Monday, July 28, 2014

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #61

"BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOONSTONE"
Story: Roger Stern | Dialogue: Bill Mantlo | Artists: Ed Hannigan & Jim Mooney
Letters: Jean Simek | Colors: Ben Sean | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: After saving a hapless child from falling to his death while trying to emulate him, Spider-Man arrives at Empire State University, where he spots a mysterious figure breaking into the science building. The wall-crawler moves to investigate and the intruder reveals herself as a villainess named Moonstone. In the ensuing fight, bystander Marcy Kane, working late into the night, is injured. While performing CPR on Marcy, Spider-Man allows Moonstone to escape with a piece of equipment stolen from the lab of Dr. Curt Connors.

Soon after, Spider-Man speaks with Connors about the stolen device, the portable enervator pak, which Moonstone intends to use to supercharge her powers for a crime spree with the ultimate intention of attracting the eye of a potential new employer. Connors provides Spider-Man with a tracking device which allows the web-slinger to track Moonstone down. This time Spider-Man bests his foe, knocking her out and removing the enervator from her before it can, as expected by Connors, harm her. The enervator explodes, Moonstone is captured, and Marcy makes a full recovery at St. Luke's Hospital.

The Sub-Plots: When Spider-Man changes back to Peter Parker after saving Marcy's life, word gets around that it was Peter himself who administered CPR. Debra Whitman wonders if her new boyfriend, Biff Rifkin, would have helped her in the same way Peter helped Marcy.
Continuity Notes: Moonstone announces that she previously battled both the Hulk and Captain America in INCREDIBLE HULK #228 - 233 (written by Roger Stern) and CAPTAIN AMERICA #230. Later, she recaps her full origin from her first appearance as an associate of Cap's enemy Dr. Faustus.
Dr. Connors also provides some helpful backstory, describing the enervator's previous appearance in the Mantlo-written PETER PARKER issues 34 and 40.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "Many people had looked upon [SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN] as the "B-team" book. And in a way, that was good for me. I got to write Spider-Man without being under the more intense pressure of writing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I had over a year and a half of figuring out what I was doing and getting comfortable with Pete and all of the other characters.

"By the time Tom DeFalco signed on as editor and asked me to write AMAZING, I felt ready."
-- "Roger Stern, the Spectacular Spider-Writer", MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics, March 2007

Also On Sale This Month: It's Spider-Man against the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes in Denny O'Neil's final AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and Spidey alongside Robert E. Howard's King Kull in MARVEL TEAM-UP #112.
My Thoughts: I know I've mentioned before, in my IRON MAN reviews, that I am not a fan of Bill Mantlo. I find his work to be tedious and overwritten. He's all the bad aspects of his friend Chris Claremont with none of the good to balance it out. His prose is sometimes just as purple as Claremont's, but without the warm charm to make it work. Take the opening lines of this issue, for example:
"Imagine the thrill of feeling your body charged with the proportionate strength and speed of a spider. Imagine being able to cling to walls, to weave a web-line and to swing on it through the night shadows.

"Peter Parker -- bitten one day long ago by a radioactive spider -- knows these special thrills, and the responsibilities that come with spider-powers.

"He is only dimly aware that others -- more or less fortunate in their normalcy -- are envious of the powers and abilities that are his as... the spectacular Spider-Man."
It's just so schlocky and pretentious. It doesn't fit Spider-Man at all. Blecch.

Fortunately, however, given that this issue is plotted by Roger Stern, the tediousness isn't quite as evident. This is a quick, tightly-paced done-in-one adventure to close out Stern's run on SPECTACULAR, and it's a much improved effort over the unnecessarily drawn-out Beetle storyline the preceded it. Any appearance by Dr. Connors as a scientist friend of Spider-Man without a forced, repetitive transformation into the Lizard is appreciated. And Moonstone is a villainess I've thought for years was really neat, so it's fun to see her go up against Spider-Man.

The artwork, by the same team as last issue, is mostly excellent as well. Mooney's embellishments continue to give us a perfectly on-model Spider-Man, while Hannigan's pencils are energetic and filled with well-choreographed fight scenes.
And I have to give at least some credit where it's due -- even if I can't stand Mantlo's prose, and the awkward, foreign-sounding speech pattern he gives Moonstone (who, according to the HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, is actually a "Valley Girl" from Van Nuys, California), he has a great handle on Spider-Man's dialogue and patter, zingers and all. It's actually kind of a shame that a guy who can write Spidey's voice so well couldn't write a single good story about him (I say, having read only a fraction of Mantlo's Spider-Man issues).

Next Issue: Onward and upward as Roger Stern takes over writing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN by bringing back his favorite villain and teaming up with legend-in-the-making John Romita, Jr. on artwork.

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