Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #125-126
Issue(s): Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #125, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #126
It's always fun when a character is on an introductory circuit and gets to appear in other books as a promotion for their own upcoming series. In this case, that series will never actually get produced, but Danny Fingeroth still got to make Spider-Woman a pivotal character in last year's Avengers annual and then use her in Iron Man and now here. If you don't think about it on a production/creator level, from a "Grand Story of the Marvel universe" perspective it just means that Spider-Woman is active enough at this time that we see her in a number of books. And that makes reading comics in the order they are listed in this project more rewarding. I suppose if you were just reading through a run of Spectacular Spider-Mans, Spider-Woman would just feel like a random guest star and you wouldn't be getting the whole story (except that Fingeroth and company do include copious footnotes and flashbacks).
We saw in that previous Iron Man appearance that Spider-Woman is secretly working for the government, but as far as the public knows, she's a renegade. J. Jonah Jameson is even less forgiving, though. He describes the period where she officially was working for the government-sanctioned Freedom Force as "she worked for a while with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants". So she's not even getting credit for that period where she was officially a good guy.
JJ wants Peter Parker to take pictures of her doing evil things, preferably while partnering with Spider-Man.
JJ sends Peter to Denver to investigate Spider-Woman, but Peter is at his absolute slacker worst in these issues. He has essentially been replaced with Newspaper Spider-Man. He's apparently four months behind on the rent, and instead of doing his job, here he is taking a spite shower.
And on top of that, despite being behind on the rent, he never makes it out to Denver.
During that time, Spider-Woman is sent on a mission to retrieve a disk from a Dextron Labs. Unfortunately for her, the Wrecking Crew are also after the disk (and here comes some awkward Jim Mooney art).
The Wrecking Crew are among my favorite villains. And that's partially because they were in both Secret Wars and the Raid on Avengers Mansion, and they're just a big destructive force. But what i also like about them is that they're a team. They work really well together as a group; despite all four of them essentially having the same power, they each have a specialty that makes it possible for them to coordinate while fighting. One guy sets them up, another knocks them down, that sort of thing. The other thing about them is they are just merciless low level thugs that just happen to have Asgardian level powers. Basically, no complications, and, until now, no inter-team fighting, unlike a lot of super-villain teams. These issues, however, introduce two ideas, neither of which benefit the group.
The first is that Thunderball has schemes to steal the powers away from the rest of the group. The idea is that he got a taste for that power while he was operating solo for a few issues and he got his hands on the Wrecker's crowbar. So now he's scheming to permanently take the powers away from the rest of the Crew.
From the beginning, Thunderball has been an interesting part of the group. He's black, whereas the other three are white and Piledriver especially has a decidedly "good old boy" persona. And he's also a scientist, whereas the other three are low level bruisers. But we've never seen any conflict between group members because of either of these things, and i like that about their earlier appearances. I could see Danny Fingeroth using one or both of those things to create some more support for his decision to betray his teammates, but he doesn't do so.
The second thing is the idea that the Wrecker's mom has been sick for some time, and she's now dying. It turns out that he's been sending her money orders all along, but she's been refusing to cash them in the hopes that he'll instead go straight. And he refuses to go straight because he doesn't want to be "powerless" like her and his dad. I guess the idea is to humanize the man, but it just seems unnecessary. The Wrecker didn't need a soft side.
The Wrecker, meanwhile, still thinks of the other guys as his "brothers"...
...while Thunderball sees the other two members of the team as just pawns, easily distracted by boxing and date-rape opportunities.
Spider-Woman fails to stop the Wrecking Crew from getting the disk (she only isn't killed because Thunderball says killing her will just get other super-heroes after them)...
...getting her deeper in the hole with her mysteriously vengeance-minded handler, Mike Clemson.
And luckily for Slacker Spider-Man, Spider-Woman shows up in Manhattan. The above portions of the story take place in the past, before the Raid on Avengers Mansion. And now the Wrecking Crew are in jail, with all but the Wrecker having lost their powers, while the Wrecker's powers have been restored to their original strength before he split them amongst his buddies. So Spider-Woman is in New York to get the disk from the Wrecker, who has escaped from prison.
