Issue(s): Spider-Man #32,Spider-Man #33, Spider-Man #34
The past two stories on this book have been by idiosyncratic writers - Don McGregor and Ann Nocenti - and i suggested in the entries for those issues that this might have been a good direction for the series, since it really ceased to have a reason to exist after Todd McFarlane and then Erik Larsen left. It's basically moot since the entire Spider-Man franchise gets realigned beginning with the Maximum Carnage crossover that begins after these issues, but i left open the possibility that this run by Steven Grant might be considered as continuing the idea of getting creators with unique voices to tell Spider-Man stories. On the one hand, the Punisher is a guest character here, and Steven Grant wrote the Punisher mini-series, so this could be considered as much a story unique to Grant as the Mad Dog Ward story was to Nocenti. On the other hand, Grant doesn't exactly have an immediately distinguishable voice like Nocenti or McGregor, and let's face it, the Punisher is EVERYWHERE so his appearance here feels like yet another mindless marketing driven guest appearance than any kind of callback to Grant's earlier work. And that becomes even more true when we get into the story, which is just kind of generic. It's actually a decent story, with Grant having a nice handle on Spider-Man and both he and Bob McLeod delivering a clear fun adventure. It feels a little out of place in this book and this era, but that's because most stuff from this era sucks.
Spider-Man learns about someone killing people in his name (note the shoes).
The imposter is a guy named Dwight Faron, said to have been put in jail by Spider-Man some years earlier (but not in any specific story). He's actually got two identities: the Spider-Man costume to sully his name, and another identity called the Master of Vengeance that he uses to try to force an alliance with a mobster named Boss Barnett (the alliance doesn't go anywhere thanks to the arrival of the Punisher).
Punisher first encounters Faron in the Spidey costume and gets zapped. That could have led to a Misunderstanding Fight, but to the Punisher's credit he figures things out pretty quickly. And to Spider-Man's credit, he tries to stop the Punisher rather than defaulting to an alliance with him.
The Punisher in turn just tries to stay a step ahead of Spider-Man.
But they do come into conflict, with Spider-Man trying to stop the Punisher from killing the Master of Vengeance, who's already poisoned himself with the potions he uses to give himself super-powers.
Faron perks up after Spider-Man's interference, and he and Spidey take to the streets to fight.
In the meantime, the Punisher escapes Spider-Man's webbing in one of the most badass and yet bizarre ways possible.
Faron is unstable, mentally and physically, and eventually he causes a big explosion that collapses a building. The theme of these issues is how Spider-Man is against killing, so he tries to stay behind and save Faron. But the Punisher knocks Spidey out (Spidey's spider-sense is acknowledged, but it's said that because "danger is everywhere", the Punisher is able to sneak up on him) and carry him out before the explosion. Spider-Man gets to yelling at the Punisher about that, but it turns out that Faron has survived the explosion. The Punisher is then able to shoot Faron with a sniper rifle while Faron and Spider-Man are fighting again. Spider-Man is then unable to unmask Faron, and, presumably in a nod to Amazing Spider-Man #36, doesn't recognize him.
The story ends with Peter Parker making a very definitive vow that the next time he and the Punisher meet, he's going to stop him.
I'm curious if Grant had a specific follow-up in mind, or if that's something editorial put in in anticipation of an upcoming story, or, alternatively if they didn't realize that it was there and how it might complicate the next Punisher guest appearance. The MCP have Spider-Man/Punisher/Sabretooth: Designer Genes as the next time the two characters meet. It's not by Grant and doesn't reference this story. The two do fight about whether or not to kill Sabretooth, but there's no indication that Spidey previously made a vow to stop the Punisher (more when we get there).
Bob McLeod has a nice classic style that *i* wouldn't have minded seeing more of but i'm sure it wasn't tearing up the sales charts in this era. And Grant is pretty good with the Spidey quips.
Three issues is a bit long for this, but that's another sign of the times.
