Characters Appearing: Cardiac, J. Jonah Jameson, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Mary Jane Watson, Mary Parker Duplicate, Richard Parker Duplicate, Spider-Man, Stone (Spider-Man villain), Styx
Amazing Spider-Man #376-377
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #376, Amazing Spider-Man #377
The story starts with Spider-Man already in mid-fight with Styx and Stone.
We learn that Spider-Man has blundered into the studio of a controversial filmmaker that Styx and Stone have been hired to guard. But his appearance escalates matters to the point that a security guard is killed, and the owner of the building is endangered by an explosion. While Spider-Man helps the owner, Styx and Stone flee, with Stone admonishing Styx for killing when there was no contract to do so. Cardiac then shows up and does some serious monologuing, not even letting Stone answer his question.
Styx and Stone barely acknowledge him.
And it takes another page before Cardiac realizes that he's heard of Styx, and even longer before he recognizes Stone. Maybe if you'd let him get a word in edgewise.
But he does recognize Stone. Styx and Stone manage to get away. We then get into Cardiac's origin. We learn that his brother died because a cure for the disease he had wasn't considered "cost-effective" by their insurance company. So Cardiac dedicated his life to medical research so that people like his brother could be saved, and he also had his body reconstructed to give him his powers.
It seems like a weird stretch from this to attacking controversial film directors. You'd think he'd focus on insurance companies and the like, which would actually make a nice tightly defined motivation. Extending beyond that makes him more of a Punisher clone, but i guess it also makes it possible for him to be involved in more stories.
As for Styx and Stone, it turns out that Stone once worked with Cardiac, experimenting on homeless people. And that's how Styx was created (unbeknownst to Cardiac).
Stone now feels a responsibility for Styx, and he had them become mercenaries so that he could target Styx's need to kill towards "justifiable targets". Cardiac notes that Stone goes beyond mere necessity; he and Styx live an "opulent lifestyle". But he's able to get Stone to agree to accept help to cure Styx, even though he sees "only Madness" in Stone's eyes. But it turns out that Cardiac is trying trying to kill, not cure Styx. Spider-Man shows up and prevents Cardiac from killing anyway, but both Styx and Stone are knocked out. Cardiac pretends to surrender to Spider-Man, but then flees.
So that's the story. It's really not bad, and it might have helped if Michelinie had led with this when they were first introduced. But Styx and Stone have already had a pair of uninteresting appearance, so by this point i imagine any backstory for them was met by a collective yawn. Certainly i am yawning.
In a sense, Michelinie did things right in a classical (comic book) sense. Introduce some villains, let the mystery build, and then provide a decent origin for them a little down the line. I think part of the problem is that their previous stories, drawn by Todd McFarlane and then Erik Larsen, were not delivered in a way that built them up. The first story was just attention deficit madness, and in the second story they were a distraction from a Venom plot. In both cases, they were just kind of there, random super powered goons even though i see Michelinie trying to develop personalities for them in the way they call each other "Mr. Styx" and such. There are also just SO MANY Spider-Man books at this point and so many characters getting introduced and other mysteries (Peter's parents) that's it's hard to care about anything in particular. It's all information overload. So in a different era Styx and Stone might have worked out a little better (i mean, they'd still need better names). As it is, they have one more appearance, and not as leads.
Spider-Man is lucky he makes his costume out of cheap synthetic material (i'm assuming; it's clearly not organic and we know it's not unstable molecules), because it saves him from Styx's touch. Nothing saves us from his feet, though.
In these issues, we also learn that Mary Jane's part in the soap opera she stars in has been cut back, and she's worried about their ability to make ends meet.
And here's a scene with JJ showing that he really does appreciate Peter Parker.
Although keeping a stack of Peter's Webs photobook in his cabinet seems a bit much. Let me guess that JJ actually has a soft side. Never let me really see it.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Though Styx and Stone appeared far earlier, they feel much more suited to be Cardiac's villains than Spider-Man's. And I agree, it's strange for Cardiac to get into Watchdog territory and go after filmmakers.
Posted by: Mortificator | October 10, 2016 2:08 PM
fnord, it's been years since I've read these issues, and I no longer have them. Does the story explain what exactly makes Cardiac's target "a controversial filmmaker" i.e. is he making sex movies with minors or something?
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 10, 2016 3:06 PM
It's explained in the scan with Cardiac's monologue to Styx and Stone. The director made a documentary about cults, and the movie inspired a boy to kill his family, and now the director is making a movie about the boy.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 10, 2016 3:13 PM
Thanks, fnord. My eyes glazed over when I saw Cardiac's loooooong monologue, and I missed that part. No wonder I later got rid of these issues.
I agree with Mortificator, this seems very much outside of Cardiac's mission to fight white-collar criminals and evil corporations. Yes, the director sounds pretty sleazy, making a new documentary about a kid who was inspired to commit murder by his previous film. Nevertheless, sleazy or not, Cardiac is getting into some serious "censorship through violence" territory. The correlation between mass media and real-life violence is not easily established. I mean, comic books in the 1990s were extremely violent, but I don't recall hearing about any teenagers who read Amazing Spider-Man and then decided to emulate Venom or Carnage.
Mortificator mentioned the Watchdogs in his comment, and I agree, this feels like a story that would have worked better having Captain America facing Cardiac, with Cap explaining that as much as he disliked the filmmaker he would defend his right to free expression. That could have been a somewhat thought-provoking story. But in the end, as you say, the whole thing just veered into the origins of Styx & Stone, which I also found uninteresting.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 10, 2016 3:28 PM
The problem is that it's not clear that the director was intending for the behavior he depicted to be imitated. The only death the filmmaker really could be held responsible for was the security guard that Styx killed and in that case Cardiac doesn't have clean hands in the matter- yes, the director shouldn't have hired two supervillains to protect him from Cardiac but Cardiac shouldn't have tried to kill him in the first place.
Posted by: Michael | October 10, 2016 7:58 PM
Comments are now closed.
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