She manages to grab the disk but he pursues her.
And that's when Spider-Man gets involved and (despite working with her in Secret Wars, remember) immediately assumes that she's working with the Wrecker, and attacks her. When she says she's not one of the bad guys, he responds "that's what they all say, lady". Because Spider-Man has no idea what it's like to be given a bad rap in the press.
The Wrecker stomps both Spider-people...
...and is briefly chased away by the police, but he returns when he finds that the disk got destroyed during the fight.
Possibly feeling some pressure from Spider-Man, Spider-Woman attempts some witty banter, but just fails miserably (unless you want to be a lawyer?)...
...and then a stray crowbar swipe by the Wrecker awakens some LMDs that SHIELD locked in a warehouse because they fell into that uncanny valley where they look not quite human but human enough to be disturbing.
While Spider-Man and -Woman deal with the LMDs, the Wrecker cries about his mom and then goes to rescue his de-powered Crewmates.
The Spiders then start working the phones. Spider-Woman calls Clemson to get chewed out again, and gives her daughter a quick call, and Spider-Man tries to contact the FF and the Avengers, but neither are available.
Since he can't get help from the big league super-hero teams, Spider-Man suggests teaming up again to go after the Wrecker. But it's at this time that Spider-Woman gets possessed by some kind of demonic entity.
Not even Spider-Man's line-dancing can exorcise the evil spirit.
So he's forced to go after the Wrecker alone.
The Wrecking Crew, meanwhile, have holed up in a secret lab of Baron Zemo's.
And Thunderball's scheming ways are infecting the rest of the group, including the Wrecker.
The Wrecker's loyalty is muddled by the situation with his mother. I'm not sure from the dialogue how much of Thunderball's scheme Piledriver and Bulldozer are aware of. And we don't find out because Spider-Man's arrival interrupts things.
Thunderball has managed to steal half of the Wrecker's power, and the two briefly agree to put their differences aside to fight Spider-Man.
And then when he's out, the fight continues.
Meanwhile, Spider-Woman had found the Wrecker's diary (!) leading her to the Wrecker's mom, who gave Spider-Woman a note for the Wrecker and then died. So Spider-Woman shows up during the fight (the diary also had the location of Zemo's lab), and helps Spider-Man stop Thunderball from killing the Wrecker.
Thanks to that, the Wrecker is willing to walk away without killing Spider-Man, but Spidey persists and gets knocked out. So Spider-Woman jumps in and hands the Wrecker the letter.
With that all over, it's time to get back to what's really important: Peter Parker being a complete slacker. He failed to get any useful pictures during these various encounters, so he's resorting to cannibalizing his meager retirement fund (which was seemingly set up by Joe Robertson, bless his heart, probably hoping Peter would never find out about it until he really needed it).
As for Spider-Woman, we are still promoting the mini-series that will never manifest.
This story is damaging to the Wrecking Crew, has bad art, and makes Peter Parker look even more like a loser than usual. Eh, but it's still fun...
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: A good portion of issue #125 takes place "seven days ago", before the Wrecking Crew hook up with the rest of the Masters of Evil for the raid on Avengers mansion. I'm treating that as an extended flashback, so characters that only appear in the portion (like the Daily Bugle characters) are not listed in the Characters Appearing section. For Spider-Man, it's said that he never made it to Denver to investigate Spider-Woman because of "everything that's been happening", with a footnote for "current issues of Amazing and Web". Obviously that's generic enough that it can be ignored. The MCP have the present day story between Amazing Spider-Man #288 and #289 (and before Spider-Man vs. Wolverine). And of course the main story also takes place after the Avengers raid.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): show
Interesting seeing Piledriver as a potential rapist here, especially thinking about the latest Valkyrie one-shot.
Posted by: Midnighter | March 14, 2014 1:17 PM
Fantastic Four 355, which is a followup to this story, makes it seem like Piledriver and Bulldozer were in on Thunderball's scheme. Although I'm not sure if it's intended to take place shortly after this one, since the Wrecking Crew are often portrayed inconsistently after this story.
