Appearing in "Masquerade"
- New York City
- New York University Medical Center
- 70th Street
Synopsis for "Masquerade"
Edward Whelan and Ashley Kafka have been kidnapped by a group of deformed mutates. Edward recognizes them as experiments created by Baron Zemo and fears that Zemo has sent for him to be changed back into Vermin. He tries to flee, but the creatures hold him down. He begins to lose control, transforming into Vermin. Meanwhile, Spider-Man has just learned about Kafka and Whelan's kidnapping and is investigating the scene of their abduction. He is soon joined by Detective Angela Cairn, who is not impressed to see the scene, particularly since five police officers were murdered the last time Vermin escaped from Kafka's care.[Continuity 1] Spider-Man insists that not only was Ashley making progress with Edward, she had cured him. Cairn sees it otherwise, pointing out the damage done to the facility. This angers the wall-crawler who storms out without another word.
Elsewhere, Baron Zemo is looking at his hands and remarking how beautiful and delicate they look. This is in stark contrast to his face which is horribly scarred. He can finally relate to his father, the original Baron Zemo, who always hid his face behind a mask.[Continuity 2] Deciding to stop hiding behind a mask, Heinrich Zemo tosses his mask into the nearby fireplace, symbolically saying goodbye to his late father. By this time, Spider-Man has returned to his apartment where he sits alone in the dark to dwell on his own thoughts.
Back below the surface of the city, Vermin pulls himself away from the creatures and takes on a defensive posture. Vermin is convinced that they are going to take him back to Baron Zemo. However, one of the creatures explains that they are on their own. That they were left in the care of SHIELD after they were rescued by Captain America.[Continuity 3] These mutates found the experience as horrific as being experimented upon by Baron Zemo and so they escaped. However, living individually was difficult until one of their number began gathering the rest, explaining that they need to remain together in order to survive. They have all come seeking Vermin to be their leader. Vermin accepts this offer, but Ashley protests. She tries to remind Edward of who he really is and that he doesn't need Vermin in order to survive. This angers Vermin who refuses to go away. He threatens Ashley but decides to spare her life because she was so kind to him. Vermin then leads the gathered mutates onward into the darkness. At that same moment, Baron Zemo says his final farewells to his father and puts on his mask. Realizing that old habits die hard, Baron Zemo removes the mask and tosses it into the fireplace as well.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man is swinging across the city, trying to make sense of his recent encounter with the Black Crow.[Continuity 4] His thoughts are interrupted by a group of police cars speeding down the street. Spider-Man follows and discovers Vermin and his new charges looting a grocery store. Spider-Man fights through them to get at Vermin, demanding to know what happened to Dr. Kafka. Spider-Man's beating triggers a transformation back into Edward Wheland. Edward tells the wall-crawler that Ashley is okay, but she needs help. He knows where she is, but the mutates are a concern and they won't listen to anyone by Vermin. They are soon warmed by the mutates and knocked out. When Spider-Man regains consciousness, he finds himself in the mutate's underground den with Edward and Ashley Kafka.[Continuity 5] The other mutates have decided that Spider-Man and Dr. Kafka are no different than Captain America, Baron Zemo, and the SHIELD scientists and decree that they are to die. That's when Edward pleads on their behalf, saying that they have helped him try and get his humanity back. That in killing them will also kill any hope they all have in regaining their lost humanity. Edward's words get through to the mutates who agree to trust him.
Suddenly, Spider-Man's spider-sense begins going off, and he tries to warn every one of danger. However, this happens too late and one of the mutates is gunned down by Baron Zemo. Spider-Man leaps at him and quickly disarms the Neo-Nazi. Baron Zemo is hardly surprised that he that a costumed hero has come to interfere in his business. He explains that he has come to reclaim his creations. Much to Spider-Man's horror, Zemo is able to command the mutates, including Vermin, to do his bidding and orders them to eat Ashley Kafka alive.
- Vermin's last escape from captivity was depicted in Spectacular Spider-Man #178.
- The Original Baron Zemo had his mask glued to his face by the powerful chemical known as Adhesive X as revealed in Avengers #6. He later died in a battle against Captain America in Avengers #15. More recently, Heinrich had his own face marred by Adhesive X in Captain America #168.
- Zemo's mutates, including Vermin, were freed in Captain America #278.
- Spider-Man encountered the Black Crow in Spectacular Spider-Man #191–193.
- Spider-Man states that he hasn't felt this great since Kraven the Hunter buried him alive. That happened during the events of Kraven's Last Hunt.
Kraven's Last Hunt Web of Spider-Man #31 Amazing Spider-Man #293 Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #131 Web of Spider-Man #32 Amazing Spider-Man #294 Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #132