"Game's End" (1996/08/01) from Spider-Man Unlimited 14 (November 1996)
Reader Rating: Average; Thunderbolts Interest: Medium
Summary: This one's a little messy, but here we go: The Great Game faces internal corruption. Players in it for the money, rather than the thrills, like Rocket Racer and the Prowler, are staging mock battles. El Toro Negro (here translating himself to Black Bull) pretends that he has killed the Scarlet Spider. But when a murdered scientist's son (and experimental subject) is abducted, Peter Parker decides it's time to get involved.
Unfortunately, there's not much Peter can do since he is currently without his powers. So it's up to Ben Reilly, now Spider-Man, to weed his way through multiple levels of deception and various other players (Chance, Joystick, Polestar) and heroes (Cardiac, Nightwatch) to bust up the game and save the boy.
Continuity: Janice is revealed to be "Director of Marketing" at Chi-Huan Associates. The company's President, Chu Chi Huan, is revealed to be Joystick's sponsor in the Great Game. The script never quite knots it all together, but Huan is probably the unidentified Asian man that El Toro Negro disguises as the Scarlet Spider before slaying in the opening scene. Joystick makes a confusing comment that her sponsor has not yet fit her with a "new pair a' sticks," but she appears to use her energy truncheons later, so I'm not sure what she's talking about. Spidey stands up to Joystick's attack without much trouble, so his earlier impression of her strength being greater than his may have been an exaggeration. Joystick learns that her victory over El Toro Negro was staged. Both she and the sponsors appear to be disillusioned in the game, at least temporarily.
Publication date is December, but the story clearly takes place before Onslaught, so I have placed it a few months earlier.
Comments: If the plot summary seems a bit convoluted, well, so's the book. It's never made quite clear why El Toro Negro disguises his first victim as the Scarlet Spider and the final revelation -- that El Toro Nego has been manipulating the Game as an agent of Justin Hammer -- is just one plot spin too many. The story is also used for some third-tier housecleaning: Polestar is killed, Nightwatch is killed, and the Prowler is crippled -- The events are unnecessarily brutal, and do nothing to advance the story.
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This page was revised on January 16, 2005
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