Ladies & Gentlemen, the catastrophically embarrassing 1990s “bad girl” craze presents… Stunner. The female powerhouse who’s apparently been skipping leg day her entire life (And also, uh, torso day). Seems to be having a good time. Wait’ll you see her deal. I recently read that Stunner first appeared in an issue of Spider-Man Unlimited that I don’t have. I always thought this was her strange introduction. Nearly everything about this one is strange, so hold onto your butts. Let’s get right into the sadness:
Kaine: haunting 4 comics a month! Is that our first clear look at the suspiciously spider-y thingie on his wrist? He thinks he is what he was meant to be which, as we know, is categorically untrue, and that Spider-Man was born to a different destiny. Then our guy takes over the narration, thinking maybe he should give in to the fever and the pain to escape all the suffering of his recent life (UGGHHHH) and then:
When they reveal the shocking truth that Peter is the clone, and then double back and reveal the EXTRA-shocking truth that he ISN’T the clone, this sure is going to be hard to reconcile. He winds up passing out on a rooftop, just as he was shown as Ben groused about how great his life must be in Web last week, and then the shadow of Dr. Octopus looms over him. Egads! Found by his greatest foe in this, his hour of greatest weakness! We’ll let him say his piece for a bit.
Due to all the jumping around, this is our first look at the best thing Erik Larsen contributed to the history of Marvel Comics: Doc Ock in a suit. It immediately makes so much sense. So much better than tights. Better than his far more infrequent “mad scientist” outfit. A simple stroke of genius. And I believe this storyline is its final appearance. A travesty. The good doctor internal monologues a bunch of crap that falls totally flat about how he “always thought of Spider-Man as the last decent man” and how, like every other character in this godforsaken comic, he’s tired of life and sad and also his parents abused him when he was a kid, because naturally. He says he’s upset that Spidey seems to have become “as bloodthirsty as those other so-called heroes out there,” decides not to kill him, and leaves. Then Kaine hovers over Spider-Man as he recovers to let us know he doesn’t trigger the Spider Sense, and Spidey realizes he knows where to go for help. Then we turn to Stunner walking into a bar, and an extremely cynical, hypocritical version of feminism that you saw in a lot of comics of this period:
She proceeds to trash the place. That was kind of the thing in this period. An impossibly proportioned sexpot talking about how men are scum and how independent and strong she is while the artist makes sure to get as many boob & butt shots in as possible. Lady Death. Shi. Lady Rawhide. All the ladies, really. Tough talkin’, blood spillin’ no-nonsense dames wearing almost nothing and poking their butts out all the time because they don’t need no man! Grim times. Doc Ock shows up, revealing to us that Stunner is his girlfriend and also paying the barkeep for the damages. What just happened? They go to some nice looking apartment, where Ock is in a contemplative mood. Note Stunner’s increasingly insane poses:
Only a truly liberated woman poses like she’s shooting a swimsuit calendar while her man monologues at her. And still more totally egregious retconning. Doc Ock, Spider-Man’s most vicious, most bloodthirsty, most truly insane enemy by far until Carnage showed up, now a sad old man who wishes ol’ Spidey could just live laugh love again. Dreck. I was going to say I have no memory of Stunner vanishing, but the more I think about it, maybe I do. Speaking of posing for swimsuits, MJ’s back! She thinks about how foolish she was to think he’d be here waiting for her after the way he’s been acting (True!) and feels so tired she just goes to bed without dealing with the wreck he’s made of the place.
I submit a better question would be “why have you been running from the person you love most in the ayeee in the first place, you selfish idiot.” The pain in his head unsteadies him and he falls to his death (His signature move!) only to be caught by Stunner. She introduces herself and then starts beating the crap out of him.
This is so weird. Like, the other writers have had Spider-Man learn the value of love and stop being an emo so many times during this debacle, only for DeMatteis to ignore it. What about that time Spider-Man got taught the value of friendship by a pile of poop? I got used to that. The fact that Peter suddenly does want to be himself again in ASM, even though that’s what he said in last month’s TAC, is surprising to me. It’s been a long time. Once Spidey is passed out, Doc Ock appears, saying this was all a test to see if Spidey was as sick as he seemed, and as he pulls off his old foe’s mask, he says something is deeply wrong with him, and he intends to find out what it is. Shock! I don’t remember this well enough to know if he’ll comment on the fact that Spider-Man really is that kid he unmasked way back in ASM 12, or the adult he tried to murder, along with his whole family, in Parallel Lives. Perhaps we’ll see in the next issue of TAC, but first, we’ll check back in with Ben Reilly.