Characters Appearing: Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Ludlow Grimes, Smithville Thunderbolt, Spider-Man
Web of Spider-Man #8-9
Issue(s): Web of Spider-Man #8, Web of Spider-Man #9
To help Peter out, Robertson sends him to Smithville, Pennsylvania to investigate a local hero called the Smithville Thunderbolt. He runs into local reporter-with-eyes-on-moving-to-the-big-city Roxanne DeWinter.
It turns out that Fred Hopkins, the Thunderbolt got his power from an asteroid "thirty years ago" and used it mainly to fight civil rights injustices.
But recently his powers faded, so he's been faking accidents so that he can run in and be the hero.
Also, about a year ago, Ludlow Grimes, a local farmer finds another piece of the same asteroid and he gains all the powers that Thunderbolt had 30 years ago. While the original Thunderbolt was welcomed as a hero, this one is chased out of his home by his wife...
..so he goes off to take vengeance on the original.
As Spider-Man, Peter helps negotiate a cease-fire, but not before Roxanne figures out all the secrets. She publishes her story over Peter's objection, and even though the town shows up outside his house to cheer for him, the original Thunderbolt takes his life rather than face the shame over faking the accidents (and putting people's lives at risk in the process).
Roxanne is written to be completely unlikeable, even snapping a shot of the Thunderbolt's corpse...
...but at least she's got some ambition, unlike Peter who as far as i can tell didn't snap a single photograph. Also, once again Peter Parker is sent to some remote location and lo and behold Spider-Man shows up.
Grimes is taken away by SHIELD.
I thought the civil rights angle was interesting and this was generally a nice atypical Spidey story.
Not that these issues are trying to address this topic, but the idea that there can be local super-heroes makes sense: why would nearly all super-heroes wind up in the New York area? But it defeats my idea that super-villains are generally successful until they enter the heavily hero-populated areas like New York. If someone like, say, Whiplash can't rob the bank of Smithville, Pennsylvania without running into some local schmuck super-hero who found an asteroid, it's time to hang up the cape.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Per the checklist published in ASM #271, this occurs between Amazing Spider-Man #270-271, and i don't see anything to contradict that.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I think Guenwald will soon address the super-villains outside of NY in his Cap storyline. I think most of the villains slaughtered in the "bar with no name" were villains who had been hiding out in the Midwest, commiting small time crimes and avoiding detection by NY heroes. Which makes a lot of sense.
Posted by: kveto from prague | July 8, 2012 5:55 PM
One of my all-time favorite Spider-Man stories. The fact that Michelinie could turn out great plots like these makes the majority of his later run on Amazing that much more disappointing for me.
Posted by: TCP | November 10, 2014 10:19 AM
I've decided to be totally heretical with this story and treat it as a flashback, as there are no references to current events, Peter is dealing directly with Robbie with no Kate Cushing in sight or even mentioned, Robbie and Peter are acting like it's 1984 and the photo Robbie pulls out is of Spider-man fighting Hobgoblin. After some thought I stuck it before Web #4, which is after the cloth black costume is introduced but before Kate Cushing.
As to the issue itself, it's aweird mixed bag but the good stuff outways the bad by quite a way. It's a real oddity. Spider-man gets sent out to a small town which is home to a combination of golden age super-hero cliches (that first panel of the Thunderbolt is glorious!) which is being invaded by 70s DC. There's a Lois Lane/ Lana Lang combo who is treated mercilessly. (She rides around in a silly looking orange van like Clark Kent had in the 70s) I think that's sort of the point. Those DC comics had their own logic, but if you put someone like that into the real world they would be an awful person. Peter isn't and that's why he never gets beyond taking pictures of himself.
The country bumpkin cliches let it down a bit but then this story is really about Spidey travelling into another comic book, so it mostly doesn't matter.
Posted by: Benway | March 14, 2016 7:30 PM
More accurately, the town was like the golden age but it's now turned into 70s DC as interpreted in the Marvel universe. It's pretty clever.
Posted by: Benway | March 14, 2016 7:42 PM
So is the awful coloring on some books at this time due to the "flexographic" process?
Posted by: MindlessOne | May 8, 2017 10:16 PM
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