Issue 650 begins right in the middle of an attack by the Hobgoblin on Horizon Labs. It's more of a raid really. To steal something within, something precious, something created by the types of people who work in Horizon - really smart people, not street smart - science smart. Seeing as these are the kind of people who work there, it comes as no surprise that one Bella Fishbach manages to use her smartphone to access the Lab's public address system.
This in turn belts out the Lady Gaga hit "Bad Romance" from the Horizon PA system, cancelling out Hobgoblin's newly sonic-based power. Which, in turn, saves Spider-Man from getting beheaded.
There's a new Hobgoblin under the mask and he doesn't ride his glider - he straps it to his back.
Edgar Delgado does a remarkable job of coloring this issue. This panel is a fine example.
That's the Hobgoblin slicing off a piece of Reverbium. More accurately: Stealing a piece of Reverbium.
The whole heist is on record via a camera drone, seen flying beside the Hobgoblin in the panel below.
This issue was published circa 2011. Today, drones are increasingly being used. How long before the papparazzi have one of these?
I want to showcase Humberto Ramos' art and I'm looking for some panels to best do that. I'm a bit surprised that the panels that I find most striking have no costumes in them. Here's the first one showing Captain Yuri Watanabe and Horizon bigwig Max Modell with some officers in the background.
Very confident pen strokes. Exquisite, fine linework. I notice that its generally blocky but not totally so - the result is when we see a curve its much more "curvy" because of the blocky backdrop surrounding it.
Here's another nicely rendered panel showing the Kingpin and Tex, head of Security at the Fisk Building.
Just very clean, very easy on the eyes. Because of the extremely fine lines I suspect that this is the type of art that looks better inked than in the raw.
The metal called Reverbium came up early in the issue. Just what is Reverbium? Reverbium, it turns out, is artificial Vibranium. If you are shaking your head at these strange names its time to clue you in on Marvel metallurgy. The Earth-616 Universe is getting so rich that its beginning to have a nascent metallurgical heirarchy separate from the real world - you know the B-O-R-I-N-G universe. It all began with Adamantium, the material used on Ultron's armor and Wolverine's skeleton. Then we have Wakandan Vibranium, used as body armor by the Black Panther. Then there's Antarctic Vibranium, a metal that destroys other metals. And now we have Reverbium, man-made Vibranium. More! More! More I say! And I'm sure there will be.
When the story starts to swing in the direction of one Felicia Hardy a.k.a. The Black Cat I am struck by the beautiful rendering of her apartment building.
Normally I'd only include panels of Felicia when she's uber-sexy but this milk bath panel has got to be shown.
Back at the Bugle, Ben Urich's nephew is trying to impress a reporter he has a crush on by giving her a scoop on a story for free but this happens.
Ouch! How painful is this? Its a very mature reaction from Phil. Some people (me) would simply dive down into the handy dandy bottomless well of self-pity.
Contrast this with the situation of one Peter Parker. Here he is with his current girlfriend and his ex-girlfriend (wife!).
And here he is taking a call from yet another ex-girlfriend.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why it is amazing to be Spider-Man.
This panel is insulting to MJ isn't it?
This panel is supposed to be the equalizer were MJ insults Peter and Carlie in turn.
With the last two panels the debate is on the table: Who's at the disadvantage, the person who doesn't know hard science or the person who doesn't know celebrities? The knee jerk reaction is celebrities. But what if MJ, who is in showbiz, knows hard science but has no celeb connections? She would be screwed. If Peter knew everybody in Hollywood but didn't get basic algebra not to mention the more advanced stuff that he should know, HE would be screwed. The correct answer is: The question is irrelevant. Whatever puts food on your table you should know that and your knowledge should be increasing. If you derive your paycheck from your affinity with Lady Gaga then you should know Gaga, it is the single most important thing for you to know. You should know Gaga. No question. So those two panels are just snooty - but very creative.
Enough! Time for a sexy Black Cat pic.
Oh yes. Anybody who wants to be roof tiles raise your hand.
