Appearing in "Skin Deep"
- Dryrot (Paul Contoni)
- Sheryl Contoni (Photo)
- Michael Contoni (Photo)
- J. Jonah Jameson (Only in flashback)
- Portland (Oregon)
- GARID Labs
- New York City
Synopsis for "Skin Deep"
Spider-Man has spent the entire night searching for the killer known as Tendril in order to bring him to justice. As the sun begins to rise, the wall-crawler is exhausted and his mind continues to focus on the fact that his wife Mary Jane has left him.[Continuity 1] Although he thinks he is doing the right thing, he can understand why his wife left.[Continuity 2] He remembers seeing the letter waiting for him when he came home. He didn't even bother reading the whole thing before his anger prompted him to crumple it up and toss it away. After checking his voicemail messages, Peter realizes that he is running late for an appointment Calvin Falconer. The pair were going to go out and visit Paul Contoni, a previous patient of the late Doctor Monica Staphos, a man who may hold the key to curing Tendril of his condition. As Peter rushes to make his appointment, Tendril pays a visit to his mother's grave.[Continuity 3] He thinks about how she died of a drug overdose when he was only two years old, leaving him in the care of his father, an abusive drug addict. He thinks about what this has left him, and decides that what little he has -- anger, hatred, and pain -- is for him to give to the world. With that, the man who has once River Verys walks off to carry on his destiny.
Meanwhile, back in New York, Mary Jane has been staying at Aunt May's old house.[Continuity 4] When she is awoken by the alarm clock, she wonders why Peter hasn't called her and she wonders if he even read her note.[Continuity 5] While in Manhattan, Ken Ellis is getting ready for the day after a late night of watching all of Spider-Man's television appearances.[Continuity 6] He has been investigating the connections between Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Since Joe Robertson refuses to fly Ken out to Portland, he decides to question others who had past encounters with the wall-crawler, starting with his co-worker Betty Brant. Back in Portland, Peter Parker and Calvin Falconer -- GAIRD's head of security and a former SHIELD agent -- arrive at the home of Paul Contoni.
Contoni, who suffers from a horrifying skin disease tells both men to go away, even though he knows why they have come he has no interest in helping them catch Tendril. Falconer is about to go back into his jeep to get his tranquilizer gun but Peter stops him. Parker points out that after everything Contoni has endured, he has every right to privacy and to shut the outside world out of his life. Although Calvin thinks this whole trip was a waste, Peter has already decided to pay Paul a visit later, as Spider-Man. Back in Manhattan, Ken Ellis sits down with Betty Brant to talk about her past history with Spider-Man and Peter Parker. She relates to the time that her brother Bennett got in deep due to his gambling debts. Initially, she blamed Spider-Man for her brother's death but now realizes that it was really Doctor Octopus that was responsible.[Continuity 7] She doesn't recall Peter being there to take photos of Spider-Man that time, but she remembers how Parker always did reckless things in those days, like the time he impersonated Spider-Man to save her from Doctor Octopus.[Continuity 8] Betty then recalls how she and Peter used to date back then, and then talks about how Peter looked after his Aunt May because his uncle was murdered.[Continuity 9] Ellis finds this all interesting, noting to himself how the murder of Ben Parker happened between Spider-Man's last television appearance and the beginning of his career as a superhero. Meanwhile, Mary Jane is at a photo shoot for a new line of maternity clothing, but her mind is still on Peter. After the shoot, she tries to call her husband again but gets the voice mail. Unsure what to say, she hangs up without leaving a message, and worries about Peter even more than before. Later that day, Ken Ellis returns to the Daily Bugle and tries to convince Joe Robertson to let him go to Portland to follow his story. Robertson still refuses to sign off on the flight reminding Ellis that he still has the Havershaw story to investigate, especially if he wants to get the front page for that story. Ellis then storms out of Joe's apartment and bumps into Mary Jane. He's surprised to see her in Manhattan, but his questions are shrugged off.
It's evening in Portland when Peter Parker returns to Paul Contoni's home as Spider-Man. Swinging between the trees he becomes aware of some strange brown flakes and follows them to their source. With his spider-sense tingling, he is horrified to see what Contoni has become -- a creature of dead skin cells. What's even more surprising is the fact that he is brawling with a grizzly bear. Against his better judgment, the wall-crawler keeps between Contoni and the bear, separating the two combatants. Spider-Man tries to convince Paul to help him with Tendril, but the man-monster refuses and lashes out. At first, the web-head calms Paul down by appealing to the fact that they both were changed by accidents. He even suggests that his help can not only help cure Tendril but Paul as well. Spider-Man also explains that it could help him learn more about the baby he has on the way. When Spider-Man implies his concerns about his child turning into a monster, Paul becomes enraged again and attacks. His first blow sends Spider-Man crashing into Contoni's home. There he finds a family photo and realizes that his family left him when the cure for his necrotizing fascitis turned him into the creature he is now. Spider-Man reminds him that a cure would mean that Paul could get his family back. As Contoni begins to listen, Tendril stalks the streets of Portland, finding himself a fresh victim. Back in Queens, Mary Jane invites Ben Reilly over for coffee so the two can talk about Peter. She is surprised to see that Ben bleached his hair blonde. Ben explains that he needed to do something to change his look so people stopped mistaking him for Peter Parker.[Continuity 10] Their get-together is interrupted by a visit by Ken Ellis who shocks Mary Jane with a preview of the front page of tomorrow's Daily Bugle. The cover story reads "Spider-Man Identity Revealed!" showing a cross-sected picture of Peter Parker and Spider-Man.
Back at GAIRD, Paul is convinced to come in for tests which are being run by Peter Parker and Eric Schwinner. They believe that they might be able to cure Paul of his condition but they will need to capture Tendril in order to do so. The stakes are much higher for Peter Parker, who has just discovered that he has contracted necrotizing fasciitis and the potential cure will come at the cost of his spider-powers.