Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Writer: Steve Gerber | Artist: Cynthia Martin
Letterer: Rick Parker | Colorist: Janet Jackson | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

The Plot: In Maimi, Peter Parker appears on a morning talk show to promote his new photo book, WEBS: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF SPIDER-MAN. Later, back at his motel, Peter speaks with Mary Jane on the phone and has a run-in with a housekeeper who sets his spider-sense tingling. Up north, the High Evolutionary's Purifiers transport a strange obelisk into the Everglades, where the High Evolutionary activates it. It tears open the fabric of reality, drawing the attention of the Man-Thing. The Man-Thing apparently perishes as the High Evolutionary observes from his base.

Back in Miami, the housekeeper, Cecilia, speaks with a disembodied consciousness who tells her to get a babysitter for her son so she can go out and take care of something. That night, Peter heads out for dinner and finds a drug pusher being shaken down by an agent of Miami's crime lord, the Slug. Peter changes to Spider-Man, rescues the dealer, and learns that the Slug's man wanted something hidden in the Everglades. After Spider-Man leaves, a group of Purifiers shows up and kills the dealer.

Meanwhile, Slug and the Kingpin make an agreement to locate a new source of cocaine for the Kingpin. At the same time, Cecilia, now brandishing super powers as Poison, finds Purifiers coming to her apartment. She destroys them and leaves for the Everglades. Spider-Man also arrives at the swamp, where he locates the cocaine and runs afoul of Slug's men. But the Purifiers show up as well and a fight breaks out.

Poison then arrives and seals the rift between dimensions, the entity leaving Cecilia in the process. Meanwhile, Man-Thing returns to life and distracts the Slug's goons and the Purifiers long enough for Spider-Man to web them up.

Later, back in Miami, Mary Jane arrives to keep Peter company on his tour.

Continuity Notes: Peter tells the talk show host that he was a high school senior when he took a photo of Spider-Man fighting the Vulture circa AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #2. I believe these days it's commonly accepted that Peter was a sophomore when he first became Spider-Man.

This issue features the debut of Poison, who would randomly resurface years later in a PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN issue by Howard Mackie and John Romita, Jr.

The Slug is a villain created in the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA a year or so earlier by Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary, as an enemy for Cap's former partner, Nomad.

Kingpin mentions that his Central American cocaine supply was recently cut off, but there is no footnote to PUNISHER ANNUAL 1, in which this happened -- but the continuity nod is appreciated, at least.

In a real-world continuity note, Cecilia's son Carlos is seen watching G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO on television. Writer Steve Gerber was the cartoon's story editor for its first full season.

When Spider-Man finds the cocaine chained inside a refrigerator in the swamp, he makes reference to "the Latverian arms scandal" from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS issues 1 - 12. He also recognizes the Purifiers as having "the same tailor" as the men he and Daredevil fought in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #22.

It is literally impossible for any
human being to find this attractive.
Circa 1988: As noted above, Peter recently published a book of his various Spider-Man photos over the years.

Mary Jane is seen at one point wearing the most disturbingly eighties outfit imaginable (at right, since no description could do it justice). The hair, the clothes, the accessories... it's all completely and utterly hideous.

At one point, as Cecilia speaks with the entity while on a public bus, a couple observes her and assumes she's on drugs, leading to a reference to "that commercial with the frying pan."

The High Evolutionary's Plot: "This swamp is a point of convergence in the primal matrix of realities. When the cosmic axis shifts, genetic pollutants can make their way into this world through 'cracks' in the fabric of existence. For the most part, these contaminants die. Earth's biosphere cannot sustain them.

"But in rare instances, an alien strain will manage to adapt... or find a host form, and act as a mutagen... altering its own composition... that of its symbiote. And, conceivably, even that of the symbiote's offspring"

Meaning, the Evolutionary sent his men into the swamp with a "spatial dissonance generator" to create a rift in space, then sent his men to kill Cecilia and her son since they had been touched by such an "alien strain".

Yeah, it doesn't make much sense to me, either.

My Thoughts: I didn't like this issue as a child. I think I like it even less now.

Let's start with the cover: It's a great, striking image by Alex Saviuk and John Romita. But not only do Spider-Man and the Slug never cross paths within the issue's pages, the artwork inside is far, far below Saviuk's taunting standard. I'm not sure I've ever read anything else by Cynthia Martin, but I guess I will soon enough since it seems she drew some of Marvel's STAR WARS series as it was winding down, and I'm currently reading that series to keep up with Teebore's reviews over at Gentlemen of Leisure. But in any case, Martin's work here leaves a lot to be desired. Bad perspectives, weird rendering, and a terrible Spider-Man -- this issue looks altogether ugly and amateurish.

The story, on the other hand, is perhaps overly complex. I know for a fact that I didn't understand it when I was nine. I get the beats now, but I still think the High Evolutionary's plan, as described above, is unnecessarily complex (and not in a good Mister Sinister way).

On top of that, Gerber fills the issue with unnecessary grotesquery. The Man-Thing's eye explodes when the Evolutionary activates his spatial dissonance generator. The artwork, which I misunderstood as a kid, makes it looks like one of the Purifiers' heads bursts apart in a bloody mess. The Slug suffocates a man in the flabby folds of his flesh, a scene which seriously disturbed me and gave me a nightmare or two back in 1988. Poison goes on a rampage, murdering Purifiers left and right. Man-Thing is described in dialogue as crushing a man's skull.

I don't know who Gerber thought he was writing this for, but it sure wasn't the nine year-old who picked it up off the spinner rack at 7-11. This is the sort of stuff I associated with DC, the more "adult" of the Big Two, back in the eighties -- and it's the reason I didn't read DC comics. The only thing missing to bring it fully up to DC's level are a few four-letter words.

I look at an issue like this, written at a time when comics were still ostensibly for children, and I shake my head. I can -- and did, back then -- live with bad artwork... but writing superhero comics that give children nightmares is unforgivable.


  1. Ah, can't go to Florida without running into Man-Thing.

    I don't think I've ever read a story featuring Slug (but I remember his trading card from Marvel Universe Series III). He sounds like just an even fatter version of Kingpin; is that all he is?

    1. Pretty much. He's a fatter, slobbier, less classy Kingpin. Also, as I recall, where the Kingpin is a "crime lord" in general, the Slug is specifically a "drug lord".

    2. Oh, and since he was created by the very Silver Age-minded Mark Gruenwald, the Slug's real name is "Ulysses S. Luggman". Not quite as corny as Gruenwald's "Blackagar Boltagon" for Black Bolt, but still a little silly.