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Spider-Man has decided to proactively address Mr. Negative’s greatest weapon against him, The Devil’s Breath, a special poison gas designed to kill anyone within Peter Parker’s genetic line. The poison was created from the blood Negative forced Spider-Man to surrender in order to save a young girl he was holding hostage way back in Amazing Spider-Man #548 (ASM #548). After the poison was used against Spider-Man in ASM #620, he’s enlisted his lover, Black Cat, to steal the vial of blood. It’s a dangerous mission that involves breaking into Negative’s base of operations.
This issue of “The Gauntlet” is the first to take a break from its mission to revitalize Spider-Man’s rouge’s gallery. The last time he went head-to-head with anyone outside his classic foes was his one-issue tussle with Deadpool back in ASM #611. Dan Slott (Avengers: Initiative, Punisher) takes this time to address some of the titles current subplots like where Spider-Man stands with Black Cat, the rampaging Aunt May and the mysterious return of Carlie Cooper’s supposedly deceased father.
Starting with Black Cat, things may be hitting a few speed bumps between her and Spidey as her dangerous lifestyle, and need to get physical in the air ducts above Negative’s office, begins to make him uncomfortable. While it was a foregone conclusion their romantic interludes would be short-lived, it’s a little sad to think the end is so close at hand. Spidey has begun to push her away as he becomes uncomfortable with what she’s looking for and what he wants. While Black Cat is hardly looking for a relationship, and doesn’t want anything to do with him as Peter Parker, it’s still nice to see a likeable hero who is constantly down on his luck at least be able to have one thing that most men only dream of… adventurous liaisons with a gorgeous bad-girl who is legitimately in to you. Of course, it must be hit to Parker’s ego that she has no interest in the man behind the mask, but alternately Black Cat is the closest thing to a relationship with a woman who can understand his costumed-lifestyle. None of his other romantic conquests, Mary Jane, Gwen Stacey, or even the more recent interest Carlie Cooper, will ever be someone who can join him as he swings through the city, fights or sneaks into the homes of other’s to steal blood (that sounds strange, doesn’t it?). When she asks him if he can do whatever a spider can only to follow if with “When you can do what a man can, call me” it’s a sad and ego-wounding moment.
Meanwhile, Aunt May, still deranged from Mr. Negative’s influence, kicks out her nieces from her home, as well as the down-on-his-luck Harry Osborn. Harry, obviously hurt and confused, tells her he’s always thought of her as family. “And I always thought of you as ‘the rich kid’. But now… you’re not even that. You’re nothing,” she chides. Always the center of support and understanding in the Spider-Man universe, to see her turn against the world is an absolutely new and intriguing turn for the series, and given her historically sweet-nature, her words and resentments for the world are hurtful even to the reader. In fact, it’s even sadder to consider Peter erased his marriage from history in exchange for the devilish Mephisto saving May’s life. To have her now roaming the city, berating him and those closest to him may make Peter wish he’d pulled the plug.
Carlie Cooper’s sub-plot seems to have drawn to a close. A clever twist upon the design of Negative’s Devil’s Breath has turned it into a weapon against anyone in her genetic line. Desperate to learn whether or not this man is an actor claiming to be her father, or truly her father who had disappeared in favor of a life of corruption, she decides to use it against him. It’s a clever move and one resulting in heartache for Cooper, not that either option was preferable. The event catalyzes Cooper to take charge of her life, drawing her to Peter one last time after accusing him of being little more than a user previously. Part of the fun of Amazing Spider-Man is seeing how Peter juggles his romantic life, which is multi-faceted to say the least, in both his regular life and his costumed one. Pulling Cooper back into that circle of romantic possibilities allows from those complicated dimensions to continue and adds hope for the future.
The actual action-oriented part of the book, the battle pitting Spider-Man against Mr. Negative and his Inner Demons, is hardly the most interesting part of the book and his fight with Negative is a little one-sided. Still, fights sometimes are obligatory in comic books and don’t need to be the most redeeming part of the story, though Spider-Man’s realization that he doesn’t need to pull his punches with the immortal Inner Demons provided a momentary interest. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear to be any different as far as fights go in this series.
This issue has risen some from the disappointing “Some and Mirrors” arc that preceded it and has brought some dimension back to the more interesting aspects of the book. Hopefully, that trend will continue as Morbius, the living vampire, returns next issue.
To find this issue check out Southern California Comics on Kearny Mesa Drive just west of the 163 or find your closest San Diego comic store now.
Buy your one-day passes to the San Diego Comic-Con before they sell out and remember the San Diego Quarterly Con is March 7th.