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Waiting for the Trade = Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

Amazing Spider-man: Trouble on the Horizon
written by Dan Slott & Chris Yost,
 art by Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Matthew Clark
collects Amazing Spider-man 678-681 (including 679.1)

Why I Bought This: The time travel story herein was universally acclaimed and I’ve been enjoying Slott’s Spidey run anyway so my picking this up was just a matter of waiting for the price to drop on Amazon.

The Plot: Spider-man travels one day into the future to discover NYC has been destroyed. Now he has one day to figure out how to prevent it. There are also unrelated stories involving Morbius and the Human Torch in here too.

 (spoilers below)

Chapter 1 – Peter wakes up feeling good and walks to work at Horizon. He is assigned to check the math of fellow scientist Grady. Grady says he has invented a time doorway that goes one day into the future and grabs a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper from the Horizon break-room to prove it. Pete steps through the doorway and finds all of NYC reduced to a smoking crater. Peter finds a broken watch stopped at 3:11 so he assumes this is when the disaster will occur. He returns to the present and Grady realizes that when someone steps through his time-door they disappear from reality for 24 hours thus Peter is supposed to do something today that will prevent the disaster. Peter makes up the ‘I’m friends with Spider-man’ excuse and takes off. Pete’s first instinct is to call in the Avengers and FF to help but Madame Web v2.0 (Julia Carpenter) uses her fortune-telling powers to inform Peter has to do this on his own. Spidey keeps in contact with Grady, who has both the good-future newspaper so he can tell Spidey what he is/was supposed to do today and the door open to the bad-future so they can see if/when it changes back. This leads to a montage of Spidey doing everything in the paper from stopping purse-snatchers, to delivering a baby to defeating the super-villain FAƇADE. And yet the time keeps clicking to 3:10 without a change as we cut to parade being held for Silver Sable that Flag Smasher (an 80s Gru Captain America villain) intends to blow up.

Chapter 2 – 3:11 p.m. passes and no boom thus we know the incident occurs at 3:11 a.m. Spidey has no more clues in the paper and goes on patrol. He ends up at the parade where he and Sable end up thwarting Flag Smasher’s plot and disabling the nuke he brought to the city. And yet at Horizon the bad future remains. We get another montage of Spidey in action to no avail until a call comes in from MJ. Pete is tempted to ignore it but Grady points out that an incoming call would always have occurred whether they had seen the future or not. MJ wants to meet at a diner and during the meal she makes Pete realize the missing “this” was something Peter was supposed to do and not Spidey—namely check Grady’s math. Pete races to Horizon where they shut down the time doorway with 45-seconds to spare before the time machine would overheat and blow up the city. And then we end on a cute bit the next morning with past-Grady taking the newspaper out of the Horizon break room that reads “continued last issue.”

Chapter 3 – So this chapter answers the question of who is the mysterious scientist in Horizon Lab #6, which had been a subplot since Peter got the job there, and the answer ends up being Morbius. Uatu (not the Watcher, but a teen genius who works at Horizon) is investigating the mystery and drags Pete into it. This leads to Pete changing into Spidey and overseeing Max working with Morbius. Max tries to cure Morbius of his vampirism by injecting him with Spider-Island cure but it causes Morbius to lose control of his bloodlust. The obligatory fight breaks out. Uatu is psyched to see a vampire as he has a full set of monster fighting gear developed and ready to use and together he and Spidey defeat Morbius. Max kicks Spidey out of the building and is going to let Morbius stay as apparently the two are old college friends, which is not so far-fetched Morbius’ back story is he was a Nobel-prize winning scientist before he became a vampire. In the epilogue Morbius sneaks into the sewers and meets up with the Lizard (setting up “The No Turning Back” trade I reviewed a few months ago). 

Chapter 4 – John Jameson is on the Horizon space station while Jonah is at Horizon Labs telescreen calling him when suddenly the transmission goes out and a bunch of alarms on the station begin to sound. Peter changes to Spidey and heads over to FF headquarters since they have best space travel equipment. Only Torch is home. He and Spidey catch up for the first time since Johnny’s return from the dead. Jonah blames Max for his son being in danger. On the space station Spidey & Torch find it is overrun with octobots. Torch can’t use his flame because the station is low on oxygen. It looks bleak for the heroes until John makes the save with a laser gun. John then reveals that the rest of the station personnel have been possessed by octobots.

Chapter 5 – The heroes retreat and attempt to get off the station but Ock blows up both the Pogo Plane and Space Shuttle on board the station from his remote undersea base. Spidey then uses Torch’s cell phone (designed by Reed to work in space) to call Max and have him turn off the oxygen in the station. This KOs the Octobot-possessed staff, allowing Spidey to web them up. Ock sets off another explosion to knock the station from orbit. Torch is able to absorb the reentry heat while Spidey makes a web parachute so the station lands safely off the coast of Florida.

Critical Thoughts: The time travel story is as excellent as everyone says it is. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It contains an abundance of clever writing. I like the villains that show up. I like the roles the supporting cast play in it, particularly MJ. I really like how the ending resolution is that it was Peter who was indispensable to averting the bad future and not Spider-man. Overall, just an all-around excellent stand alone story that you could pick up even if you never read Spider-man before and enjoy thoroughly.

Alas the other stories collected here are not nearly as good. The Morbius story is average at best, although the reveal of him as the mystery scientist was spoiled for me since I had read the later trade before I read this. The Uatu thing is weird, in that he has monster-hunting gear sitting in his closet and he’s been waiting and itching to fight the supernatural. I mean its comics so if they wanted to spin him off into his own book there are worse ideas for a title than ‘teen genius uses super technology to fight the undead,’ but for a one-off moment is Spider-man title it seems out of place and to my knowledge there’s been no follow up on this. Plus he doesn’t seem to have much motivation for this, like if his mom was killed by a werewolf I could see it, but he just seems like a dude who has a job in a sci-fi level science lab and instead of inventing stuff the company he works for can sell he’s making monster weapons, which even in the Marvel Universe is a pretty obscure sub-genre to concentrate on stopping.

I did not enjoy the Spidey-Torch team-up at all. The banter felt really off for me. I would say in this story Slott did not capture the Torch’s voice or the dynamic between the two at all. It was too much joking around without ever being serious. And while there are plenty of fine comedic Spidey-Torch team-up stories (Defalco has a classic in Spider-man Unlimited #5 and Busiek wrote a really good one in Untold Tales of Spider-man with the Wizard) the difference between those tales and this one is this wasn’t a comedic threat the heroes were up against. There have been a lot more serious Spidey-Torch team-ups than comedic ones and we’ve seen in those while the heroes banter they know when it is time to treat the threats seriously. The dissonance between the heroes and the tone is made weirder for me because Slott first wrote Spidey in a Spidey-Torch mini-series that was quite good. Had I not read that trade previously I’d say Slott just doesn’t get Torch and move on, but that other trade shows he does. I guess we just chalk this up to an off-month for him, especially since he was preparing to write a major story arc with “Ends of the Earth” showing up right after this.

Grade: The time travel story is an easy A. Since that is what I bought the trade for I’m happy with the purchase and would recommend this trade. That said if we are grading all of it I’d give the Morbius story a C+ and the Torch story a D at best. That would give the trade as a whole an average of a B-.