Posted by: Michael | March 14, 2014 8:09 PM
I can't guess how many times I've been flipping through the "S" boxes at comic conventions over the years wondering if that Spider-Woman limited series would be right after the last issue of the Jessica Drew series.
Posted by: Brian | March 22, 2014 3:38 PM
It's really embarassing but I get the Wrecker mixed up with the Absorbing Man at times or at least I used to years ago.
Posted by: David Banes | March 22, 2014 7:30 PM
Fingeroth is pretty awful. Just very pedestrian writing.
Posted by: Chris | March 22, 2014 9:57 PM
Issue #125 was where J. Marc DeMatteis' "Kraven" story was initially supposed to start.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 5, 2014 1:41 PM
Alan Kupperberg's art sucks during these issues at least. Why is Spider-Man "Line-dancing"? and where Spider-Woman explains why she has to follow orders or she may never see her daughter she looks like a mad woman rather than just someone that is angry.
Posted by: JSfan | March 9, 2015 6:51 AM
"I suppose if you were just reading through a run of Spectacular Spider-Mans, Spider-Woman would just feel like a random guest star and you wouldn't be getting the whole story"
Yep, that's exactly how I felt. I never liked her because I thought she was just a Spider-Man knock-off.
Posted by: JSfan | March 9, 2015 6:55 AM
So that's what Peter looks like with a sparkling white mullet. (in the buff to boot)
Posted by: kveto | March 9, 2015 10:55 AM
FNORD - why would SHIELD make LMDs of Ricky and Lucy Ricardo? Were they fans of "I Love Lucy"? ;)
Posted by: clyde | June 4, 2015 2:33 PM
Two other things about this story:
Posted by: clyde | June 4, 2015 2:45 PM
I agree with JSfan - the art is terrible. Especially when compared to the great work from Buscema in the Under Siege storyline. That version of the Wrecker at the end seemed unbelievably dangerous and powerful. This one just seems like a clown.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 11, 2015 1:09 PM
I think I'm probably one of the relatively few readers who actually prefers Julia as Madame Web rather than Spider-Woman/Arachne.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | October 29, 2016 1:55 PM
The origin the Wrecker gets here is more the kind of thing I associate with Tom DeFalco (especially his 1990s work).
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 29, 2016 2:05 PM
I hate to pile ont his issue, but it also screws up the Wrecking Crew's personalities: It's Bulldozer, not Piledriver, who's supposed to talk like a Southern "good ol' boy." Piledriver is the guy who sounds like he's from Joisey.
Of course, this is just the beginning of writers slowly losing track of the distinct personalities of the Wrecking Crew guys; by the 2000s, there's nothing left to indicate that Thunderball is a scientist instead of just a brawler.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | June 3, 2017 11:14 AM
Not sure how much of a "goold ol' boy" Piledriver would be anyway if he considers date-rape...
Thunderball showed a strong desire to be respected in last year's Illuminati series and reminded people he's a scientist, which implied he wants to distance himself from the rest of the Wrecking Crew. Hell, he worked with totally different people in that series. I like that characterization when writers remember it. I know it's damaging to the teamwork of the Wrecking Crew but Thunderball still seems to be the kind of guy to seek independence.
Posted by: Nate Wolf | June 3, 2017 3:36 PM
I have a vague memory of a story in the early 90s, possibly in Amazing Spider-Man, where Thunderball turned good and helped out Spider-Man defeat some villain. Does anyone else remember this? I seem to recall Thunderball's expertise in science figured into the story.
Posted by: James | June 3, 2017 6:22 PM
@James - Sounds like the "Round Robin" storyline from Amazing Spider-Man #353-358. You will find it in the 1991 index, or through the direct link:
Posted by: Luis Dantas | June 3, 2017 7:49 PM
I really do enjoy that Bulldozer's big goals from his life are crime are to get choice ringside seats at a Boxing event. I can assure you, some of those championship fights are expensive!! :D
Posted by: Wis | October 27, 2017 10:32 PM
This is a great review of some middling-but-vaguely-entertaining '80s Spidey comics. Sums up the problems with the story, plus some funny lines making fun of the art.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | May 17, 2018 4:13 PM
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