Review by Frank Plowright
It’s long been the tradition in superhero comics that a character’s involvement with a team remains largely separate from the events of their own title. Possibly marketing preference, once such matters were considered, for the most part that line of separation is rarely breached. It’s interesting therefore that J. Michael Straczynski chose to integrate Spider-Man’s ongoing tales fully into the Avengers team that he’d recently joined. While Spider-Man and supporting cast remain the focus, his Avengers team-mates appear in every issue and have a role to play.
The events of Skin Deep saw the Parkers left homeless, but Tony Stark aka Iron Man, rides to the rescue in a conspicuous long limo. Peter, Mary Jane and May all move into Avengers Tower, and the remainder of the volume has the team take on the revitalised threat of global terrorists Hydra, now boasting their own versions of some Avengers. It’s the type of widescreen scenario enabling artist Mike Deodato to go to town, and town is duly visited.
May Parker, sidelined for a while after the initial boost to her character, re-emerges here, sometimes for comedic purposes, but never lacking dignity, and Straczynski adds a sub-plot about Mary Jane’s acting career achieving a level of success that attracts unwelcome tabloid attention. It’s concluded in novel and highly satisfying wish-fulfilment fashion, and the main story’s most memorable sequence has a Spider-Man desperately attempting to diffuse a missile with a highly virulent payload aimed squarely at middle America.
The look at the background machinations of Hydra add to the credibility of their threat in what’s the comic equivalent of a good pulpy novel. The pages can’t turn fast enough. The entire story can also be found in the hardback collection The Best of Spider-Man volume 5. The next stories in Straczynski’s run are collected as part of The Road To Civil War, also featuring other Marvel heroes, then pick up again in Amazing Spider-Man: Civil War.