Marvel Database

Appearing in "Critical Mass!"

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Synopsis for "Critical Mass!"

Thermo the Thermatronic Man feels his bio-electric power increase as he grips Spider-Man around the throat and drains his body heat. Spider-Man sinks onto the rubble of the theater wall that Thermo just slammed him into — the very theater where Dazzler performs her stage act. Across the street, Paladin slowly regains consciousness after having been smashed through a plate-glass window by Thermo. Only the armor in his costume kept him from being killed. Suddenly, Thermo is distracted by a brilliant light display, and he lets go of Spider-Man to face Dazzler.

Having heard the commotion and gone outside, Dazzler uses her mutant ability to temporarily blind the Thermatronic Man. Then, Spider-Man's recuperative powers quickly restore some of his strength, and he manages to stagger Thermo with a punch to the back. At the same time, Paladin shoots Thermo with his nullifier. Although the weapon again fails to knock him out, Thermo is so overwhelmed by the triple attack that he runs away down an alley. Hurling a trailer truck between himself and the pursuing Spider-Man and Paladin, he vows to return to crush them. Then, he leaps over a fence and escapes. When Paladin sees the gorgeous Dazzler, his eyes light up. However, they hear police sirens, so they quickly carry Spider-Man to Dazzler's nearby apartment.

As they climb the stairs, Stella, a tenant, sees them and complains to Harry, her husband, about the wildlife that the "new young lady" seems to lead. Soon, Spider-Man is huddled under a blanket, and Dazzler, now out of costume as Alison Blaire, serves him a cup of tea to warm him up. Paladin removes his helmet before joining them, and Alison asks him what the battle was all about. Paladin reviews Thermo's origin and explains that he is working for Thermo's wife, Christine Michaels. Thermo murdered his onetime friend and assistant, Dr. Paul Bradshaw, continues Paladin, and now the "maniac" is on the loose.

When Paladin finishes, he tosses Spider-Man the nullifier and prepares to leave. Offering sometime soon to "find more pleasant things to discuss, in candlelight at Regine's," Paladin bids Dazzler farewell. They should all rendezvous at Christine's laboratory tonight, he says as he goes through the door, and resume tracking Thermo down. Then, Spider-Man tries to web-swing out of the apartment, but his clouded vision and unsteady hands render his web-shooters useless. Alison catches him before he falls out of the window, and as he collects his wits, he hopes that Thermo has not destroyed his spider-powers permanently. Dazzler turns on her stereo and converts some of the soft music into a soothing light to calm Spider-Man and ease his tensions.

Meanwhile, Thermo finds an abandoned building to use as a hideout and smashes through the wall; however, he hears voices and soon discovers a room where a cloaked and hooded figure is leading a group of cultists in a peculiar chant. The cult leader knows that his incantation is a complete sham used to dupe his followers. As he pretends to call forth a demon named Yogoth, Thermo suddenly enters.

At first, the cultists protest that he is a lunatic, but when he demonstrates his bio-electric blasts, they become silent. The leader realizes that Thermo is a deranged person with some kind of super-human power, but he goes along with him, thinking he might prove useful. Then, Thermo starts to harangue the "worshipers," telling them that they will be the core of a new movement that will sweep the entire planet.

As dawn breaks over the city, Spider-Man awakens in Alison's apartment to the aroma of coffee and scrambled eggs. Except for some muscular pain, he is completely recovered, and he thanks her profusely for her help. When he sees a portrait of her parents on the wall, he asks about them, but she is unwilling to discuss them. Suddenly, she shrieks, and Spider-Man, startled, leaps onto the wall. She points to something crawling on the floor, but Spider-Man sees that it is just one of his spider-tracers and begins to chuckle. She tells him to eat his breakfast.

Spider-Man soon web-swings out over the city and notices that his balance and agility are still not quite perfect. Fortunately, as it is Sunday, he is not expected at the Bugle or at the university, so he decides to take it easy and save his strength for the upcoming battle against Thermo. Meanwhile, at the Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson discusses the Spider-Man menace feature in the day's edition with his editor Joe Robertson. Robertson says that the public generally discounts his anti-Spider-Man editorials now and that the newspaper could "come up with egg on its face" by insisting that Spider-Man is the Street Stalker. Jameson appreciates Robertson's caution, but he remains firmly convinced that they have Spider-Man dead to rights. Just then, Lance Bannon enters, and Robertson is reminded that this ambitious photographer means to have Peter Parker's job at the Bugle.

