Amazing Spider-Man #334-339
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #334, Amazing Spider-Man #335, Amazing Spider-Man #336, Amazing Spider-Man #337, Amazing Spider-Man #338, Amazing Spider-Man #339
I think the Sinister Six is one of the coolest villain groups, so it's kind of amazing (heh) to me that it wasn't until now that they were used again after their debut in 1964's Amazing Spider-Man annual #1. Doctor Octopus is the sort of guy that i think is perfect to occasionally pull together a group of super-villains. He's been a "boss" villain on many occasions, often leading a gang of non-powered minions. And yet i guess he's perceived as being corny enough that he never made it quite into the leagues of Dr. Doom or the Green Goblin where he can be an ultimate arch-villain all on his own. He's definitely had his moments and there is definitely a debate amongst fans about whether the Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus is Spidey's arch, but even dead the Green Goblin's specter has hovered over the series, whereas creators have tended to put Doc Ock in situations where he's dealing with his own mental issues. Green Goblin is of course crazy too, but for Octavius it has resulted in him losing his effectiveness while for Green Goblin it's part of his character and really where he draws his strength from.
So if Doc Ock isn't quite top tier by himself, i like the idea of him recruiting a group of villains that he can be the boss of. Mysterio and the Vulture, in particular, are pretty minor on their own, powerwise, and also relatively unambitious, but Ock's leadership provides them with motivation and their powers are good for rounding out a team. I feel similarly about Electro but his powers are more dangerous on his own.
The original Sinister Six also had Kraven the Hunter and Sandman. I actually don't like Kraven on the team; he's too uniquely motivated as a villain to be part of a group like this. And in any event he's dead. So he's replaced with the current demonic Hobgoblin. Which i think is a really bad choice. I prefer no Goblins on this team, and the Demogoblin's supernatural aspects put him in a different category altogether. However, so far he's still mostly been played as a basic thug and that continues here. Personally i would have went with the Rhino, but i think the idea was to use all Ditko-inspired characters, although the Demogoblin is so far removed from the Green Goblin it barely counts. Rhino is at least a classic Spider-Man villain, and the team is actually otherwise missing a basic super-strong character.
As for the Sandman, he has reformed at this point. David Michelinie contrives to keep him on the team anyway, with what i think is limited success. I would have went with Hydroman instead. If my ideal Sinister Six is starting to look a lot like the Sinister Syndicate, well, there's a reason i like that team too.
In any event, you go to battle with the Sinister Six you have, not the Sinister Six you want, and this is a really fun summer event (it came out on a bi-weekly schedule). It should really be thought of as a tribute to the original Sinister Six story. Like that story, it features a splash panel of Spider-Man fighting each of the Sinister Six villains, and also like the original, it has a large number of gratuitous cameos.
The extra page count in this six issue story is at least partially eaten up by Erik Larsen's larger panels. But the decompression serves the story in other ways, notably by expanding the scenes of Doctor Octopus recruiting his teammates, such that the team is not formed until part four. And Spider-Man also fights a couple of other villains in this arc (Shocker and Chance), and there is a separate track devoted to Mary Jane dealing with her stalker problems.
The arc begins with Electro being lured to the location of an experimental super-conductor (really a rumor started by Doctor Octopus). He gets into a fight with Spider-Man...
...and then, as police sirens get closer, Doc Ock offers him a means of escape.
Note the dapper suit. I have no problem with Ock's green and orange jumpsuit, but i know that Christopher Priest disliked it enough that he worked to design a new costume that was worse (the dentist's smock). I guess someone agreed at least that the original costume wasn't great, so he's appearing here in the suit instead of either previous one.
The day after the Electro incident, Peter Parker goes to his job as a research assistant at Empire State University, and we hear about the plot device for the series, which is an experiment involving ley lines.
As far as i know, ley lines are New Age bunk. But you might recognize Cordco as the Stark subsidiary that has appeared occasionally in David Michelinie's Iron Man run, and Iron Man shows up to deliver some equipment to help with the experiment.
Peter gets jealous of the attention that Iron Man gets, so he dresses up as Spider-Man, hoping to make a similar impression, but instead he just gets yawns.
