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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

X-amining "Inferno" Tie-Ins Part 3

Amazing Spider-Man #313, Fantastic Four #324, Power Pack #44, Spectacular Spider-Man #148, Web of Spider-Man #48
March 1989

Amazing Spider-Man #313 by David Michelinie & Todd MacFarlane
Fantastic Four #324 by Steve Englehart & Keith Pollard
Power Pack #44 by Julianna Jones & June Brigman
Spectacular Spider-Man #148 by Gerry Conway & Sal Buscema
Web of Spider-Man #48 by Gerry Conway & Alex Saviuk
(for full credits on each issue, please visit the GCD)

Fantastic Four #324: The Fantastic Four team-up with Kang to rescue Mantis from the sorcerer Necrodamus. Web of Spider-Man #48: Spider-Man battles the demonically-possessed Hobgoblin. Amazing Spider-Man #313: Spider-Man battles the Lizard. Spectacular Spider-Man #148: Flash Thompson and Betty Brant are targeted by demons who pose as Spider-Man and Betty's deceased husband, Ned Leeds. Power Pack #44: In the midst of the Inferno, Power Pack does their best to fight against the demon hordes until they see a massive portal open which draws in all the demons.

Returning home, they find their parents, who recently learned about Power Pack's life as superheroes, acting oddly. The next day, Power Pack helps clean up the city, running into the New Mutants at a local hospital and helping triage people wounded during the Inferno. Later, the New Mutants tell Power Pack about the demonic invasion, then take them home, where their parents are even more distraught than before. Working together, Mirage and Gosmayr convince the Power parents that their super-powered children were clones created for their own protection against Carmody while the New Mutants guarded their real, powerless children. Now that Carmody's threat is over, their "powerless" children can be returned safely to them, thus restoring Power Pack's secret identities and allowing their parents to rest easier. 

Firsts and Other Notables
The New Mutants guest star in Power Pack #44 (at least, Mirage, Sunspot, Gosamyr and Warlock do), making that issue as a result the one out of this batch which ties in most directly to the larger "Inferno" story. In the course of the issue, Mirage and Gosamyr help Power Pack restore their secret identities, convincing their parents (who weren't taking it well) that they don't have superpowers after all.

Oddly enough, we get possibly the best use of Gosamyr in Power Pack #44, as she uses her powers to essentially provide mental anesthetic to injured people, and later helps sell the whole "secret identity restoration" thing for Power Pack, which is more than she's ever done/will do in New Mutants.

Power Pack is clearly in a state of creative flux when issue #44 hit the stands, as the writer, penciler and inker are all "special guests" (though the penciler, at least, is a former series artist). 

We get our first full look at Hobgoblin-as-Demogoblin in Web of Spider-Man #48. 

The Chronology Corner
N'astirh appears briefly in Fantastic Four #324, between his appearance in Excalibur #6 and New Mutants #73.

The New Mutants appear in Power Pack #44 after Cloak & Dagger #4, though that issue won't be on sale until next month. 

A Work in Progress
In Fantastic Four #324, Kang notes that he's taking advantage of the disturbances caused by "Inferno" to operate independent of the Council of Cross Time Kangs, suggesting he is the original Kang.

Kingpin straight up cold cocks a demon in Web of Spider-Man #48; I just thought that was pretty cool.

That issue ends with Spider-Man still in the dark as to the cause of the Inferno, as he rightly notes that it feels like he's on the fringes of a battle being fought by somebody else, the climax of which is coming soon.

Power Pack witnesses the demons being called back to Limbo by Illyana in New Mutants #73. 

Dani is able to create an entire army of doctors and construction workers to help out at a hospital, though she notes they'll have to use pre-existing supplies for fear things like bandages or whatnot would disappear once she calls up something else (Dani also says she's met the doctor before, but I can't for the life of me remember when or where, nor find a reference to it online).

Unlike the rest of the characters involved in the tie-ins, Power Pack learns about what caused the demon invasion from the New Mutants.

Teebore's Take
With "Inferno" winding down in the X-titles, so too are the tie-in titles moving past the event. These issues represent the last "Inferno" tie-in issues of these specific series, and for the most part, they're just as indirectly connected to the events in the X-books as the previous tie-ins, with the characters continuing to be in the dark as to the cause of the Inferno (with Spider-Man essentially hanging a lampshade on this idea directly). Of this batch, Power Pack ties in most directly to the events of the crossover, thanks to the presence of characters actually involved in the front line action, but it's also probably the best issue of the batch (though the self-contained Flash/Betty demon attack in Spectacular Spider-Man is also pretty good, a creepy little tale that takes advantage of the atmosphere of "Inferno" more than anything).

Just as with the harrowing depiction of life inside Inferno-infected Manhattan in an earlier tie-in, Power Pack #44 stands out for being exceedingly dark and bleak, specifically in its depiction of the Power children's parents in the wake of learning their children are superheroes, as both essentially experience nervous breakdowns for different reasons (their mother mourns the loss of her "babies" while their father gets trapped in a logic loop as he tries to reconcile being a good father - who should shield children from harm - with being the father of superheroes - who must let his children encounter danger in their efforts to help people). The resultant reset button that restores Power Pack's secret likely angered fans of the series to whom the previous revelation felt like a significant moment, but the sheer mental despair exhibited by their parents is nonetheless an effectively creepy argument for its necessity, and, out of context of the series as a whole, makes for a memorable issue. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Excalibur goes to New York as "Inferno" comes to Excalibur in Excalibur #6, followed by Wolverine #5 on Friday. Next week, the showdown with Mr. Sinister begins in Uncanny X-Men #243.  


