Amazing Spider-Man #322-325
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #322, Amazing Spider-Man #323, Amazing Spider-Man #324, Amazing Spider-Man #325
But i'm getting ahead of myself. The Assassin Nation Plot began in Amazing Spider-Man #320 but we pause after that issue and again after #321 to allow the other Spider books to catch up. Issue #322 opens with Spider-Man in Symkaria helping the Wild Pack on the latest of a series of wild goose chases.
Beginning with when Spider-Man accepted this assignment, there's been a question of Spider-Man's morals. Is he here to stop a king from being assassinated, or is he only in it for the money?
One cool thing about Spider-Man taking this assignment is that he's officially here as Spider-Man, not Peter Parker. So the usual secret identity worries don't apply (although he does call home to Aunt May on occasion with the cover story that he's covering the events as a photographer). And it means that he has to remain in costume pretty much all the time.
It's cool to see Spider-Man playing the international spy role, even if he's uncomfortable in it..
We can also check back in with MJ here. I haven't been loving the depiction of Mary Jane, in art or writing, lately, but i do like the writing of this little scene where MJ has a unique way of trying out for a role as a soap opera actress (artwise, it's a different story).
Meanwhile, it turns out that the wild goose chases are all thanks to the Prime Minister, who is colluding with ULTIMATUM to abolish the Symkarian monarchy. This is not out of idealistic reasons; he just wants recognition and power. And by the end of this arc we'll see why ULTIMATUM, once a group with idealistic if naive goals, doesn't mind colluding with a man like the Prime Minister (if we don't already know from having read their most recent Captain America appearances).
Eventually they attack...
...and they do manage to kill the King's fiancee...
...but in addition to that, someone else kills the Prime Minister.
If you read my rambling intro to this entry, you already know that this is Sabretooth. But based on that image if i told you it was an early appearance of Feral, you would have no choice but to believe me.
Evidence implicating the CIA, a suicide capsule made of panadoxin, which is said to only be used by the CIA, is found at the scene of the Prime Minister's death.
Issue #323 opens with the character Solo fighting some ULTIMATUM goons in France.
Solo is a character from David Michelenie's truncated Web of Spider-Man run. The character barely got to appear and his storyline got dropped. But the idea is that he's kind of like the Punisher except that his focus is terrorists ("While I live, terror dies!"). Right now he's searching for the regional head of ULTIMATUM, Tolfer Weil (first name spelled "Toler" in this issue).
Meanwhile, due to the international incident created by the implication of the CIA assassinating the Symarkian Prime Minister, Captain America arrives in Symarkia.
Spider-Man isn't happy taking a back seat.
But he does decide to stick around.
During the battle, Solo teleports in.
But Spider-Man and Captain America stop him from killing Weil.
However, that allows Weil to escape. They debate methods, with Sable taking a position similar to Solo's. Solo then teleports away after learning Weil's likely new location. It's also confirmed that Sabretooth was hired for the assassination.
Paladin weirdly shows up at the end, acting like he's just one of Silver Sable's guards.
As Piotr notes in the comments, this is really just a miscolored Wild Pack grunt.
Spider-Man goes after Weil while Captain America and Silver Sable go to find Sabretooth. Issue #324 is the Erik Larsen fill-in. The Todd McFarlane influence is obvious, and it was probably emphasized since this was a fill-in. But despite that, it feels like an improvement, with much denser pages. That said, it's still pretty light on plot, and i'll just cop the summary from the UPC box in my reprint:
"Captain America and Silver Sable attempt to bring in Sabretooth as a witness [for some reason the summary doesn't mention the Pancho Villa stereotype]...
...but leave the scene believing they killed him in self-defense".
"meanwhile, Spider-Man reaches Tolfer Weil, the ULTIMATUM officer who engineered the murder, just in time to stop Solo from killing him."
Teaming up with a guy whose name is literally Solo is kind of funny, and Solo definitely puts Spider-Man in the morally questionable situation of working with a guy who shoots and tortures bad guys.
But he doesn't let Solo kill Weil.
Despite the similarities in art styles, Larsen's style has a more cartoony look (which i like). He does know that he has to show MJ's ass at least once, though (which i don't like).
And now back to McFarlane for the conclusion. Captain America tries to get Spider-Man security clearance so that he can help with the protection of the Symkarian ambassador to the US. It's thought that if the ambassador is killed, war will break out between the US and Symkaria. But Spider-Man won't de-mask or let the army take his fingerprints, so the security clearance is rejected.
The decision has Spider-Man questioning his patriotism.
When Mary Jane hears about this, she scrounges together the money for Peter to get a round-trip train ticket to Washington DC anyway, since she knows it will bother him if he doesn't participate. Spider-Man sneaks into the Pentagon...
...and talks with Captain America again...
...and gets the idea, intentional or otherwise, that he should let Tolfer Weil free so that he can trail him.
Spider-Man trails Weil to the National Archives, where he encounters not ULTIMATUM goons but Watchdogs (again, not a surprise if we've been reading Captain America).
And then another random assortment of villains from different organizations (would Spider-Man really recognize the Sweatshop guys?).
Anyway, we know that these groups are all different factions of the Red Skull's organization.
The Skull's plan is to destroy the United States' priceless historical documents and blame it on the Symkarians, throwing the two nations into war. Knowing the way Spider-Man was treated by the government earlier, the Skull tries to bribe Spider-Man into letting him do it.
But Spider-Man's patriotism kicks in and he rejects the offer. The Red Skull disappears, leaving Spider-Man to fight the goons.
If that Resistant is really a mutant, he must be like Cable or Bishop since he only uses a gun during the fight.
One of the more interesting bits in the fight is an unorthodox use of a Spider-tracer, which stops the explosives from being detonated.
It turns out that Spider-Man recorded the Red Skull's confession to him that he hired Sabretooth (and also had his camera on auto-shoot), so that ends the tensions between the two countries and, shortly after that, the storyline. Silver Sable tells Spider-Man that a token of appreciation, in cash, will be waiting for him at her embassy in New York.
This is not a great storyline, but it is a fun storyline, definitely serving as a "summer blockbuster" style event for Spider-Man's bi-weekly summer period. Lots of guest characters and some atypical villains. This is not the Red Skull's most nefarious or well thought out scheme, but the fact that he gets away cleanly helps establish that he's really just stirring the pot here while working on bigger things. Plotwise, it's still a very thin affair, something necessitated by Todd McFarlane's layout style. Ironically it's one of the more continuity heavy Spider-Man stories during the Michelinie / McFarlane period, playing with the Red Skull's current status quo as well as various elements from earlier Michelinie stories (Life Foundation, Solo). Unfortunately it really doesn't do much with any of that. But it's nonetheless a fun little story, and the uptick in quality is a good exit point for Todd McFarlane, who has one final issue here (#328) before he's permanently replaced with Erik Larsen, who shows here that he can handle the book.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: There is definitely some time passing between issues, but i've kept the story together except as mentioned between issues #320, 321, and 322. The MCP has Captain America here before his own bi-weekly summer event, The Bloodstone Hunt.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Spider-Man Legends vol. 3: Todd McFarlane Book 3 TPB (issue #324 is an original)
Inbound References (2): showAunt May, Captain America, Flash Thompson, Mary Jane Watson, Nate Lubenski, Red Skull, Sabretooth, Silver Sable, Solo, Spider-Man
Sorry for not including this in the 'Thread of Shame' as is proper, but I'm having login issues with the forum:
In the second paragraph, you refer to the storyline as "Assassination Nation" rather than "The Assassin Nation Plot."
Posted by: cullen | October 28, 2014 8:18 PM
Shouldn't there be a "Sabretooth is believed to be dead as a result of X-Factor 39" reference?
Posted by: Michael | October 28, 2014 8:47 PM
Thanks, Cullen. Fixed the event title.
Michael, when there's no footnote it's really my discretion if i'm going to put in a Reference and the "Sabretooth? But I thought he was dead!" comment was vague enough especially for these characters that i didn't think it merited one.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 28, 2014 9:18 PM
323 is the only issue I have of this storyline and it was my intro to Todd's art. I didn't like it as it was too cartoony for my likening. It also looks like warm up sketch work.