This issue brings about the introduction of a Spider-Man suit.
Contrary to popular belief Pete gets laid as much as Tony Stark. Why should Stark have all the costume variation fun? So its 30 Iron Man suits, 5 Spider suits, and the Hulk hasn't changed his torn purple pants since 1964.
This suit is a stealth suit designed to make Spider-Man invisible by bending both sound and light. This mag isn't called the Amazing Spider-Man for nothing. The suit has also been specially built to counter the Hobgoblin's sonic power - the one that almost got Spider-Man beheaded.
The story ends with this fantastic last panel.
The story ends, but not the issue, we get an extra treat:
Bonus Story: The Final Lesson
"The Final Lesson", what a vague title for a story that could also be called "How The Scorpion Got A Level Up".
Yup, this is about dear old Mac Gargan a.k.a. The Scorpion. Currently an unwilling- and very unwell - "guest" of The Raft.
Here's an interesting tidbit about the Scorpion.
I just love that. At the core level, the DNA level, the Scorpion IS a scorpion. That's not just some colorful name he picked up from the Discovery Channel.
Long story short, he gets "rescued" by this guy.
The Spider Slayer is one of those mad scientist types who is about to "get to work" (ouch!) on the hapless Mr. Gargan, and, presumably, producing a deadlier, more lethal, and more lethal-looking Scorpion that I can't wait to see.
And finally, we run out of comic. Let's all head back to the real world now (head shake).
Amazing Spider-Man 654 Revenge of the Spider Slayer Part Three
Drop-dead awesome looking cover. I certainly hope that Scorpion's new look - and even more formidable new powers - are here to stay.
After an introduction explaining that the issue opens in the middle of the action - an all out attack by the Spider Slayer and his minions - we are taken to an orbiting space station called Apogee 1.
Apogee 1 is owned by Horizon Labs, Peter Parker's employer. I thought Horizon was just a simple research facility staffed by geniuses. But it is rich, really rich. It's a well-worn cliche isn't it? That if you're brainy or did well at school, being wealthy is a given? The reality is, that's simply not true. Max Modell, head of Horizon, is supposed to be a three-time Nobel Laureate. Not one. Not two. Three-time. So he owns a company that runs a space station. Having high grades will most likely - most likely, NOT surely, give you a good job - it takes different kinds of chops to build wealth. So in order to create Horizon, Modell isn't only smart - he's savvy. He's a great businessman AND a three time Nobel prize winner. This guy is more unbelievable than the ones running around in costumes.
Stefano Caselli does the art. This close-in panel of Spider-Man is really well done.
The Thing is here! Alright!
Ben Grimm is my absolute favorite Marvel hero. I'm very choosy about how he's portrayed though. He has to be big, blocky and tough-looking. Caselli's doing him justice. Not the best rendering, but good.
Luke Cage and Power Man are here too!
The Spider Slayer has a mad-on for J. Jonah Jameson, Mayor of NYC. Jameson is in his limo and he gives the driver an instruction; I just love the way the driver responds to that one.
In this issue, the Hobgoblin is operating in stealth mode. He just might have done great damage - crippling Assistant Editor Robbie Robertson's son. Though the Hobgoblin is in full civilian gear, Caselli still manages to do this great "split face" rendering to inform us it is the Hobgoblin.
And now for this issues's piece de resistance: The Scorpion
Initially shown in the shadows of Spider Killer's ship.
The Scorpion is to the right. Look how massive Mac Gargan has become.
He launches into action against Spider-Man showing off speed and strength and that excellent armor.
Ms. Marvel and Power Woman are here!
I love it when Amazing Spider-Man becomes a team comic!
What is the Scorpion without his tail?
As mentioned, Spider Slayer has a ship. I love the creative name he has for his pilots.
Here is Spider Slayer on full attack mode:
The big event, and the swan song of this story for this issue is the death of Marla Jameson at the hands of the Spider Slayer.
Bonus Story: Venom
Flash the athlete. Flash the jock. He's served his country well but at great cost: The loss of his legs.