I thought this was going to be just a one-off joke, but his bruised ego as a result of this becomes a topic during his later interaction with Mary Jane.
Peter is right to hold back. She has more important things on her mind; namely the accidents that keep occurring at her place of work whenever anyone is the least bit mean towards her.
Another plotline in these issues is about Nathan Lubenski. Nate had a bad heart condition, and could die at any minute. When Peter and MJ go to visit Aunt May, Nate leaves, and May asks Peter to follow him. Peter sees him withdrawing a large amount of money from the bank, and then, as Spider-Man, protects him from some muggers. But Peter doesn't yet learn where the money came from (Nathan previously had gambling debt problems) or what it's going to be used for. It will turn out that he's cashed in his insurance policy, and is using it to very illegally bet on an assassination attempt arranged by the Kingpin. Yes, that's what i wrote. More on that below.
For now, we are back to more recruitment, with issue #334 ending with Doctor Octopus threatening to hurt the family that Sandman is boarding with if he doesn't join the Sinister Six...
...and then #335 opening with Ock recruiting the Hobgoblin.
I'd say having the new, kewl, Hobgoblin explicitly say that Doctor Octopus isn't a loser says that the creators are on some level fighting that impression among fans.
Meanwhile, Peter walks in on Officer Hal Goldman telling Mary Jane about the latest accident at her workplace.
Peter and MJ later run into Flash Thompson and Felicia Hardy on the street.
Yeah, i wouldn't hang out with someone in those speedos either.
Peter is worried about the fact that Flash is dating the Black Cat, who is only trying to make Peter jealous (and as we saw recently, is currently a psycho), but he doesn't know how to warn Flash without Flash finding out about his secret identity. I think Peter ought to just come clean about it. There are a few people now who know Peter's ID, and adding Flash, who has been a friend for a while now, to that list doesn't seem that harmful. Since Spider-Man is so closely associated with Peter Parker at this point already, his secret identity isn't really protecting his friends anyway (we recently saw Mr. Fear kidnap Betty Brant to get to Spider-Man in Web of Spider-Man #63, for example). If he's worried about Flash, emotionally or physically, he should tell his friend about his secret ID. MJ worries that Peter is actually uncomfortable because Felicia is successfully making him jealous.
In a scene in a later issue, Felicia starts to legitimately like Flash after he "defends" her from some mugger-rapists.
Peter and MJ next go to a charity fund raiser where Captain America is appearing.
Peter is jealous that Mary Jane is getting recognized in the crowd, and he tries to make up for it by using his press badge to get backstage so that MJ can meet Cap, but by the time they get there Cap is gone.
Then the Shocker attacks the event for the till money.
Pretty dumb considering Captain America was just there. I don't know what he means by "How many of you are there?", though. Did the clones come early to the Shocker's place?
Spider-Man defeats Shocker with popcorn butter.
And Doctor Octopus recruits Mysterio during an attempted armed car robbery gone bad. Doc Ock doesn't tell Mysterio that he's the one that called the police. It wasn't the exact same situation, but Doc Ock was more upfront with the ruse he used to recruit Electro.
Vulture's recruitment is tied into the Nate Lubenski plotline. Kingpin wants Raymond Trask, an Atlantic City casino owner that refuses to join the Kingpin's crime organization, assassinated, and he's hired the Vulture to do it.
The situation has weirdly been set up as a gambling opportunity, which is how Nate gets involved.
The gambling situation may be inspired by the inclusion of the villain Chance in this story. Another mobster, Mr. Grouper, has bet everything that he has on the death of Trask. So as a back-up, he hires (or "bets with", since Chance doesn't accept payment; he only makes bets) Chance to kill Trask if the Vulture fails.
The assassination is scheduled to happen at a public event that Trask is holding. Nathan arranges for himself and Aunt May to be there, and Peter is around too. So is Dr. Strange, in a gratuitous cameo.
So Peter is able to change into Spider-Man to stop the Vulture's attack.
Another cameo, actually more of an Easter egg: Cable. Cable and the Vulture cross paths more often than you'd think.
Chance shows up too.
