Avengers West Coast #84-86
Issue(s): Avengers West Coast #84, Avengers West Coast #85, Avengers West Coast #86
The story starts with someone working at the NY Globe, a less than reputable newspaper, saying that they have information proving that one of the three people currently running for president is on the mob's payroll. But the reporter is killed with poison, before the press conference announcing which candidate it was, and the Globe's lawyer, the only other person to see the documents, is also killed.
Peter Parker was at the press conference where the reporter was killed, in New York. The candidates are currently all campaigning in California. Once thing i've been noticing about Roy Thomas comics lately, and this isn't a criticism or a compliment, is that he seems to enjoy subverting the flow of a book. For example, just looking at the sequence below, it looks pretty standard. Peter sees the dead guy, you get a close-up shot, and then you see a picture of a plane. Clearly he's deciding that he needs to get to California. But instead, Thomas scripts it so that Peter thinks to himself that he can't go to California, and then there's someone on a plane writing a campaign speech.
I totally misinterpreted that, thinking that Peter wasn't going to California, at least yet (he's on the cover so we know he'll get there eventually). But i think Michael in the comments is right that the idea is that Peter does wind up going to California after all. It's not clear though; if Thomas had to script things that way, then a scene showing J. Jonah Jameson sending Peter to California seems merited. But it really could have been scripted with Peter just saying, "Guess I'd better convince JJ I need to go to California." I originally thought Thomas was trying to fake us out in some way, but i guess it's really just a famous Roy Thomas reversal for the purposes of a joke that just went over my head.
It's usually the sign of a good comic book artist that you can understand the story just by looking at the pictures, and the flow between panels. David Ross isn't my favorite artist, but he's pretty traditional when it comes to layouting, and he's doing it by the book here. But Thomas messes with that formula with his jokey scripting.
Anyway, this is the West Coast Avengers' book, so we do get to them eventually. They are sitting around debating politics. Living Lightning's girlfriend Mona has been sleeping over.
As for Spider-Woman, it's her turn to have custody of her daughter, Rachel. She's running late, and gets chewed out by her ex-husband Larry because of it, and, worse, she has to take Rachel while she's on her way to have a final meeting with her former government handler, Mike Clemson. On her way there, she explains her origin to Rachel (who knows that she's Spider-Woman). She apparently knew Val Cooper from college.
And later she got her powers from a government program that Cooper was running, thanks to a scientist named Dr. Napier. Note that the idea that she was injected with spider extract is said to be an accident, but even Spider-Woman can't believe how sloppy the scientists would have to be for that to be true.
Note that Spider-Woman originally wanted to be called Ariadne, or would have settled for Arachne. She does (much) later take that second name. In this story, one of the Deathweb villains is Arachne.
Spider-Woman tells Clemson that she's done working for him. After she leaves, we see that he's working for "the Conclave".
Spider-Woman then brings Rachel over to the Avengers.
The Scarlet Witch had previously hired a nanny to take care of her phantom babies, so it's not unreasonable to think that Spider-Woman could leave her kid at the compound, if she arranged it in advance. But they're actually meeting at the building where the third party presidential candidate, Michael Galvan, is speaking.
The power goes out at Galvan's speech. The Avengers first run into Spider-Man.
And then Deathweb (their name seems to be hyphenated about half the time, maybe just for space reasons).
No indication that there's anything wrong with Wonder Man's powers in this story, and the way Wonder Man stutters it sounds like he's hesitating or doubting himself, which should cause him to weaken. He does have a lot of trouble against Therak, but Therak is described as being a real powerhouse. His powers are ionic.
Antro is based on trapdoor spiders, which in super-villain terms translates to him being able to teleport.
And Arachne is poisonous.
The Avengers drive Deathweb off, but they kidnap Rachel as they leave. Iron Man suspends Spider-Woman, saying that she's too personally involved at this point. But of course she ignores that order.
Deathweb are working for the Conclave, same as Mike Clemson. Their immediate supervisor is the Manipulator.
Spider-Woman goes to Clemson, thinking that she'll get him to help locate Deathweb, not realizing that they're working together. Spider-Man follows her, and the two of them wind up in a fight with Deathweb and the Manipulator.
True to his name, Manipulator tells Spider-Woman that if she doesn't kill Spider-Man, he'll have her daughter killed.
