As Spider-Man is attacked from all sides by his deadliest enemies, one fight puts him at a huge disadvantage.

“The Gauntlet” put Spider-Man through the wringer as he faced off against nearly a dozen of his most classic villains, all leading up to an epic confrontation with the heirs to one of his greatest nemeses. In the wake of a catastrophic attack that saw the former Daily Bugle building razed to the ground, tensions are running high and resources are running out.

When one of his friends needs him, Peter Parker is there to take up the investigation, one that sees him come face to face with one of his deadliest enemies. Not only is Peter going to have to fight Sandman on his own turf, but this fight gives the villain a literal homefield advantage.

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In 2009’s Amazing Spider-Man #615 by Fred Van Lente and Javier Pulido, a string of murders have broken out in the wake of Electro‘s rampage. Peter’s friend Carlie is on the hook for three murder weapons that have gone missing from their lockers, only empty bags and grains of sand left behind. She begs Peter to believe her when she says she is innocent, and after giving him a rundown of each of the killings he heads off to investigate further. As Spider-Man, he visits the home of the first victim, a woman names Alma Alvarato. He discovers one wall of her apartment covered in photos of various supervillains, and among them is none other than Flint Marko, aka Sandman. Before he can do any further sleuthing, an elderly woman bursts into the room and fires off a round from her shotgun at him. After explaining himself, she tells him that Alma dated supervillains for the thrill.

She also says that her granddaughter, Keemia, went missing after her mother was killed, witnesses claiming she was led away by a snowman. Peter goes to gather information on the other victims, soon realizing they’re all connected to Marko. He leaves for Governor’s Island after it comes up, and the hot tip pays off in the worst kind of way. There’s no one on the island when he arrives, but he knows he isn’t alone. Spider-Man calls out to Sandman only to be greeted in multitudes. Taking on one Sandman is easy enough, but an army of them is far more than Spider-Man can handle, and he is quickly overwhelmed and incapacitated. When he comes to, he is shackled to a wall in front of none other than Keemia, alive and well, and also perturbed at the Wall-Crawler’s intrusion into her kingdom. Keemia believes that Marko is her father and wants to stay.

Not only has Sandman been able to make copies of himself, but he has built her a towering castle on the island, one composed of the very same sand he himself is made of. Peter tries to escape with her, but Sandman and his clones are everywhere, though they aren’t all on the same wavelength.  The hero figures out that Sandman’s clones were responsible for the killings, which Flint Marko proper doesn’t even recall happening. He has far less control over his copies than he thought, and the fact that he is so far removed from his subconscious urges puts Keemia in danger as well. Sandman isn’t willing to let Keemia go, even in the face of such devastating revelations, so the chase is back on.

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Sandman and his clones can’t agree on who is right or wrong for the killings, but they can all agree that they need to get their “daughter” back. Sandman reforms himself into one giant mass and follows close behind Spider-Man and Keemia. Peter discovers a building just off the island full of giant ventilation fans and lures the villain inside. Sandman is able to get ahold of Keemia, but he’s not quite fast enough to catch Spidey, who with one final attack is able to throw Sandman into one of the outgoing fans, the massive blades ripping him through and dispersing his body into the air outside faster than he can stop it.

When the living dust is settled, Spider-Man is able to clear Carlie’s name and return Keemia to the city, though she doesn’t get the fairy tale ending she wanted. The young girl ends up in a bad foster home where she’s immediately pushed aside, but she still has hope that one day the man she thinks is her father will come to save her. Spider-Man titles aren’t known for shying away from dark subjects when they come up, but such a bleak ending still having such a clear silver lining at least ensures that a happy ending is still to come.

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