Spider-Man is able to stop Chance by webbing up his helmet, causing him to flee. But meanwhile, the Vulture tries to take Aunt May as a hostage, and Nathan attacks him.
These two old guys are actually friends, but neither seems to recognize the other here.
Spider-Man rescues Nathan, but Vulture is rescued by Doctor Octopus, and gets away. And the strain turns out to be too much for Nathan, who dies knowing that he blew the insurance money intended for May gambling that Trask would be killed.
Kind of a weird way for Nathan to go out. He was always a curmudgeon, and his gambling problem had been established. But having him trying to make money off someone's death puts him in a different category, and makes his relationship with Aunt May seem like it was really misguided. Aunt May would never tolerate anything like that.
But with the recruitment of the Vulture, the Sinister Six is now fully formed.
If Doctor Octopus' plan sounds like Silver Age insanity, that's because it's a ruse. I guess it's to Doc Ock's credit that he can make it sound plausible to the others.
As for the Sandman, i feel only a token effort is made to show that he's there reluctantly.
It's worth noting that Sandman went through almost the same thing with the Frightful Four in this year's Spider-Man annuals (see Amazing Spider-Man annual #24 for the start of that story), and he came out of that pretty determined to stick to his guns. I feel like he would be reaching out to the Thing and protecting the Cassadas while either refusing to work with the Sinister Six or just playing along until he has an opportunity to turn against them. He does turn against them in the end, but it seems like a spur of the moment thing. And if he is trying to play along, making comments like this just serve to remind Doc Ock of his potential disloyalty.
Another Easter egg cameo as Peter and Mary Jane return home from Nathan's funeral: Wolverine. And is that the Punisher with a Whilce Portacio hairstyle next to him?
MJ initially gets mad at Peter for ignoring her, but realizes that he's stressed out at the same time Peter realizes that he was being rude, so they immediately have a nice make-up conversation. One thing i really like about David Michelinie's Spider-Man run is that he writes the Peter/MJ relationship intelligently and without a lot of melodrama.
Someone saw the two of them while they were still "fighting" though.
The first part of Doctor Octopus' plans involves acquiring the world's only source of a material called burundite.
Spider-Man shows up...
...but Mysterio creates an illusion that causes a group of onlookers to attack Spider-Man, and they get away.
The Vulture and Sandman later go after an experimental amphibious tank.
When Spider-Man shows up, Sandman only participates in the fight by launching a net from the tank...
...but it's enough to let him and Vulture get away. Moments later, Spider-Man hears a report that Electro has been spotted, and he hopes for some help. Nova suddenly flies by, but doesn't see Spider-Man. Another cameo.
Spider-Man does make it to Electro, who is stealing some plans from a science building.
Hey, remember that Spider-Man's webshooter is supposed to have a little light to tell him when he's out of fluid? Peter installed it in Amazing Spider-Man #297 and i'm pretty sure we haven't seen it again until now.
Oh, that scan above wasn't the annual #1 tribute splash panel, though. Here's that:
Electro gets away, but Spider-Man finds a page of the stolen plan and learns that they're planning to attack the rocket that is helping with the ley line experiment.
Some downtime before the final act. Sandman makes another mewling nod to being reformed, upsetting Electro.
Doc Ock says he has it covered.
Peter helps Aunt May get over the guilt she had about Nate's death.
Then Peter almost gets killed when someone chisels a stone to fall on him.
Note the Mr. Fantastic cameo.
MJ finds out what happened and suspects that Jonathan Caesar was responsible. She goes to a gun store, but it'll turn out that she's not able to get a gun in time due to the waiting period. Caesar is then shown forcing the director that was injured earlier to write a note luring Mary Jane to Caesar, and Caesar then kills the director.
But now the main event.
Doctor Octopus nearly killing Spider-Man is what causes Sandman to rebel.
But as Doc Ock said, he was prepared for that.
Doctor Octopus kills a scientist to convince the others to launch the rocket with his poison on it.
Meanwhile, Hobgoblin gives Spider-Man a sample of the poison.
