Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: Marie Severin
Inks & Letters: Bruce Patterson | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Dennis O'Neil | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Peter Parker is out with Deb Whitman when he sees a news report implicating Spider-Man in a robbery/murder at a luxury apartment in the Powers Arms apartment building. After seeing Deb off, Peter heads to the scene of the crime. Using his Daily Globe press credentials to get in, he learns that the burglar surprised the apartment's owner and killed her bodyguard as he escaped. The police find webbing on the roof, the remnants of Peter's makeshift backpack left only moments before when he arrived at the building, leading them to further believe Spider-Man's guilt.

Peter, however, thinks the clues add up to his one-time rival, the Prowler, and heads to the apartment of Hobie Brown, the man behind the Prowler's mask. But Hobie declares he has sworn off costumed activity. He tries to show Spider-Man that he has mothballed his outfit and gear, but his storage locker has been robbed. The next night, realizing a new Prowler is on the loose, Spider-Man combs the city in search of his quarry. He soon falls into a trap in the garment district, where the new Prowler lures the web-slinger into a sealed, gas-filled room prepared by his employer, Belladonna -- who promptly closes the door on both Spider-Man and Prowler.
The Sub-Plots: Despite Debra's invitation to "come in for a minute", Peter leaves her to head for the Powers Arms. The next day, still distracted by Spider-Man's predicament, Peter brushes her off again, breaking her heart (according to the narration).
The new Prowler turns out to be the "Cat Burglar", a villain from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #30, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Under orders from Belladonna, he has been robbing fashion designers, furthering Belladonna's connection to the fashion world as established in her first appearance.

Peter pays a visit to Aunt May at the Restwell Nursing Home, her place of residence at this point in Spider-Man's history. Our hero is pleased to learn that, thanks to his recently saving her life, May has become a staunch supporter of Spider-Man, where once she feared and disliked him.

Continuity Notes: As the story opens, Peter and Deb are on their date at Wesner's pub, promised last issue and implying that this story begins the night after Spider-Man's fight with the Cobra. Additionally, the police note that Spider-Man's encounter with Belladonna at Roderick Kingsley's fashion show in issue #43 took place "a week or so ago".

Sergeant Lou Snider, an NYPD detective, makes his first appearance in this story. He will pop up a few more times throughout Stern's run as the writer attempts to broaden Spider-Man's pool of law-enforcement contacts. Snider has no interaction with the web-slinger here, however, speaking only with Peter Parker.

Also making her debut, as the owner of the apartment burglarized by the new Prowler, is Desiree Vaughn-Pope, a fashion designer and rival of Roderick Kingsley (who himself is mentioned but not seen). Peter believes there is something familiar about her, wondering if they've met before.
As Spider-Man heads to Queens to visit Hobie Brown, he recalls their first meeting in the Stan Lee/John Romita classic, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #93. During their chat, Hobie mentions his failed attempt to join the Defenders in issue #64 of their own series as the event that humiliated him into leaving the costumed life.
Later, after leaving Hobie's apartment, Spider-Man heads past Aunt May's old house, the place where he grew up, and recalls the death of the burglar who killed Uncle Ben, which occurred in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #200.

AMAZING 200 is referenced again when Peter visits Aunt May at the nursing home, where we catch our first glimpse of the yet-unnamed Nathan Lubensky -- a creation of Stern's who will go on, mostly under subsequent writers, to become a major supporting character in Peter's life for the entire decade of the eighties.

When Spider-Man comes face-to-face with Belladonna again, he recalls their first encounter in Stern's first issue, #43.

Detective Stern (a.k.a. "Donovan")
Uncle Rog Speaks: "All my artists brought something different and exciting to the mix, but I have to say that working with Marie [Severin] was an absolute delight. No matter what crazy thing I asked her to draw, she would make it work. ... Marie even drew me into a story as a plainclothes cop." -- "Roger Stern, the Spectacular Spider-Writer", MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics, March 2007

Spectacular Spider-Mail: Bill Mantlo answers letters this time, as they pertain to his stories in issues 39 and 40, which featured Spider-Man's transformation into the "Spider-Lizard" (and why Gerry Conway's Spider-Hulk gets so much hate but Spider-Lizard gets a pass, I'll never understand).

Also On Sale This Month: It's Spider-Man vs. Kraven the Hunter in AMAZING #209 and Spider-Man alongside Black Widow in MARVEL TEAM-UP #98. Plus, Spidey and Dr. Strange battle Dr. Doom and Dormammu in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #14!

My Thoughts: Now with a few issues under his belt, Stern begins in earnest to develop his own continuity for Spider-Man. Sub-plots continue to progress, with the Peter/Debra relationship tossed into the throes of some classic Spider-Man angst. Plus we get a check-in with Aunt May, who Stern will continue to use regularly during his SPECTACULAR run. I admit that I haven't read much of Denny O'Neil's contemporaneous tenure on AMAZING, so I'm unsure if he was simply not using May, or if she was pulling double duty as a cast member in both books. In any case, Stern seems to have a clear fondness for the character, and the development that May has moved past her irrational fear of Spider-Man following his heroics in AMAZING #200 is a welcome bit.

Stern also revisits his first new villain, after giving her four issues off, with the return of Belladonna. Her connection to the fashion industry is teased again as she is seen to have a hideout in the garment district and she has employed the Prowler to rob several designers. The story seems to be setting Desiree Vaughn-Pope up as Belladonna -- both women dislike Roderick Kingsley; Belladonna has considerable resources which a wealthy woman like Desiree could have access to; Desiree is a fashion designer and Peter feels like he knows her from someplace -- but next issue will let us know for sure if that's the route Stern is taking.
And in addition to returning to the Belladonna well, Stern also digs a bit deeper to unearth some minor Stan Lee/Steve Ditko/John Romita characters who haven't seen the pages of a Spider-Man book in quite some time. I've always thought the Prowler was a really cool looking character, so seeing him back in action is a treat. I miss his cape, though -- as does Spider-Man, who even comments that the new Prowler lacks his predecessor's "snazzy cape". I've only read AMAZING #30 once, but it seems to me that a guy called the Cat Burglar is a good choice to succeed Hobie Brown as the Prowler.
There's a bit involving the Cat Burglar/Prowler that I've always enjoyed in this issue, where he's seen as remorseful over the accidental death of Desiree's bodyguard during his burglary attempt. It's a nice touch to remind readers that not all supervillains are homicidal maniacs. There are plenty of criminals for whom murder is not something they want to commit -- even if, as implied here, it's only out of their own sense of self-preservation. It helps to humanize a villain without making him sympathetic, which is a tough line to walk.
Also -- I made a comment last issue that it's a stretch when Spider-Man goes swinging around the entire city searching for one single supervillain. Well, it seems Roger Stern recognizes this trope as well. He pays it brief lip service with Spider-Man wondering how many miles of webbing he's wasted in such a fashion -- just before he finally finds the Prowler. It makes for a funny bit with Spidey mirroring the readers' own thoughts -- how does this ever work? -- just before the absurd tactic pays off, as usual.

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