|AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #602 cover by Adi Granov|
By Marc Strom
Fred Van Lente better not have a fear of spiders.
The writer swings into his first story arc as an official Webhead with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #602 on August 12, followed a week later by DARK REIGN: MISTER NEGATIVE #3 on August 19, which wraps up the origin story of one of Spidey's newest menaces.
As Van Lente makes his presence known in Peter Parker's life, he'll also bring back a familiar face for the "Red-Headed Stranger" storyline: The Chameleon.
"One of the more important aspects of the Chameleon, I think, is that no one should know very much about him-that's the key to his success," the writer says of the classic Spider-Man foe. "I will say that Chameleon has gone back to his roots as a freelance operative, is working for some 'Very Bad People' who want to cripple and/or harm New York City. And now that now J. Jonah Jameson is the mayor of Big Apple, anything [involving] city politics and the security of NYC is very much the concern of the AMAZING cast, and Spidey in particular."
In recent months, Van Lente has brought back a number of older Spider-foes, such as the Spot, frequently giving them an update or two along the way. However, he doesn't see his approach to the Chameleon in quite the same way.
"In my SUPER VILLAIN TEAM-UP: M.O.D.O.K.'S 11 limited series, we heavily implied that the insanity was just a ruse so he could fade into the background again. And as for the shape-shifting, didn't we do a whole event with shape-shifting aliens? Who wants to see more of that? If Chameleon still has his shape-shifting powers, he doesn't use them in this story-it's back to using masks again, which makes him, believe it or not, even more terrifying."
"Red-Headed Stranger" will also help to bring Mary Jane Watson back into Peter Parker's supporting cast, a task that, for Van Lente, has proven quite fruitful thus far.
|Mary Jane Watson|
"I came up with that tale-or at least the bare bones of it-prior to developing this Chameleon story, so everything from that informed this one, so it's all rather fortuitously seamless, in a kind of completely accidental way. Have I now thoroughly confused you? Let's just say Mary Jane has her own encounter with the Chameleon, which is extremely significant for the direction of the book and sets up serious shenanigans later on."
Over in DARK REIGN: MISTER NEGATIVE #3, Van Lente has had the opportunity to switch things up a little bit, with the titular villain taking possession of Spider-Man and using him in his war against the Hood's super-powered thugs. This role-reversal afforded Van Lente the chance to play with Spider-Man in ways fans don't often see.
And though Mister Negative has pulled Spidey out of his sleeve as his trump card, the circumstances which led to such a situation were anything but premeditated on the villain's part.
"One of the new villains in the Hood's costumed army is the Spot, and he teleported Mister Negative's usual assortment of minions, the Inner Demons, to Staten Island at the opening of the series," recounts Van Lente. "So really, simply to survive, Negative had to drum up some new recruits, and Spider-Man unwittingly blundered into his grasp."
So far, Van Lente tells us that he's enjoyed his time as a Webhead quite a bit.
"Most definitely," proclaims the writer. "The first things I remember actually reading on my own when I was a young squirt were the Pocket Books paperback reprints of the [Stan] Lee/[Steve] Ditko Spidey run. So really working on the title where I got my start in consciousness is literally a dream come true."
"I'll be collaborating on part of the upcoming mega-arc 'The Gauntlet' in AMAZING with the mega-talented Paolo Rivera," he shares. "A series-within-a-series with my 'Red-Headed' collaborator Mr. Barry Kitson that we were just talking about on the phone about how we're both really excited for it."
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