Writer: Brett Matthews
Artist: Vatche Mavlian
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with an unmasked Spider-Man being questioned by an unseen interrogator, about his involvement in a mission where something bad looks to have played out. We then see the book jumps back a couple days as we find Peter going about his typical day, as he accepts an invitation to dinner from his Aunt May before heading off to his day job as the science teacher at his old high school. However, when he receives a package that contains photos that could expose his secret identity if published, and a note telling him to head up to the roof for a meeting, we see Peter is forced to cut out on his class. Up on the roof we find Nick Fury who is looking for Spider-Man's help on a secret mission, and he makes it quite clear that this request is one that Peter should think very hard about accepting, as saying no could make things very difficult for Peter. As Peter is brought aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship he learn that the mission looks to be on a small island off the coast of Japan, and us readers arrive before Spider-Man where we find Wolverine tied to a stake and being tortured by a man who is quite upset at Logan for something he did twelve years earlier. As Spider-Man arrives we see he manages to web up some of the group that had surrounded Logan, but when his webbing runs out, he decided to free the hostage & make a run for it. However, once freed it's clear that Wolverine is looking for a little payback.
The timeline of this story would seem to set it in-between the span after Peter takes up his teaching position at his old high school, but before he is reunited with Mary Jane. Now this makes it more or less a modern day Spider-Man story, and as such it would be nice to see a better understanding of the elements that are playing out outside the pages of the Spider-Man book. Namely I found the scene where Nick Fury essentially blackmails Spider-Man into accepting a mission was entirely unconvincing, as unlike the Ultimate universe Peter has never had a problem in his dealings with Nick Fury, or S.H.I.E.L.D. In fact I've always been a little surprised that S.H.I.E.L.D. didn't call upon Peter's services more often, as his loner status would allow them to cut him loose if things looked like they could be traced back to S.H.I.E.L.D., and yet they would also be fully aware of the vast number of times he's put his life on the line to rescue others, so they should have a pretty good sense that Spider-Man would make for an ideal operative as long as you didn't calling upon him to perform some questionable acts that would offend his heroic sensibilities. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that Nick Fury should have simply asked Spider-Man for help instead of strong arming him into service, as the two have enough history together for Fury to recognize Peter would've said yes without being pressured into the position where he was forced to.
There's also the fact that this book never really tells us why Spider-Man was chosen for this mission, as while I realize that he's one of the most popular characters at Marvel, and it makes sense that the writers would be looking to deliver a story that would appeal to the widest segment of fans, I really feel the book could've done a far better job of explain why Spider-Man was drafted into service. I mean they have a vast array of operatives they could call upon, from the Black Widow, to Captain America himself. Now if they were looking for a deniability factor by using an operative with no ties to S.H.I.E.L.D. then why not simply use the X-Men, as they would be more than inclined to rescue Logan. Then again given the way that Spider-Man starts singing like a canary once he gets into the interrogation room, I do have to wonder if the back story is entirely true, as having the story told to us via a character's recollection of events does allow some disinformation to enter the narrative. Now I do have to wonder why the unseen questioner looked to have trouble with the idea that Spider-Man was acting in the interests of S.H.I.E.L.D., as while it's not their standard method of operation, it's hardly inconceivable that they would do something like this. What is a little odd is that Nick Fury didn't bother to tell Peter that he was being sent in to rescue Wolverine, as it's not like this is need to know information.
The art is really quite impressive at times, but there's also scenes where I have to wonder if the artist wasn't rushing through his work, as there's panels where the art looks positively amateurish. Overall the art is quite strong, with the scene where the S.H.I.E.L.D. craft drops it's cloaking device being particularly impressive, though my personal favorite scene would have to be the one page shot where Peter agrees to the mission. The scene where Spider-Man does battle with the group holding Logan hostage is also nicely done. Now Wolverine looks a little strange, but my theory about Logan's downright odd hairstyle is that his healing factor results in accelerated hair growth, and as such his Grizzly Adams impression in this issue is simply his not being ability to have gotten to a barber. Either that or he enter the country undercover, and the beard was simply to disguise his identity, as it certainly appeared to have worked with Spider-Man, who has met Logan numerous times but failed to recognize him in this issue. The moments where the art looks a bit off though are on the scenes where the background seems to drop out completely, and the art seems to forget its previously strong grasp of the human form. Peter's little trick with the hourglass timer was rather cute though, and the cover is downright surreal looking.
I'll admit a large part of my displeasure with this issue stems from the fact that Nick Fury is cast into the role of a heartless bastard who actively strong-arms Spider-Man into going on this mission. I realize that it's currently in vogue to present government agents as ruthless creatures but I can't say I appreciated this portrayal of Nick Fury in such a negative light. Now perhaps Spider-Man is simply embellishing his narrative, as the villain probably wanted to hear that Nick Fury is a complete tool, but if this is the case then it would've been nice to get some sign that Peter was pulling a fast one. As for the mission itself it's a pretty standard affair as Spider-Man is sent in to rescue a captured Wolverine. However. the story doesn't really explain why Spider-Man was picked for this mission, as S.H.I.E.L.D. has literally thousands of agents who could pull off this rescue, and since Spider-Man isn't exactly keeping his mouth shut about the involvement of S.H.I.E.L.D. it's a bit difficult to say he was used because Fury wanted to keep this mission off the books.
What did you think of this book?
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