Web of Spider-Man #20-22
Issue(s): Web of Spider-Man #20, Web of Spider-Man #21, Web of Spider-Man #22
Over time, between the relentless deadlines and the relentless Shooter, I started to feel like I was drowning. Jim was never satisfied. Nothing we did pleased him. He disliked Peter's work, he disliked Michelinie's work. He totally thought Silvestri would never amount to anything, and I was "nuts" to have him on the book. Kyle Baker was not an inker, he said, he had no clue what he was doing.
Priest says that "The bomb scare had given Marvel's shadow cabinet ammo to get the wheels in motion" but there were other factors at work that had to do with the larger politics going on at Marvel that led to Jim Shooter's ouster. And with Priest's removal as Editor he was offered "a lucrative exclusive contract that paid me more money to stay home than I made coming into the office. Nobody said, 'You're fired.' Nobody had to." Priest went on to script the upcoming Gang War story on the Spider-Man titles and was also writing Conan.
Let's see what's actually going on inside these issues. Peter Parker and reporter Joy Mercado have arrived at Heathrow Airport in London just as a bomb is going off. Peter ducks away to put on his webshooters, which he has disguised as camera equipment. Peter considers redesigning them so that he can get them through airport security more often.
But what he really needs to do is design himself a new costume that he only uses while he's traveling. Joy Mercado has already expressed suspicion regarding the Spider-Man/Peter Parker connection, and there's also the fact that whenever Peter Parker travels somewhere, Spider-Man shows up. He could solve that with a couple varieties of travel suits and taking it easy on the webbing.
Anyway, in this case he doesn't get into full costume to stop one of the shooters.
Unfortunately, though, the terrorist attack leaves people dead, and critically injure a six year old girl.
The violence leaves Peter upset and so, even though he says he doesn't want to play policeman to the world, after he and Joy get to their hotel and separate, he goes to interrogate one of the captured terrorists. Joy, meanwhile, investigates a possible Roxxon connection.
Joy had been interested in Roxxon's misdeeds since the last travel trip she was on with Peter (and Spider-Man showed up that time, too), although we'll learn there isn't any direct connection between Magma's schemes in that story and this one.
Peter's interrogation leads to an investigation of a group called the Red Hand (referencing the Red Hand of Ulster, a symbol used by a number of groups), who plan to detonate a bomb during the Margaret Thatcher speech that Amy and Peter were actually sent to cover.
The police show up and break up the Red Hand meeting before Spider-Man can learn the specifics of the bombing plans, but the next day at the speech he's able to spot and stop the terrorists.
You can understand why people might have been offended. The question of Irish independence is complicated, and this issue presents the Irish rebels in an entirely negative and fanatical light. And Joy Mercado's explanation of the problems between England and Ireland is some interesting historical trivia...
...but doesn't even suggest that England might not have treated the Irish fairly in the years since those Spanish missionaries.
Add to that the fact that the Irish are scripted straight out of Darby O'Gill.
Now, this is only the first part of a multi-issue story that Michelinie was planning. And we know that he was going to bring in the character called Solo, who was presented as a Punisher for terrorists. Presumably he would have come into conflict with Spider-Man and through that another side of the story might have come out.
But looking at this issue in isolation, it's a bit one sided. And that's maybe as much as i want to say about that, because i don't want any bomb threats either.
When the six year old girl dies, Pete and Joy decide that their work isn't done, and so they head to Ireland to investigate the Red Hand further, despite it being outside of the assignment J. Jonah Jameson sent them on.
Issue #21's fill-in is a recollection that Peter has while he and Joy are on the boat to Ireland. The tenuous connection is that Peter decides that he doesn't want to catch a cold while on the boat, because of that time when he had a cold and it "almost cost me my career as Spider-Man".
The story has two brothers using a fake Spider-Man costume to ruin his reputation.
The real Spider-Man is stuck home with a cold, and getting nursed by Mary Jane. When he hears about the fake Spider-Man, he just cant get wait to get away from MJ's fussy attention, something that doesn't bode well for their domestic life.
Spider-Man learns that the brother masquerading as Spider-Man is a master of gymkata, and used to idolize Spidey...
...until Spider-Man got involved in a hostage situation and the brothers' father was killed.