Peter, meanwhile, returns to his apartment to study the nullifier that Paladin gave him, wondering why it had no effect on Thermo. Since his powers cannot yet be relied on, he hopes to find a way to increase the device's power. Elsewhere in the city, Thermo continues to captivate to the cultists, promising to transform them into an invincible army. One of them finally declares that Thermo is a fraud, but Thermo causes him to die in screaming pain. This quickly convinces the others, and they bow down in worship. Then, he says that he has a mission for them.

That night, as Christine Michaels is in her laboratory contemplating what to do if Spider-Man and Paladin cannot stop her deranged husband, a group of cultists break-in. With fanatic urgency, they kidnap her and carry the microwave chamber that created Thermo into a waiting truck. Across town, Dazzler finishes her performance to a most appreciative audience and heads for her dressing room. Among the attendees, however, is the cult leader himself, Mark Hamilton, and some more of the cultists. As Dazzler starts to remove her makeup, she hears someone at the door. Thinking her visitors are fans, she lets them in, but they suddenly attack and knock her unconscious.

When Spider-Man enters the Michaels laboratory, he is dismayed to find the microwave chamber and Christine are both absent. Paladin, however, is present, and Spider-Man shows him the newly modified nullifier. The original nullifier is now inside a helmet amplifier that will greatly intensify its effect, he explains. It should alter Thermo's body the same way that he originally received his powers, he adds, and it can also track Thermo by picking up his unique bio-electrical energies.

In his basement headquarters, Thermo addresses his wife, arrogantly declaring that the man she once sought to murder has become a god. Saddened by her husband's insanity, she does not reply. Dazzler also looks on in silence, realizing that there isn't enough sound in the room for her to generate light. Thermo accuses Dazzler of interfering in his battle against Spider-Man, which, had he subdued the crimefighter, would have doubled his power. Suddenly, Spider-Man and Paladin crash through the door. Spider-Man ducks to allow Paladin to stun-blast the cultists, and Thermo prepares to let loose a force-blast. Then, Dazzler stamps down hard on Hamilton's foot and escapes the cultist guarding her. Quickly affixing roller-skate wheels on her boots, she turns on her pocket radio, whose sound she can convert into light to use as a weapon.

Meanwhile, Paladin and Spider-Man dodge Thermo's force-blasts, and then Spider-Man tries to slip the nullifier helmet on the evildoer's head. Unfortunately, Thermo slaps him away. Then, Dazzler focuses her light into a mini laser-burst at Thermo's feet. Spider-Man spins himself a pair of boxing gloves out of webbing, to avoid touching Thermo in the battle, and starts to batter him. Then, the cultists run toward the microwave chamber, which they believe will give all of them Thermo's powers. Fortunately, Paladin holds them back with his gun, and then Dazzler emits a painful, blinding light-burst that causes them to black out.

Spider-Man tries to stick Thermo to the floor with web-fluid, but Thermo blasts free. Then, Spider-Man leaps into Thermo and smashes him into a pillar. Unwilling to see her husband beaten up, Christine suddenly runs to him from the shadows. He grabs her hand, trying to replenish his bio-electric energies, but before he can absorb her body heat, Dazzler emits another blinding light-burst. Thermo retaliates with a force-blast of his own, powered by the energy being drained from his wife. Dazzler dodges his force-blasts on her skates, and then Paladin throws Spider-Man the helmet. Quickly, he web-swings down from behind and slips the helmet on Thermo's head. In seconds, it consumes Thermo's energy, and a final punch from Paladin knocks him out.

Relieved that the battle is over, Christine weeps for her husband, hoping that his mind can be restored. Dazzler is exhausted, and Spider-Man lets her lean on him for support. Stunned and leaderless, the cultists are ready to be taken into custody. Paladin puts away his weapon, somewhat disappointed that he, of all people, seems to have no girl at the end of the battle. But, he thinks, at least he will end up with some money.

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