Spectacular Spider-Man #197-200
Issue(s): Spectacular Spider-Man #197,Spectacular Spider-Man #198, Spectacular Spider-Man #199, Spectacular Spider-Man #200
I picked up the first three issues of this run in realtime because of the appearance of the "original" X-Factor. And i hated it. In part because it features the villain only J.M. DeMatteis loves: Professor Power, who instantly puts me to sleep. But it also just had a really old school feel to it, not at all what i was looking for in seeing X-Factor back together again. I appreciate this story a little more now, because i realize DeMatteis is really doing something more like an homage to the original X-Men. And there are actually some really nice character moments and funny bits. But it's still kind of hokey, and i don't think i was in a place to appreciate that sort of thing at the time. And Peter's parents apparently running around certainly didn't help matters. So for better or worse, i dropped this series before issue #200. "Better" because it means that i didn't pay full price for the double-sized foil cover issue, "worse" because i missed an extremely important development in realtime (well, it was at the time, at least).
Peter Parker is having lunch with his parents next door to a restaurant where the original X-Men, except Jean who is out shopping, are meeting. A bank robbery brings both sets of heroes out.
Sal Buscema continues to force us to read in a backwards C order.
C'mon, Sal! You're ruining my whole "pre-Image artists might not be flashy, but at least they understood layouting" argument!
Before they part ways, Professor Power attacks.
One thing i really like is that Spider-Man only vaguely recognizes Professor Power.
But Professor Power turns out to be a bigger deal than Spidey remembers.
Beast, on the other hand, remembers Professor Power pretty well, since they've fought more than once. After zapping Spidey, Power makes a beeline for the Beast and starts choking him. But the other X-Men recover and attack. However, in the end they're all knocked out. He has his guards bring the X-Men back to his flying castle, but he says he has no quarrel with Spider-Man, so he leaves him behind.
We learn how Professor Power came to be back in his son's body. The last we saw of him, he was back in his own body after USAgent killed his son's body. But now we learn that after an explosion destroyed Power's own body, a failsafe snapped him back into the son again.
We see a centurion in Power's castle acting suspiciously...
...and it turns out to be Jean Grey, who is finally done shopping and, like Spider-Man, has snuck into the castle to rescue the other X-Men.
In the subsequent confrontation, Spider-Man tries to reach out to Professor Power.
I really like this, especially that silent panel showing Power's face. One thing DeMatteis and Buscema have been good about on this Spectacular run is getting into the heads of the villains, and i like the implication here, that at some level Power realizes that what he's doing is crazy but that he can't help it. Jean makes a similar, less subtle play at the same thing.
And faced with the telepathic truth, Power goes catatonic. Jean says that Power's consciousness is still alive somewhere, but the "body's empty".
Issue #199, which instead of having a fight with a villain just deals with the heroes dealing with the fact that Power's castle is plummeting to the ground in his absence, is where things get really fun in the way i mentioned at the top. It's the angst free X-Men!
Even the colorist gets in on the fun.
Coloring errors aside, this makes me imagine an X-Factor series where they dealt with the issue of Cyclops' marriage right away and then got to something more lighthearted. I guess it might not have become as popular, but i suspect it would have been more appreciated by Silver Age X-Men fans.
When they safely land, Jean says that he's a good friend to the X-Men.
When Peter returns home, he has to deal with the fallout of having gone missing during his lunch with his parents. Then he gets home to find out that Harry Osborn is out of the Vault.
He's clearly still not doing well (unlike, say, the completely adjusted little Normie or the totally-in-denial Liz).
The stress of Harry's return causes Peter and MJ to fight, and MJ goes out for a walk, where Harry approaches her as the Green Goblin.
He grabs her and flies her to the place where Gwen Stacy died, ostensibly to tell her that he'd never do that. He gets angry when MJ suggests that Harry's father Norman was at all responsible for what happened to Gwen, but she does manage to convince Harry to take her home. They are waiting when Spider-Man gets back. And Harry continues to show up harassing Peter and others throughout the next few weeks, telling Peter that if he fights back he'll file a criminal complaint and hold a press conference revealing Peter's secret ID. It culminates in a nice scene with MJ trying to tell Harry that things can go back to the way they were, when they were all friends. But Harry says it's too late for that, and Peter chooses that moment to confront Harry as Spider-Man regardless of the risk to his ID.
DeMatteis and Buscema had every excuse to turn all of issue #200 into a full length fight book, but they nicely decline that to give us an issue focusing more on the human side of the characters, and still give us a good fight in the end. Harry drugs Spider-Man, making him weak, and he's also got the building rigged to explode, figuring they can both die together. But Mary Jane and Normie are in the building too. So Harry flies both of them out. And at the last minute, responding to an appeal by MJ, he goes back into the building to get Spidey. He gets Spidey out, but then he seemingly dies, a delayed effect of the serum that he's been taking.
Years later, it will turn out that Harry survived after all. But for the time being, he's effectively dead.
I never loved Harry as the Green Goblin. I thought the Hobgoblin was a great way to have a goblin in Spider-Man's rogues gallery without the complicated drama that comes from both Green Goblins knowing Spider-Man's secret ID, which caused them to be constantly crazy and/or dead. But Harry's instability goes back to the 70s and what DeMatteis does with it here is pretty good.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 261,308. Single issue closest to filing date = 205,900.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
Spectacular Spider-Man #199 was among the first two comic books I ever owned. I'll never forget that final splash page with the Green Goblin swooping down on Mary Jane ("We have to talk.")
