** (two of five stars)
Favorite Quote: "Sheesh! Doesn't anybody nice need a hero? So far today I've risked my neck for Jonah, who never stops browbeating me, and for the mob, who...well, they're the mob. I wonder if the Red Skull needs cheering up? Or maybe I can mow Dr. Doom's lawn." -- Spidey
Electro, acting on Kraven's wife's orders, breaks out the new Vulture from Ryker's Island. Meanwhile, Spidey is facing a "villain" ("Super Simon") who reveals that he's part of a reality TV show, "To Be a Villain." Spidey is outraged when he learns the City of New York authorized permits for the show, and vents his anger by webbing shut JJJ, Jr.'s phone. Meanwhile, three mafioso discuss over conference call the liberation of the Vulture and their fear that he's remembering his past. One of them is kidnapped, resulting in the other two deciding to launch "Plan J." The kidnapped mafioso tells the Vulture that JJJ, Jr. was behind his creation, and the other mafiosos "leak" information to implicate JJJ, Jr.'s role. Spidey sees the news and goes to talk to the Mayor, not believing he could be responsible. He gets there in time to see the Vulture attacking Jonah. Spidey chases off the Vulture, and Peter returns to City Hall to check on Jonah. Hearing how despondent Jonah is over the situation (and the death of a security guard who was trying to protect him from the Vulture), Peter decides to doctor a photo showing Jonah fighting the Vulture. The Vulture finds one of the other mafiosos, who reveals his origin: the Vulture was a mob fixer who proposed creating a super-villain to thin out the herd of incompetent mafiosos who were getting into too much trouble, and the mob bosses liked his idea so much they used him as the text subject. Finally, JJJ, Jr., exonerated in part by Peter's photo, holds a press conference revealing Peter's doctored photo, ruining his career.
I don't know how I feel about this arc. Taking away Peter's career smacks of something that's eventually going to be ret-conned, just like him revealing his identity. It's a bold move, particularly in the wake of the destruction of "The DB!" But, I question whether it's legit and find myself doubting it's going to stick, making it just one more gimmick in a long line of "The Gauntlet"-related gimmicks.
I'm glad we get the Vulture's origin story here. That's about it. I mean, it's an enjoyable read, so I didn't give it a one. But, still...
1) OK, at the end of the day, my biggest problem with this arc is I don't know if I buy that Peter would create a doctored photo. Even if he wanted to help Jonah, he does seriously compromise his journalistic ethics, even if he knows that Jonah is innocent. The minute I saw him doctoring the photo I knew he was going to get caught...and Peter probably would know that, too. To be fair, it's not like I've ever gotten the sense that Peter really views himself a journalist; as we can see from his musings at the end of the issue, taking photographs has always been a way to pay the bills. We saw him ruminate on how he was able to defeat Doc Ock through sheer brain power during the "Mysterioso" arc, leading him to wonder what he's doing with his life. The only positive development we could see from this incident (and hopefully the reason behind it) is that Peter takes it as an opportunity to return to his Ph.D. program or work for Stark or something that better suits him intellectually. That said, it's hard to tell if that much thought went into the matter, or if, again, it's just a "Gauntlet"-related stunt. I know I'm supposed to be anxiously awaiting the next issue to see the fall-out from the incident, but instead I just find myself hoping it doesn't get dragged out too long (like the "corrupted" Aunt May has been).
2) We probably see the most active involvement on the part of the Kravinoffs here as we've seen the entire storyline. But, more and more, I realized that this entire affair should've been called "Prelude to the Gauntlet." I think, if I'm guessing correctly, we're just setting up some really titanic "Return of the Sinister Six"-esque battle that will come as a result of the actions the Kravinoffs have taken during this storyline. But, as a result, calling this storyline "The Gaunlet" and raising the expectations that come with that name was really a bad call on the part of the Web Heads. I've been whining for issues about how unclear the whole "The Gauntlet" name has been, and, if they hadn't used it, I would've just been enjoying (for the most part) the return of Spidey's classic rogues' gallery for the first time since "Brand New Day" began.