Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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 Amazing Spider-Man #298, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 1988. Enjoy!
Issue #298 of Amazing Spider-Man features Chance, the assassin-for-hire who likes gambling, and it features the very old-fashioned (even I thought it was in 1989, when I bought this issue) sub-plot of Peter Parker feeling inadequate because his wife “makes more money than IBM.” Really, Peter? She makes that much money? And you feel bad about it? Yeah, I’d hate having a hot wife who loves me unconditionally even though I’m a nerd and likes kinky sex and makes a shitload of money and doesn’t lord that over you. I mean, what a shitty life you have, Peter!
Anyway, no one today remembers poor Chance and his rocket-powered ankle bracelets, because ASM #298 has this as its final page, and this, of course, is the first “appearance” of Venom. I don’t even know if this counts – Venom’s full appearance is at the end of issue #299, where he menaces Mary Jane – but heck, I’m counting it! David Michelinie, as we all know, is noted commenter T.’s FAVORITE writer of ALL TIME, and he sets the scene in the South Bronx, where a shadowy dude is thinking to himself how evil Spider-Man is. Spider-Man ruined his life, blah blah blah, and our mysterious newcomer is going to take revenge. I haven’t read Web of Spider-Man #18, which is where Eddie Brock first appears, but I wonder if Michelinie knew even back then (two years earlier) that he was going to turn him into a super-villain (Brock apparently pushes Peter in front of a train in that WoSM issue, so I suppose Michelinie had some plans for him). Back in the day, when Marvel published fewer comics and they almost all took place at the same time (more or less), this kind of connecting the dots was not only fun but possible – these days it’s so convoluted that it’s almost impossible. But Michelinie gets the job done for an introduction – it’s a mystery who the bad guy is, he’s somehow connected to Spider-Man but we don’t know how, and he obviously has some kind of superpower. Good job, Mr. Michelinie!
This is Todd McFarlane on art, beginning his epic run on Amazing Spider-Man (which aren’t great comics, but which are pretty entertaining), and I imagine the shift from Alex Saviuk (who drew issue #297) to McFarlane was a bit shocking for regular readers. McFarlane gives us a nice tenement in Panel 1, and I like the graffiti touch – the Marvel Universe was much more tightly entwined back then, and earlier in this issue, there’s a blackout that is caused by events in X-Factor #25, and Spider-Man just has to deal with it! (That’s why Brock is using a flashlight, by the way.) McFarlane gives us the classic silhouette in front of an illuminated background in Panel 2, and we can see that Brock is a bit obsessed with Spider-Man’s exploits. In the bottom row, the progression from Brock’s hands to “Venom’s” hands is a bit silly – notice that the speed lines in Panels 5 and 7 make it appears that Brock is pounding his fist into his hand and then pulling his hand back, which is an awkward movement (try it yourself!), but the effect is pretty cool. McFarlane and/or inker Bob McLeod do a nice job with the blacks in Panel 6 slowly overtaking his hands, and the sequence is a good clue about the new villain – some readers no doubt guessed it was the symbiote, but it’s not too obvious. Notice that the clippings behind Brock show both Spider-Man’s classic costume and the black one, with the black one being closer to Brock’s hand, so it’s even more of a clue. It’s not the most subtle of foreshadowing, but it’s pretty good.
I know I’m viewing this issue through the haze of nostalgia, but it does work pretty well. Michelinie might not have been the best Spidey writer, but he wrote some fun-ass stories. You know it’s true, T.!
Next: One of my favorite Marvel characters gets the spotlight! Come on – doesn’t everyone know my favorite characters? Shame on you! I know you can find the writer and artist many times in the archives!
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