Nathan Kiehn is the author of over 100 blog posts on his family website Keenlinks and "The Gray Guard" ebook fantasy trilogy on Amazon.
Spot the Difference
With this next volume, the web-heads gain another writer in the form of Fred Van Lente, who first wrote Spider-Man stories for Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, a kid-friendly series completely unconnected to the regular Marvel universe. I personally loved reading this series as a kid, and 24/7 really showcases the experience Van Lente got from writing Spider-Man, even if for a younger audience.
The above panel comes from a Marvel Adventures issue that Van Lente scripted, hopefully showing he can handle both humor and action at the same time, as Spidey teases Doc Oc while dealing out the pain.
While not as prominent as some of the other Web-Heads (such as Slott and Guggenheim), Van Lente still brings his own signature brand of fun and humor to the stories. His tales are typically lighter than other writers’, even though this single issue is a slightly darker take on an old, C-list Spidey enemy: The Spot.
The Spot has never been top-tier villain material, even joining a team with such notable Spider-Man adversaries such as the Gibbon, the Grizzly, and the Kangaroo (hint: that’s sarcasm; the only notable thing about these punks is how terrible they all are). His most shining moment actually comes in the 90s animated series, where he sacrifices his life to save the world and is never seen again. That’s the kind of character the Spot is.
The story, drawn by Paulo Siqueira, begins with our issue’s villain, a Russian mobster named Dmitri Ivankov, receiving a single black spot as a type of death threat. Give you three guesses who this is from and, no, it ain’t from one of them 101 Dalmatians.
With the villain introduced, we move on to our hero, Peter Parker, as he goes to grab lunch with Aunt May, who’s been moved to a different F.E.A.S.T. establishment after the insanity with Venom and Anti-Venom during the New Ways to Die story. Van Lente does a great job reminding us of the wringer Spidey’s been put through recently—with Lily being exposed as Menace and Vin going to jail—and the hopes that this lunch will be a peaceful getaway from life’s insanity . . . but, no.
Turns out, Dmitri is at this particular establishment trying his best to act like a nice guy. Well, Aunt May’s no dummy; she sees through his supposed kindness, effectively giving Peter the idea to chase down this guy. He does, discovering him on a ship buying weapons from a Russian captain; Dmitri needs these weapons to enhance his operations, especially following one botched incident.
Then all heck breaks loose as an unlikely assassin begins murdering Russian mobsters, seemingly out of nowhere: Jonathan Ohn, the Spot. It’s a dark take on the character—one that I wish got explored more down the road. But no, that doesn’t happen. Spot’s targeting Ivankov specifically, and it’s up to Spidey to keep him safe. He engages the Spot, who brings him into his weird world of “spots,” comprised of various wormholes that he can manipulate.
He’s a tough dude if you think about it, and eventually, Spidey resorts to just standing his ground, gritting his teeth and telling him he’s not gonna let Spot get this guy. In response, Spot gives him a letter explaining his intentions. The letter’s written in dots, so while an “English translation” is given to readers, Spidey doesn’t understand a word. It’s kinda dumb and doesn’t make much sense—perhaps it's a bit of forced humor—but readers are informed that the “botched incident” I mentioned earlier almost killed Ohm’s son, hence the reason he went after Ivankov.
It’s an okay story and full of good humor, but it’s just another example of one of those tales that's been slotted between two larger story arcs since maybe the writers and artists needed a bit more time to put the finishing touches on their larger stories. This makes perfect sense, considering this book is being released thrice-monthly. It’s a good first attempt by Van Lente, who will fortunately produce some better work down the line.
Speaking of “slots,” we return to Dan Slott as he and Barry Kitson team-up for a Fantastic Four-centered storyline. The tale begins a few months earlier, before the events of One More Day, as Spidey and the Fantastic Four save an alien civilization from civil war.
One detail to note is that Spidey’s running around and fighting without a mask. Hence, the FF know his identity. Coming back to present day, readers know this is no longer the case. His true identity is a mystery, and as Spidey is called back with the FF to save this civilization a second time, it becomes a point of contention between him and Johnny Storm, the Human Torch.
Slott really likes using the Human Torch, having written a miniseries with him and Spidey called I’m With Stupid before his ASM days and continuing to explore their relationship here. It’s a character he’ll reference or use a lot during his own time as the sole writer of ASM, using that theme of friendship liberally.