And while that's the cliffhanger for issue #338, at #339 Spider-Man is still alive. And that's because it's not really a world threatening poison per Doctor Octopus' supposed scheme. The slightly more plausible actual scheme was to release a poison that's very specifically configured to make people who use cocaine have extreme convulsions. The idea is that cocaine addicts will pay Doctor Octopus for the burundite cure.
I always hate it when villains turn on each other, especially if it means the break-up of a cool team like the Sinister Six. So i don't know why Doc Ock couldn't have been upfront about the plan from the beginning and share the profits with them. I mean, i do know why, it's because Spider-Man can't defeat a united Sinister Six all by himself. So the other members try attacking Doctor Octopus, and then flee when the police start showing up.
Doc Ock leaves too, and Spider-Man has to retrieve his Sand-To-Glass Gun rather than chase him, so that he can restore the Sandman.
The plot goes off the rails a bit when it turns out that Doctor Octopus' poison is affecting the ozone layer. So Spider-Man has to track down Doc Ock to get the burundite.
When Spider-Man prioritizes acquiring the burundite over fighting him, Doc Ock realizes that Spider-Man must be telling the truth about the ozone layer and he lets him have it. Doc Ock, environmentalist.
Thor helps launch the burundite into space.
Meanwhile, Mary Jane goes to the trap set up by Jonathan Caeasar.
She's rescued by Hal Goldman...
...who turns out to not actually be a policeman. He's a stalker too. He's the one that's been causing the accidents.
So MJ takes him out.
Kind of a weird end to the long running Jonathan Caesar story, but i was never too engaged with that anyway.
MJ and Peter both rush home to tell each other what a crazy day they've had.
So there you go. I think of these bi-weekly summer events like blockbuster summer movies. Just big dumb fun. And it's a definite success on that score.
I've cut back on the number of images in this entry due to the fact i've had to include so many giant splash panels. There is a little more action in the fight scenes than what i'm showing. Honestly, not that much more. But these issues at least have a built in excuse in that the original Sinister Six appearance was also splash-panel heavy. And the art is fun. I do wish Erik Larsen would cut back on the cheesecake. When he doesn't go for the fat lip shortcut, he does a fine job making Mary Jane look attractive without having to bend her over ass-to-camera and other such nonsense.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: There are obviously a lot of cameos in this story, requiring this story to fit in between breaks of issues of Iron Man, Captain America, Doctor Strange, New Mutants, Wolverine, Punisher, New Warriors, Fantastic Four, and Thor. I would ignore the Cable, Wolverine, and Punisher appearances if necessary, since they're just Easter egg jokes. This story takes place over at least a period of days, if not weeks, but i'm keeping it all as a single arc in part to make it easier to place for the various cameo characters.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six TPB
Inbound References (5): show
This is the highlight of the Larsen era IMO. Such a fun story with great art. It's largely because of this and Larsen's artwork that ASM became one of my top 3 titles at the time. It stayed that way for me until...well, you can guess.
Posted by: Robert | May 12, 2015 3:29 PM
I was never a big fan of this story. Seemed like most of the Sinister Six's characters were sacrificed to make Doc Ock look better. I love Ock and all, but would have preferred all of the villains to get a near-equal showing like in ASM Annual #1. However, the cover to issue #337 is iconic to me, as a version of it was used for the Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six video game, which I had and loved as a child. It's actually a pretty terrible game, which is unfortunately par for the course with most early Spidey games.
Posted by: TCP | May 12, 2015 4:05 PM
Also, I agree that this is a terrible way for Nathan to go out. He hadn't been the same character since DeFalco got a hold of him (he wasn't always a curmudgeon after all), but not even stealing from May could make me believe he'd bet on another man's life.
J.M. DeMatteis would be the first to address the fact that Vulture and Nathan knew one another, though it would be nearly two years after this story. This lack of recognition between Adrian and Nathan, as well as the microscope gaff in ASM #290, make me think that Michelinie wasn't really the best at continuity. And what's with all these stories about cocaine? OK, I'm done.
Posted by: TCP | May 12, 2015 4:31 PM
This, to me, is THE iconic Doctor Octopus look.
That's Dr. Sivana that Cap is fighting at the charity battle.
