Friday, March 27, 2009

Marked (Marvel)
Amazing Spider-man #589 When: May 2009
Why: Fred Van Lente How: Paulo Siqueira

The Story So Far...
Recruited into a crack team assembled to penetrate the domain of the Infinicide; the Spot ultimately betrayed his employer, MODOK, to serve the interests of The Mandarin! In an ironic twist of fate, Spot's capacity for treachery led Mandarin to use his mystic rings to entrap Spot in one of his own black portals, preventing another betrayal.

Thrust into the subspacial realm of the dark dimension without his intending, the Spot was trapped, unable to locate any viable point of exit. Lost in a maze of black portals, Dr. Jonathan Ohnn was driven to the brink of madness by his predicament. Unsuccessful in his attepts to make contact with others in the criminal fraternity, his only saving grace became the hope of being reunited with his son.

The father's goal was enough to finally lead him to freedom, but his return to the world led to the grim discovery that his son was now in a coma. After learning of the Russian mob's responsibility in his son's accident, the still unstable villain now turned his determination to exacting vengeance upon the guilty.

While the Spot hunts the hitmen who accidentally struck down his son; Peter Parker struggles to protect his Aunt May, whose charitable organization for the homeless has become the victim of the Russian mobster's protection racket.
With their paths on a collision course, Spot and Spider-man clash once again!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Superhuman)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Spider-man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Power: Draw 2 (Projectiles)

- A bite from a radioactive spider should have killed highschool nerd, Peter Parker, but instead it would irradiate his own blood, granting him extraordinary powers.

After turning to a life of profit, Peter is inspired to use his gifts for the greater good when his decision to allow a burglar to escape leads to the murder of his adopted parent and uncle, Ben Parker. Ben's sage-like advice, "with great power comes great responsibility", becomes a mantra for Parker as he becomes Spider-man!

Over the years his exploits as Spidey earn him a multitude of powerful enemies. Among his most lethal foes are: Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Vulture, Chameleon, Kingpin, Jackal, Kraven the Hunter, Venom, Carnage, Sandman, Rhino, Lizard, Electro, and many more. Fortunately for Spidey, he finds himself in good stead with as many heroes as he does villains, eventuating in official membership with Captain America's Avengers, later known as the Secret Avengers.

Spider-man possesses the proportional strength, speed, and agility of a spider. Adding to his arsenal is a precognitive spider-sense that warns him of pending danger. Self-made mechanical webshooters round out Spidey's abilities, allowing him to ensnare opponents in a variety of modes; travel through the city by web-line; and form basic constructs based on the available quantities of his own formula of web-fluid.

- Working as a scientist for Wilson Fisk, Dr. Jonathan Ohnn fell upon a fate that would transform him forever. Whilst researching the radiations that facilitate the powers of Cloak, Ohnn accidentally replicated them, only to become bonded with the energies of an alternate form of interdimensional perception when a blackout threatened to negate his results. Covered in white and black, the scientist would become The Spot, launching himself into villainous infamy with the ability to use his black spots as portals to transport himself, or others, through space.

Math: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
On a barge in Red Hook, the Spot slices and chokes his way through the members of rival mobs, killing toward the man responsible for his son's coma. When a black portal opens before Dmitri Ivankov, the Russian mobster stands alone.

Too slow to save the other crooks, Spidey swings in to save Ivankov with a kick that knocks the Spot from his hovering portal. Spidey follows with a strong right hook, but before he can tangle further with his foe, he vanishes through a portal!

Ivankov begs for Spider-man's protection, but when the hero offers an ultimatum that depends on his testifying against fellow underworld figures, the mobster scoffs the web-slinger. Trusting Spidey's better nature, the mobster successfully banks on being saved despite his resistance, but his assumptions depend on the wall crawler's ability to anticipate an opponent capable of evading his spider-sense through interdimensional travel!

Spot returns, emerging suddenly from a portal on the very wall Spider-man is climbing! With a simple hook, he sends the mobster hurtling helplessly into a fatal descent, but leaps after him to ensure a grim finish.

When Spidey plucks the criminal out of the Spot's reaches, the villain unleashes a multi-pronged assault, throwing a barrage of punches and kicks directly at Spidey through a series of "spot" portals. After securing Ivankov, Spider-man is able to catch one of the Spot's punches, only to be dragged into the dimensional pocket realm by his white and black assailant!

