Shocker’s appeal to many fans. He hasn’t got the grandiosity of your Venoms, or Doc Ocks or Green Goblins, nor the outright silliness that Kraven or even Mysterio used to bring. He exists in a nice in between where he’s just a bad guy trying to get on living his life of crime.
At the same time though as this issue proves he isn’t a pushover either. Whilst the character has (probably due to his costume design) often been rendered as a joke this issue showcases him as fairly competent. He’s a far cry from an A-lister like Doctor Doom, but he isn’t someone Spidey can just take down with a snappy one liner and a right hook either.
If I had to collectively describe Peter and Shocker’s characters in this issue with one word it would be: competent.
They aren’t bad ass uber strategists or anything. They just have their goals and go about achieving them in practical and logical ways that most of us could come up with if we put our minds to it (though obviously lacking certain technical skills).
Shocker’s plan here isn’t ingenious, audacious or anything like that. He just needs some extra firepower to survive someone on his case and is tracking down the information he needs to get it. He doesn’t even burst in guns blazing and murderizing a load of people. He just finds out where the tech he’s looking for is located, figures out the security systems and gets past them. On the flipside Spidey does a little detective work that’s not worthy of Holmes but also isn’t ridiculously contrived and showcases his smarts. Then he finds Shocker, fights him and stops him.
Really the most ambitious thing in this story is the ways Shocker’s powers are used. Initially they are practical and make sense, harkening back to his early appearances and later they’re boosted to make him a greater threat. Similarly Spider-Man is shown in a nice light through his endurance and his on the fly inventiveness.
It might not be deep or complex or have much flair to it, but neither are the characters over written, under written or generally rendered out of character.
It’s basic, but it works and it’s executed well enough. It’s refreshing in this day and age to read a story like this to be honest, even compared to other titles that are good. Again, we just don’t get that many ‘day in the life’ standard super hero adventure yarns and that is a darn shame.
At the same time I imagine this would have been rather refreshing in the context of when it was written. Remember this is 1992, there are three other Spider-Man titles abounding. Two of them are very inconsistent in quality usually being fairly below average at best. The other one is great but very dark, very complex, very heavy. And even in ASM the previous three issues have presented us with a multi-part story starring Venom and introducing a new violent foe in Carnage.
So just getting a plain ordinary Spidey super hero yarn probably would’ve been a nice breather amidst everything else going on at the time (and was to come).
Were this published today I’d be half happy with it for all the reasons listed above and half mad due to the extortionate price modern comics charge plus the crap we’ve gone through to facilitate this type of standard plot.
In context and as is though, this is perfectly decent for the most part.
And on a final note the art from Bagely is solid though not the height of his powers.
Don’t rush out to get this or pay too much for it but if you are looking for some light Spidey fun to kill a little time pick it up.
Huh? The Tinkerer showed up last review and now the Shocker? You don’t think that…hey look!
It’s a bird!
A really big and really green bird…
Author: Alex Evangeli
I’ve loved Spider-Man, Spider-Girl and the Clone Saga since I were but a wee lad living in the United Kingdom. Glad to be here!