I assume the Shocker's comment is addressed to heroes in general; he waited for Cap to leave but now Spider-Man shows up.
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 12, 2015 4:45 PM
I like the Hobgoblin as part of the Six. I always saw Macendale as defined by the fact that he was never as awesome as either Green Goblin, or even the first Hobgoblin (Who himself was never as big as Norman Osborn). He never had the formula, which lead him first to make a deal with demons, and later to go for cybernetic augmentation. Osborn or (post-Macendale) Kingsley would at best lead their own incarnation of the Six. Macendale was a jobber, who is just part of the team. (Though I agree, he does feel out of place now he's still in his demonic phase)
I quite like this outfit for Doc Ock, though I don't like how buff he appears to be. Ock should be at least quite chubby. (Now that I think about it... perhaps that's why he never made it too the big leagues until relatively recently? Not so much that he's corny (Surely "Doctor Doom" is just as corny as "Doc Ock"), he just doesn't look very threatening as an old fat bloke with robot arms.
Leylines are indeed spiritual nonsense. But in a world where all classic mythologies are real?
I agree that the Sandman feels out of place here. Why on earth would Ock want an unwilling henchman? I wouldn't go with Hydro-Man as a replacement though. He never felt like a top tier Spidey villain to me. Rhino or Scorpion would've been my choice. (It would have been a cool homage to the original Sinister Six story if Sandman later turns up to help Spidey though.)
The Nate/Vulture part of the story is pretty dumb, and the Mary-Jane/Stalker stuff isn't that great either. But it's good to finally see the Sinister Six return! I agree that they are a very cool team, and I would also like to see them go up against the Avengers sometimes. I still think it's bizarre that the team never appeared between 1964 and 1990, especially considering how many incarnations we'll see between 1990 and today.
Minor note: I like how Sandman is just playing with sand in that first group shot of the six.
Posted by: Berend | May 12, 2015 5:55 PM
"but he doesn't know how to warn Flash without Flash finding out about his secret identity. I think Peter ought to just come clean about it. There are a few people now who know Peter's ID, and adding Flash, who has been a friend for a while now, to that list doesn't seem that harmful"
Posted by: Michael | May 12, 2015 8:58 PM
Regarding arch-enemies, I think that when doubt exists if a villain is a hero's arch, that's a good sign the villain isn't. Dr. Doom & the FF, Red Skull & Cap... real arch-enemies occupy such a position in the hero's life that there's no reasonable question who they are. Not every hero has an arch-enemy, and that's OK.
Posted by: Mortificator | May 12, 2015 9:42 PM
Larsen draws a pretty good Electro. Many artists have trouble with the headgear or the electric lines on his chest so that he doesn't look good. If you get it right though, great costume.
I liked this too, but was ultimately disappointed.
I didn't like Hobgoblin II or Sandman as a member though for the reasons FNORD12 described. Scorpion would have been my first choice to replace Kraven.
Posted by: Chris | May 12, 2015 9:45 PM
Erik Larsen so crushed it drawing these issues. Got the middle of this on vacation. I loved his Powerless saga coming up. All still new and fresh for me in 1990.
Posted by: Cecil | May 13, 2015 4:01 AM
That spash page of Doc Ock tying up spidey should not appear outside of a comedy comic book.
While Larsen is slightly less cheesecake that Macfarlane his art is another harbringer of the art of the 90s, when artists were more interested in being different than good.
And the whole MJ stalker thing is too silly even for a comic book. Both of her murderous stalkers wind up in the same room at the same time. Calgon take me away (from this comic).
Posted by: kveto | May 14, 2015 1:54 AM
Cecil, I know - it's a wasted opportunity on Scorpion. Not every villains is going to be as complex as Dr Doom, but there is no reason for the Scorpion to not be more developed. It's just a lack of interest (or talent) by the writers. Yeah, Mac Gargan is "criminally insane" but so is Otto Octavius. Given his background as a private detective, the Scorpion shouldn't be stupid. An evil Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, or Continental Op would be very interesting. No Country for Old Men showed that even a ruthless killer like Anton Chigurh can be made compelling. Keep the Scorpion a psychotic killer, but give him some strange twisted code of morals he's kept from his PI days. Even if "the Scorpion has no friends", he can still interact with people and not kill everyone he meets.