Does anyone else think that Spider-Man doesn't fit well in a group? To me he comes across as a joke character or someone not to be taken seriously. The stuff with Sable and Capt. America discussing a strategy plan and not including Spidey appears as if he's being left out of "grown up" discussions.
Sabretooth: "My senses are as sharp as an animals, girly." He can mind read, too.
Posted by: JSfan | October 29, 2014 6:47 AM
To be fair, JSFan, I think that Sabretooth could have easily guessed what Sable was trying to do.(But Sable should have known how his powers work.)
Posted by: Michael | October 29, 2014 7:51 AM
JSfan - Spider-Man absolutely does not fit well in a group. Look at the time when he hung around with the Avengers. It was disastrous. He's not used to following orders or thinking with a group mentality.
Posted by: clyde | October 29, 2014 12:36 PM
I shake my head at the scene in #324 where Spidey turns away without remorse from a blood-dripping web-net filled with men he just saw killed by his "ally." I thought some of his Punisher team-ups were bad, but that is one of the most disgusting things I've seen in Spider-Man comics.
Posted by: TCP | November 3, 2014 6:56 AM
just realized, Cap's appearance here will cause problems for you. I'm fairly sure in Cap #365, we'll see him and Diamondback returning together from Madripoor which leads straight into Acts of Vengeance (just a heads up)
Posted by: kveto | March 19, 2015 3:10 PM
Thanks, Kveto. I definitely know that i'll have to do some shuffling when i start Acts of Vengeance but i'll keep a lookout for that.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 20, 2015 9:11 AM
Hi there, first time poster (but longtime reader) here.
I wanted to comment on Paladin's appearance at the end of #323. I'm pretty this character is, actually, simply a miscoloured Wild Pack member. Note that while his colour scheme is Paladin's, his costume looks different - aside from the visor. But McFarlane kept drawing the same kind of visor on every character wearing goggles or glasses... The Watchdogs in #325 have such visors, too.
Posted by: Piotr W | May 16, 2015 7:52 PM
Good call, Piotr. And since that was Paladin's only appearance in these issues, i've removed him from the Characters Appearing issues. (He of course did appear in earlier issues of Assassin Nation.)
Posted by: fnord12 | May 16, 2015 11:38 PM
Heh. Come to think about it, this guy doesn't even have to be a Wild Pack member... just some generic soldier in glasses. MacFarlane really put this look on various characters - compare his version of the Watchdogs with the Wild Pack, these guys look identical.
Anyway, I really liked these issues as a kid and I still think they are okay. What's interesting to me in them nowadays are all these ties to Red Skull's activities in Captain America's book. When I was a kid, I didn't know too much about the Marvel Universe, so I didn't recognize the Watchdogs, the Sweatshop guys etc. Only years later I learned who the "R" goon was... It makes re-reading these issue more fun. My only complaint about this story? The cover to the final issue is a total spoiler for the identity of the mastermind. I know it's a cool pin-up, but it eliminates all the mystery from the story...
Also, these issues were my first exposure to Sabretooth!
Posted by: Piotr W | May 17, 2015 10:16 AM
Comics Interview #85 showed that Erik Larsen would also give Mary Jane skirts so short they'd reveal her panties and the lower portions of her butt, which Marvel actually had redrawn to cover it up.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 29, 2015 8:50 PM
It's ridiculous to even have Spidey think over the Red Skull's proposal. Not because he'd necessarily turn down the money, it's been ascertained time and time again the things he'll do for his finances. But becuz this is the same fuck who killed his parents.
It'd be like having the Burglar who killed Uncle Ben offering half his take to Spidey to not turn him in and Spidey saying he'll get back to him.
Posted by: JC | October 13, 2015 2:59 AM
What do you mean "the things he'll do for his finances"? It is not like he is an ambulance chaser or a mercenary. I really don't know what you are talking about.
In any case, it was Malik (the 1950s Red Skull), not the original, who killed Peter's parents.
