Common Spider-Sense


Amazing Spider-Man and I had parted ways years ago. It wasn’t anything that he did, we just  drifted apart. In those halcyon days of my youth I devoured The Flash, The Justice League, The New Mutants, and Spider-Man. I kept reading The Flash, The Justice League has been hit and miss, The New Mutants became X-Force, and Amazing Spider-Man just faded. In hindsight I know tt was because of my own tastes. The outlandish has always been the big draw for me. The DC Universe always had a bit more weird in it. That drew me in. The common man aspect of Spider-Man didn’t much for me. I loved the humor and the occasional story about having to get money together for rent…only up to a point. I dig heroes with feet of clay, but it felt like he had feet of concrete.
After we drifted apart I still had respect for the character. He’s got a great costume. There is an interesting collection of foes. Of course there is the ever present hot ladies. He has a lot going for him. I once even used a Spider-Man mask to scare my mom. Since I am from Wisconsin we had large amounts of cheese in the house. Marvel was looking to cash-in on the mid 1980s cheese boom. There was Spider-Man branded cheese in the home. It was just cheese slices with Spider-Man on the front label. I was eating cheese slices, as I was bred to do, and my mother went downstairs to grab the laundry. I grabbed my plastic Spider-Man mask and snuck down the stairs. Then I started  groaning and complaining that the Spider-Man cheese had made me sick. I then jumped down the stairs in front of my mom with the mask on. She screamed. She jumped. We laughed. I went back to eating cheese…alone…in a cupboard.
My Spider-fandom laid dormant for many years in that cupboard. I would pick up an issue here and there but never stick with it.  I found my sticking point a couple weeks a go. As I perused the sale racks of the NYCC I came upon a section of cheap Marvel hardcovers. Perched in the $8 dollar section were the first two volumes of The Gauntlet. I had read the Mark Waid and Marcos Martin Mysterio story and had heard good things about the overall Gauntlet storyline so I grabbed the cheap books. My schedule is now very book friendly.
My lunch has now become trade reading time. I find a nice nook in a nearby building, break out my sandwich, and my Amazing Spider-Man hardcover. The first day it was a bit worrying cause the lead story of the first volume is Dark Reign: The List – Amazing Spider-Man: Tom Couldn’t Come Up With A Better Parody of Comic Titles Than This Real One. It was the wrap up of a totally different storyline and I was freaking out. I wanted a fresh start. The next story was an Electro origin story. A little better but I still wasn’t feeling great about the purchases. Then the magic kicked in.
Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta put together a fantastic Electro story. I have said in the past that Spider villains, while entertaining and visually interesting, have always seemed like punching bags to me. Villains for Spider-Man to punch while he makes jokes. This story flipped my opinion around and got me anxious for more. The Gauntlet was giving the Spider-Man’s rogue gallery the Geoff Johns Flash Rogues treatment. PLEASE NOTE!  I am not saying they ripped it off. I just really like those stories and I really like these stories and I see a lot of similarities.
The Flash Rogues are working class villains. They aren’t out to conquer the world. They are trying to get by. Each one has his own problems and personal weaknesses. Together they function like a family, but an extremely dysfunctional one. The Gauntlet adds this feel to the Spider villains. Now maybe they already had it and I missed those stories. I haven’t read everything. Just bear with me. Electro starts my Spider-revolution.
Electro scams the people of New York into believing he is a champion of the people. Taking the common man’s anger about economic bailouts and fashioning into a weapon.  He is desperate to make money to fix his malfunctioning powers. At the same time his psyche is collapsing as well. He can’t get close to anyone and he seems to be wiling to give up his humanity for power. This was a different Electro then the one I saw in my head before picking up the book.
This was followed up by a Fred Van Lente and Javier Pulido created Sandman story. It features Spider-Man on the hunt for a kidnapped girl and finding her in the care of the Sandman. Sandman sees this as the one chance he has to have a normal moment of family life. This girl thinks that he is her father and he has embraced the illusion. Sandman is always a visual treat and Pulido is up to the challenge. Multiple Sandmen, giant structures, and explosive sand punching. It is better than that description. As is true to all The Gauntlet stories, Spider-Man wins but not in a satisfying way. No one gets what they want in the end.  The villains aren’t just out to rob banks so the resolutions aren’t as clean as throwing them in jail. There are messy trails leading out of those cells.
The next volume holds the story that convinced me to go ahead and order all of The Gauntlet books. It was the Rhino story by Joe Kelly and Max Fiuramara. We see the old Rhino, Aleksei Sytsevich, has turned over a new leaf. He has found a woman to love and job to provide pride. Crime has been left behind and he finally feels like a complete man. Unfortunately there is a new Rhino on the scene who feels the need to wipe out Aleksei before he can properly hold the mantle. In a couple my favorite panels of recent times we see Spider-Man convincing Aleksei not to put on his Rhino costume and destroy this deadly usurper.  Spidey is desperate to see anyone get their life together, even one of his old foes. The scene is emotional and full of impact…and has no punches or fighting. Great art and great writing wringing real emotions out of me.
I was hooked. The rest of the volumes are sitting on my nightstand and are waiting to be read. Turns out the secret to making me dig Spider-Man was to give the villains some Joe Punchclock  juice. Give the Rhino a lunch pail and a lady and I will man crush on him. The lesson here is that just when you think you have a character figured out, creators can throw your expectations to the winds. Just ride with it.


