Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #20

A comic review article by: Ray Tate

Paul Tobin weaves a duet of excellent Spidey shorts for your enjoyment. In the first tale, the Sandman escapes. He leaves a distinctive message at the bank he intends to rob, but it's not just money he's after. He intends to humiliate Spider-Man.

I imagine that the villains of the Marvel universe dread meeting Spider-Man the most. He's not going to slap a shield upside their heads like Captain America. He's not going to claw them like Tigra. He's not going to just clobber them like the Thing. No, Spidey delivers snappy patter along with a snappy beating. He belittles the bad guys while he pastes them. It makes perfect sense that even a lunkhead like Sandman would want to get away with the cash and also recoup a modicum of the dignity that's been diminished with each duel against the web-slinger. Alas, this is not to be, or is it?

What a Revoltin Development

Please note the look of contriteness in Spidey's dejected body language, and keep in mind that the stellar Matteo Lolli doesn't actually have a Spidey face to express with. Not to say that he can't pull faces from the cast, as the Sandman's arrogant elation evinces. It just impresses the hell out of me when a really good artist conveys emotion without the most obvious prop.

What the villains don't realize is that Spidey humiliates them because he's actually not as powerful as some of the characters in the Marvel Universe nor as skilled in the martial arts. A lot of his dollops of humiliation arise from his need to simply exploit his most useful asset, his brain. Every one of Spidey's foes compensates against his proportionate strength and his speed, but few can compete against his mental power. He outsmarts each of his foes, and that usually leads to an embarrassing comeppance.

How to Stop a Sandman

Any faithful Marvel Adventures reader will identify the girl in the sequence as Chat, Spidey's charming girlfriend who also is a mutant that talks with animals. For this issue, Tobin eschews her abilities this issue and simply demonstrates the chemistry between the two teens through her contributing to Spidey's planning or having a very natural sounding conversation about movie spoilers that also delivers the punchline to the tale.

Chat works for the Blonde Phantom Detective Agency. The Blonde Phantom is a very old 1940s Marvel character that appeared in such books as All Winners Comics. She had a small renaissance in John Byrne's She-Hulk run, but Paul Tobin can be credited with her modern day resurgence.

In "Jungle Evil," a rather pitiful title, The Blonde Phantom recruits Spidey for a mission involving the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes. 

I see, I see... A Monkey in Your Future

Tobin cleverly mixes detective tradition with superhero antics. Detectives real and imagined have been busting swamis and charlatans for years. In the thirties and forties, the prophet was a staple in detective movie franchises ranging from Charlie Chan to Sherlock Holmes. Turning the Red Ghost into a scam artist is simply brilliant. It works so well that he's a Russian as so many crooks back in the day would adopt such phony accents to further bamboozle their unsuspecting pigeons.

With the presence of a bona fide supervillain running the classic con, you can rest assured that their will be battle.

Would You Like to Touch My Monkey?

Rob Di Salvo, Victor Olazaba and Sotocolor present a plethora of action-packed panels with the realistic looking simians proving to be more than a handful for Spidey and the Blonde Phantom. Di Salvo tends to lean toward a more muscular Spider-Man when compared to Matteo's wiry wall-crawler, but he's still just as valid, and when contrasted against the more powerful apes Spidey looks puny. Di Salvo's Blonde Phantom is a dynamic detective, and she makes an able partner for Spidey. Visa Versa as well. 

Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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