Also, Peter's morality is less than pristine at this point, given his weird understanding with Venom.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 13, 2015 6:50 AM
@Luis- Peter's deal with Venom is not for another 50 issues. And as we'll see when fnord gets to 1992, Michelinie confuses the issue of whether Peter realized it was a different Red Skull who killed his parents.
Posted by: Michael | October 13, 2015 7:58 AM
Luis I'm sorry you never read a Spider-Man comic in your life so brace yourself but Peter Parker makes a living taking photos exploiting his superhero identity.
This is admittedly a very new idea only going back 50 years or so to his very first appearance.
You know the one where he tries to make money on tv and ends up letting his uncle die. Or the one immediately after that where upon learning with great power cums great responsibility, the first thing he does is try to join a super team for the sole purpose of getting paid. Or god forbid this very same story where he lets Silver Sable pay him off.
But you're right there Luis, you don't know much at all. So maybe try reading a comic on the boards you comment on.
Posted by: JC | October 14, 2015 1:10 AM
Guys, i can't make the Sturky button any bigger so you are forcing me to link to the Crimson Tide clip.
Seriously, on my site, please keep the discussion civil.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 14, 2015 6:44 AM
Posted by: kveto | October 14, 2015 12:47 PM
Lets add Captain America and Silver Sable to the long list of heroes who have beaten Sabretooth.
Posted by: kveto | February 7, 2016 5:18 AM
I know it's bad form to consider accepting a bribe from a Nazi supervillain, but to consider accepting a bribe from the Nazi supervillain who killed your parents...?
The best explanation to this would be that since Peter makes no reference to the Red Skull having killed his parents, someone must have already explained to Peter that the Red Skull he met in Algeria was not the real Red Skull. (Cap? Fury? Reed, who dropped him off in Algeria in the first place & must have come to collect him?)
Unfortunately, Michelinie would later write ASM #366 where Peter is surprised to learn there were 2 different Red Skulls, so you just have to accept that this is a story where Peter encounters the Nazi supervillain who he believed killed his parents, and then considers working for him, only turning it down due to Peter's love of the USA, never mentioning his parents or that he is speaking to a man who was second-in-command of Nazi Germany & presumably must be the most-wanted terrorist in the world.
Michelinie's idea that Peter considers the bribe due to feeling rejected by US intelligence could have worked if another villain had been chosen, ideally someone non-Nazi & non-parent-murdering. Presumably Michelinie & the editor had both forgotten Peter's previous "Red Skull" storyline when this was written.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | May 31, 2018 4:49 AM
As a No-Prize style solution, it is possible that the death of the original Red Skull was big news and became public knowledge. He would have been a world famous historical figure, and Cap (and maybe more, I can't remember) was an actual eye witness.
Posted by: Chris | May 31, 2018 9:56 PM
That could work, actually. The death of the most-wanted surviving Nazi/terrorist would surely have been newsworthy, and at this point Cap has only met the returned Red Skull once & is not yet 100% convinced it's the real Skull, so would not yet have publicised his return.
Peter never mentions the Red Skull's Nazi links so we could just assume he thought it was a new guy using the name. The issue doesn't show the scene where Peter tells Cap he's encountered the Red Skull, so we can assume that Cap there tells Peter that it may have been the real deal, and Peter doesn't mention his parents' connection for fear of jeopardising his secret identity, so the conversation ends there & Cap has no reason to tell Peter about any other people who have used the Skull identity, so he doesn't learn it until #366.
(That said, one funny thing about the story in general is that Cap, Peter & Silver Sable are searching for the mastermind behind a terrorist plan involving Ultimatum, and in Cap's last encounter with Ultimatum he learned that the Skull has infiltrated Ultimatum, yet as far as I can see he never mentions (on-panel, at least) that the mastermind might be the Skull. Though again, we don't see anyone reacting surprised to the news of his involvement, except Peter being surprised to see the Skull coming out of a private elevator to the National Archives, so perhaps Cap had told Sable etc that it was a possibility.)
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | June 1, 2018 3:24 AM
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