Friday, December 16, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Jackpot #1-#3

** (two of five stars)

Favorite Quote"Alright 'Thumper' --"  "No, you didn't.  You did NOT just call me 'Thumper.'"  -- Spidey and the White Rabbit engage in banter 

After the Spidey guilt-trip in Annual #35, Sara Ehret has taken up the Jackpot mantle once more.  She follows a group of smugglers to the docks, where she unexpectedly encounters Boomerang.  She manages to escape with a test tube she found in the smuggled goods.  She uses her access as a lab assistant at Phelcorps Labs to have her boss run a few tests on the item in the tube, discovering nothing more than the fact that it's a sweat gland.  In a flashback, we see that Ehret got her powers in a lab accident several years earlier.  In the present day, Boomerang reveals to his employer, the new Rose, that Ehret had left her fingerprints on the grappling hook she used to impale Boomerang when she was escaping.  Later, Jackpot is taking on the White Rabbit as she investigates the sweat gland, when she's joined by Spider-Man, who's investigating something else.  White Rabbit knows nothing about the gland, but informs Jackpot that the drug she was trafficking was called "Ebony."  Spidey suggests Ehret meet with Reed Richards, who reveals that the gland is from a super-villain called "The Corruptor," whose power is to secrete mind-controlling drugs from his sweat glands.  (Ewww.)  Ehret realizes that this drug has been synthesized into Ebony.  Later, Boomerang, under orders from the Rose, tracks down Ehret, killing her husband.  Ehret flees with her daughter and, after depositing her with the Fantastic Four, goes on a spree, trying to track down Boomerang's employer.  She's joined by Spider-Man and together they defeat Boomerang, who Jackpot reluctantly decides not to kill.  The Rose is revealed to be Ehret's boss, who lost his funding as a result of Ehret's accident and became the Rose to seek out more "aggressive" forms of funding.  Ehret leaves New York with her daughter, moving to California and assuming the name "Alana Jobson," the woman who bought her powers.

The Review
I actually enjoyed this mini-series more than I thought I would.  The whole Jackpot concept has been weirdly handled by the Spidey Brain Trust and Web Heads since its inception.  In the beginning, it was a MacGuffin of sorts intended to keep us thinking about Mary Jane despite her sudden absence as a result of "One More Day."  Then, after appearing in a few issues, Jackpot got shunted to Annual #35, where we finally learn that Mary Jane isn't Jackpot; instead, Jackpot winds up being a normal human who bought the name and license from a superhero who didn't want to be one.  In a way, it gives Sara Ehret the feel of being the third Jackpot despite the fact she's actually the original one.  But, Guggenheim uses the weird (and convoluted) origin story to give us a mediation on a reluctant superhero, someone who, despite having powers, isn't keen to sacrifice her family and her career to strap on some tights and play Spider-Man.  In the end, her reluctance to do so proved wise, given that, you know, her husband ends up dead.

The Good
1) The new costume is pretty sweet.

2) Guggenheim really portrays the reluctant hero well here, from having Jackpot only pick on small-time hoods to having her avoid banter because she's too busy concentrating on the fighting.

3) Although it occasionally bordered on too forced, the scene with Jackpot, Spider-Man, and White Rabbit was pretty awesomely hilarious.

The Bad
1) On the recap page, the author refers to the question of Jackpot's identity as "[consuming] Spider-Man's life for the better part of a year."  Um, not really.  Four issues in "Amazing Spider-Man," a crossover mini-series ("Secret Invasion:  The Amazing Spider-Man"), and an annual does not "consume" make.

2) Boomerang's characterization is a little odd here.  In the "clip" they show of him in the first issue's recap page, it's from "Amazing Spider-Man" #584 where he was having a political discussion with the Shocker, telling him he needed to exhibit some civic pride and vote, given the sacrifices the men and women of the U.S. military were making.  However, here, he's a would-be rapist and a murder.  To be honest, the rapist and murder are actually probably more in line with his character, but it's a little jarring, particular given that the editors remind us of his previous conversation by choosing the picture they did.

3) It's kind of weird they'd give a one-off character in a mini-series the moniker of "The Rose."  I mean, Richard Fisk was a serious bad-ass.  It seems kind of a waste to use it on a guy looking for funding for his gene research.  Plus, I don't think I really buy what Guggenheim is selling here when it comes to the scientist's motivations.  I mean, yes, I buy that the doctor lost his funding and he had to find new "aggressive" methods to fund his research.  But, he becomes a masked super-villain?  Why did he choose "The Rose?"  Did he look in some sort of super-villain name database and saw that it was available?  Also, even if he didn't become a super-villain, he went straight from no funding to creating designer super-villain drugs?  Isn't there a level between "defrocked scientist" and "super-villain collaborator?"  He was still working in the lab, so it wasn't like he was living on the streets.

4) We never really get a reflection on the part of Spidey about his responsibility in the death of Sara's husband.  I mean, his argument, I think, is that it was a necessary evil given that Sara had a responsibility to use her powers.  But, would he have felt similar if it were Mary Jane who had been killed?  I mean, he made a deal with the Devil (even if he doesn't remember it) just to undo a similar situation involving Aunt May.  I feel like Guggenheim really let him off the hook here.

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