The main thing in this bonus story is the union of Venom and Flash
The military is in charge of the whole thing. Venom/Flash is an anti-terrorist weapon of sorts. Not content with "just" Venom, the military provides ordnance, like the clever Multi-Gun.
Artists Paulo Siqueira and Ronan Cliquet de Oliveira give us a beautiful rendering of Captain Katherine Glover.
It won't be a military without failsafes. The moment Flash's control weakens and Venom seems to be taking over Flash is a dead man.
Amazing Spider-Man 658 Future Foundation
As if to signal that this is not a normal issue of Amazing Spider-Man, the Future Foundation flare lights up the sky. This is more like a normal issue of the Fantastic Four - I mean Future Foundation.
Brief background: With the death of Johnny Storm, Johnny himself has nominated Peter to join the Fantastic Four, now called the Future Foundation. The FF has retired the old Fantastic Four name and costumes in honor of Johnny. But guess who didn't get the memo?
Soon enough, Peter wears the new duds.
It's just too bad Javier Pulido is doing the art - he doesn't do the new costume any justice. I mean, just look at the beautifully drawn costume on the cover.
Soon enough, the FF is off to their new adventure with new member Spider-Man in tow.
Peter should quit the Avengers, this is a much better team for him considering how scientifically inclined he is and the FF is a group of science explorers. Just look at how he gets along with Reed.
Sue knows it too.
Did I just diss the art of Javier Pulido? I take it all back look at this amazing double page spread of the FF in Paris.
Pastry break right after resolving the Paris issue seems such a great idea.
A mime makes fun of the Thing. Surprisingly, Mr. Grimm is in full control.
One of the many reasons I consider the Thing Marvel's best.
Not to worry though, Mr. Mime won't get away with his unprovoked insult; courtesy of the Invisible Woman.
Not content with just Paris, Pulido gives as a less impressive but still good Microverse double-pager.
Theres more! A pinup of the chaos in the Baxter building showing the FF kids and their nanny, Dragon Man.
And still more! The future.
Where the FF meets the future Future Foundation.
Captain Wakanda, if I'm not mistaken is descended from both Steve Rogers and T'Challa.
Peter has his own agenda while traipsing around with his new team.
Is what Reed asking for even possible? The creative act is a very 'hodgepodge' process isn't it? Your mind just sort of grabs things all over the place and your ideas are most likely complicated amalgams of everything you've seen and studied. Having seen the future, and thought about it, can Peter really filter it out? I wouldn't bet on it.
End of story but not the issue. We get a bonus feature.
Bonus Story: Marvel Team-Up
Yes! I miss Marvel Team-Up. So who's in here?
Before we even encounter Ghost Rider we get a glimpse of his bike.
Notice the patrons in the background running away from the bar the Ghost Rider is in?
Ghost Rider becomes Johnny Blaze again so he can enjoy a drink at a bar. Johnny has this to say.
Question: If you were Johnny Blaze, I mean, if you were you, but like Johnny, you could summon the Ghost Rider at will, would you want to give up that power? I wouldn't. At night, I would go out to the most dangerous parts of my city and wait for people to mess with me. For starters. Moving on . . .
Pretty soon, Peter finds himself in the middle of not-so-chummy meeting of Hellspawns.
The fight is on and Ghost Rider lashes out. What a great fiery panel this is.
It doesn't go well with Mr. Rider so he gives the bike to Peter. Yup, HE GIVES THE BIKE TO PETER. Look at this panel here.
This is a "to be continued" tale but the last panel is a doozy.
Amazing Spider-Man 661 The Substitute Part One
Amazing Spider-Man #661 is an artistic tour de force. The artist is Reilly Brown and he really serves up some gorgeous panels all throughout the issue.
Here's the Future Foundation:
And here's Stan Lee's and Jack Kirby's classic "flying bathtub" Fantasticar - modernized and given a Future Foundation paint job.
Well, apparently, in this issue the FF is taking on King Kong.
