"Skin Deep, Part Four"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Mike Deodato and Mark Brooks (p), Joe Pimentel and Jaime Mendoza (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: As Spider-Man battles Charlie in the flaming ruins of his apartment, he quickly realizes that he won't be able to defeat Charlie with brute force, and he makes a narrow escape before passing out. While unconscious, Peter is able to figure out a solution to beating Charlie, and after paying a visit to Tony Stark, he confronts Charlie a second time armed with a plan that renders Charlie immobile.
Comments: J. Michael Straczynski is trying a little too hard when it comes to the comedy, as the scene where Spider-Man visits Tony Stark felt a bit desperate in its bid to capture comedy gold of this meeting. The witty banter that Spider-Man offers up when he battles Charlie a second time was cringe inducing. I come across a number of examples where J. Michael Straczynski has shown he can be quite amusing, but more than any writer he tends to insert gags that feel contrived, or awkwardly placed, and these attempts at humour often seem to be at odds with the material. However, I did enjoy this issue's efforts to remind readers that Peter is a pretty impressive scientist in his own right, as there's a solid little dream sequence where Peter comes up with the means of defeating Charlie. Now I wish the material hadn't resorted to explaining Charlie's madness as being influenced by chemical exposure, as the flashback scenes had done a pretty good job of selling Charlie's mounting sense of frustration. It was a shame to see this element of the character being pushed aside so Charlie could be a raging super-villain. However, the action was a lot of fun, and the big final solution was well done, as was the follow-up scene where Peter questions whether there wasn't a less drastic method of defeating Charlie. The fallout from this arc would be a little more dramatic if I hadn't read the spoiler material that has been made available online regarding Peter and his family’s new domestic situation. Still, it should be interesting to see how Aunt May reacts to this issue's final page, as this is her first real look at the danger that comes with being in on Peter's secret life.
Mike Deodato turns in another fine effort, with his strongest work coming on the action sequences, as they are both high energy affairs that manage to convey a very real sense of excitement. The danger that Charlie poses to Spider-Man is perfectly presented in the scene where Spider-Man finds himself trapped in his crushing grip, and the steps that he takes to escape were a great display of raw power. The final battle between the two also had itself some solid visuals, as I loved the panel where Spider-Man uses the two cars to trap Charlie and the scene where he smashes into the lab was also quite exciting. The dramatic impact of the final page was also extremely well done, as Aunt May's body language sells the emotional weight of this scene perfectly. I'm also a big fan of Joe Jusko's art so getting a cover from him was a pleasant surprise.
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