Robot Master

Marvel “events” have a weird habit of warping a character’s personality in order to arrive at an author’s desired outcome — superhero integrity be damned. Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #3 officially falls victim to this recurring annoyance. Writer Christos Gage takes Peter Parker’s penchant for getting on his high horse and (in keeping with the theme of the story), jacks up the amplitude to a bizarre level. By turning the character into a hypocritical jerk, the prognostications of the Inhuman known as Ulysses once again come true.

Here is what you need to know about Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man # 3:

  • Clayton Cole, aka Clash, meets with Robot Master. The villain, whose real name is Mendel Stromm, discusses his plans to steal money from Parker Industries but is ambushed by Clash.
  • Peter Parker laments having fired Clayton. He sulks at table as Harry Osborn Lyman condescendingly pats him on the back and says, “Clayton’s a grown man too. He made his own choices, and he’s responsible for them. Now it’s on him. (Note: How sad is it that a former Green Goblin now must lecture Peter on what it means to take responsibility for one’s actions?)
  • Robot Master, having anticipated a double-cross by Clash, notes that his mechanical minions have been upgraded and are ready for a fight. A battle ensues on the streets of New York City.
  • Spider-Man shows up to save the day. After Robot Master’s technology forms into a giant robot (and Spidey jokes, “Always giant robots…”), the two eventually agree to divvy up the tasks. Spider-Man agrees to “trust” Clash and leave him with the giant robot while he chases down Stromm.
  • Both men defeat their respective opponents. Spider-Man then decides to lecture Clash on what a rotten person he is the moment the dust settles. The hero says that “Peter Parker” is going to let Clayton have his job back — provided he turn over all of his sonic technology.
  • Clayton gets an “angry Beavis” look in his eyes from the old Beavis and Butt-Head cartoons, and then attacks Spider-Man —just like Ulysses predicted.

This issue had so much potential. It is hard not to look at Robot Master’s lab, which appears to be something out of Tim Burton’s wildest dreams, and not anticipate a good read. Mr. Gage generally does an adequate job — and Spider-Man fans finally gets a decent fight scene — but it appears as though the constraints of Civil War constantly undermine the book.

ASM Civil War Clayton Cole

Consider this:

  • On one hand we have Peter Parker, a sulking mess who doesn’t understand basic responsibility. Harry recounts how Peter behaved like a stalking ex-boyfriend by sending Clayton “message after message” via “voice, text, email” to try and apologize … for firing a guy who probably deserved to be fired. At Parker Industries, it’s almost impossible to get terminated. (Does anyone know what happened to Lian Tang, the Parker Industries girlfriend who tried to kill him? I wouldn’t be surprised if she still has a job…)
  • On the other hand we have Clayton Cole, a guy who outwardly appears to be a nutcase (bulging eyes, screaming fits of rage, crying on the job, sweating, etc.), in addition to the issues raging beneath the surface. The audience is often encouraged by Mr. Cage to have sympathy for the man, but it is always negated by his actions.
  •  The question becomes: What the heck is the point of all of this?

As has been said before, Christos Gage handles issues of redemption and responsibility much better than the series’ regular writer, Dan Slott. The interactions between characters are more natural, which in turn give the action scenes added weight (i.e., Gage’s stories do not feel like a kid who mashes his action figures together and then expects you to care). It’s just a shame that Civil War makes it difficult to judge whether editorial mandates are the cause of The Amazing Über-Hypocrite, or if that is an mistake that rests solely on Gage’s shoulders.

Fact: Spider-Man is a vigilante. Vigilantes do not get to stand upon a giant moral pedestal and lecture other vigilantes about the collateral damage brought about by their actions.

Peter Parker of all people should know that Clayton Cole — a fellow man of science — sees his knack for sonic technology as his “great power,” which also comes with “great responsibility.”

Peter Parker of all people should also know that Clayton Cole would feel added pressure and guilt, given that he erred with his powers early on in life. Therefore, a well-written Spider-Man in this issue would not have behaved like a massive tool in the immediate aftermath of a street battle.

Clayton Cole ASM

Beavis and Butt-Head

In short, Civil War II:: Amazing Spider-Man #3 is worth checking out if you purchased the first two issues, but you can probably sit out the finale if you still haven’t coughed up any hard-earned cash.

