Some random Spider-Man books, Part 5
Spider-Man and the Tri-Sentinel, Round 2…
…the bad news: No Captain Universe powers
…the good news: Nova! (not sure that’s gonna help much)
Writer – David Michelinie
Pencils – Mark Bagley
Inks – Sam de la Rosa
Letters – Rick Parker
Colorist – Bob Sharen
Editor – Danny Fingeroth and Eric Fein
Marvel had this brainy idea back in winter of 1989 to try the old switcharoo on the superheroes. Fighting the same villains over and over again made for a tired formula. The X-Men always taking on Magneto and Thor always besting Loki….and so and so forth. Lame. Boooorrrring!
Someone in the bullpen (and I’ll be damned if I can figure out who) had a brilliant story idea: have the villains all swap heroes. Fantastic Four fighting Doc Doom was a stale idea, but having Thor vs Victor Von Doom was a fresh idea that excited writers, artists and the comic buying public alike.
How to get it done was the only problem. I mean, villains don’t tend to work together even when they stand to gain personally. Given that many of them would balk at working with rogues of opposing ideologies (think Magento and Red Skull, for instance)…and others would sooner kill themselves than submit to another villain’s authority, it seemed impossible to make the idea workable storywise.
Luckily for Marvel they had a God in the Machine… Namely Loki, to be exact. Loki masterminded this scheme to swap out one set of heroes’ foes for another’s, the idea being that perhaps their powers might prove more effectual against a different champion of justice. And Loki had through his magic a way to brainwash everyone into believing they were one in control of the entire scheme.
It wasn’t easy and eventually when the heroes still found ways to defeat the bad guys from the Marvel mag one spot over on the spinner rack, Loki’s mind games fell apart most spectacularly.
Spider-Man got his share of wild matchups, facing off against Magneto, Graviton, the Hulk, Trapster, Titiana, Brothers Grimm, Dragon Man, TESS-One and Goliath. The crowning battle came last, as Loki magically blended three mutant-killing Sentinels into one vicious engine of destruction and sent it on a rampage to destroy the nuclear plant near Long Island, killing everyone along the Eastern seaboard.
Luckily for everyone involved, Spider-Man was in possession of the Uni-power. The Uni-power is a special bit of mischief that wanders indiscriminately from person to person, allowing them to become the cosmically powered Captain Universe. With this unimaginable force at their command, they are tasked with averting one great cataclysmic event…
…and then the power moves on to the next person.
Spider-Man supposedly blew the “Tri-Sentinel” to dust at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #329, but all good villains deserve at least one resurrection from the grave, so low-and-behold ASM #351 found that he wasn’t quite all the way destroyed and now was in the hands of the radical terrorist survival group The Life Foundation.
And by “wasn’t quite all the way destroyed” I mean it doesn’t have so much as scratched paint.
The Life Foundation wanted to use the deadly Tri-Sentinel to “secure” their hidden mountain survival cave with all the other looneys who think the worlds going to end soon. Of course, in the Marvel 616, the world ending unexpectedly is kind of a daily worry for everyone that remembers Galactus almost ate the Earth a little bit ago.
However, they were smart enough to install a failsafe inside it that would destroy it utterly (ahem! Again). On the side of them not being so smart, was they sent it after Spider-Man, since the webslinger had previously foiled their plans.
Somehow last issue (thanks Crapbox!), Spider-Man got trapped inside the giant robot while his buddy Nova got a palm full of binding metal coils. The inside of the Tri Sentinel are just as dangerous as the outsides too, and Spidey finds himself being gassed to death in an energy bubble. Lucky for him and us that bubble doesn’t extend below the floor he’s standing on.
Unfortunately, this maneuver takes him further from where he wants to go: namely a switch that releases “Antarctic Vibranium” which will melt the Tri-Sentinel in a heartbeat. Mark Bagley’s doing the pencils here and as the book goes on, you’ll begin to appreciate his style quite a bit. As soon as Spidey dodges these rivets being fired at him, that is.
As Peter tries to figure out a proper path back to that switch a new problem emerges. First, the Tri-guy chunks Nova into a nearby building…
…and then rockets its way out of the Life Foundation’s hidden compound. Cameron Drake, leader of the foundation, orders the scuttling his operation as the Tri-Sentinel takes off. And he blames it all on our favorite wall-crawler, too.
Richard Rider isn’t giving up on Spidey and takes off in hot pursuit, pouring on the speed to catch up to the Tri-Sentinel. Spidey meanwhile has found the central processing unit of the robot, complete with computer keyboards and he begins hacking its programming. And yes, it does appear that it is back on course to wreck nuclear devastation on a massive scale.
Using his wits, Spider-Man grounds the sentinel, but gets trapped in coils for his trouble. This does allow Nova to catch up, however and he begins an ineffectual attempt at taking it down from the outside.
Mr. Drake isn’t out of this mess yet, however. Nova made off with some very incriminating evidence, and Drake orders a team sent to wipe the disk using a modified laser cannon before he can expose the foundation or its members.
And Nova is still tailing the now walking Tri-Sentinel, attempting to lessen the body count as it makes for the Nuclear facility near Long Island again. Love that swoop in and save!
Spider-Man uses the robot's own defenses against itself, having it shoot the coils holding him in place so they are shredded enough for him to escape. But time is rapidly running out for the pair and the menace looks unstoppable.
The closer he gets to the failsafe switch, the more deadly the traps coming after Spidey. So much so, that he’s forced to retreat back to the CPU. It appears the pair will be unable to stop the death of millions.
…that is until unlikely help arrives in the form of a Life Foundation airship firing a beam of laser energy that scrambles electronic data. It tries to take our Rider and the disk he's carrying, but he’s too swift.
He uses them to distract the Tri-Sentinel, which puts them in danger, so he saves them. Which allows them to hit him with the beam, and also make it through the Tri-Sentinel's defenses…
…which also appears to mangle up the robot’s abilities.
…in a big, big way.
Thinking in tandem, Rider “coerces” the pilots of the flying lime-green hovercraft to train their beam on the Tri-Sentinel.
Which gives Spidey enough time to make it to the fail-safe…
…one press of which…
…immediately shorts out our robotic bad guy and…
…leads to a meltdown on a massively impressive scale…
…that isn’t without danger to our favorite web-slinger.
But does lead to some VERY impressive panels. Bagley’s pencils and de la Rosa’s inks do a fine job of showcasing the story at this point. As do the colors provided by Sharen.
As our heroes wait for the Antarctic Vibranium to be secured, they share a bit of camaraderie over their victory and the disappointment of losing the evidence on the Life Foundation.
Ultimately though, they part with a bunch of respect for one another.
The issue climaxes the story from last issue in a great action setpiece, showcasing both Spider-Man and Nova’s strong points as characters. I’m a huge fan of Sentinels as bad guys and this one in particular. He’d go down as my second favorite Marvel killer robot, right behind Nimrod. (third is MODOK, if you must know).