Amazing Spider-Man #307-309
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #307, Amazing Spider-Man #308, Amazing Spider-Man #309
But since there's no internal pressure on their marriage, Michelinie creates external pressure, first by having Venom terrorize Mary Jane in some unspecified way and now in these issues by having MJ kidnapped by obsessed building owner Jonathan Caesar.
Now of course love interests have been getting kidnapped since at least the Trojan War, but the metaphor is a bit different when the couple is already firmly together. In your typical kidnapped love interest story, the hero gets to fight for his lady and become my hero, maybe with some added angst due to secret identity issues. And let's be honest, it's usually just the vehicle that gets the hero to fight the villain. In this case, it's not that at all. As we'll see, MJ actually rescues herself in this story. Instead, the purpose is to create some drama in a marriage that is otherwise drama free, so that Peter can angst and show how much he worries and cares about MJ.
But before we get to all of that, we have to send Peter Parker to Chicago so he can fight the Chameleon and be out of the way when Caesar kidnaps MJ.
I have a feeling Michelinie and/or McFarlane didn't like doing signings very much.
As for the Chameleon, last issue he kidnapped a successful businessman and has been impersonating him at the office. But his real plan is the political, economic, and strategic destruction of the United States government in revenge for "what they did to me so many years ago". To that end he's gotten new facial implants that better mold his face (his original face has been surgically removed at this point), coupled with a new costume made of "memory material" that will also take any form.
He uses his powers of disguise to try to disrupt a science expo and steal info on America's superconductor technology, so that "America's edge in the superconductivity race will be shattered". Spider-Man is there when the Chameleon's hired goons attack, so he's able to stop them...
...and foil the Chameleon's plans...
...but the Chameleon detects the spider-tracer and is able to get away.
And meanwhile, back in New York, MJ is kidnapped.
The next issue begins with Sgt. Tork telling Peter that the police are doing all they can. And MJ is being held by Caesar (and two goons, who don't seem to notice or care that Caesar is totally insane). And Caesar slaps her around.
As Spider-Man, Peter scours the city looking for MJ, but finds nothing. And the police have told him not to let the public know of MJ's disappearance yet, so his publicist Ginny Edwards is able to keep his book signing appearances, especially since it's in Queens and Aunt May is excited about it.
Notice that the Black Cat is still trying to contact Peter, but that's not part of this story.
Peter has assumed that the kidnapper is out for vengeance on Spider-Man, so when he continues his hunt after the city and hears about someone interested in talking about getting revenge on Spider-Man, he follows up on that and winds up in a graveyard full of goons that think they're in a training exercise.
It turns out to be someone pretending to be the Taskmaster (ok, it actually is the Taskmaster; it's just that McFarlane's version is a little... weird looking).
The Taskmaster has nothing to do with MJ's kidnapping, though.
And after a little more fighting, Spider-Man gets stuck in an explosion while the Taskmaster escapes. But as he leaves, he confirms that he had nothing to do with the kidnapping, and this time Spider-Man believes him.
Spider-Man's next fight is with Manslaughter Marsdale.
But Marsdale also doesn't know anything about MJ, so Spider-Man leaves.
At this point he is pretty frustrated.
Mary Jane tries to use her ability to telekinetically propel ice to escape Caesar...
...but Caesar's two goons stop her. They also inform him that Spider-Man is on the hunt for MJ, so Caesar decides to call in some special bodyguards. And the irony is that Spider-Man still doesn't know where MJ is being held, but Caesar is actually holding her in the building that Peter and MJ own an apartment in. So Caesar sees Spider-Man swinging home and assumes that he's been found out, and he sends Styx and Stone to stop him.
And while Spider-Man is fighting them...
...MJ escapes on her own.
She even shows up to rescue Spidey.
And to end, MJ tells Peter that this wasn't about him at all.
To be clear, i don't have a problem with the way things are handled here. I like that MJ and Peter's relationship is free of stereotypical bickering or fake jealousy stories or anything like that. And it's a nice touch and an unusual twist for MJ to not need rescuing, and also that the kidnapping has nothing to do with Spider-Man. I just think what we're seeing is part of a trend to add drama to Peter and MJ's married life by putting MJ under some sort of duress (this isn't her last stalker).
These issue continue to be relatively light in terms of content. I grant you that we have the Chameleon, Taskmaster, and Manslaughter Marsdale in addition to the main villain and his goons, and there's still time in these issues to show Aunt May and the Daily Bugle cast. But none of those scenes have any real character development in them, and it's because you basically get one quarter page splash panel per character. And that's true of the action sequences for the fights, too. It's not 100% splash panels. But it is a lot of really big panels and so a pretty minimal amount of content per page, and a pretty quick read.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This has to take place after the Red Skull orders Douglas Rockwell to release the Taskmaster in Captain America #346. Taskmaster doesn't mention how he escaped (Spidey cuts him off while he is monologing) and presumably the Taskmaster doesn't know that he was let go and thinks he escaped due to his own prowess.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Spider-Man Legends vol. 2: Todd McFarlane Book 2 TPB
Inbound References (2): showArthur Chekov, Aunt May, Black Cat, Chameleon, Ginny Edwards, Glory Grant, J. Jonah Jameson, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Jonathan Caesar, Manslaughter Marsdale, Mary Jane Watson, Nate Lubenski, Sandy Kintzler, Sgt. Tork, Spider-Man, Stone (Spider-Man villain), Styx, Taskmaster
"it is a lot of really big panels and so a pretty minimal amount of content per page, and a pretty quick read." Even though I was never a collecter and bought comics by the spur of the moment, that was one of the reasons I stopped reading comics by the 90s.