Civil War II ASM4 preview

Editor’s Note: Just to keep the sound motif going, what is with the Amazing Spider-Man #15 “echo”? Clayton asks Peter Parker to trust him in battle, which is what Mary Jane did during her battle with Regent. Oddly enough, Peter had legitimate reasons to not trust either of them…

Related:

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1’: Gage offers reprieve from Slott fare

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #2’: Gage explores ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ recidivism, and redemption

Amazing Spider-Man #15: Dan Slott’s Regent took down a god, then falls to … Mary Jane

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

9 comments

  1. “Clayton asks Peter Parker to trust him in battle, which is what Mary Jane did during her battle with Regent. Oddly enough, Peter had legitimate reasons to not trust either of them…”

    And now, as I’m sure you may have heard, in the new Renew Your Vows series, Peter will have to find a legit reason to trust his wife in future battles as she will be putting on a fresh Spider-Costume and will be fighting crime alongside him and his daughter.

    1. “And now, as I’m sure you may have heard, in the new Renew Your Vows series, Peter will have to find a legit reason to trust his wife in future battles as she will be putting on a fresh Spider-Costume and will be fighting crime alongside him and his daughter.”

      I saw that and immediately cared about 100 times less for the book. Sigh. What the heck is Marvel’s problem? Does Mary Jane get permanent spider-powers now? It’s just dumb. She doesn’t need superpowers to be a great character, a good wife and mother, etc.

      I would be willing to bet big money that a bunch of goofs were upset at the thought that Mary Jane might be (gasp!) a stay-at-home mom.

      “No! We can’t have that!” Well…let’s just give her superpowers. Yeah! That’s the ticket!”

      I guess you can’t be a “real” mom unless you also have a professional career or can beat up male superheroes with your daughter and husband.

      Whatever. It will probably still be better than ASM under Slott. And…toys…and toys…and more toys.

  2. “Whatever. It will probably still be better than ASM under Slott. And…toys…and toys…and more toys”

    There is a distinct “toyetic” feel to Annie’s costume more so than MJ’s. And I’m not feeling the Aunt May-ish bow on her hair.

    As for MJ having powers, I think it’s just to set her apart from the MJ of MC2 and the MJ of the newspaper strip, who have always been stay-at-home housewives. Marvel have indicated that this particular series takes place in a timeline with no Mephisto intervention, so my current theory is Spider-Island happened and Peter just did’nt cure MJ of her powers. Could be wrong though.

    1. “As for MJ having powers, I think it’s just to set her apart from the MJ of MC2 and the MJ of the newspaper strip, who have always been stay-at-home housewives. Marvel have indicated that this particular series takes place in a timeline with no Mephisto intervention, so my current theory is Spider-Island happened and Peter just did’nt cure MJ of her powers. Could be wrong though.”

      I’ll obviously give the book a fair shake, and in general I have nothing against MJ obtaining powers. It just bothers me that Marvel has a track record of being weirdly political, and I can see this decision as something to just placate Tumblr kiddies who will whine unless she’s super-powered.

      How long do you think before MJ and her daughter will be saving Peter because of some bonehead move on his part? I guess we might not have to worry about that as much with Slott not on the project, but still… Maybe it’s me, but I’m just sick and tired of anything “Spider-Verse-y.” We’ve got a Gwen with spider-powers…now MJ. Who else is on the list? It just seems creatively lazy to me.

  3. Just to dissent: the Clash character is a paroled felon, so him having the sonic-suit is akin to a man on parole having a loaded gun. Peter’s directives to him at the end, regarding the suit, are not out-of-order. Peter was actually acting sensibly — for the first time in months.

    1. “Just to dissent: the Clash character is a paroled felon, so him having the sonic-suit is akin to a man on parole having a loaded gun. Peter’s directives to him at the end, regarding the suit, are not out-of-order. Peter was actually acting sensibly — for the first time in months.”

      True. But it’s not always what you say — but how you say it. I can think of a certain billionaire/politician who could benefit from that advice.

      He might be a “good guy,” but Peter is still a vigilante. The way he delivered his message just came across as incredibly tool-ish to me. He was likening Cole to a drug addict. That’s not cool when the dude just tried to save your company and bring down a major super-villain. It’s even more annoying because the addict analogy can just as easily apply to Peter.

  4. The better writers make the fights about something bigger. The poor writers make the story about the fighting. Guess in which one of these two categories Slott belongs? But let’s face it, despite the mainstreaming of geek pop culture, comic-book writing is still very low on the literary totem pole. Maybe the only thing lower are romance paperbacks.

    1. “Maybe the only thing lower are romance paperbacks.”

      So what you’re saying is that for all of Dan Slott’s success in comics, he would be like the Shakespeare of Romance Novel writers? Haha.

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