Master of Vengeance does make a couple more appearances.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 574,825. Single issue closest to filing date = 1,095,000.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Pushing this back in publication time so that it can take place before Maximum Carnage (part four of which is in the next issue of this series).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showLance Bannon, Mary Jane Watson, Master of Vengeance, Punisher, Spider-Man
McLeod's pencils are remarkably similar to Mike Zeck's. But he seems to have a cleaner line and noticeably better storytelling, at the very least. A bit more work in the faces and anatomy and he could have become very good.
By 1990s standards, he is very good indeed.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 13, 2016 1:42 AM
I had the last issue only of this story when I was a kid. Always liked that scene where Punisher gets out of the webbing thanks to the building being old and cheaply constructed.
Tom Lyle will be coming on this title as regular artist and I always liked his work on Spider-man. One of the few 90s titles with decent art in my opinion.
Posted by: Red Comet | September 13, 2016 1:53 AM
There's something really McFarlaneesque about that fifth panel on the fifth scan where he's bending the bars apart. I'd like to think that's how McFarlane would have done Spidey if he put in more substance and story telling with his panels. Every other Spider-Man here makes me think more of Romita Senior especially that first scan.
Posted by: david banes | September 13, 2016 2:39 AM
"Master of Vengeance"? I guess this dude slept late the day all the cool supervillain names were handed out.
Posted by: Tuomas | September 13, 2016 4:02 AM
I think that the name is corny on purpose...
Overall, Faron is an interesting supervillain, as he's clearly mentally unstable. Unstable not in the comic-booky, "I'll conquer the world!" meaning of the word, but in the real-life sense of having obvious mental problems. There's this one moment during his fight with Spidey when he starts ranting, blasting random stuff etc... He's really messed-up.
Interesting note: the potions he used to give himself superpowers are actually designer drugs.
Posted by: Piotr W | September 13, 2016 5:38 AM
Faron's motives are interesting, but giving him the default set of super-powewrs -- really strong, and shoots force bolts -- as well as a rather off-the-shelf costume makes him come across as rather generic.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 13, 2016 6:22 AM
Here are Steven Grant's comments on the scene where the Punisher manages to temporarily imprison Spider-Man...
"The story that I wrote for Spider-Man in the ’90s… they wanted a Punisher/Spider-Man team-up. I said they could be in the same story but I’m not going to have them team up. There’s a point where The Punisher has momentarily trapped Spider-Man in a closed-up police van in an old police station, and Spider-Man’s on the other side, imprisoned in a cell. They have the one discussion that they have in the entire story, and Spider-Man is going through his usual ‘thou shalt not kill’ riff, and The Punisher just looks at him and says, “Well that’s good if you can bend steal in your hands, but what do the rest of us do?” And that was always what appealed to me about The Punisher. This is a guy that’s out there just trying to get the job done. And he’s very working class – I always viewed him as working class. Clinically, he’s a psychopath; he has no emotion. People think psychopaths are screaming lunatics, but that’s a psychotic not a psychopath. But he has no emotional connection. So that fascinated me. We had a character that I could write as a clinical psychopath."
You can read the entire interview here...
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 13, 2016 1:49 PM
I'm not sure if i agree with Mr. Grant about Castle being a psycopath. I mean, the whole Punisher deal comes from a very traumatic experience, as he saw his family gunned down in front of him. That's for sure something that would drive anyone crazy.
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | October 29, 2016 1:45 PM
Well, writers in general have trouble properly using the terms "Sociopath" and "psychopath". As we'll see when fnord gets to 1994, Nicieza had Moira describe Sabretooth as a sociopath when he committed crimes and then felt bad about them, when the entire point of a sociopath is that they don't feel remorse.
Posted by: Michael | October 29, 2016 2:07 PM
... sociopath doesn't care who's hurt in their crimes but a "normal" person trying to rationalize hurting other people does. And then there's the CSI Cyber episode where one of the characters seems to conflate "sociopath" and "poor social skills" when the two concepts are completely unrelated.
Posted by: Michael | October 29, 2016 2:08 PM
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