Posted by: Chris | May 14, 2015 11:26 PM
Interesting enough, David Micheline actually used the Scorpion three times during his ASM run. Each of those times, he focused on Scorpy's "get revenge on JJJ for turning me into the Scorpion" motivation, so I guess Micheline thought he didn't have the proper motivation to join the Sinister Six, unless the Six came up with a plan that involved eliminating JJJ.
Posted by: mikrolik | May 16, 2015 12:18 PM
Comics Interview #85 showed that some panels in #335 were redrawn by Tom Morgan(for example, Larsen's original 7th panel of that issue was reproduced).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 29, 2015 8:38 PM
But why make Hal Goldman look so much like Doc Ock?
Posted by: Jack | June 6, 2015 8:32 AM
Wow, several things for a storyline I had never read:
1 - Fnord, this is the first time I have understood your color issues with Nova. I think the issue is the inking. I bet if you were to cut out the star and place it next to his jacket, they are the same color, but the inking on the jacket makes the red look much more brown.
2 - Larsen just should not draw lips. It's not just MJ. That large panel with Peter looks like it belongs in a romance comic.
3 - I do wish they had used Rhino or Scorpion instead of Sandman or Hobgoblin, partially because Larsen draws a kick-ass Scorpion.
4 - So glad to be read of Nathan. He started out as a good supporting character but he had quickly grown tiresome after the Death of Jean DeWolff (when he shot those kids on the subway). But, hey at least we won't have to destroy two decades of continuity just to bring him back!
5 - Not with you on the outfit, Thanos6. Maybe it's just my age - I didn't actually read a lot of Spider-Man growing up, so my main experience actually reading Doc Ock was in Secret Wars, so I'm very attached to the green jumpsuit. Plus there were the figures (although Doc Ock was the only figure in the first Series that I didn't own).
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 23, 2015 12:19 PM
Interesting. Doc Ock was the only Secret Wars figure I DID own.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | October 23, 2015 11:23 PM
Eric (Beck), Ernie Popchick shot the kids on the subway, not Nathan. I do agree that the character was on a downward trend, mostly thanks to DeFalco who had a good run on the title, but really dropped the ball on this character.
Posted by: irh13 | October 23, 2015 11:37 PM
Wasn't Nathan's start of darkness pulling down a blind so an officer could snipe a crook? I mean not a bad deed it sounds like but wasn't Peter talking down the hostage taker?
And it was so weird first reading Nathan on McFarlane's run then seeing him in the past as a cool old guy during Roger Stern's run.
Posted by: david banes | October 24, 2015 4:09 AM
My bad, I conflated the two in my head. Still, Nathan's poor health dragged on for a long time before they finally actually killed him off.
Granted, it's not as bad as Aunt May, whose poor health dragged on for over 30 years and still ended up with that horrible bargain anyway.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 24, 2015 7:12 AM
Close but not quite, David. Fnord posted the scene here:
Posted by: Michael | October 24, 2015 5:11 PM
Chance isn't listed as a character appearing.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | November 23, 2015 12:01 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | November 23, 2015 12:28 PM
Wait I know why Vulture doesn't remember Nathan! The Nathan he befriended was a cool guy. Nothing like the Nathan of the later 80s and early 90s. So he just knew this was a totally different Nathan from the one he met years ago.
Posted by: david banes | November 23, 2015 2:11 PM
Yeah, I can easily see Vulture not remembering Nathan; Vulch's mental stability in his post Nathan encounter appearances wasn't very high, and he never really gets a good look at Nathan either. I also think David's point makes sense; we remember people at their prime--if he had seen a feisty, jovial Nathan, I'm sure he would have remembered--my grandmother recently ran into an old family member and her response was "i can't believe he got so old--I barely recognized him!"
Posted by: MikeCheyne | November 23, 2015 2:22 PM
The whole "Vulture didn't recognize Nathan" will actually be brought up in Spectacular 187.
Posted by: mikrolik | November 23, 2015 3:25 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|