Web of Spider-Man 123: It’s getting a little Jerry Springer in here

Credits: Written by Terry Kavanagh, pencils by Steven Butler, inks by Randy Emberlin and edited by Eric Fein.

Cast: Ben ‘Scarlet Spider’ Reilly, Eugene ‘Flash’ Thompson, Dr Miles ‘The Jackal’ Warren, ‘Jack’, Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, ‘Kaine’, the 3rd Peter Parker, Dr Julia Caputo and May Parker.

Plot: Midtown Manhattan and the Scarlet Spider is trying to save Flash Thompson and his students from an attack by scientific madman, the Jackal. With the Jackal is his minion Jack and his other creatures, who are inexplicably now referred to as Genetrix as if that was an actual thing. 

Across town, Spider-Man faces Kaine over his delivering of proof that Peter is the original and not the clone. Spider-Man wants answers. During this confrontation, Kaine wonders if he is following his own plan, or simply doing exactly what the Jackal wants to happen.

Back in Midtown, the Genetrix are done and the Jackal enters the fray, again toying with Scarlet Spider over his origins, but clone or not Scarlet has had enough and with Flash and the kids outside and safe brings the fracas to a brutal, but definitive end.

Forest Hills hospital and Dr Julia Caputo is doing her rounds and checking on her coma patient May Parker, who unexpectedly wakes up. Also now awake is the Jackal, who is restrained and in the company of the police who are to take him to the Ravenscroft asylum, but he is already keen to be there. Jack hands Scarlet Spider a disc, but Jackal snaps his fingers and everyone watches Jack dissolve into a goo before their eyes. Scarlet Spider has the disc, but doesn’t really know what to do with it all.

Kaine is still fighting with Spider-Man, but realises the futility of the battle and uses his greater speed and strength to put Spider-Man down. Spider-Man gets back up, but by that point, Kaine is long gone.

At the outskirts of the city, the 3rd Peter Parker arrives in the city and tries to find an ally to rest in, or have some sleep and some respite from the questions plaguing his mind.

Back at the smokestacks, where he awoke 5 years ago, Ben has taken off his Scarlet Spider mask and is contemplating the disc in his hand. He wonders if he really wants to do and if Peter ever had these thoughts, these questions (will save you worrying, he did here and decides that whoever he was, or wasn’t he is Ben Reilly and this is his life and life, life is for the living.

At the issues end, three men (clearly up to no good) advance on the sleeping 3rd Peter (3Pete? Yeah, going to call  him 3Pete) who is woken by what the other two Spider-guys would call their Spider-Sense and guided by those instincts gives the three men a kicking. He is still tortured by the questions, Chief among them, Who am I?

Notes: This is going so daytime talk show, “In this envelope is the paternity test” or “The results from the lie detector test are here”

Jackal and Kaine want to convince Ben & Peter that they are the original Peter Parker, but only one can be right, or maybe it’s neither and it’s 3Pete (spoiler it isn’t) and these revelatory conversations devolve quickly into slugfests. While the Jackal revels in his actions, very early on Kaine realises that he has made a mistake and he seems to beat up Peter just to get out of an awkward conversation. I didn’t know you could do that. Both bad guys get what they want, even if it seems like they didn’t and the Peter Parkers are all left confused about what exactly is going on and through it all May wakes up.

Verdict: 

Writing: 3 out of 5 – Most of this issue is action scenes and so honestly it seems a little stretched out to fill the page count. The Jackal/Scarlet Spider fight is particular bad for that and the dialogue is the same. The amount of thought balloons is excessive and overly expositional and the Jackal’s lines just paint him as a third rate Joker or a second rate Mr Sinister and it was nice to see him punched into a wall, if only so he’d stop chewing the scenery.

Kaine however, is given more with less pages and his role in this saga still seems open. But it’s all building towards something with May’s awakening and 3Pete and this continues to hold my interest.

Art: 3 out of 5 – Once again I am enjoying the team of Butler and Emberlin, who mix action and drama well, but the cost her is consistency, Ben and 3Pete are supposed to be the same person, but both fluctuate from page to page, so that similarity is soft of lost in the different pages. Also the Genetrix (really bad name) also vary panel to panel and it looks like dialogue was written in as an explainer. But it does colour the experience.

Overall 6 out of  10 – This is a good issue compared with the last one and the flaws are minor but it does highlight the problem with these same character different title crossovers when the first casualty is consistency. Characters change from issue to issue, or panel to panel in some cases. It does effect how the story flows or in fact doesn’t. This is a problem that plagues comics of this era and for many years afterwards. But I did like the issue, happy to see this all coming together and can’t wait to see where this goes next.

Next Time: Short, hairy one handed man seeks woman out of his league to watch the end of the world with.

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