Spider-Man faces the brothers and when they nearly get a bunch of people in a cable car killed and Spidey rescues them, they realize that they were wrong, etc..
Back to the Ireland story, now scripted by Kaminski.
While it still has the trappings of a political story, the Red Hand group have been replaced by the Black Hoods...
...it quickly becomes apparent that these guys are equal opportunity terrorists with no specific political agenda.
And they turn out to really just be hired thugs employed by Roxxon to stir up a situation where they can sell a new weapon.
Peter eventually breaks away, changes into his Spider-Man costume, stops Roxxon and rescues Joy (who doesn't comment on the sudden arrival of Spidey).
The main bad guys get away, but they are killed off by the higher echelon of Roxxon.
In addition to the sudden shift in direction and resulting plot holes, the book is just a hot mess from a basic editing perspective. There are points in the script that just have total non-sequiturs, presumably from Kaminski either leaving in or taking out word balloons put in by Michelinie.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Somewhat annoyingly, Web of Spider-Man #23 shows Peter and Joy returning home on a plane, but then mid-way through that issue directs us to the events of Amazing Spider-Man #280-282 before continuing a story that leads to Peter going to Atlantic City with Aunt May in Web of Spider-Man #24. In the same gap as ASM #280-282, the MCP also places Marvel Fanfare #32, #42, Peter Parker #119, Peter Parker annual #6, ASM annual #20,
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Joy's version of Irish history has to be the most distorted version I have ever heard.
Posted by: Michael | January 19, 2014 5:18 PM
Michael, it's not even distorted, it's just wrong. Who knew St Patrick was Spanish, a country which would not exist for centuries after his death? Or no mention of the Norman, Tudor, or Cromwellian invasions? No mention of the anti-Catholic laws, the Six Counties, or any of the issues which actually provoked the formation of the Provisional IRA in the 1970s.
What is strange is that the story could have been written as is with just a change in that explanation. There is nothing in the plot that requires Joy's explanation.
Beyond politics, a problem with this Peter as NOW photographer is that it constantly prompts Spider-Man to constantly appear in places he's never been simply because Peter is there. I am usually willing to handwave secret identity issues, but this creates a lot of problems.
Posted by: Chris | January 19, 2014 9:30 PM
This shows why it's better to go with generic countries and causes for political issues (or take a bit more care, like say Denny O'neil's handling of the IRA in Daredevil).
Fnord, your idea of a travel costume for Peter is great. What a missed opportunity.
Posted by: kveto from prague | February 9, 2014 6:24 AM
Just another small cultural observation. This is the first time the band 'U2' is mentioned in a comic book. The band is mentioned by one of the terrorists as he waits to do his dirty work. The ironic thing is, is that U2 condemned the IRA. "And let me tell you somethin'. I've had enough of Irish Americans who haven't been back to their country in twenty or thirty years come up to me and talk about the resistance, the revolution back home...and the glory of the revolution...and the glory of dying for the revolution. Fuck the revolution! They don't talk about the glory of killing for the revolution. What's the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where's the glory in that? Where's the glory in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day. Where's the glory in that? To leave them dying or crippled for life or dead under the rubble of the revolution, that the majority of the people in my country don't want. No more!" Bono after the The Remembrance Day bombing (also known as the Enniskillen bombing or Poppy Day massacre)
Posted by: mdentlogan | April 10, 2014 2:22 PM
I wonder how David Michelinie's original story would have played out. It appears from Web #20 that one way or another Roxxon would have had some sort of role in it, which seems odd for a story that is supposed to be about a real-world political conflict. And if #22 was actually plotted by Michelinie and then re-scripted at the last minute by Len Kaminski then, yes, Roxxon would have been featured rather prominently. Maybe in the original story they were just taking advantage of the conflict in Northern Ireland to peddle their weaponry, as opposed to flat-out faking terrorist attacks to drum up business?
In any case, yes, the Northern Ireland conflict is an EXTREMELY complicated topic, with plenty of blame to go around. In the end no one really comes up smelling like roses. So it's strange that Michelinie offers up such a bizarre attempt to summarize the origins of the sectarian violence.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 8, 2015 10:37 PM
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