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Waiting for the Trade - Spider-man & Black Cat

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

Spider-man: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers
By David Micheline & Mark Bagley
Collects Amazing Spider-man 368-373

Why I Bought This: Black Cat is my favorite character in Spider-man’s corner of the Marvel Universe and she features prominently in this story. Plus it is from the Mark Bagley era, who is probably my all-time favorite Spider-man artist, so while I probably read this back in the day I didn’t recall much of it and grabbed it cheap off Amazon.

The Plot: Spider-man finds himself under attack from a variety of robots while engaging in otherwise routine crime-fighting missions against foes like Electro and Scorpion.

Chapter 1 – Spidey is attacked by a robot with a lot of claws. He eventually decapitates it. Black Cat stops by to check on Pete, whose parents recently turned up alive. Speaking of which Pete and MJ join them for dinner at Aunt May’s house then afterwards Pete stumbles across an FBI agent watching them. Later Spidey is chasing down a purse snatcher when he gets attacked by bat-like robot. He defeats this one too but begins to realize he has a problem on his hands. We are shown the face of the unnamed villain behind the attacks.

Chapter 2 – Pete confides in Flash that he’s not sure his parents are on the level. A news report interrupts that Electro is on the loose so Spidey heads into action, while Felicia wishes she could join him. While Spidey fights Electro an Iron Man looking robot attacks him. In fact Pete assumes this is some new super villain in a suit. He only discovers it’s a robot when Electro accidentally blows it up. Electro escapes, while Spidey suspects the Tinkerer is behind the recent robot attacks. We cut to the Tinker, who is secretly meeting with Felicia.

Chapter 3 – Scorpion also visits the Tinkerer and gets upgrades to his suit including a stinger on his tail and an electric attack. (Due to Bagley’s art it is probably Scorpion’s best look: very sleek and dangerous looking). Meanwhile Peter’s parents are finding the modern world hard to adjust to (they were in a Russian prison camp all the years they were presumed dead) before they run into FBI dude from last issue. They don’t recognize him causing him to ponder if his secret is safe. Spidey finds Felicia hanging out at the Tinker’s headquarters and wonders if she’s behind the robot menace, but instead she was there purchasing  some crime fighting gear to simulate the cat-like super powers she had lost about a year (real time) prior to this. Scorpion spots Spidey and attacks him. His new weapons have Spidey on the defensive and then an amoeba robot attacks too. Felicia jumps into the fray to save the day and together she and Spidey get Scorpion and the robot to take each other out. Spidey meanwhile recognizes this robot design as belonging to Mendel Stromm, who’s been dead since the early Stan Lee days on the title.

Chapter 4 – Felicia shows off her new costume and weapons to Pete and MJ. When Pete and MJ have an afternoon at the park with his parents, Pete freaks out when his parents don’t remember the name of the dog he had as a child. His parents claim spotty memories due to their years in prison camp and wonder if they should track down FBI dude since he seemed to know them. Pete and Felicia in their civilian identities visit an insane asylum where Stromm’s former assistant recently escaped along with several other inmates. Once outside Felicia is able to spot a tiny spider-like robot that functions as a camera. Spidey realizes this how the various robots find him whenever he dons his costume. Sure enough another robot arrives: this one a large humanoid with a three-headed faceplate. The two heroes fight it for a bit until Spidey manages gets the heads to argue with each other and the robot commits suicide. The head of the sanitarium was in danger during the melee so in gratitude he tells Spidey the leader of the escape was Spencer Smythe, son of a deceased Stan Lee-era mad scientist that used to build “Spider Slayer” robots for J. Jonah Jameson. Meanwhile Peter’s parents find FBI dude and he pulls a gun on them.

