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The Spider #5 is the thrilling conclusion to his encounter with the Egyptian Anput who is trying to use a gas to turn New Yorkers into zombies. It is an exciting, roller coaster ride of action and drama. The Spider #5 is a very enjoyable read that could only be enhanced with a fromnt page recap on the story so far. Brian Michael Bendis perfected this technique with Ultimate Spider-Man, by providing a splash-page recap of Peter Parker’s high-flying, web-slinging adventures, including the pertinent characters involved in the story. A brief recap, to catch up, before jumping head-first into the deep end of the adventure, would only be a plus.
The Spider was created by Harry Steeger as a response to the success of The Shadow, much like Batman was to Superman. So, in the mid to late 1930’s, there was The Shadow, The Spider, The Green Hornet, as well as DC’s The Crimson Avenger and The Sandman. What set The Spider apart from the other characters, was not information gathered across a network of operatives, stinger or gas guns, but futuristic technology provided by his friend, Professor Ezra Brownlee. That tech is eveident right from the start of this adventure.
Under a fantastic John Cassaday cover, The Spider has caught up to Anput, which is supposed to have been a trap. Richard Wentworth is a bright young man, so under his Spider mask, he has put on a protective gas mask. His assistant Ram helps him as eyes from outside. Guns blazing, he manages to avoid a pair of Anput’s zombies to capture a container of the gas for Professor Brownlee to analyze.
While Richard and Ram are at Brownlee’s lab waiting on test results, they get some surprising bad news. The first surprise is that Anput’s gas was developed by Wentworth Industries. The second piece of bad news, comes by mobile phone, that there was another zombie gas attack. At the newspaper. Richard’s friend Nita, the Police Commissioner’s wife has been affected. Arriving as The Spider at the newspaper office where the attack occured, he sees his dear Nita zombified. He must set that aside and rescue those unaffected yet by the gas. Whie Professor Brownlee works on an antidote. He meets his friend, Commissioner Kirkpatrick, at the hospital, as Rochard. Kirkpatrick asks him to pass a message along to The Spider. Do whatever it takes, use whatever means and force neccesary to stop Anput. “Whatever it takes. Stop her.” Kirkpatrick tells Richard.
Before his final confrontation with Anput, Richard confront his father as The Spider. It is a tragic and unfortunate encounter. Richard learns as The Spider what a weak and profit-driven man his father is. The Spider, by nature is a much darker, more physically violent character than The Shadow and The Green Hornet. He takes all his anger out on his father, forcing a confession for the police to hear.
Then, he is off for a final confrontation with Anput.
The story by David Liss, spectacularly illustrated by Colton Worley is action-packed, but highlighted with some stalling inevitabilities. Like the quick solution that opens the story, The Spider realizes that he’s been led into a trap, and he wears a gas mask under his mask to protect himself. When he confronts Anput for the final time it almost feels anti-climactic, a given that he’s going to stop her. In stopping her, he’s going to kill her.
That’s not the story, though. The real story is what Richard is going to do about the family business, now that his father doesn’t run it any longer. How does he handle his relationship with Nita and his friendship with the Commissioner? What does he do about the cop that suspects his dual identity, but doesn’t have any tangible proof?
The Spider reads a lot like Matt Wagner’s Sandman Mystery Theatre. It has a noir feel to it, as well as the pulp hero feel. Like the grotesque villains of Sandman Mystery Theatre, Anput is a mosnter herself and her scheme is not just diabolical, it has a horror angle to it. Colton Worley’s Richard Wentworth resembles actor Dale Midkiff from Time Trax. The story is brilliantly divided between The Spider’s adeventure and Richard’s dilema with his father, the family business and his relationships. The book doesn’t just rest on mystery and gun-blazing action. It’s a good, solid book. Only time will tell if The Sider has legs.