Characters Appearing: Aunt May, Brainstorm, Captain Zero, Doctor Hope, J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man
Issue(s): Spider-Man #29, Spider-Man #30, Spider-Man #31
Hope is pretending to be mentally ill himself (while probably also actually being mentally ill), and the Mad Dog soldier is sent out over his objections. Spider-Man fights the thing for a while...
...and, according to its own thoughts, it basically gives up because it's tired of fighting.
It's suggested that we'll see the creature and Doctor Hope - who has stolen some of his serum for himself - again, but as far as i know this is their last appearance.
This story also has the return of the patient Zero, who, inspired by Spider-Man is trying to be a super-hero now.
If it was any other writer i'd say that the treatment of Zero is kind of insensitively making fun of mentally ill people, but with Nocenti i chalk it up to her weird writing style. Spider-Man alternates between trying to get Captain Zero to give up being a super-hero and teaching him how to be a better super-hero. I had forgotten that Zero was a recipient of the Mad Dog program himself, so at first i was wondering why Spider-Man was even entertaining the idea that he could be a super-hero. He nonetheless doesn't have the mental capacity to be effective, although he does help out against Brainstorm.
In the end it's said that Captain Zero will get some "counseling" and Spider-man will keep a close eye on him. Zero's only other "appearance" is in a Civil War handbook.
Another thread in the story is where Mary Jane meets an orphan boy. This is mixed in with her deciding that she hates her soap opera actress role and getting jealous because Peter is spending time with a female reporter. She eventually finds a father willing to adopt the boy, and briefly flirts with him...
...until she realizes that Peter is out getting his ass kicked as usual, not making time with the reporter. The boy is a typical Nocenti weirdo, and he believes that his real father is an alien that will eventually come to Earth to save him, so MJ gets Peter and Captain Zero to stage an elaborate hoax so that the adopting father can arrive on a "spaceship".
After getting some flack from a fan that reinforces her own doubts, MJ also calls her boss and demands that her role on the soap opera be changed so that she's less of a bimbo.
MJ was also wondering if she was like her soap opera character, defined entirely by her relationship with her male counterpart.
Like almost all stories in this Spider-Man series, the story here is disconnected even from other Spider-Man books. So despite all the stress Mary Jane goes through, for example, we never see her pick up a cigarette, even though she's constantly smoking in concurrent books.
One thing's for sure: MJ is not good with kids.
A theme of the story is lying. Everyone is lying in this story. Doctor Hope is lying, the Mad Dog scientists are lying to their subjects, the patients lie to themselves about what they are, and Spider-Man is having to constantly lie to maintain his secret identity. Peter even meets the reporter while covering a clinic devoted to curing pathological liars. Peter knows that the lies he tells are necessary to maintain his secret, but he's made to wonder if the lies also mean that he secretly hates himself.
What i'd like to have seen is more connections with the larger Marvel universe. Who is running this Mad Dog program? We have a character called Mad Dog, could he be an earlier recipient of the program? Could Doctor Hope be the same scientist, or related to the scientist from Daredevil #236, who was also written by Nocenti and talked a lot about lizard brains?
I actually like some of the things that Nocenti does with Mary Jane. She makes MJ waaaay too quick to distrust Peter, and it feels disconnected from the other Spider-books, where her overriding concern when he goes missing is that something bad is happening to him, whereas here she immediately jumps to a conclusion that he's cheating on her. But MJ almost literally is defined by her relationship to Peter at this point, and i like to see her rebelling against that and wouldn't have minded more of that. Seeing her assert herself regarding her acting role is interesting too. Again, though, the idea that she's unhappy with her job doesn't jibe with the other Spider-books so well, and i don't think we'll see anything come of her demand here. It's always been the case that this book to is isolated from continuity, but it's done that more by just staying away from anything that should have implications for Spider-Man and his cast's status quo, whereas here there are things that should have impact.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I actually like Brainstorm a bit. With all this talk about minds being prehensile and him receiving messages from past and future, he comes off a little like a Grant Morrison character.
Posted by: Piotr W | May 11, 2016 4:15 PM
Everyone talks about the Liefeld and Lee knockoffs... let's not let the Larsen-mimicry go uncommented on!
Posted by: cullen | May 12, 2016 1:59 AM
Brainstorm has potential. Getting Morrison to write him would probably lead to some interesting stuff indeed!
Posted by: Berend | May 12, 2016 4:20 AM
At least, it would lead to some stylish pseudo-scientific rambling :) Morrison seems to love writing surreal prose like that...
Posted by: Piotr W | May 12, 2016 3:09 PM
Wow, no copyright problems for naming a character after a fortified wine? I guess the earlier use of "Thunderbird" set a precedent.
Posted by: Cringe Worthy | May 12, 2016 5:41 PM
Comments are now closed.
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