Manipulator and company leave the Spider-people to fight while the building explodes. They survive their explosion, and we learn that Spider-Woman was fighting for real, but not "going for the kill". Spider-Man tells her that he was able to get a tracer on Rachel, and they are able to go and rescue her without incident (she wasn't being guarded). Spider-Woman then turns Rachel over to Larry and reveals her secret to him.
Larry is working as a PR person for Galvan, the third party presidential candidate.
Deathweb then show up and kill Galvan. The Spider-people rejoin the Avengers to fight Deathweb. But Larry is manipulated into having a heart attack in the parking lot by the Manipulator.
Manipulator escapes with an old fashioned flash bomb. Spider-Woman has a little time for a final moment of reconciliation with her ex-husband before he dies.
It seems the point of this scheme was to manipulate Galvan's vice-presidential candidate, Wilson Lambert, into winning the election. Presumably he's working for the Conclave. But Arachne insinuates exactly that after she's captured.
Here's another case where it feels like Thomas is subverting the layout. If you just look at the art, it looks like Lambert is being led away by the police. But it's just his security detail bringing him somewhere for a nap.
The Manipulator and Deathweb will appear again in a 1993 mini-series written by Roy and Dann Thomas (but Lambert won't).
It's nice to get some closure on Spider-Woman's origins and the loose ends around the fact that she was working for Clemson. It seems to miss the fact that Clemson had some personal vendetta against her, per his earlier appearances. But gets it Clemson, who tried to get USAgent to assassinate Spider-Woman when she first showed up in this book, out of the picture, at least until Spider-Woman's miniseries. And it "resolves" the custody battles and general strife between Julia and her ex-husband (granted, by killing him off). I like the idea of showing Julia having to juggle the responsibility of being a parent with being a super-hero. And the Deathweb characters and the Manipulator, cheesy as they may be, provide some fun fights. Somehow the fact that Therak has ionic powers makes him seem more "legit" to me.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This story is context free for everyone, including Spider-Man. USAgent and Hawkeye will seem to still be recovering from getting poisoned by Deathweb at the start of next issue, but a reference to this story is made in Avengers West Coast annual #7, which is part of the Assault on Armor City crossover. And that crossover features Iron Man, who is "dead" at the start of next issue. So USAgent and Hawkeye must recover for the annuals and then have a relapse before next issue. Assault on Armor City takes place before Darkhawk #21-25, which takes place during Infinity War, so i've placed this prior to Infinity War.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAntro, Arachne (Deathweb), Consuela, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Larry Carpenter, Living Lightning, Manipulator III, Mike Clemson, Mona (Living Lightning's gf), Rachel Carpenter, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Therak, USAgent, Wonder Man
Wait, Living Lightning has a girlfriend? I thought he was gay? Or am I thinking of a similar electrical-powered character?
Posted by: Bill | April 15, 2016 9:08 PM
Fnord, I assumed that WAS Peter thinking "my fellow Americans"- I thought the joke was that Peter said the only way he'd go to California was if he became a Presidential candidate and he wound up going to California anyway.
Posted by: Michael | April 15, 2016 9:35 PM
Wow, that joke went right over my head.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 15, 2016 11:46 PM
@Bill, Yes, Living Lightning is gay. But this is (long) before he came out of the closet. Miguel dated a couple of women before he either realized or accepted his sexuality.
Posted by: Dermie | April 16, 2016 12:32 AM
The fact that Therak has iconic powers will be useful to the Count Nefaria (and Kurt Busiek).
Posted by: Midnighter | April 16, 2016 6:31 AM
Ionic, not iconic.
Posted by: Midnighter | April 16, 2016 6:32 AM
Ah. I was wondering if I imagined all that then, or maybe had him confused with someone else, like one of the X-Men or something. Nice to know I'm not imagining things!
Posted by: Bill | April 16, 2016 10:01 AM
I've always thought Deathweb was a good example of one of the major tropes of superhero comics. You have two males and one female. Antro and Therak, the males, are a guy in full body armor and a huge inhuman monster, respectively. On the other hand Arachne, the female, is a very beautiful woman running around half-naked.
In other words, if you are a man who gains super-powers, you'll probably either get stuck in a suit of armor or become a hideous creature. If you're a woman, on the other hand, you'll end up looking like a supermodel.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 16, 2016 11:07 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|