Monday, December 29, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #629

"WITH GREATER POWER..."
Writer: Roger Stern | Artist: Lee Weeks
Color Artist: Dean White | Color Assist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: VC'S Joe Carmanga | Assistant Editor: Tom Brennan | Editor: Stephen Wacker
Executive Editor: Tom Brevoort | Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine
Web-Heads: Gale, Kelly, Slott, Van Lente, Waid & Wells

The Plot: As Captain Universe confronts Spider-Man and Juggernaut, an earthquake hits. Spider-Man realizes that the Uni-Power has taken control of Captain Universe so that he can repair damage done to the fault lines beneath New York caused by Juggernaut's escape from the concrete in which Spider-Man had buried him years before. When Captain Universe's vendetta against Juggernaut proves more important to him than accomplishing his mission, the Uni-Force deserts him and possesses Juggernaut instead.

Juggernaut imprisons Spider-Man and William Nguyen, the former Captain Universe host, in an energy sphere, then heads beneath Manhattan to fix the fault line. Meanwhile, Spider-Man uses some ingenuity to get William and himself out of their makeshift prison. But Juggernaut arrives immediately after to finish off William. Spider-Man convinces Juggernaut to spare the young man, and the Uni-Power leaves Juggernaut after he agrees to do so. Juggernaut departs.

A few weeks later, William has become a minor celebrity, having written a book about his experiences with Juggernaut and the Uni-Force.

The Sub-Plots: None, other than Peter having another date with Carlie Cooper as the story ends.

Continuity Notes: The earthquake at the issue's start is referenced as "another" quake, but I don't recall seeing any others prior to it.

William explains his grudge against Juggernaut: he worked for a financial firm circa AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 229 and 230, and following Juggernaut walking through the company's office in an attempt to shake Spider-Man off his back during the course of that story, William was laid off. He lost his girlfriend as a result and began to work menial jobs, then eventually spiraled into depression. But the Uni-Force possessed him just before he could take his own life.

Juggernaut believes William is a wimp for almost killing himself over such trivial things, prompting William to delve into the villain's mind. There, Spider-Man, William, and Juggernaut see the latter unearthing the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak and becoming Juggernaut, and then watch as he struggles to escape from the concrete tomb in which Spider-Man left him at the end of AMAZING 230.


Peter invokes the memory of Uncle Ben on the story's final page when he sees that William has used the proceeds form his book to set up a charity for others who have hit rock bottom, finally realizing that any amount of power comes with an equal amount of responsibility.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "Juggernaut is a mean S.O.B., but he's also loyal to and protective of his friends. Of course, he doesn't make many friends. ...He has a hair-trigger temper, and he's very single-minded. If Juggernaut decides to go somewhere, he goes – right through anything and anyone foolhardy enough to get in his path. And he doesn’t discourage easily." -- "Stern Can't Stop on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN", Comic Book Resources, 2010


My Thoughts: As I hinted last time, I feel like this story could've been told in fewer chapters. I think two issues would've worked just fine, since the second installment felt mostly like treading water. Nonetheless, I like what Stern has done with the overall arc. He gives us a semi-rematch between Spider-Man and Juggernaut, as well as a reunion between Spider-Man and the Uni-Force, and ties all of it back to his original story from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN nearly thirty years before.

I've mentioned in the past that a masterful knowledge of continuity, and the ability to build on that existing structure in new ways to inform a current story, is one of my favorite traits in any comic book writer. And, as he has many times before, Stern does just that, and makes it all look quite effortless. He takes a throwaway gag from his original Juggernaut story -- the villain walking through a building to shake Spider-Man off his back -- and uses it as the springboard for this arc by showing us how that incident affected the life of one solitary person who had worked within the building. He also draws upon an event that occurred while he was away from Marvel by bringing up Spider-Man's relationship with the Uni-Force. And that's a big point in his favor for me. It's one thing to draw upon your own continuity, but to strip-mine what others did after you is a much appreciated touch. Too many writers ignore things that they or their friends didn't write. But Stern acknowledges everything, good and bad, if it's an element of his story. He did it with HOBGOBLIN LIVES and he does it again here.


Stern also plays the Juggernaut here as thuggish jerk, but not outright evil. This has, for the most part, been the villain's characterization since Chris Claremont began writing him regularly, and it's my preferred version of the character. Juggernaut picks fights and causes rampant destruction, but he's not a murderer and if given the chance to put right a defect in the Earth that he himself created by escaping from Spider-Man's concrete trap, he will do what must be done. He's basically just a big, super-powered bully. The dreaded Chuck Austen got some mileage from Juggernaut reforming and joining the X-Men some years back, and while I think that's a bridge too far for the character, it at least built from his past characterizations. But this is the Juggernaut I like; the one I'm most familiar with. And it's nice to see him back.

Next Issue: That's it! We're done! But be here on New Year's Eve for a brief "afterword" to end the series of Roger Stern Spider-Man reviews.

1 comment:

  1. William explains his grudge against Juggernaut: he worked for a financial firm circa AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 229 and 230, and following Juggernaut walking through the company's office in an attempt to shake Spider-Man off his back during the course of that story, William was laid off. He lost his girlfriend as a result and began to work menial jobs, then eventually spiraled into depression. But the Uni-Force possessed him just before he could take his own life.

    Yes, the effect of such bitterness can be... Venomous.

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