  1. One major problem here- Inferno is eventually written off as hallucinations but with all the injured people in Power Pack 44, you'd think that some of them would have suffered injuries that couldn't be explained by hallucinations.

  2. Anonymous, they could explain away some of it as due to the consequences of mass hysteria (fear causing people to injure themselves & other people), OR- as in the case of the Sunnydalians of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER- explain away things they aren't comfortably capable of accepting.

    Speaking of which, the Power parents distress also had another cause. I read the Whitemane family put some telepathic mojo on Mr. and Mrs. Power. This whammy caused them to deny any suspicion of their children having super-powers. When irrefutable right-before-their-eyes proof came, the conditioning accidentally caused massive mental-emotional pain to Pa and Ma, no longer in denial but still feeling the painful effects that results in breaking the denial.

    This is also a crossroads for Betty Brant. Spidey's 1st girl has had some emotional problems. Losing family members, a knack for being needy and searching for happiness through others. Her marriage to Ned Leeds was problematic (Ned acting nutty via being Hobgoblin's brainwashed stand-in didn't help), causing Betty to find emotional comfort from others (or, in the case of Peter Parker and Flash Thompson, morally lapsing physical comfort as well). She had just recently joined and was rescued from the Cult of Love. Here, it takes the ghost of Ned to force Betty that she has to stop being needy and look to herself for happiness. Betty grows as a person and ends up a major reporter of the Daily Bugle (as well as clearing Ned as the Hobgoblin).


  3. Did all of "Inferno" really take place in just one night, as stated in Power Pack #44? I haven't gone back to see if anything contradicts that, although I'm pretty sure the Spider-Man tie-ins explicitly spilled over from one day to the next. Even if we're strictly talking about the Limbo portal wreaking havoc in New York it sure felt like it carried on for a few days at least.

    // we get possibly the best use of Gosamyr //

    That "special guest script" was largely terrible, but I agree with this. Dani's powers are used well, too; while the size/breadth of the manifestation at the hospital feels like the biggest and most complicated use of her ability to date by far, I'm not sure I could say it outright contradicts anything we know.

    Amazing Spider-Man #313 confirmed that I still hate McFarlane's art. Sal Buscema's art in Spectacular Spider-Man #148 still isn't quite to my tastes, although there's one gorgeous shot of Spidey atop a chimney.

    Torch has an I Love the '80s line in Fantastic Four #324 where he mentions Greg Louganis. Which isn't nearly as funny as Kang bemusedly flying over an infant sacrifice.

    Meanwhile, Spidey has a line in Web of Spider-Man #48 that begs a new category: "Even with my spider-sense, I barely avoided that finger blast!"

  4. "Did all of "Inferno" really take place in just one night, as stated in Power Pack #44? I haven't gone back to see if anything contradicts that, although I'm pretty sure the Spider-Man tie-ins explicitly spilled over from one day to the next. Even if we're strictly talking about the Limbo portal wreaking havoc in New York it sure felt like it carried on for a few days at least."
    N'astirh in X-Men 242 makes it clear that everything from Magik's portal opening onward took place in one night, and the spell had to be completed by the end of the night or all would be undone. That causes problems with Excalibur 6, as we'll see today, since it takes place a few nights after Excalibur 4, and Excalibur 4 features Rachel seemingly receiving a message from Baby Cable about the demons after him.

  5. "Kingpin straight up cold cocks a demon in Web of Spider-Man #48; I just thought that was pretty cool."

    Oops, I mentioned this in the last set of "Inferno" crossovers, thinking it was one of those issues. Sorry for the 26 year-old spoiler, everyone!

    Nonetheless, my opinion remains -- this is the single greatest moment to come out of "Inferno". Though that Flash/Betty story is pretty darn good too, as you note. If I recall correctly, the real Spider-Man doesn't even put in an appearance, which is kind of unusual for the time.

    Now, let me continue to sing the praises of Gerry Conway's work on SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN and WEB OF SPIDER-MAN in the late eighties. I love this run, and it's pretty much entirely self-contained away from the contemporaneous AMAZING stuff. Conway basically treated the two books like one bi-weekly title, threading sub-plots in and out of both. For my money, he wrote the best married Peter and Mary Jane, and his sub-plots were always compelling. The long Tombstone arc and Robbie Robertson in jail was fantastic stuff. In COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN, Conway says that he came up with his sub-plots first, then wrote the main storylines around them, and if this run is the result of such an approach, I wish more writers would do it that way.

    If only the siren call of Tom Bosley hadn't lured him away from Spider-Man, never to return again.

    Blam -- "Meanwhile, Spidey has a line in Web of Spider-Man #48 that begs a new category: "Even with my spider-sense, I barely avoided that finger blast!""

    Wow, I may need to blow that panel up and frame it. That's fantastic.

  6. Matt's upcoming look into Stern's Hobgoblin stories just became doubly awesome, because we are never ever ever going to forget the terminological connection. A quick look into Internet seems to suggest that this is exactly the term usually used for this particular Hobgoblin weapon. Gentlemen, we may just have stumbled upon the 'boner' of our comics generation.

    I was already so waiting for this day because of the panel of Rachel blasting from the Excalibur light tower for her participation in Inferno like Phoenix Force was holding back that particular blast since UXM 133 but little did I know what else the day would bring along.

  7. Rats. I was of course meaning UXM 132. Should just have gone for the 'butte'...

  8. (Years later but...)
    Power Pack #44 has a very unfortunate error on the credits. The credits for #45 were accidentally run instead. According to a later letter column Jon Bogdanove wrote & pencilled the issue with Russ Heath inking (they even sign the opening splash page).

    Of all the issues to have such a screw-up it would have to be the one with the massive reset switch giving the impressing a guest writer was deployed to impose a U-turn on the regular writer.


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