Monday, June 2, 2014

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #46

"DEADLY IS THE COBRA!"
Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: Mike Zeck | Inker: Bruce Patterson
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Petra Goldberg | Editor: Denny O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Cobra escapes from Ryker's Island on a stormy night. The next day, Barney Bushkin of the Daily Globe assigns Peter Parker to get some photos of the villain in action. Uncertain how to track Cobra down, Peter simply changes to Spider-Man and swings across the city that night, and eventually comes across his quarry robbing a jewelry store. The web-slinger and the Cobra duel on the rooftops and Spider-Man emerges victorious. But no sooner does he turn the villain over to the authorities, than Cobra escapes into the night.

The Sub-Plots: This issue features a return to classic Spider-Man sub-plot form. Peter attempts to make amends with Deb Whitman following a failed date in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and they agree to dinner the next night at Wesner's Pub. Then, their group one teaching assistant short, Peter is given his own cubicle after sharing one with Steve Hopkins for some time. Soon after, another T.A., Marcy Kane, shows up for work with her hair inexplicably tied up in a scarf, piquing the curiosity of Peter, Steve, and fellow T.A. Phil Chang.

Also, Peter briefly reflects that Barney Bushkin is, in a way, worse than Jonah Jameson as an editor -- and notes that the Daily Globe is a much less reputable newspaper than the Daily Bugle. Both these thoughts are presumably meant as set-up for Peter's impending return to the Bugle in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

Continuity Notes: At the issue's start, Cobra leaves his partner, Mr. Hyde, behind when he escapes from prison. As readers of this blog have recently seen, Hyde will seek revenge on Cobra in CAPTAIN AMERICA issues 251 and 252, set one week later and also written by Stern.
The aborted date between Peter and Debra was seen in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #207, the first issue written by Denny O'Neil and featuring Spider-Man's encounter with Mesmero.
According to Steve Hopkins, teaching assistant Chip Martin recently left following events depicted in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #39. That issue established Chip as the son of a New York state senator, and Chip's brief flirtation with super-powered madness, thwarted by Spider-Man, will eventually be used, years later, by Roger Stern to set the senator up as a suspect for the Hobgoblin's true identity.

Spider-Man compares the Cobra's speed to that of Quicksilver, who the web-slinger fought in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #71. Soon after, Cobra uses gas pellets against Spider-Man, prompting our hero to once again bemoan the number of foes who have attempted to gas him in recent weeks.
The issue's climax features an appearance by Lt. Kris Keating of New York's "Special Weapons Task Force" -- a souped-up SWAT team created to deal with super villains. Keating first appeared in DEFENDERS and popped up a handful of times prior to his appearance here, but as of this issue he becomes, pretty much exclusively, a minor Spider-Man supporting character for the duration of his existence. Keating will eventually be saddled with an inane and unnecessarily convoluted bit of retroactive continuity years later by Peter David, but for our purposes, for the duration of Roger Stern's run on Spider-Man, he is exactly who and what he appears to be.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "Bill [Mantlo] had established Pete's job as a teaching assistant and introduced the new ESU supporting cast, but he hadn't had time to really flesh them out. So when I came onto the book, I decided to loosely base the other teaching assistants on people at Marvel. And no, I'm not going to tell you who was based on whom.

"Funny thing about that, when I just made up some bit of business for the T.A.s, the readers seemed to buy into it totally. But when I had them pull shenanigans that were, shall we say, similar to actual events that had gone on in the office, I'd always get one or two letters complaining that "no one would act that crazy!"
-- "Roger Stern, the Spectacular Spider-Writer", MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics, March 2007
Spectacular Spider-Mail: Letters this month cover another pre-Stern issue, #38. However we do have one gem in the bunch, asking, "If Spidey has radioactive blood; how does a geiger counter react to him?" The one word response: "Excitedly."

Also On Sale This Month: Spider-Man battles Fusion, the Twin Terror in AMAZING #208, and skips an issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP, graciously allowing the Hulk to headline the title for #97.

My Thoughts: Before getting to anything else, I have to say that Mike Zeck turns in a far superior job here than in issue #43. The figures don't look so stiff and awkward, the backgrounds are much nicer, and the action is clean and easy to follow. It's like a completely different artist drew this one. Perhaps Bruce Patterson is just a much better inker for Zeck than was Steve Mitchell.

My only two complaints about the issue artistically are that Zeck's "elongated head syndrome" is very noticeable; and secondly, while much of the action takes place at night, the shading and colors make it appear to be a sunny day throughout. This is an especially glaring inconsistency following the beautiful first-page splash, which provides a wonderfully atmospheric set-up that unfortunately goes unfulfilled for the remainder of the issue.
Storywise, this may be Stern's strongest issue yet. He seems to be getting more comfortable with Spider-Man. His dialogue is still spot-on, and now the sub-plots begin to build as well. While the teaching assistants are not my preferred supporting cast for Peter Parker, Stern at least gives them some relatively entertaining scenes. Peter, Steve, and Phil speak with one another in a style that perfectly captures the way real friends often banter and jibe casually back and forth. Plus it's nice to see Peter actually spend a day teaching class, since that's supposedly his day job job at this point in his life.

I love the Cobra's vehement
response to Spider-Man's suggestion.
Like he took it seriously for a half-second.
The idea of Spider-Man swinging around the city searching for one lone super-villain -- a perfect case of digging for a needle in a haystack if ever there was one -- may seem unrealistic, but it's a tradition that dates back to the days of Stan Lee, so while I have a little trouble swallowing their inevitablely coincidental meeting, at least there's precendent. And once they cross paths,the fight between Spider-Man and Cobra makes up for any contrivances taken to get us there. Stern intentionally uses many non-traditional Spider-Man enemies during his run, and the match-ups are usually very entertaining. In this case, Spidey going up against someone at least as quick and agile as he is, and with the ability to scale walls to boot, is something that feels like it was an original idea around this time.

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