Characters Appearing: Blade, Darkhold Dwarf, Frank Drake, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Hannibal King, J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane Watson, Morbius, Noble Kale, Shocker (Paralyzer), Spider-Man, Victoria Montesi, Will 'Jinx' Hastings, Zzzax
Midnight Sons Unlimited #3
Issue(s): Midnight Sons Unlimited #3
The story starts with a very poor depiction of the Paralyzer. He was last seen as a member of the Resistants, an interesting but underutilized radical pro-mutant rights group. But in this story he's doing some generic super-villainy. And to the degree that he references his history, it's all the way back to his Mutant Force days, and the footnote further fumbles that by citing his first appearance, when he was actually with a little-remembered incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Zapped by a third rate villain, chewed out by his boss, and returning home to watch his wife on television kissing another man, Spider-Man is feeling depressed. And that's when the Darkhold Dwarf shows up.
The next thing we know, there's a creature going around calling itself Spider-X (!) and it sure looks like a mutated Spider-Man. Ghost Rider and Blaze are the first to encounter it, and they make the reasonable assumption that it is Spidey.
They find Spider-X capturing criminals with intent to suck the marrow from their bones. They fight...
...and Ghost Rider manages to give him his Penance Stare, but the fact that he has eight eyes dilutes the effect and it escapes.
Meanwhile, it turns out that the Nightstalkers have come from Boston to New York, in part to investigate a letter sent to their detective agency.
The letter writer, a young man named Brian Kornfeld, was concerned about the rising crime rate in New York, especially after his mom was mugged, and had been writing to various super-heroes. The Nightstalkers interview his mother and find that he had a Spider-Man costume. Spider-X then breaks into her home. It targets Blade specifically, saying that he has the scent of the Darkhold.
The letter and the Spider-Man costume apparently not being enough, the creature also promises Brian's mom that he won't hurt her. It then runs off with her. The Nightstalkers are kind of dense about putting two and two together here, instead blaming Spider-Man.
They hunt Spider-X down and fight it some more, but it hears about Paralyzer on television. Paralyzer has commandeered a power station. Spider-X leaves the fight. The Nightstalkers then learn that Spider-X has killed the man that mugged Brian's mom. You guys getting it yet?
Major change in the art style (by Ken Meyer Jr.) for the Darkhold portion of the story.
Only Victoria and Jinx are around at this time.
They are rescued by Ghost Rider and Johnny Blaze.
The creature flees again. Morbius spots it next.
When he follows it, he finds Spider-Man, who is looking just fine.
Spider-Man knocks Morbius out, and we learn that Spidey rejected the Dwarf's offer. When Morbius wakes up, they agree to work together, and they find Spider-X. Everybody else shows up after that as well.
This is all in the backdrop of a power outage thanks to Paralyzer. He's used the power plant to summon Zzzax.
At this point the Midnight Sons have figured out that Spider-X was trying to do good, so i guess it's ok that Morbius hypnotizes him into going out to fight Zzzax in a blaze of glory.
Zzzax doesn't really put up much of a fight.
Spider-Man then tries to capture Morbius, but he's prevented by Hannibal King.
There's also still the matter of Paralyzer, but he's out of juice and outnumbered.
A lot of flaws here. The writing, in general, is bad. The changes in art style, from Mort Todd's cartoony opening chapter to the dark and serious painted Ken Meyer portion, don't really help with setting a tone. Todd's style is best in line with his goofy story, and if all the art looked like that i'd probably be more relaxed about accepting the story, with the understanding that it's all supposed to be silly. Without that, you have the forcing of Paralyzer (granted, a very minor villain, but still) into a generic villain role because the story requires it, the contrivance by which Spider-Man and Morbius are able to temporarily work together, and the fact that Blade, who recently tried to murder the rest of the Midnight Sons, works alongside them without any objections. There's also the pretty casual way that they kill off poor Spider-X (i mean, with a name like that, i thought he was going to get his own series) and the standard genre convention of all these characters happening to get involved in this story even though half of them don't normally operate out of New York. Most of these things are of the sort that you'd overlook for an annual (the characterization issues are the biggest sticking point for me), and that's basically the same situation here, although i continue to look for the justification to have such "annuals" on a quarterly basis.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Louise Hastings is said to still be in Rome, placing this during the portion of Darkhold #13 where she was doing research at the Vatican. At the end of Darkhold #13-14, the Redeemers get a call from Johnny Blaze saying that Lilith is back. That's meant to be a set-up for the Siege of Darkness crossover. What's a little weird though is that the start of Siege of Darkness has the Midnight Sons arguing because Blaze is saying that Lilith is dead but can't produce a body. So it's not clear how seriously to take Blaze's phone call at the end of Darkhold #14. We could pretend the call was happening during Road to Vengeance, when she really was "back". The problem is that Johnny Blaze becomes a cyborg in Road To Vengeance, and he's not a cyborg in this story. So it seems that the beginning portion of Darkhold #13, up until Louise Hastings leaves for Rome, takes place before this story, but the rest of Darkhold #13-14 takes place a while afterwards. Which works well since Darkhold #13 is partially told in flashbacks anyway.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Uhhhgh, did anyone involved in this actually expect that fakeout with Spidey about to receive a Darkhold page to work?
Posted by: iLegion | February 7, 2017 7:22 PM
Well, if Aunt May were on the brink of death...
Posted by: Morgan Wick | February 7, 2017 7:39 PM
That panel with the Darkhold Dwarf doing his Stan Lee impression always cracks me up :)
A year ago on his Facebook page, Mort Todd revealed that he wanted to use Electro as the villain, but the Spider-Man office wouldn't let him because the character was being used in another storyline. So instead Todd ended up using the Paralyzer. As I replied on FB, Electro is way overused. Better that he had Spider-Man encounter a semi-obscure and rather goofy bad guy created by Jack Kirby. That made for a much more offbeat fight.
It was also fun to see Zzzax, another villain who you would never expect to see pop up to fight the Midnight Sons.
Yeah, I liked this story because it was so damn weird and offbeat.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 9, 2017 5:59 PM
"Mort Todd" is a pseudonym, right? Or did someone legally change his name to "Death Death" just so he could write/draw an awful Midnight Sons comic?
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 12, 2017 8:53 PM
It's true that Mort Todd isn't his birth name (Michael Delle-Femine according to Wikipedia), but he was already using that name when he was working at Cracked.
Posted by: cullen | February 12, 2017 9:31 PM
Fnord, you moved this after Road to Vengeance but it has to take place before Road to Vengeance since Johnny's not a cyborg yet. I realize that the problem stems from the fact that this seemingly takes place during Louise's trip to Rome in Darkhold 13-14 but at the end of that story the Darkhold Redeemers find out about Lilith's return in Road to Vengeance- maybe Louise spent a very long time in Rome?
Posted by: Michael | March 4, 2017 11:07 AM
Thanks Michael. There's also the Redeemers' appearance in Morbius #13 to consider, which takes place after Lilith's return but can't take place while Hastings is in Rome. I've also realized that Darkhold #14 doesn't necessarily have to go as close to Siege of Darkness as i thought. So i've made some adjustments in placement and in the Considerations for this issue and Darkhold #13-14.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 4, 2017 11:54 AM
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