Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Writer: Peter David
Penciler / Layouts: Rich Buckler

Four-part whodunnit concerning the murder of not just the regular Police Captain Jean DeWolff, but a whole string of other victims too.

Given how all four episodes are scripted by resident Spider-comedian Peter David, it's a surprise what a dark, shocking tone this whole mystery carries. Spider-Man has encountered psychotic religious serial-killers before (this villain's motives don't seem that different to the Foolkiller's), but the creative team have clearly pulled-out all the stops to make this one actually hurt.

Each episode concludes with yet another life brutally snuffed-out.

When episode three closes with Peter's long-term friend Betty Leeds getting blown-away (above), it seems somewhat rash on the part of the writer. We don't mind one regular character getting sacrificed for the sake of a good story, but two? That just seems irresponsible. However, that is precisely the point - the Sin-Eater's actions are such senseless wastes.

With that in mind, it's almost a shame when the following issue reveals that Betty actually ducked under the desk at the last second and survived. Maybe someone should have forewarned the artist - just look at that telephone handset wavering in mid-air above. How did she both duck under the desk and leaving that thing floating up there?

That cheating panel aside, Rich Buckler's pencils work well with the fine inking of Brett Breeding, Josef Rubinstein, Kyle Baker and Pat Redding, to create a darkly dramatic context for these events. Even the credits are placed at the end of each issue, over a black background like a movie.

But this sure ain't just a shoot-em-up. There are several tough dilemmas for Spider-Man and his team-up pal Daredevil to wrestle with here. They include:

1. Matt Murdock allowing his friend to be gunned-down in front of him, sooner than save him and jeopardise his own secret identity.

2. Spider-Man dodging a bullet that instead kills a bystander.

3. Spider-Man letting the Sin-Eater get away because his Aunt May has collapsed.

4. Matt Murdock recognising the killer by his heartbeat at Jean's funeral, but also knowing that no-one present would believe him.

The final episode seems to end early with the Sin-Eater's fairly straightforward apprehension, lending the remaining half-a-comicbook a real uncomfortable edge. This is over now, isn't it?

No, now the US justice system takes over. Spidey and Daredevil have an enormous bust-up over the murderer's right to protection in the name of justice. It may be Spider-Man's comic, but for a while he's the bad guy. Hey - Peter Parker is only superhuman. Ultimately Daredevil has to risk publicly exposing Spider-Man's secret identity in order to save both his own life and Sin-Eater's. It's yet another hard call.

For all that, the series closes on quite a positive note. The ever justice-sensitive Daredevil redresses the balance of fairness by entrusting his own secret identity to Spider-Man. As a result, the friendship that seems to be developing on the final page looks to be a refreshingly authentic one. They still have a fundamental disagreement in their principles of right and wrong, but they also sound able to at least accept each other's differences.

Matt: "Thanks again for saving my hash back there."

Peter: "You stuck up for what you believed. I couldn't let them kill you just because you were doing what you felt was right."

Matt: "They felt what they were doing was right. Are you saying I was more right than they[?]"

Peter: "I hesitated. If you hadn't been down there, I don't know if I would have saved Stan. You... you were an innocent. Stan wasn't."

Matt: "Under the law he was. We have to have our system, Peter, or it falls apart. And, if it doesn't work, we make it work. We don't just ignore it. Again, Peter, what if it were Spider-Man, accused criminal, with his head on the block."


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