**** (four of five stars)
Miguel and Xina are driving through the desert in a convertible, returning from Mexico. The conversation begins in media res, with Xina telling Miguel that he's being paranoid and Miguel responding that he's due some paranoia, given recent events (the corporate raiders, the bizarre dreams, and the Strange business). Speaking of "weirdness," Xina tells Miguel that she's been thinking about Spider-Man a lot and realized that she was wrong to blame him for everything. She notes that Alchemax had been suffocating everyone with its "regimentation," until Spider-Man appeared and plunged the world into a new "era of weirdness." Saying that it's not a bad thing to feel like anything could happen, Xina reacts with surprise when she realizes that two police officers on a souped-up flybike have plucked Miguel from the passenger's seat. The officers inform Miguel, who's getting his talons ready, that he won't be hurt and that his presence has been requested at the White House by Tyler Stone. (!) At that moment, in Washington, Dana is talking to Tyler through a vid-phone, asking him if he has to work late again. She complains about being lonely in Washington, because she doesn't know anyone, and Tyler notes that he appreciates her patience. He tells her that, after meeting "the man," he sees all sorts of possibilities. Dana says that she understands and ends the call, only to be knocked unconscious by a mysterious fist. At the White House, Stone enters the Oval Office, informing Dr. Doom that the field agents have picked up Miguel and are escorting him to Washington.
In New York, Gabe is shocked about the coup and Kasey asks what he's going to do about it. Gabe says that he can't do anything about it, since Doom and the federal government are "up there" and they're "down here." Kasey says that "he" can (obviously meaning Spider-Man, since she thinks that Gabe is Spider-Man), just as Gabe gets grabbed by the collar and pulled into an alley. A couple of Fenris thugs are trying to rob him and Kasey attacks one, telling Gabe to stop "screwing around." One of the Fenris knocks Kasey into the wall, but he and his buddy scramble as two "Watchdogs" appear. In Washington, Miguel enters the Oval Office, declaring that it'll be his final showdown with Tyler, only to be stopped short when he sees Tyler standing next to "President Doom." Doom asks Miguel if they've previously met, with Miguel responding that he doesn't recall, since he's lousy at faces. Doom says that he appreciates how droll Miguel is, noting that it's a lost art, and compliments Miguel for not being easily phased. Miguel asks what Tyler is doing there and Doom informs him that he's his Corporate Minister, responsible for making sure all the corps work together, rather than at odds. Miguel asks who's running R&D at Alchemax, only to learn that Tyler wants him to do it. Elsewhere, Dana awakens on a bed, bound and gagged, only to have a mysterious hand ignore her pleas, close a door, and prepare a gun. On top of an unnamed building, Spider-Man laughs hysterically at the idea of running R&D and turning into Stone, though wonders why he told Stone that he'd think about it. At that moment, he notices a bunch of Watchdogs trying to break up some Spiderites demonstrating against Doom. Spidey protects the Spiderites, but the fight is ended when Doom appears and offers them a permit to protest peaceably and unharmed during normal business hours. Then, he offers Spidey a Cabinet post as Minister of Supernormal Affairs. Spidey chases after Doom, telling him, "I don't get this." Doom tells him that there's nothing to "get:" he fears no man or force on the planet, so he offered the Spiderites a permit because he doesn't fear something "as ephemeral as ideas."
In New York, Gabe confesses to Kasey that he's not Spider-Man, but Kasey doesn't believe him, thinking that he's trying to throw him off track. Gabe tells her that he'd like to throw her off a cliff, that he only allowed her to believe that he was Spider-Man because he wanted her to look at him like she did Spider-Man. He curses the Spider-Man costume as he has to walk by Spiderites peaceably protesting, with the on-lookers noting that Doom must be "classy" to let them do so. In Washington, Tyler arrives home, telling Dana that she needs to make sure to arm the security locks. Proving his point, he's stunned when he's shot in the chest, collapsing to the floor in a pool of blood, with a gun-toting Conchata standing over him.
In the "Young Miguel" tales, Tyler Stone tries to convince Angie to allow Kron to stay at the school, since it's the environment in which he's done the best, "putting aside the homicide attempts." However, Angela has a call into "Mr. Herod," Tyler's father-in-law, and Stone leaves, telling Angela that she's just made a fatal mistake.
Before reading this issue, I contemplated buying all the various issues that deal with Doom taking over the U.S. However, after reading this issue, I'm glad that I didn't. I'm left with the same sense of confusion that Miguel and his supporting characters suffer, particularly since they were in Mexico when the coup d'état happened. It really contributed to feeling the tension in this issue, as everyone tries to acclimate to recent events.
1) OK, I was honestly shocked by the image of Conchata standing over Tyler's body. Holy crap, I totally did not see that coming, either him getting shot or her being the gunman. I mean, it certainly confirms that the mystery woman watching Dana and Tyler have dinner in issue #30 was Conchata, but I certainly didn't expect her to kidnap Dana and kill Tyler. Oh, Conchata. You are chaos incarnate.
2) I'm glad that David didn't decide to make Xina into the Aunt May of this title, in the sense that someone close to Miguel would hate Spider-Man. Her decision to view Spidey in the larger "societal context" is a mature one.
With Kasey encouraging Gabe to do something about Doom as Spider-Man, I was wondering if she still had any powers from her Payback days. I know that she doesn't have the armor anymore, but I'm pretty sure that Stark-Fujikawa made some sort of "upgrades" to her to interact with the suit.
1) Dana and Tyler's relationship seems to have progressed extremely quickly. I mean, Dana's in Washington with Tyler and asking him when he's going to come "home?" Last we saw them, they were having dinner. Now they live together? I feel like they may've appeared in "Doom 2099" or some of the other series, particularly if Tyler wound up becoming part of Doom's cabinet after the coup. But, still, given that Dana at the very least is a creature mostly of this series, I was surprised to feel like I had missed a few issues seeing how advance their relationship is. I know time moves fast in comics, but Miguel couldn't have been in Nightshade and Mexico for more than a week or so.
2) I'm not entirely sure where Miguel is after he leaves the White House. If he's in DC, then it's weird that Gabe and Kasey encounter the protesting Spiderites, since Doom gave them permission to protest in DC (though, I guess they could've gotten on the horn and arranged a protest in New York). If he's in New York, then, damn, they moved quick to get there.