Chapter 5 – Smythe kills one his fellow escapees. Pete sees his parents getting into a limo with FBI dude and spider-tracers the car. Spidey and Black Cat then fight a Black Widow shaped robot, followed by a scorpion and ant robot. The bug robots morph together Voltron style but Spidey takes it out using a live electric wire; however Felicia gets jolted as well and needs a breather. Spidey follows his parents alone and switches into Peter. He overhears FBI dude planning to kill them because he was double agent for the Red Skull when they died the first time. Pete goes to intervene but falls from the rafters having temporarily lost his powers due to some gas in the warehouse. FBI dude then throws Pete on a conveyor belt leading towards a fiery demise.

Chapter 6 – Pete’s dad makes a move but gets taken hostage but it gives Pete time to get off the conveyor belt and use his web shooter to trip FBI dude up. He then KO’s him with a punch as his powers return. The incident also makes Pete believe his parents are who they say they are. Spidey then tracks Smythe down to his headquarters but is electrocuted by trick wheelchairs that the other mental inmates are chained to. Smythe then reveals he has made himself into a cyborg and dubs himself the Ultimate Spider Slayer. He now has super strength, spikes and webbing as he pounds Peter pretty one-sidedly. One of the inmates tries to help and gets murdered for it. This causes Pete to lose his temper and three punches later the fight is over.

Critical Thoughts: This is a fairly simple straight-forward story. It’s not great, but it is also not terrible. In a lot of ways it’s just good clean comic-book fun with a couple classic villains, some robots and a few old school cliffhangers. Plus it really looks excellent thanks to Bagley’s art.

As a Felicia fan there is a nice symmetry in her first fight back being against Scorpion because she lost her powers fighting him. This was a weird era for Felicia since they couldn’t play up the characters’ usual romantic tension with Peter being married to MJ. Their first attempt to remake her character and keep her in the book was to take her powers away and have her date Flash Thompson, which was a terrible character choice I never bought into. Here she artificial super powers so she isn’t as strong or all that helpful to Spidey but is competent enough that she can go on the occasional adventure with him; the main goal of which was to transition her into Spider-man’s one super hero friend he could confide in, which as one of only two superheroes that knew Spidey’s secret identity in this era was a role she was somewhat suited for.

Grade: Story is probably a standard C but the art bumps it to C+ 


  1. Bagley is good, but I feel he was wasted during his DC run.

    And he was out of place, because he was a Marvel guy damn near he whole career.

    Can we give requests or could you say whats next for a review?

  2. I remember the storyline with Peter's parents. Depressing stuff but probably one of the better things to happen in the '90s.

  3. Ignoring what they were revealed as, the 4 part "Pursuit" storyline was pretty good, IMO. If they had only not continued to the clone saga....

  4. "Pursuit" was after the reveal correct? Where Peter is on a manhunt for the Chameleon? If so, I LOVED that storyline. The multiple payoffs that happen at the end are just heartbreaking, especially when it's revealed that the guy behind everything is already dead.

  5. Yeah, I thought they set it up incredibly. Spidey hunting the Chameleon with almost reckless abandon was really good, and you could see that with each battle he was getting more ruthless, while still trying to be a "hero". And the sense of loss in Part 4 was incredible. Made me even feel sorry for the Chameleon.

    I really wish they spent more time fleshing out that part of the character, especially the Big Reveal at the end. Had they run more with that instead of going into the Clone Saga (and it felt like they aborted it too quickly), I think it could've been a storyline for the ages.

  6. Yea I remember liking Pursuit also for all the reasons above. I remember at the time hating the reveal Harry was behind the parents thing because it was so evil and he had such a beautiful partial redemption in Spec 200, but at the same time it was gist for a strong story into Spidey's psyche where he can't hold the guilty party responsible because he's already dead and he'd already made peace with him.

  7. The likely next two are Nomad and Thunderbolts 150. Final Night and another Spidey trade are also in the que.

    I'd consider taking requests although if it is some book I don't usually collect and it's not at the library I'm not going to go out and buy trades of some character I hate. I can also list some of what I've been reading recently or have handy so if people wants to see Bru Cap or more Busiek Avengers or more New 52 I can make an effort to get those higher up.


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