Big finish! Another triple-gatefold with a buncha people on it!
This appears to be the first issue of this story I got at a comic book shop, as evidenced by Sandman’s mug in the bar code box. Is this the month I found a comic store? I have no idea. On the splash, Spider-Man thinks to himself they’ve all let their guard down for a second as Gog made his entrance, and he’s gotta make a break for it. He thinks this while sucker punching Vulture and Electro at the same time. A 2-page spread shows Gog reaching for the fleeing Spidey as Ock demands the others go after him. Captions tell us about how Gog teleported home in that Ka-Zar comic back in the 70s and it happened to be the other dimension from this. What luck! We switch to a reporter outside who looks a lot like Clark Kent catching us up to the best of his knowledge. And his broadcast is seen by unseen but obvious-by-their-dialogue figures The Thing, Solo, and Nova, so it’s about to get busy again. Meanwhile, MJ has been rattled enough by Peter’s reaction to her movie deal that she’s gone to try to negotiate the nude scenes out of her contract. I just remembered how that plot ends. Anyway:
Solo went to the same store Cable shops at, apparently.
Oh, Mysterio. What a card. Spider-Man lunges at Solo trying to get him to stop shooting at good guys, just as Ghost Rider and Hulk get back into the act. But it all seems to go wrong, and Spider-Man is made to believe everyone but him has killed each other. But there’s one more hero who hasn’t shown up yet.
It’s just Mary Jane having dyed her hair blonde in that last panel. The battle is joined. Spider-Man chatters away, making some very timely Dan Quayle jokes as he engages Hobgoblin. Everyone fights everyone else, and Solo assembles some kind of giant, 1990s canon to zap Gog with, to Spider-Man’s dismay.
Reed sure is having fun. Hulk finally has his moment, but I guess it was too little, too late for Peter David. The good guys make short work of Electro and the remaining robots, but we see Ock is holding his own against Reed, Hulk and The Thing. But then someone else shows up…
Glassman. Pure, distilled 90s justice. Near-death by a thousand cuts for Doc Ock, and the fight’s over.
And that’s that. Only 2 pages left to wrap up the human story…
Well, isn’t that nice? Again, I’m 13 reading this, I count those candles. Peter Parker is 25 years old. Canon. Done. Turns out, no one but Erik is cool with that, but what did I know? So, we got Betty, JJJ, Marla, May, Willie, Martha Robertson, Randy & Amanda behind her, Robbie, Kristie behind him, Ben Urich, Flash & Felicia. Who’re the others? There’s one who looks like Al Milgrom again. I think the one who looks weirdly angry could be Todd McFarlane? The one behind Kristie obscured by text just might be intended to be Erik. Who’s in the glasses and the weird outfit behind Betty? I guess we’ll never know. Seems like you might wanna tuck Lee & Ditko in there. I’m half surprised he didn’t hide Savage Dragon in the back.
But with this, Erik’s time as a Spider-Man creator comes to a close. I don’t necessarily know the timeline on the Image guys. Todd McFarlane is the first guy to quit Marvel, and the one to suggest he and the other big names band together on their own. Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood is the first Image title to launch, cover dated April ‘92. So the same month as part 4 of this story. So it seems like Erik was probably known to be on his way out the door when this story started production. Had to be. They say Jim Lee was the last one they convinced, and rather incredibly, Lee’s last issue of X-Men and first issue of WildCATs (Covert! Action! Teams!) come out the same month, cover date August ‘92. I don’t know how long it took for them to form a company and strike a distribution deal with Malibu, but it seems like they really sailed through it. This issue is cover dated June ‘92. Larsen’s first issue of Savage Dragon is July ‘92. It’s insane to think how quickly these guys churned out their Image product. In the case of McFarlane and Larsen, they had ideas they’d wanted to do since they were kids, and just hopped in. But Liefeld, Lee and Marc Silvestri just kinda repainted some Marvel characters (Barely, in some cases, especially Silvestri’s) and dropped comics immediately. Built whole empires on barely developed, store brand versions of Wolverine and stuff. It’s a real testament to how insanely popular they were. What they lacked in minor things like writing ability or story or original characters or regularly released product, they made up for in sheer, unadulterated hype. They were the only comic creators ever treated like rockstars. Larsen, I would say, was solidly in tier 2 of the group with Whilce Portacio. Jim Valentino was tier 3 all by himself, his inclusion among the others was baffling to me even as a child. The others were doing massive selling X-Books and Spider-Man books and Valentino did…. Guardians of the Galaxy? I feel like you’d be trying to get Ron Lim, Dale Keown, Andy & Adam Kubert, Bagley, a lot of other people before Valentino. No disrespect, he just wasn’t a big name to me at all. Erik was never at the heights of Todd, Rob, Jim & Marc. And yet, he was a better artist than all of them but Jim, and a better writer than all of them by a longshot. His Savage Dragon is the least derivative and embarrassing of the initial Image launches without question. Just goes to show. The flashiest guys aren’t necessarily the best.