Welcome to Spider-Man Roulette! Shelfdust’s Patreon backers were asked to pick a number at random – and now I’m going to write about whichever corresponding issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” they chose! This issue was picked by Patreon backer Steven Attewell, who chose number 372 for the roulette!
It’s very unpredictable, this roulette stuff. Sometimes you end up getting given the most nineties comic you’ve ever read. Now, I’m very thankful that nobody has yet picked any issues from the Clone Saga as far as I’m aware, which means I’ve not had to get lost in some extremely confusing muscle nonsense where everybody is a symbiote and nobody can resist a ponytail… but issue #372 of Amazing Spider-Man is completely bonkers.
This is part five of a six-part Spider-Slayer epic, apparently. Not only is Spider-Man now in the middle of a healthy relationship with Black Cat of all people, we also see that his parents are alive again, and apparently hot on the radar of the F.B.I. because they used to spent a lot of time working with the Red Skull in Algeria. You know what else this comic needs? Scorpion robots. Wait no, let’s be specific: scorpion robots which can stack up one on top of the other to form a Voltron that attack our heroes in the middle of a skyscraper building site. And the whole thing ends with Peter Parker hiding in a loft, tripping off a loose plank, and falling onto a slow-moving conveyor belt – which a villainous federal agent promptly switches on so he’ll get guided straight into a furnace.
Woof. Where do you start with something like this? The robots: you always start with the robots. Alistair Smythe has been reinterpreted here to be a nude, bug-eyed cocaine freak with mandibles and a motorised wheelchair shaped like a massive penis. Was this just what the character always needed in order to bring him up to the C-List? Potentially: it’s an incredible thing to come into with no other context. He shows up right at the start of the issue like a Bond villain – he even sets one of his cronies on fire for disappointing him, in true villainous style. It all leads to him deciding he has to do everything himself, and so he builds a series of bug-themed robots which are able to combine into a whole. In true Power Rangers-style, he waits until they’re almost all about to be defeated before he brings about this overwhelmingly more powerful version of his creation, which does seem to be poor planning on his part. Still: you have to be impressed by someone who can build a series of robots who work autonomously but can also combine in such a fashion.
Which brings us to the strangest thing in the whole issue, really: Spider-Man and Black Cat are not only dating, but she knows his secret identity… and the whole thing is perfectly healthy? If there’s one thing we’ve been led to believe it’s that their relationship is incredibly unhealthy for both of them. She refuses to learn his real name because she’s only attracted to Spider-Man; Peter knows too much about her life to be in a fair relationship with her; she’s a thrill-seeking semi-villain and he’s a pretty humble hero. When they’re together it tends to be at a time where one of them is going through some serious personal crisis, and once that’s worked out they realise they shouldn’t be dating anymore. Here, though? They have an emotionally supportive relationship and it makes me sick.
The fight against the bugbots emphasises how strong their relationship is – and if you’re the sort who likes to see connections that aren’t there, you can view the way that the villains are stacking up on top of each other to form a powerful threat to the way that Black Cat and Spider-Man have united to form a stronger front than they ever did individually. Think about it: usually one of the pair would struggle to fight a single opponent, but here they merrily slug their way past three MASSIVE robots. They’re stronger together than when they’re apart – and they wouldn’t have been able to stop the robots if it weren’t for their combined skills. Black Cat rips open a hole in their armour and Spider-Man thrusts a piece of electric cabling into it, seizing the robot up and defeating it – their combination proves to be the key to the issue.
But throughout the fight we see how connected they are. Frequently one will pause to help the other, and they constantly watch to make sure their partner is safe. When Spider-Man has to leave at the end, Black Cat accepts that she’s too injured to go with him. Now, yeah, maybe not the best thing to leave your partner on a rooftop whilst she’s injured, but in Spidey’s defence there’s a parent-napping involved. And he does make sure she’s safe in a different location before leaving. They work well together, but they also respect each other’s independence, in that sense. Again, I don’t understand anything about what’s going on, or why this is all so healthy and nurturing.
Yet this is the case right from the start of the issue! Felicia drives Peter to Aunt May’s house near the start of the issue, because he’s too injured from a previous battle to do it himself. She’s again taking a responsible role in their dynamic, and she insists on joining him on his mission that night. Despite Aunt May’s dislike of Felicia – which is only suggested through some cute lettering work from Richard Starkings – she seems to be a healthy, engaged, and ultimately good match for Peter Parker. They work well together. When they do split up at the end because she’s injured, he almost immediately falls apart and gets himself captured, which seems to show just how important this whole relationship is for him.
I suppose that on paper you can see the benefits of having this be a good pairing for them both: she can join him on missions, with Mary Jane can’t. And if the writers can just erase the fact that this is meant to be an intrinsically bad idea, then sure – why not put them together and let them have a good time? Maybe this is… better?
Amazing Spider-Man #372: Arachnophobia Too!
Writer: David Michelinie
Artist: Mark Bagley
Inker: Randy Emberlin
Colourist: Bob Sharen
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Oh yeah, and don’t think I can’t see you there Tom DeFalco, hiding your name in the credits page behind Smythe’s ponytail. I’m onto you, DeFalco.
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