Spider-Man and the Thing launch into action!
Surprise! Surprise! It's Giant-Man!
There is a tradition of Peter Parker being a hard luck hero because of the so-called "Parker Luck". Giant-Man goes into a bit of a spiel about what makes the hapless Spider-Man hapless.
I don't know if the hard luck hero image can stick with someone with so many gorgeous women in his life though.
After that series of exquisite panels, the book delivers a good old visual list of characters. I love visual lists! Specially of heroes I'm not familiar with. This list is about the membership of the Avengers Academy.
Incidentally, a hazmat is the head to toe body suit used to protect people from radioactivity.
Finesse - shown with her father, the Taskmaster.
Spider-Man volunteers to teach at the Academy. Here he is losing the Future Foundation togs and putting on his classic red and blue.
It seems that the "responsibility" statement, within the Avengers, is attributed to Giant-Man/Hank Pym - not to Spider-Man
Veil makes a valid point.
It's time for some practical lessons, so the teacher takes the students out on patrol.
Expecting petty crimes, they encounter some of that, but they also encounter the Psycho Man.
The Psycho man encounter continues to the next issue. Let's end with Brown's "wallcrawler" rendition.
There is a bonus section to this issue called "Spider-Man: Just Another Day". It's a day in the life visual space filler. Javier Pulido does the art. Nothing to write home about.
Amazing Spider-Man 663 The Return of Anti-Venom Part One
The issue starts with an impressive Anti-Venom intro panel.
". . . for all the poisons that plague the Earth I am your Anti-Venom". Wonderful stuff.
Anti-Venom is out to get Martin Li a.k.a. Mr. Negative.
I love the part about Li being the greatest sinner and the greatest saint both.
Anti-Venom looks monstrous enough but apparently there is something scarier than him.
Here is another look at her.
Gorgeous full body shot by Guiseppe Camuncoli. I don't get what makes her look so fearsome. She's obviously bulletproof but Anti-Venom looks much more intimidating - must be something she says to the criminals, its very baffling.
For those reading Spider-Man for some time now, here's the biggest (best?) surprise of all: The Wraith is Jean DeWolff!
I'm surprised. You're surprised. Anti-Venom is absolutely stunned.
Wow. Nothing more about Jean DeWolff in the rest of the issue, but that was plenty. Let's check up on Peter
Camuncoli gives us this wonderful montage about Spider-Man being both an Avenger and a member of the Future Foundation.
Peter Parker just got published in a scientific journal. How big a deal is this?
Spider-Man and Anti-Venom tangle in this issue and we are once again reminded that Peter's powers go haywire when he's in close proximity to Brock. The tragedy is that both Spider-Man and Anti-Venom are fighting the good fight.
This panel is a concise summary of the dynamics between Spider-Man, Anti-Venom and Martin Li.
Li is the real bad guy, the organized crime leader, Mr. Negative. Peter doesn't know that Li = Mr. Negative. Brock does but no one trusts Anti-Venom. So this is a case of two good guys going at it while the bad guy is off to the side. This makes every blow traded between Spidey and Anti-Venom infuriating.
And that's it for the main story but we have a bonus tale.
Bonus Story: Infested Stage 4: Out of Nowhere
This backup tale should have been called "The Parker Luck" because it spends most of the pages showing Spider-Man messing up as he goes about helping people.Just look at this panel.
Spider-Man has just come from "rescuing" an old woman from, what seemed to be, an ATM robber - it turns out to be her grandson. Peter has a barely plausible string of these boo-boos and hence the pose shown on the panel above. Spider-Man really is Everyman isn't he? That's how I feel when I mess up - I feel the way Spider-Man looks in the panel above.
The infested part of the tale is very short and features a cameo from Cloak and Dagger. What happens is: A drug dealer that Cloak and Dagger is accosting suddenly develops Spider-Man-like agility. Evidently courtesy of this guy:
That's pretty much the "Infested" part.
The issue ends the right way with this beautiful panel of Spider-Man swinging off into the night.