"Catch You on the Flip Side"
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Ty Templeton(p), Nelson & Tom Palmer(i), Sotocolor's F. Serrano(c)
Dan Slott continues to entertain with another period story set in the dual lives of Spider-Man and the Human Torch. This one pushes ahead to the days when Gwen Stacy and Captain Stacy were alive, MJ was only after Pete's friendship and Flash Thompson joined the service--for what war is debatable given Marvel's sliding timeline.
The question that's likely on everybody's mind is that given J. Michael Straczynski's staining of Gwen Stacy's history, did I once wonder if the sweet, innocent character that Dan Slott tries whole-heartedly to reclaim had, before going to the malt shop, sweaty, nasty sex with Harry Osborne's father the Green Goblin. Sadly, the answer is yes. The unsavory notion did flit through my mind.
It astonishes how Straczynski permanently ruined this character. The impact of his ham-fisted writing will be felt, assuming the world manages to survive a second Bush term, decades from now. Only a total reboot or on record denial that wipes out Straczynski's run can fix the damage that has been done. To Slott's credit, I didn't often think of the sleazy retcon, and he should not be blamed for another writer's egomania. Hell I don't think even Grant Morrison or Joss Whedon can produce a scene with Gwen Stacy that would not make me think of Straczynski's hubris.
Slott instead of a pail of swill offers readers ambrosia. His story brings in the idea that Captain Stacy knows Peter is Spider-Man, and that makes the good Captain's visit to the malt shop more interesting to the story. He displays Flash Thompson's admiration for Spidey, and that gives the story a punchline that's laugh out loud funny. He employs Crystal as the Torch's then girlfriend to bring a comeuppance to Flash's arrogance. He draws the FF in as guest stars to generate a little friction between Spidey and the team that contrasts his easy partnership in later years.
Slott makes use of a classic sitcom plot but uses the chestnut far more effectively and intriguingly. He shows the Torch stumbling along as crime fighter of the people ala' Spider-Man, and in these scenes he demonstrates a thorough understanding of the Torch's assets and deficits with regard to Spidey's role in the Marvel Universe. Spidey's trip to another plane of existence gives the Wall-Crawler a taste of things to come, but at this moment in time, he is completely in awe. He makes his best effort but fails miserably and humorously.
Ty Templeton whose art appears far too infrequently brings a nice solid silver age foundation to the Spidey/Torch partnership. His artwork is absolutely perfect for the story, and his simple lines give way to a greater sense of action and animation--especially with regard to the athletic villain of the piece Kraven the Hunter. Also of note is how he too tries to reclaim the innocence of the characters through grins and propinquity. Alas the stench of Straczynski is even too powerful for he to combat.
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