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Peter Parker: Spider-Man #52

Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2003
By: Craig Lemon



Writer: Zeb Wells
Artists: Francisco Herrera (p), Wayne Faucher (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with the Shocker & Hydro-Man working on the early stages of a fairly clever plan that the Shocker hopes will insure that he never has to pull another job, while Hydro-Man plans on making a name for himself as the man who killed Spider-Man. To this end we see Hydro-Man is absorbing a huge amount of excess water into his body, and we then follow the two villains as they pay a visit to a bank. After the Shocker manages to intimidate the bank manager into opening the vault we see Hydro-Man floods the room with his extra water, and then with the Shocker's help they blow out an entire wall of safety deposit boxes. However on the way out of the bank with their loot, we see the two encounter Spider-Man, and while the Shocker tries to make off with the goods, we see Hydro-Man attempts to kill everyone's friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. However Spider-Man has been in the game long enough that he's not about to let the Shocker get away, and in spite of Hydro-Man's best efforts to keep him occupied, Spider-Man's able to keep both villains at the bank until the police arrive. We then see an incredibly frustrated Shocker manages to pretty much defeat himself & his partner, when his overpowered vibrating devices explode.

Comments:
In general I like the idea behind this story as we see a pair on villains have come up with a plan that neatly plays into the different stages of their career as super-villains. We have the Shocker who has grown tired of the sheer futility of his life as a costumed villain, as he's recognized the idea that he never wins, and is desperate to pull a job that didn't end up with his fighting Spider-Man. We then have Hydro-Man, who is still firmly entrenched in second tier bad guy mode, that has him believing that if he could be the one that killed Spider-Man, then he could write his own ticket in the super-villain community. Together these two come up with a fairly simple by nonetheless rather innovative plan where both of them have a shot at attaining their respective brass rings, as they pull a bank job together, and while the Shocker slips away with the loot, Hydro-Man keeps Spider-Man busy. Now it does quite work out as planned, but I did admire the basic premise of the plan, and given the two villains involved have never been the brightest bulbs in the box I do have to credit Zeb Wells for fashioning a plan that looks clever enough to actually work, but simple enough that one could believe these two had come up with it.

Zeb Wells also managed to take two lower rung villains, and by the end of this story he's made them into better characters. First up, the Shocker's desperation to be dealt a better hand is very nicely realized, and I have to confess I found Spider-Man final speech to be annoyingly dismissive, as Zeb Wells had done such a great job of establishing how utterly desperate the Shocker was for this plan to work. The Shocker is a far more engaging character by the end of this arc than he has ever been previously, as he's now a second-tier baddie who has not only recognized the fundamental flaw in the bigger picture, but by the end of this issue we see he's almost suicidal in his desire to make his plan work. As for Hydro-Man, I'm not sure if he possessed this ability previously, but this is the first time I've taken notice of his ability to absorb a tremendous amount of water, and hold on to it until the time is right for an explosive, tidal wave like attack. I've always held the belief that Hydro-Man was a second-rate version of the Sandman, but this issue nicely establishes a new ability that bumps Hydro-Man up a level in the power department. The issue also offers up a clever little scene where the two villain combine their powers to bust open a wall of safety deposit boxes.

This issue has a decided advantage over the previous issue in that it's entirely focused upon costumed action sequences, and as such the book avoids the quiet moments where one is dependent on the art to convey the emotional states of the cast. It's also easier to take the wildly distorted faces of the characters when two of the three main characters spend most of the issue wearing full-face masks. Now there is the twisted bodies that barely manage to pass themselves off as having any connection to the human form, and the panels where one has to actually strain to figure out what the art is trying to show us. However, I will give the art credit for making an effort to deliver visually exciting action, and there are moments when the art does have a pretty nice sense of energy to it, such as when the Shocker opens it up on the police waiting outside. The water-based attacks of Hydro-Man are also nicely done, though I suspect a large part of this is due to the simple fact that his body's lack of substance lends itself quite nicely to Francisco Herrera’s loosey-goosey style. Still the credit page shot of the bank being washed out is pretty impressive, and the "fish bowl" attack is well done.

Final Word:
An entertaining enough two-issue story, that isn't so much a Spider-Man adventure as it is a look at a pair of second-tier villains who attempt to come up with a plan that would prove a success against Spider-Man. Now, given Manhattan is home to almost every single super-hero in the Marvel Universe, I always find it a bit strange that the villains always seem to draw out the super-hero they want to encounter, but then again since this book is called Peter Parker: Spider-Man, I guess it shouldn't be all that surprising Spider-Man is the hero of this adventure. The issue does a solid job of making the struggles of these two villains interesting, and while the action is a bit hard to follow thanks to the rather unfocused art, the general idea of the issue is well presented. I also hope that future stories starring the Shocker keep this recent arc in mind, as the character does undergo a fairly important change in his status quo.



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