Web of Spider-Man #80, "This Blood is My Blood," Cover Date September 1991
Written by Terry Kavanagh, Penciled and Inked by Alex Saviuk
In the summer of 1991, we were a year into Todd McFarlane's "adjective-less" Spider-Man, and a month away from X-Men #1 by Claremont and Lee. It was about as high as the 90's wave crested. Meanwhile, in the fourth most important (monthly) Spider-Man book published that month...
We begin our story in media res, with Silvermane gloating over a only just conscious Spider-Man. Silvermane rants about how he didn't die in an issue of a more important book (Amazing Spider-Man #284), FOUR years ago in real time. Spider-Man is woozy, and a gloating Silvermane explains the last step of his cool new cyborg body is "super-unleaded, premium... blood!"
A shocked Spidey asks why he's being kept alive, because he doesn't understand how blood works. He asks why Silvermane is monologuing, and the villain reveals he's filming a video to hand out to other crime bosses to show how cool he is.
Meanwhile, Mary Jane sums up Peter's capture to a mystery person, revealed to be Felicia Hardy! Mary Jane has no idea where her husband went, but she has some exposition about how he promised he'd set off a spider tracer if he got stuck in a jam so that MJ could track him with his portable tracer-deal. Mary Jane puts aside her differences and asks Felicia to help her, so we get the Black Cat jumping around, trying to get cell phone reception.
Back at the base, Silvermane notices one of his cameras isn't working, when he notices something is jamming the machines. It's Spidey's webbing! He overloads the machine, and the base starts falling apart. In a truly bizarrely staged scene, Spider-Man's mask is completely torn off his head by falling debris. Uh, what? Silvermane is blinded by... something, so he starts throwing machinery in Spidey's general direction, even as Spidey realizes he's out of webbing and I guess his mask has been disintegrated or something when the rubble pulled it off his head?
Silvermane hears an alarm, and sees Black Cat coming, and sets off his security system. Spider-Man throws caution to the wind and boots the evil cyborg. With Silvermane stunned, Spidey grudgingly goes into the path of the cameras and retrieves his mask. Dude seriously, just smash the tape. It's 1991! He's not live-casting this! Black Cat shows up, even as the headquarters (an abandoned Hydra base) collapses. Spider-Man does a big "NO!" instead of checking Black Cat's pulse, then resumes his fight with Silvermane. After momentarily knocking down Spider-Man, Black Cat comes to his aid, prompting an "Alive still?" from Silvermane, channeling Yoda. Spider-Man recovers from being zapped and starts fiddling with Silvermane's machines, while Black Cat ducks out of Silvermane's clutches, only to get grabbed by the hair and held up in the Bane/Batman position.
Spider-Man finally comes to his ex's aid with a "wrong, dead wrong!" The headquarters starts collapsing even more, and Silvermane rushes to the console to grab a copy of Spider-Man's secret identity. Black Cat asks what he's talking about, but Spidey's spider-sense warns him to get away, even as the console explodes. Spider-Man says Silvermane's got an eternity to spend with video of his face now, to which Black Cat responds that wouldn't be so bad. Ew. Black Cat asks how Silvermane even knew about the unmasking, since he was blinded, and Spidey responds... "we'll never know now." Pretty convenient! He asks how Cat found him, and she says they're always connected, before giving him a meaningful look... and handing over Mary Jane's tracer. Cat is apparently annoyed to bring up Mary Jane, and hops away, wondering if Flash Thompson is looking for her.
Spidey drops in on his wife, playing the "guess who" game and saying "would you believe... Connie Chung?" Black Cat creepily watches the two make out, and hopes Spidey doesn't realize he never activated a tracer, she followed the robot's trail without Mary Jane's help. We also get an epilogue revealing that the dead Silvermane was a robot duplicate, and that while the real Silvermane was also blinded, computer sensors revealed that Spidey had been unmasked. Uh, sure. He vows to get Spidey next time.
I'll begin with the positives. The pacing is good, as we get what amounts to a complete story in 23 pages (I know it's really the second half of a two-parter, but it stands as an independent story). The fight scenes are dynamic, which is a good thing, because this is essentially twenty pages of fighting. Alex Saviuk is a workhorse of a penciler, and he's doing his own inks here. His "Web" run started in 1988, and continued until 1994, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment, especially when you look at how awful Web's artists were before he came around. He manages to make Black Cat attractive without resorting to cheesecake posing. I also miss the effect of seeing multiple drawings of a character in a rough, semi-transparent style to show the character moving super fast. Comics today get a bit lazy with their film dynamics. I demand transparent blurs!
On the negative side, this script reminds me why I made fun of Terry Kavanagh so much during his Avengers: The Crossing issues. It's not that the underlying idea is so bad: Mary Jane has to go to Peter's ex, who she does not like, and together Black Cat and Spider-Man escape the bad guy. It's just that the story is full of bizarre choices by every character that doesn't really make sense in the context of the story. Silvermane is stealing Spider-Man's blood... but it turns out that was a robot running a test. Uh, why? The drama with Spider-Man's mask might have been a good idea on paper, but it's poorly executed and nonsensical, and how did he not immediately think to destroy the recording equipment? The moment between Felicia and Spidey is sweet, and then it's immediately ruined by a clumsy infodump about how the emergency tracer didn't work and blah blah blah. I'm not sure if the story would work better if Peter thought about Black Cat and how she must have tracked him down herself without the tracer, since he's with Mary Jane, but Black Cat comes off like a creepy stalker person (she also seems to think staring at his unmasked face all day would be pretty good).
Mary Jane is waiting at home in what appears to be 80's style exercise clothes featuring green spandex.