Right now, though, we have a conflict between the two, as Torch keeps ribbing Spidey about the whole identity thing, bitter at the idea that, at one time, he knew Spidey was Peter but no longer does. Traveling to this other civilization brings about another conflict: this place exists in the macroverse, where time moves differently, meaning (because of science!) time on Earth is exponentially quicker.
This allows for some fun sequences drawn out really cleverly. While the top halves of some of the pages showcase a conversation between Spidey and Reed Richards, the bottom halves display life back on Earth and what’s happening to various characters.
As the conversation occurs over a few seconds in the macroverse, literal weeks go by on Earth. JJJ tries to win back Martha and experiences a hint of humility; his father Jay (who Spidey met back on a train he saved from the Shocker) is introduced to May Parker and begins to court her; reporter Nora Winters starts a relationship with Robbie Robertson, son of Frontline editor Joe Robertson; and Carlie Cooper begins to comfort and grow closer to Harry Osborn in the wake of Lilly’s revelation as Menace. It’s a cool sequence and a unique way of showing the passing of time.
Knowing time isn’t their ally, Spidey and the FF rescue the alien civilization and unite two warring factions. Returning home, Spidey decides to unmask and, all of a sudden, memories flood back for the FF. This is a nice touch because it deepens the mystery of his deal with Mephisto. So people don’t remember that Peter is Spider-Man, but if he unmasks to them, they will. The plot thickens.
Spidey realizes time has passed quickly and speeds off, only to be distracted by a stunning announcement. A special election for mayor of New York has pitted Walter Declun against Martin Li and a third-party candidate. The third-party candidate wins. So guess who the new mayor of New York City is.
Spidey Hasn't Got a Prey-er
And right from that revelation, we get whisked into a three-parter by Mark Waid and Mike McKone. Spidey’s dealing with the fallout of being gone so long and JJJ’s recent appointment as mayor, so he decides to take the fight to City Hall the best way he knows how: as Spider-Man. He goes on a 24/7 Spider-Man binge, stopping crime and helping people. His popularity shoots through the roof, and so does Jonah’s temper, with the new mayor employing a special kill-squad to nab the web-slinger. Spidey prevails, however, despite the toll being a hero 24/7 takes on him.
Waid proceeds to hit Spidey with several other revelations. First, he has a new roommate, Michelle Gonzales, the sister of crooked cop Vin, who’s only there to finish her brother’s case. She’ll become a periodic character in the stories and be there primarily to add conflict (lots of conflict, as we shall see). Second, he discovers that Aunt May and Jay Jameson began dating while he was gone, a rather shocking revelation considering Aunt May hasn’t had much luck in that department since Uncle Ben died. There was one other man, Nate Lubensky, but he died during an attack from the Vulture. She’s finally found someone who loves her, and as another twist, Jay proposes. She says yes.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- What was the name of the man May almost married?
- Ben Parker
- Johnny Jerome
- Jay Jameson
- Richard Parker
- Johnny Jerome
Finally, we have the debut of a new Vulture, a dark red one instead of Adrian Toomes’ green. And this guy’s actually more vulture-like, literally preying upon the weak and slow of the criminal underworld. He also has acidic vomit, but I don’t think that happens in the animal kingdom.
He and Spidey go toe-to-toe a few times, and Spidey learns to evade his acidic spew and, in a rare moment of anger, breaks the guy’s arms. Why? Because he spots Norman Osborn watching him, and hatred for his greatest enemy drives him a bit cuckoo for a moment. This new Vulture is an intriguing character, and we’ll learn more about him down the line. Currently, he’s dead, so it feels like a bit of a waste, but Waid uses him well.
Waid’s writing has always been top-notch. Recent news I’ve read has claimed Slott will be continuing with ASM while Waid takes writing duties from Nick Spencer for Captain America. This is a bit of a bummer considering that Waid would do a consistently fabulous job on ASM. He creates a lot of tension and conflict here, weaving in subplots that will have payoffs later on.
I guess now that the Menace and Harry mysteries are out of the way, we’ve gotta start somewhere new. It’s a fun volume of issues, and while the Spot story seems out of place, the whole volume gives Spidey a lot to deal with in the wake of some traumatizing events. He’s gotta start healing somewhere—looks like this is the place.
Amazing Spider-Man: 24/7
© 2017 Nathan Kiehn