"Skin Deep, Part Two"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Mike Deodato and Mark Brooks
Inks: Joe Pimentel and Jamie Mendoza
Colors: Matt Milla and Brian Reber
Letters: VC's Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
$2.25 U.S. / $3.25 CAN
In the aftermath of the lab explosion, we see the vibranium lined skinsuit that now encases Charlie is impacting his already unstable mind, and he attacks the fire-fighters who arrive to help him. After jumping back into the past where we learn Charlie has always made a habit of leaping before looking if it was safe to do so, and than rushing for help when he got in over his head, we see this pattern continues in the present day as he arrives at Peter's apartment demanding help.
This arc does follow same basic pattern that J. Michael Straczynski used in the previous arc, as he's retroactively inserted part of his plot into Peter's past, and this link created in the past has come back to create problems for Peter in the present day. However, unlike the previous arc his tinkering in the past isn't likely to cause much of an uproar, as Peter life before the spider-bite has never really been developed, so he's got quite a bit more freedom to make changes. Now the scene where the bullies attack Uncle Ben struck me as being a bit silly, as I honestly can't see any bully go down this road, no matter how much they wanted to get at their intended target. One could also wonder why the heck would Charlie provoke them, as no matter how angry they made him slashing their tires would be a short-lived revenge that would only serve to make the problem worse. Still I guess the point that J. Michael Straczynski is trying to make is that Charlie is prone to jump head first into situations without taking the time to consider the fallout, and this in turn is contrasted against Peter who is forward considering the consequences of his actions thanks to the role that he played in Uncle Ben's death. This arc also manages to put a fun spin on the usual creation of the super-villain, as we see Peter Parker is the target of this villain's threats, which makes for an interesting change of pace, as Peter has to work to protect his secret identity, and keep from getting drawn into a situation that would endanger the happy little life that he's managed to put together away from his costumed life.
Mike Deodato turns in some lovely work on this issue, as how can one not be impressed by the sheer effectiveness of the opening scene where the fire-fighters have their tragic encounter with Charlie, as it plays up the idea that they are out of their element, and they pay a pretty steep price for their efforts. The art also manages to play up the idea that Charlie is forever trying to avoid paying the price for his mistakes, as his rage is perfectly presented on the final page, as he demands Peter's help. I also rather enjoyed the cover image, as it does a lovely job of selling the big crisis of the issue, while presenting a compelling image that leaves one curious about the story inside. As for the flashback material that Mark Brooks offers up, the art does a pretty effective job of conveying this more innocent era, while also playing up the impending danger of important scenes like when Charlie is ready to lash out the bullies with a knife.
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