Friday, September 23, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #584-#588: "Character Assassination"

***** (five of five stars) 

Holy crap.  I mean, wow.  This arc totally blew my mind. 

The Shocker and Boomerang discover the body of the Bookie and call the police; the cops discover a Spider-Tracer on him, linking him to the "Tracer Killer."  The cops come close to arresting Spidey and shoot him through the arm.  Carlie's colleague invents a device to track Spider-Tracers.  Harry proposes to Lily, who declines because of his "history."  Using the Spider-Tracer device, Carlie discovers a stash of Spider-Traces under Vin's bed.  Spidey overhears Vin's partner tell him that Menace is attacking Hollister's campaign rally and goes to engage him.  Menace defeats Spidey and allows the police to capture him.  Harry walks into Hollister campaign HQ to discover Lily in the Menace costume.  Lily confirms she's Menace, having read Harry's diary and located Norman Osborn's secret room of Goblin gear.  She had planned to use the evidence to expose Osborn as the Goblin to help her father decide to run for mayor, but accidentally knocked over a vial of formula, which imbued her with the Menace powers.  Lily leaves Harry to his thoughts, accepting his proposal.  Meanwhile, Matt Murdoch prevents Sergeant Palone, who's investigating Spidey, from removing his mask; Palone is then paged by Carlie, who reveals to him that she knows that cops are behind the "Tracer Killings."  Palone has Vin's partner finger Vin and Carlie, since the scheme went beyond fraud when Palone ordered the death of the Bookie to keep the scheme a secret.  Spidey tells Murdoch he has to save Vin when he sees him admitted with the general population, so Matt slips Spidey a web-shooter.  Spidey breaks out Vin.  Meanwhile, Carlie appears at Hollister HQ to ask for help, only to be arrested.  Enraged, Lily turns into Menace to save her.  Menace almost kills Spidey, but is stopped by Harry, who's assumed the Green Goblin persona.  Spidey injects Menace with a serum brought by Harry, which reverts her to Lily in front of the press.  Vin arrests Palone as he's destroying evidence.  Later, Peter tells Harry he needs to get past the curse of his father.  Meanwhile, Norman visits Lily in prison, welcoming her to the family. 

The Review
I was right...and wrong!  I totally called Vin being the "Tracer Killer" (or, at least, one of them), but I definitely missed Lily as Menace.  You win some, you lose some.  Onto the good and the bad! 

The Really Good
1) The pace was amazing.  I found myself having to slow myself down a little while reading this story so that I could enjoy it, even though I really, really just wanted to know how it ended.  If I had to have the crappy "New Ways to Die!" to get this arc, then so be it!

2) If only we caught Peter in the shower more often!  Sexy boy.  JR JR can draw him all the time in my book.

3) Harry and Peter:  I was worried about Harry.  He got angry throughout the arc and it all seemed building to the inevitable conclusion of him putting on the Goblin outfit...which he did, more or less.  But, he did it to save Spidey and to stop Menace.  Also, notably, he was still wearing his street clothes.  He wasn't in full Goblin gear; just the mask.  I feel like that's significant.  I mean, Guggenheim leaves enough of a hint that Harry's not necessarily free of the Goblin's influence -- talking about how good Harry felt putting on the mask -- to make for an interesting story later.  But, Harry's conversation with Pete at the end of issue #588 was great.  Lily mocked Harry during the interlude for being weak, and I feel like Peter helped give him a road map to stop being weak, to accept his "curse," and to become his own man.  It was a nice Harry/Peter moment, just like the one at the end of "Mind on Fire."  I still think Harry knows Peter's Spidey (given he didn't really raise an eyebrow at Peter's injuries, just mentioning it at the end of the conversation) and Peter still doesn't seem to be doing a lot to hide it from him.  If (and I hope it's not necessarily when) Harry every does become the Goblin again, I'd be really heartbroken.  I don't think we've ever seen him struggling (and winning) against it like we have in these last few issues.  I really take off my hat to Guggeinheim and the Spidey Brain Trust for making an almost 50-year-old character as fresh and as new as Harry has been over these last few issues (and, really, since "Brand New Day" began). 