Concerned by the new lethal approach of the Legion of Loser alumnist, Spidey looks for a knock-out blow, but instead finds himself on the receiving end!

Staggered by his own punch, Spidey stumbles backward into a portal that sends him falling back into the real world. Landing on his back, Spider-man watches Spot emerge from a portal to capture Ivankov, but is quick enough to spring back to life to intervene - plucking the web-shackled mobster out of the air!

With the proportionate strength of a spider, Spider-man punches through a hull door to see daylight, but is caught in one of the Spot's materializing portals just as he attempts to leap to freedom! Disoriented, he loses Ivankov whilst slinging a web to stabalize himself. It's enough for Spot to capitalize!

The villain tosses the mobster into another portal that opens in the clouds high above the space needle in Seattle! Another last minute sling of a web saves Ivankov from certain doom, the web-line snagging him blind, by the foot!

Steadfast in his dedication to saving a life, Spider-man webs himself to the Russian with a declaration of his dedication. Finally the mute Spot pauses, reaching into one of his spots to extract a package addressed to his son!
With that, the villain retreats as suddenly as he had attacked, leaving Spider-man to seek justice by his terms instead. Spidey delivers the package, a treasured copy of Treasure Island gifted from father, to son, long ago.

The Hammer...
It was a hard fought battle, but in the end, the conclusion leads me to believe this can only be described as a draw. Not a bad result, given Spot's spotted past. Haw!

Despite the team only appearing in a single issue of Spectacular Spider-man [#246]; the Spot has come to be best known as a member of the Legion of Losers.
Yes, he's one of those villains. Ripe for mockery because he has a silly name and persona; I wonder if this might not be down to unfair press. I mean, come on, look at some of the greatest villains in comic history!... Okay, maybe not. It was, however, a bit of a thrill to come across a stand-alone issue that focused on the character's exploits.

A sense of imbalance was among the most disappointing qualities of the recent Brand New Day revamp of the Spidey-universe. While this fresh start was supposed to open new doors for the classic hero, it ultimately became an uncomfortable weekly wrestle between ham-fisted new villains, and heavy references to famous periods of the past.

Fortunately, a year later, Amazing Spider-man seems to have fully adjusted to the new status quo. Granted, we don't really ever seem to be seeing anything that couldn't have been done with Mary-Jane still in the picture, but the spider-marriage is as much a non-issue to the quality of stories, as it is an affront to the forty years of Spider-man history. Ahem.

Shift based tenure for creative teams means there's notable difference in approach to each story, even if the overall direction of the series is guarded by a brainstrust of influences. After jumping back in with Marc Guggenheim (and John Romita Jr) with relative success [#585], I couldn't help but notice the differences in approach to Spider-man/Peter Parker. I don't know if "subtle" is a word I'd use to describe Guggenheim's version, but the Van Lente script features dialogue that doesn't quite feel right for the famed quipster.
A lengthy running gag referring to Christian Bale's performance as Batman stood out as particularly puzzling. As much as popculture references have come to be part of the Spider-man lexicon, it was a series of sequences that didn't feel at all motivated by the scenes, or quite in line the humor of the character.

The cat and mouse of the fight was a great chance to explore the Spot's powers, and definitely points to some solid plotting. I hope these appearances can begin a larger role for the Spot, reminding us how deadly a villain he could be if ever motivated to rise above his own petty character flaws. As a fan of the old idea of an urban criminal eco-system, I even like the idea of just knowing the Spot might be hanging around, ready to clash or team-up with other forces in NYC.

Paulo Siqueira brings a different kind of energy to Spider-man than Romita, not quite as refined, but pleasantly reminiscent of Todd McFarlane in both the design of his Spider-man, and the sequences of action. It's the kind of throwback that I wouldn't want to see on a regular basis, but can really enjoy in short bursts.

In the bigger picture, most will now know all about J. Jonah Jameson's victory in the New York City mayoral battle. In a concept that very well should've happened long ago, Spidey's biggest detractor enters a position of power which promises to set up a variety of obstacles, some apparently including Mac Gargan!
I'll be looking very forward to that, as well as the appearance of more of those classic Spidey villains, which is something we've been promised in 2009.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4
Winner: Draw

Amazing Spider-man is published three times weekly, but alas, there is not yet any trade collection of this very recent issue. You'll find plenty of other trades, however, in the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe, where collections featuring most issues reviewed in the Secret Archives are waiting to be purchased. By using Amazon links provided on the site, you help sponsor future reviews!

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