Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Web of Spider-Man #87, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1992. Enjoy!
This issue, by the legendary team of Howard Mackie, Alex Saviuk, Sam de la Rosa, Bob Sharen, Rick Parker, and Chris Eliopoulos (the comic was so awesome it needed TWO letterers!), is the fourth of the six-part “Name of the Rose” story arc, back when six-issue arcs were beginning to be common but which would seem weirdly out of place today, where the amount of ground covered would necessitate a 12-issue mini-series with several tie-in issues. Mackie didn’t care about that shit, though – he plowed right ahead! Why, in this issue alone, Richard Fisk fights several martial arts dudes, Demogoblin makes an appearance, Sergeant Blume illegally searches Peter Parker’s apartment, Richard Fisk and his fiancée make kissy-faces at each other, Richard fights Jason Macendale, somebody kills a hobo who deliberately sends Spider-Man into a trap, Nick Katzenberg is lurking around, The Rose and Richard Fisk have a falling-out, Spidey saves some kids, and the Praetorian Guard (who first appear in this very issue, so it must be worth a FORTUNE!) captures Spider-Man, leading to this final page. Now that’s “compressed” storytelling, motherfuckers!!!!!
So on this final page, Spidey is unconscious, and Richard Fisk is pretty pleased as punch. This Hobgoblin is NOT the Demogoblin (let’s not get started on that shit, or we’ll be here all day), but Jason Macendale, a mercenary who killed the original Hobgoblin and stole his costume. Fisk was pals with the original Hobgoblin, Ned Leeds, but put his feelings aside to work with Macendale to get Spider-Man. See? It’s all very simple. The Praetorian Guard, who are named for the first time on the preceding page, are “old buddies” of Macendale, which makes sense as he was once a mercenary (and still is, I guess, but now he’s wearing a fancy costume). Of course, that dude holding Spidey proves that all mercenaries are total scumbuckets (oh, they so are!) because he’s just doing what he was paid to do, and he wouldn’t care if Macendale himself were the target. Then, of course, Mackie moves on to the dramatic finish, and Macendale has been waiting to take out Spider-Man for a long time. This won’t end well for our FNSM, will it?
Saviuk is one of those yeomanlike artists who will never make anyone’s Top Ten list but who always did a solid job, at least whenever I saw his art. He lays the page out well, with the first panel re-establishing everyone in the room after several pages of close-in combat between Spidey and that dude holding him by the neck. Fisk and Macendale have shown up after ending their partnership with the Rose, and we see all the tough guys in their Dredd-inspired, oh-so-1990s armor. Saviuk doesn’t forget to show Spidey smoking a little, as he’s just been zapped by that mercenary’s electrified gauntlet (yes, Spidey actually thinks the word “gauntlet” as he’s blacking out, not “glove” … because he’s motherfucking Spider-Man, fools!). Saviuk wisely uses a slightly smaller Panel 2 almost as an inset, so in Panel 3 he can stretch out a bit and show the Hobgoblin holding his fun weapon (whatever that razor-sharp “goblin-erang” is called). He still does a nice job with moving Macendale around the page – in Panel 1, he’s flying in from the right, but you’ll notice that in Panel 2, he’s circled all the way back around to approach the mercenary from his right again. He flies in from the top, so the transition from Panel 1 to Panel 2 is smooth, and as the perspective of the panel is angled downward, the placement of the mercenary and Spider-Man moves us to Panel 3 easily. Saviuk gives us a dramatic final panel, with Macendale clearly losing his shit (the eyes alone tell us that) as he anticipates carving poor little Peter up. He holds the razorang out in front of him so that it’s slightly larger, drawing our eye from the left to the right, and Spidey’s face reflected in it is a nice touch. His left hand is right above the “next issue” box, so we can’t miss it. De la Rosa inks the page pretty roughly, adding thick blacks to Macendale’s costume and plenty of blacks to the Guard’s armor, plus he does a nice job making the smoke from the Hobgoblin’s flier look more polluting in Panel 2, with the hatching and rough inks. In Panel 3, he helps add to the look of insanity on Macendale’s face with the hatching over the eyes and along the cheekbones. Macendale might not be crazy yet, but he can see the borders of Crazy Town!
“The Name of the Rose” is a fairly forgettable story, but it was entertaining enough, I guess. The creators might not be great ones, but they know how to put a comic together, and it leads to a pretty good final page. I mean, we know Spidey gets out of this, but who wouldn’t want to find out how? Commies, that’s who. Don’t be a Commie!
Next: One of Kelly Thompson’s favorite comics from the past few years. But which one will it be???? You certainly won’t find it yet in the archives!
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