Wednesday, May 28, 2014

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #45

"WINGS OF FIRE, WINGS OF FEAR"
Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: Marie Severin | Inker: Steve Mitchell
Letterer: Michael Higgins | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Editor: Dennis O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man manages to escape from his coffin after it has left the sight of the Vulture and his men. While Vulture leads a toast to celebrate the web-slinger's demise, Black Alfred shows up. Knowing that Alfred has been conspiring against him, the Vulture smacks him around a bit, until Spider-Man crashes back into the room, still chained up. Vulture grabs Malachai and retreats, and Black Alfred makes a run for it as well -- but Spider-Man and the remaining mobsters are trapped in the building, now set ablaze by the furnace following the wall-crawler's escape.

Spider-Man snaps his chains and leads the criminals to safety, webbing them to a lamppost outside. Black Alfred, meanwhile, sneaks up on the Vulture and Malachai in an alleyway and guns down the Vulture's nephew. Vulture flies into a vengeful rage, but Spider-Man rescues Black Alfred from a fatal beating. Spidey and the Vulture take their battle airborne while the police arrive to arrest Black Alfred.

Vulture carries Spider-Man across the city and the fight eventually ends in Grand Central Station, where the Vulture knocks himself out by flying into a window while attempting escape. The authorities take the Vulture into custody while Spider-Man heads to the Daily Globe for the street clothes he had stashed there earlier, and changes back to Peter Parker.

The Sub-Plots: None this issue.

Continuity Notes: Spider-Man recalls being gassed by Malachai last issue. Another note to the previous installment comes during the Vulture's toast when some of his gangsters recall being roughed up by Spider-Man earlier in the evening.

During his scuffle with the Vulture, Black Alfred notes that he took control of Harlem's gangs after someone named Morgan went to prison in MARVEL TEAM-UP #88.

Malachai puts in his final appearance here as he takes a bullet meant for his uncle. Following his nephew's death, the Vulture states that it was Malachai who saved him following his previous defeat in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #5. Spider-Man also references issue #5 during his battle with the Vulture, noting that this is the second time he's played possum to trick his foe.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "'The Return of the Vulture' was one of the first early Spider-stories that I read in MARVEL TALES, and I've loved the old bird ever since. Spider-Man fighting the Vulture exemplifies youth and enthusiasm versus old age and treachery! Here's this crotchety old guy who basically doesn't like anybody, and he's strong enough to give a young punk like Spider-Man a run for his money." -- "Roger Stern, the Spectacular Spider-Writer", MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics, March 2007

Also On Sale This Month: Mesmero confounds Spider-Man in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #207, the first issue by new regular writer Denny O'Neil. MARVEL TEAM-UP #96 features the web-slinger's encounter with Howard the Duck.

My Thoughts: While not perfect, this issue is a definite step up from the last installment. There is a notable increase in artistic quality as Marie Severin, ostensibly the series' regular penciler, comes aboard. Her Spider-Man reminds one of John Romita's, and her secondary characters, including the Vulture, are a very nice mix of "comic book serious" and "comic strip cartoony" at the same time.

Stern provides a welcome deepening of the Vulture's characterization, as well. Last issue he set New York's gangsters on missions to recover random objects for him, merely to prove their loyalty. Here it is revealed that the whole thing was really a scam designed to draw Black Alfred into the open, while at the same time weeding out the lesser men in his organization.

I don't really buy the Vulture's attempt to seize control of the underworld in the first place, as organized crime has never seemed to be of much interest to him. Stern seems to realize that as well, throwing in a quickie line in which the Vulture himself notes that he had never considered something like this before. There is no reasoning for why he's opted to do it now, other than the Kingpin's absense, I suppose, but the lip service is appreciated, at least.
The climactic battle in Grand Central Station is a nifty set piece, too. I've never been there, but Severin's depiction looks exactly like every movie and TV show I've ever seen set in that location. And Stern closes things out on a great note as well, showing us the Vulture in a legitimately sympathetic light as, dazed following his crash landing, he moans about Malachai's death leaving him alone in the world. Stern even draws a parallel between Peter Parker and the Vulture, as the old man's ramblings remind Peter of his own long-dead Uncle Ben.
Overall, this is a solid issue. The lack of sub-plots and soapy Peter Parker scenes is a bit of a negative mark, but given that this is part two of a story begun by another writer, Stern does an admirable job of tying the plot up.

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