Sensational Spider-Man #16-18 Review

AAADRIIAANNN!…These old folks don’t hear so well…

Sensational Spider-Man 017-00


You all know Hobie Brown right? Former window washer turned sometimes tech savvy superhero the Prowler?


Well life hasn’t been too great for ol’ Hobie as of late. His involvement in a competition called ‘The Great Game’ ended with him being hospitalized and possibility permanently paralyzed.


That’ll do us for background context.


Over in this story, Hobie’s wife Mindy awakes to find someone has stolen her husband’s tech and become a new Prowler.


In Forest Hills another superhero wife (Mary Jane) is tending to her husband’s recent bite wounds from Morbius the Living Vampire. When Aunt Anna (she’s living with them) tries to take their laundry (including Peter’s costume) shenanigans ensue, though the Parkers keep Peter’s secret under wraps.


In the hospital Hobie Brown awakes from a nightmare where someone dies using the technology he built. He tells Mindy of his fears and his frustrations about being stuck in the hospital bed when Spider-Man speaks up, promising to bring in the guy who stole Hobie’s identity. As Spidey begins his search he thinks about how Hobie has a good chance of walking again, but that this situation is eating away at him.


Later, using his newfound tech to make a big score, ‘the Prowler’ is interrupted during a crime by the Vulture. This would be the original Vulture by the way, albeit he’s had his youth restored (because of Peter’s robot parents, don’t ask) and intends to use it to settle his old vendettas, which includes one with the real Prowler. Spider-Man intervenes but when Vulture tells him Prowler is escaping, he’s caught off guard and Vulture escapes too.


The next day Peter is angry that the Savage Land story he covered in previous issues was pushed to page 11 but Jonah is having none of his protests. Instead he assigns Peter the task of mentoring new cub reporter Billy Walters. Peter is not pleased about being paired up with an overzealous newbie and is even less happy when they’re first assignment is covering a disturbance involving the Prowler. Prowler is attacking someone who crossed him in the past, but when Peter makes a move to become Spider-Man, Billy tags along.


Peter convinces Billy to observe the story whilst he leaves ‘to take pictures’. As the Prowler tosses his former boss off of the construction site, Spider-Man arrives and manages to save the guy. Prowler gets away by releasing a girder onto the crowd, requiring Spider-Man to save them. Later Peter (concerned after spotting Vulture during the fight) is annoyed by Billy’s awe at the super powered fight and his general enthusiasm, but has a slight change of heart when he hears Billy praise Spider-Man.


At his home the new Prowler mentions that he works in the intensive care ward where he obtained addresses of the patients he plans on stealing from; however the Vulture has followed him home.


Back at the hospital, Hobie theorises that when he was brought into the hospital for his back injury some of his costume was still attached to his body. He elaborates that somebody might have noticed and used his address to find his gear. He hands over a list of people working in the E.R. that night so Spider-Man can check them all out. Before Spidey leaves though, Hobie tearfully thanks him for his help.


The Prowler returns home from a haul to discover the Vulture there. Spider-Man arrives at Prowler’s home (the last address on Hobie’s list) but before he can get involved he experiences a severe dizzy spell, likely (he thinks) from Morbius’ bite. Getting himself together Spidey manages to beat Vulture and webs Prowler to the wall. Vulture tries to escape but Spider-Man stops him before experiencing another dizzy spell which allows Vulture to gain the upper hand.


When Spidey regains his vision, he sees Vulture preparing to slice up the still webbed up Prowler with his razor sharp wings.



Meanwhile over at the Ravencroft Institute, Dr. Kafka discovers that David Kalen (a.k.a. the former villain D.K.) has vacated his cell and gone off to die.


Back at ‘Prowler’s’ home, Spidey is still disorientated and helpless to stop the Vulture from slicing up the Prowler. Angered, Spider-Man punches out Vulture and webs him up whilst he takes Prowler to the hospital, feeling guilty that if not for his webbing, Prowler wouldn’t have been a sitting duck for the Vulture. Thankfully the doctors manage to save the Prowler and the police are on standby to arrest him.


Later Spider-Man tells Hobie the whole story about how the new Prowler was a failed medical student who stole from the patients and found Hobie’s gear, deciding to capitalize on the opportunity. Before he leaves Hobie and his wife inform Spidey that due to his inspiration in helping them Hobie’s making a speedy recovery. Straining to lift his arm up, Hobie shakes Spider-Man’s hand and thanks him once again.


Back in Forest Hills, Peter tells MJ about his day whilst Aunt Anna worries about a stranger watching their house from the neighbour’s yard. The Vulture meanwhile rants in his hideout about his desire to kill everyone who knows him and start his life anew.


Later at the Bugle Peter asks Jonah to split him and Billy up, but Jonah says no, commenting upon Billy’s great new article. When Jonah lies to Billy and says the article was merely okay, Peter feels sorry for Billy and encourages him to tag along to their next story. The story in question involves D.K. who’s been calling for Spider-Man in Central Park all day.


En route Billy asks if Peter thinks Spider-Man will show up. To protect his identity Peter says he bets Spider-Man won’t show up, but unfortunately it’s a bet Billy takes him up on. Spidey confronts D.K. who informs our hero that he’s dying, decaying himself from the inside out. He just wanted to tell Spider-Man thank you one last time before he went out for good.