I actually think a case could be made that Harry became a more effective villain for Peter than his father. While Harry's legacy would never match Norman's due to the latter's murder of Gwen, the conflict between Harry and Peter always felt more personal to me than the conflict between Norman and Peter (at least until Norman's return). The fact that Harry and Peter were best friends for so long adds a level of pathos that just isn't there with Norman.
Issue #200 is a fantastic issue, and a lot of the scenes are just tragic to read. I especially love the scene in which Harry speaks to his father's portrait. It really shows the value of having Norman Osborn as this almost-deified figure from the past, whose presence still looms over his family. Harry still trying to live up to the Osborn Legacy while simultaneously trying to distant himself from his father's methods (even while still denying Norman's role in Gwen's murder) is a key part of what makes his character arc up to this point so interesting and sad. Basically, by this point, he had become a much more developed and multi-faceted character than Norman ever was. This obsession with family also foreshadows a few of Harry's schemes that will only come to fruition after these issues.
Posted by: TCP | September 22, 2016 12:43 PM
The X-men/Professor Power story was reprinted in a 90s trade that collected Spider-man and X-men team-ups, which is where I first read it. They didn't include any of the Harry Osborn material, though.
Posted by: Red Comet | September 22, 2016 1:11 PM
I much preferred the way Harry's troubles ended for good in Amazing Spider-Man #180, freeing him to be a strong, mentally stable, and reliable supporting character by the time the Hobgoblin made his debut. Bringing him back as the Green Goblin and having him go crazy only to kill him off here might have made for a good story arc but it was rendered pointless anyway, so I would have stuck with his original happy ending after Bart Hamilton was dispatched at the end of Len Wein's run. As one of Spidey's earliest supporting characters, poor Harry deserved better.
Posted by: Clutch | September 22, 2016 3:09 PM
Is this fnord's highest rated DeMatteis story (outside of death of Kraven)?
Posted by: Wanyas the Self-Proclaimed | September 22, 2016 4:40 PM
@Wanyas -- he gave a B+ to Spectacular #s 186-190, which covers the "Funeral Arrangements" Vulture arc and the excellent "Osborn Legacy" issue #189
Posted by: TCP | September 22, 2016 4:44 PM
Oh geez, they brought Harry back too? Comics are dumb.
Posted by: Andrew F | September 22, 2016 6:42 PM
Fnord, Harry DOESN'T die as a result of the explosion. Notice how Harry is sweating throughout issues 199-200. At the end of issue 200, Harry says the formula he took was experimental and the experiment wasn't much of a success. It's the formula that kills him.
Posted by: Michael | September 22, 2016 7:40 PM
These are great stories. I love the full final page of #200, where the death of Harry is contrasted with the picture of Peter and Harry as young best friends.
I always thought the button Spidey and Beast pushed was not supposed to be red because contrary to their assurances they were just randomly guessing what button to push.
Posted by: Mike Cheyne | September 22, 2016 7:48 PM
Say what you will about OMD/BND (and there is plenty of negative to say about it), it doesn't to me diminish this story. "Dead" or "recovering in Europe," this effectively takes Harry off the board for a long time and either way is yet another loss for Peter. This is a good story arc.
Posted by: Jeff | September 22, 2016 8:33 PM
I loved issue 199 as a kid, because it was something different; the villain's already been defeated but now the heroes have to figure out how to stop his lair from destroying itself before it kills all of them. It was a strange-but-fun mix of tense and humorous.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 22, 2016 8:33 PM
@Michael - uh, thanks? But you might want to get your caps lock button checked out. I reviewed over a dozen comics today. I don't really need people yelling at me when i get a detail wrong.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 22, 2016 8:54 PM
Especially when you are reviewing 1993. It is heroic of you to do so and deserves every bit of support you can get.
Posted by: Grom | September 22, 2016 11:27 PM
End of 199 was easily one of my favorite cliffhangers ever.
DeMatteis and Buscema on Spidey got me into comics, bless them.
Sal does the best Green Goblin. His angularness really works for the crazed villainy.
Posted by: PeterA | September 23, 2016 1:08 AM
Late to the party, but when/where does this take place WRT 1993 Uncanny/adjectiveless X-Men issues?
Posted by: J-Rod | February 8, 2017 4:57 PM
You can check where it landed on the 1993 category page or see how it falls for specific character listings. But basically it was context free for the X-Men so it's just placed in a gap in X-Men stories circa publication date.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 8, 2017 5:06 PM
Gotcha. Thanks. I'm still learning how to navigate this site. I'm working on an 80s/90s read/reread of X-Men (adding X-Factor from its inception, New Mutants from 86-100 and X-Force from its inception, and numerous other issues where relevant), starting from Dark Phoenix Saga (having read the previous stories many times) and, theoretically, ending at Age of Apocalypse, which I think is a nice endpoint. I'm just before Mutant Massacre now, and reading X-Factor for the first time (spotty so far, but thankfully I'm through Layton). After Mutant Massacre, I've got a huge stretch of issues I've never read except for the ones from "event" trades, up until my very first Marvel comic, Uncanny 300 (which I think still holds up as both a fantastic anniversary issue and solid advancement of storylines from both core X-books at the time). I bought Spectacular 198 and 199 in the month or so after I got Uncanny 300 for my ninth birthday, so they were probably among my first 10-20 comics ever. I lost those issues many years ago, but bought them again a couple of years ago along with 197 and 200, and currently have them placed somewhere around Uncanny 298-300 for reading when I, someday, get to them.
That was a lot to say, thanks for the information that helps confirm that I have these placed approximately correctly.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 13, 2017 2:39 PM
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