Tom Katers will still occasionally eat a cheese slice, when his wife isn't looking. On Wisconsin!



  1. I’m with ya Tom.  I was in the same boat but I decided to pick up the Gauntlet at the NYCC.  Good stuff.


    the Tiki 

  2. Glad you’re on board. ASM has been great. That Rhino story was killer!

  3. The Gauntlet was ok.  Some of the stuff before the Gauntlet was actually really good.

  4. Just finished the last Gauntlet trade and the Grim Hunt trade. Really enjoyable set of books if a bit dragged out. I completely agree that there are similarities between Spidey’s rogues and the Flash’s rogues but Spidey always had that "man in the street" element to his rogues – we just haven’t had writers present it as strongly in recent years. Looking forward to Big Time.

  5. Hulk like Gauntlet & Grim Hunt.

  6. Oh man, wait until you get to the lizard storyline. It’s outstanding.

  7. Spider Man has the best Rouges gallery.

  8. started with the Grim Hunt and thought it was okay.  would reading the Gauntlet books  make the Grim Hunt more meaningfull? 

  9. Just wait until Grim Hunt. You get Spider-man as the rare, infuriated spider-powered badass, AND a new spin on Kaine. I thoroughly enjoyed Grim Hunt and the rhino arc. I didn’t much care for most of the gaunlet because.. well… i HATE azaceta’s art. Rough and ridgid doesn’t work with a smooth, accrobatic character like Spider-man, IMO. But have fun reading, I know i did!

  10. I thought The Gauntlet on a whole was one of the best Amazing Spidey stories ever told. I loved it all. I would love to see a nice huge collection of it someday.

  11. You know that scene from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, where we see the X-Ray machine hover over The Grinch and his heart grows 3 sizes? That’s sort of what happened when I read that Rhino issue…only now my heart grew too big, and it is now the size of my body. I have to carry it around in a wheelbarrow now, but at least I now have a greater capacity for love.


    Oh crap, here comes a violet ring…

  12. I own that lunchbox.

  13. In Dan Slott – I trust.


  14. Those Rhino issues kind of made me cry. Only the last issue of Y: The Last Man has ever done that.

  15. The Rhino story was really great.  My favorite Spider-Man books in recent memory.

  16. I’ve been reading ASM for a couple years and really liked the Rhino story but the Lizard story is the one that has really stuck with me. The art does such a great job conveying lizard’s character and motivation. The darkness and intensity of the character might fit better in Batman though.

  17. bachalo in the lizard storyline is awesome KoNNERS……

  18. The entire Brand New Day "gimmick" was almost solely responsible for bringing me back to comics.  Minus the return to the clone mess and the One Moment in Time debacle, it was near 100 issues of greatness. 

  19. Good call, Thomas. You lucked into finding the right Joe Kelly Spidey story, methinks.

  20. I love brand new day. And spidey has cool girlfriends gallery!

  21. Totally with you on this, Tom.  Spidey was my go-to-escapism as a kid along with Batman, and I really feel out of love with the character in the 90s and early 00s.  There was no fun to be had there anymore.  BND really invigorated me, and the Rhino stuff was exceptional.  I hope the Big Time launch maintains the fun.