As D.K. dissolves the Vulture strikes and falls into the puddle of ooze D.K. left behind. When he emerges he’s been returned to his elderly state once again and carted off by the police.


Peter forks over his five bucks to Billy.



Todd Dezago can do reliable ‘all ages’ Spidey stories and this yarn is proof positive of that. This is nothing, ahem, sensational but nevertheless pretty good.


Wieringo’s art is as light and poppy as ever, though it does maybe get a little too cartoony at times. James Armstrong who finishes the story is similar enough to Wieringo that he does a respectable job of following his work.


The Prowler’s appearance is most welcome. Prowler is a solid supporting character who is way too often overlooked and forgotten. He’s classic and has a decent concept behind him, especially in the context of Spider-Man’s world where he has a somewhat similar story to Peter Parker’s, both being inventive young men without much cash to spare. The scene where Hobie tearfully thanks Spider-Man in the hospital was genuinely strong; it shows Hobie isn’t a shallow character and that there is more to be done with his relationship with Spidey. After all he did help Spidey famously maintain his identity back in Stan’s run.


Furthermore Hobie thanking Spidey and attributing his recovery to him (even straining himself to move his arm and shake hands) was touching, albeit a bit repetitive from the previously mentioned scene. Nevertheless it was cool seeing Spider-Man have a friendship like this with a long term established character and be the kind of hero who helps people through more than  just punching the crap out of bad guys.


The action scenes were standard but mostly respectable throughout able to cope with the crappy young Vulture. Particular highlights were the scenes where Pete saves everyone from the girder falling and his dominating the fight. It was just a set of bad ass hero moments.


However, the Vulture/Prowler confrontation wrapped up a tad too quickly and as much as Spider-Man protested about the blood the Prowler was losing, we see no visual evidence of this. In a way that’s bad storytelling because it’s telling and not showing but Sensational was very much the light and fun Spider-book back in this era and frankly compared to the gore we’ve gotten in comics from more recent years it is refreshing.


However there really isn’t much in the way of a mystery here as the new Prowler is pretty obviously someone from Hobie’s hospital. This becomes so much worse when the new guy begins ranting about med school


Billy Walters gets his first full on introduction here and goes on a bit of a journey in these issues. Whilst I am personally fond of the character because of his presence in the books when I began reading, initially he does come off as the stereotypical annoying, overly eager rookie sidekick. This improves a little as the story moves forward and his sincere enthusiasm shines through. Part of me wonders if Billy was Dezago inserting himself into the stories as it wasn’t that long before this story’s publication that he was learning the ropes under Tom DeFalco.


In the final instalment of the story Peter’s complaining about Billy and then making him feel better was a tiny moment that enforced the kid as a decent, likable guy. I know such qualities are typical for many characters but it’s a kind o characterisation we haven’t seen in Spider-Man for a long time in recent years. It is also refreshing in context following on from the darkness of the Clone Saga and pre-Clone Saga eras. Furthermore Billy’s enthusiasm becomes less annoying when pointed out by other characters. In fact it becomes a somewhat more endearing quality for the character, which I commend Dezago for. His author avatar/pet character grows on you…although he needed to stop using ‘totally radical teenage lingo dude’, like



This is so phat!



On a more trivial note Dezago did some really superfluous but nevertheless nice domestic scenes in this story. The farcical laundry scene for example was innocent fun and not taken too far. Similarly the scene between MJ and Pete in the darkroom was endearing and fairly realistic. It’s just a couple talking about their day, the kind of thing that would happen if Spidey was real and after all that’s part of his whole concept. The main downside of the scene is that it almost feels like Dezago wraps up one storyline too quickly, only to then provide exposition on what he just wrapped up and then he moves onto another storyline. I’m not going to say its bad structuring of a story but it is…odd.


But not as odd as having the two D.K. back up stories from the first two issues (which in-universe happen before the main stories of both issues) dovetail into the climax of the third issue…what the Hell?


As for the Vulture himself though…I’m sorry…outside of being a physical challenge he was just bad in this story. His goals barely make sense. Do people like not   know he is younger now? Are people unable to find out what he looked like when he was younger? No? Then how is he set for a fresh start in his life really?


And he repeats these goals multiple times, the worst offender being when he is ranting out loud to himself in a stereotypically melodramatic super villain manner…for purely exposition purposes. The resolution to his role is also unsatisfying as it amounts to Spider-Man more or less ducking and Vulture hitting a puddle of goop….That’s it. It’s undignified even if it gets rid of the crappy young Vulture.


Honestly though between that, the abrupt resolution to the Prowler plotline, Hobie’s foreshadowed recovery and D.K.’s death it’s like this story existed more for house cleaning than just being a decent story.


Nevertheless the arc overall was decent enough.


I’ll give it all a B


P.S. There is quite possibly the most interactive editor’s note I’ve ever read wherein it asks the reader to go back and spot the Vulture after Peter mentions he saw the old bird. Initially I thought it was something out of the blue but after the note told me to do so I did go back and there he was, hidden away in the background.


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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!

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Profile photo of Alex Evangeli

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!

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