Posted by: JSfan | July 16, 2014 5:55 AM
Splash panels Can be nice and while McFarlene's artwork and imitation was the start of a dark age, story telling and art wise, it is still pretty neat to behold. Kind of got a soft spot for these shorter battles, I mean when written well. There's an upcoming one involving Spider-Man, Scorpion, Whiplash and Rhino that was way too short.
Ceasar is damn scary, the artwork fits for his derange mind. He's not a supervillain out for money, you watch people like him on Forensic Files, even worse guy has lots of money.
This was my introduction for Tombstone and I quite liked him.
Posted by: david banes | July 17, 2014 12:11 AM
I know I'm bitching about MacFarlane too much but those combat scenes with the taskmaster swinging his sword are really poor. Taskmaster looks like a child dizzy on lemonade.
Posted by: kveto from prague | July 21, 2014 5:45 PM
I also kind of like Stx and Stone. Just the dynamic of one guy that is only melee, or just touch, and the other uses blasters to stay away.
Posted by: david banes | July 24, 2014 2:37 PM
Larry Bud Melman comparison, note to those tracking Letterman references in 80s Marvel books.
Posted by: cullen | July 25, 2014 11:26 PM
Much like The Prowler from ASM#305 looked like a proto-Spawn, Caesar in these issues looks a bit like a proto-Jason Wynn.
Posted by: TCP | September 17, 2014 6:32 PM
Also, I was disheartened to see Nathan Lubensky continuing to belittle Peter in these issues after the two seemingly made peace with each other in Web #39. I much prefer the happy-go-lucky Nathan of the Roger Stern era to the jaded old man he became once DeFalco took over, and was hoping for a return of that attitude.
Posted by: TCP | September 19, 2014 6:27 PM
"All of which is great and i imagine even younger readers wouldn't have a problem with that as long as there's also a villain of the month and some nice Todd McFarlane art."
These were the stories that were being published when I was first getting into Spider-Man, and though I preferred Larsen to McFarlane, you're right, I loved them.
I grew up with married Spidey, so all the hate for the idea has always seemed weird to me.
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 26, 2015 7:46 PM
But all the people who hate it grew up with not-married Spidey and Joe Quesada doesn't care about pissing off the people who read Spider-Man comics in the twenty or so years before he decided to push the Spidey he wanted.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 26, 2015 8:59 PM
A backup story in ASM #375 will reveal that it was Kraven's death that put Chameleon back on Spider-Man's trail. Kraven's Last Hunt was about a year prior to this in real time, so I have to wonder if Chammy's goals here were really just motivated by future schemes against Spidey (i.e. the "Powerless" arc). His supposed plans against the U.S., and maybe even the long campaign against the Kingpin that he seemingly abandons just before "Powerless," could have just been stepping stones to that end (or even just delusions of grandeur).
Posted by: TCP | May 31, 2015 8:16 PM
Wait did Mary Jane REALLY just electrocute two people and smacked a lamp over a third? Given that these are "regular" people, would that, I dunno, kill them? (Is the "Bugs Bunny" rule in effect here with regards to the physics of this. Possibly, since I'm pretty sure MJ would have electrocuted herself in that panel showing the confrontation with Jonathan Caesar.) I understand the situation MJ is in, but but given how much angst Spidey feels about possible killing people (even in self-dense or other somewhat justifiable contexts) MJ's rather casual determination to do so just feels weird.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | May 31, 2015 9:06 PM
It's stated explicitly in the story that Caesar and his goons survived, so yeah, it's the Bugs Bunny rule.
Posted by: Michael | May 31, 2015 11:41 PM
I don't know if Michelinie or MacFarlane gets the credit, but kudos for bringing back the Chameleon. I hadn't realized how neglected he was until looking at the references and than he's used quite a bit after this. It had been 10 freaking years since he had been seen! That's crazy for a classic Spider-Man villain.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 9, 2015 8:56 AM
John Dubya: Remember comic book physics isn’t real world physics. If it was Peter and MJ would have faces like ground meat after the number of injuries they’ve endured. More than that though I’m actually fairly confident that given the amount of water and the type of electrical device, no MJ would not have killed them. It wasn’t like they were in a bath naked and a toaster was dropped in with them.
@#MorganWick: Tbh, I find it incredibly doubtful the majority of fans who grew up with a non-married Spider-Man (single always seemed like a dumb label, he was rarely single, he was mostly in one relationship or another) actually disliked married Spider-Man. It was a relatively small minority and most of them were within the Marvel offices themselves. God forbid they put the effort into doing something other than writing a cycle of hook ups and break ups they could do in their sleep.
Posted by: Al | December 23, 2015 9:12 PM
It sure looks like caesar is smashing ice cubes into his own face up there.
Posted by: kveto | April 30, 2016 2:43 PM
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