The Good
1) I was actually honestly stunned when Spidey got arrested.  I love how Matt Murdoch used legal wranglings to get the right to privacy extended to Spidey getting to keep on his mask.  One of my greatest pet peeves is when super-villains don't take the opportunity to unmask unconscious or indisposed superheroes, so having Matt Murdoch use the law to prevent the cops from doing it was just brilliant.

2) In my review of "New Ways to Die!" I noted that I thought it was crazy the idea that Lily would help Harry keep his secret of being the Green Goblin after only dating him a few months.  Now, I get the fact that she wasn't helping HIM keep it a secret, but SHE was keeping a secret, the fact that she was Menace.  It definitely makes MUCH more sense now.  (Sorry for the caps.  I'm just excited that the Spidey Brain Trust wasn't as asleep at the wheel as I thought it was after "New Ways to Die!")

3) After the "Kraven's First Hunt" story arc, I was becoming convinced that Pete stashes his stuff under Vin's bed when Carlie found the Spider-Tracers there and came close to ranting and raving about the stupidity of that.  I'm glad I was able to avoid that.

4) The background on Lily, about whom, as I've mentioned, we haven't really gotten to know much made a lot of sense to me.  I sort of wish they would've introduced some "least favorite daughter trying to make her dad proud" hints before this plot.  One of the reasons I was annoyed by her behavior in "New Ways to Die!" was because she had always seemed like an upstanding citizen.  Now, I get that she also, um, had some issues.  I'm still marking it as a "good," though, because it made sense, even if it would've been helpful to know earlier.

5) We also now know why Norman thought Harry was the Green Goblin in "New Ways to Die!:"  because stuff kept going missing from his secret room.  I think the only question mark left at this point from that arc is the human experiments, but it's not exactly a major plot point like the other ones, so I can live.

6) Peter mentioning Gwen.  Nice.

7) Norman Osborn's conversation with Lily at the end was predictably creepy.  I've never really liked "Menace."  She's always been kind of boring.  But, that being said, a full-on, crazy-ass Lily Hollister working with Norman Osborn could be the opposite of boring...

8) The Shocker/Boomerang conversation that began the book was bizarre but also funny. 

The Unsure
1) I'm not really sure why exposing Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin would've given Lily's dad a reason to run.  But, Lily's crazy, so, you know, so long as it makes sense to her, I guess I can't hold it against Guggenheim too much...

2) I'm also not really sure how the cops got the Spider-Tracers.  Given that they were once called an old model, I assume they just made them themselves.  But, I don't think that was ever really explicitly mentioned.  I guess it didn't have to be, but I thought it was worth noting.

3) See the next post, "On the Spidey Brain Trust," for a discussion of Spidey's mention of Morlun in issue #588.  Curiouser and curiouser. 

The Bad
1) I was baffled at the end of issue #585 why Menace decided not to kill or unmask Spidey.  It was the only real question I had after the first two issues, and the interlude definitely explained it by giving us Lily's "voice-over."  But, similar to "Kraven's First Hunt" and "New Ways to Die!" I do feel like the writers occasionally really write themselves into a corner and have to engage in logic gymnastics to keep his identity a secret.

2) Pet Peeve #2:  The intro to issue #588 mentions that Carlie "escaped" but we actually didn't know that until later in the issue.

3) Carlie's dad drinks?  It's just kind of thrown out there, so I'm assuming we know that from one of the "Family" or other titles.  But, it annoys me each time we run into something like that.  Between the constant references to "Swing Shift," "Extra", "Family," it's kind of undermining the whole three-time-a-month approach.  I thought the whole point of three-time-a-month was that I didn't have to collect every Spider-Man story to know what's happening.

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