Monday, June 16, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Jim Mooney
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Dennis O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Still holding the Smuggler with one hand and unable to reload his web-shooters, Spider-Man decides to walk his prisoner to the police. But first he checks on the Smuggler's men, who have recovered from last issue's fight and are lying in wait to ambush the wall-crawler. Alerted by his spider-sense, our hero pushes the Smuggler into the room first, and he is K.O.d by his own men. Spider-Man then takes the goons out and finally reloads his webbing. After webbing up the Smuggler's men, Spider-Man leaves with the villain and hops a ride on the nearest train back to Manhattan. But the Smuggler gets loose and another brief fight breaks out, culminating in the villain being electrocuted into unconsciousness by the third rail. A bystander calls for the police, and Spider-Man finally heads home.

The next day, Peter Parker and Debra Whitman meet Aunt May and her fiance, Nathan Lubensky, at the Restwell Nursing Home. The group goes out to lunch, but their meal is interrupted by a group of surly waiters. Peter removes one of the men's life-like masks to reveal that they are actually aliens. The aliens declare that they are after the treasure of Dutch Mallone, and Peter says that only he knows where it is. The aliens abduct Peter, bringing him aboard their spacecraft, where our hero is confronted by their new ally -- Mysterio.

The Sub-Plots: Peter is still in shock over Aunt May's engagement. After calling Debra to invite her as his date to the nursing home, he recalls Phil Chang's statement last issue that she is attracted to him, and considers being nicer to her.
Also, during the call we learn that Debra apparently sleeps in the nude -- which seems a bit out-of-character for the innocent prude. But who can say?

Continuity Notes: As the Smuggler's goons attack Spider-Man, Tommy Li takes first crack, citing the fact that he was unarmed as the reason he couldn't stand up to the webbed wonder last issue.

Later, Spider-man informs the Smuggler that he will be turned over to Lt. Kris Keating of the NYPD. Keating does not, however, appear in this issue.

During their skirmish on the train tracks, Spider-Man and the Smuggler are observed by two transit workers named Sam and Artie, who saw Spider-Man and Tommy atop a train on their way to the Smuggler's base last issue.

At the nursing home, Peter fills Debra in on Aunt May's gullibility, mentioning the time she nearly married Dr. Octopus in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #133. A moment later, Nathan introduces himself and a footnote reminds us that we've seen him previously in issue #47.
As the group sits down to lunch, Peter considers Aunt May's engagement, offering the perfect moment for a full-page recap of Spider-Man's origin -- the first, but not last, time Stern will revisit the events of AMAZING FANTASY #15.
The aliens were seen working with the Tinkerer in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #2. At the time, it was believed the Tinkerer himself was an alien as well. Years later it was revealed that his alien guise was a hoax, but the remainder of his allies are still believed to be aliens at this point. Peter notes that the first time he encountered them they were after U.S. government secrets, and wonders why they're now interested in a dead gangster's long-lost loot.
And speaking of the gangster -- Dutch Mallone owned Aunt May's house decades ago. Mallone had hidden his treasure in the house and it went undiscovered until the burgler who killed Uncle Ben was released from prison and went after it, circa AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #200. The burglar perished in that issue, and Peter and Aunt May learned that Mallone's booty had been devoured by silverfish.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "When I came on the series, I thought that [Aunt May] had been in and out of hospitals for too long. She deserved to catch a few breaks. I gave her a nice long stretch of good health -- and a boyfriend. For quite a while there, her romantic life was better than Pete's." -- "Roger Stern, the Spectacular Spider-Writer", MARVEL SPOTLIGHT: SPIDER-MAN, Marvel Comics, March 2007

John Romita, Jr. Speaks: "...I prefer the more reality-based, street-level type of supervillains. When things got too exotic and too weird, it bothered me. I didn’t like Mysterio. ... For me, the best thing about the Spider-Man series was the amount of reality in it." -- "When Hobby Met Spidey", BACK ISSUE! #35, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2009

Spectacular Spider-Mail: More compliments for Stern this issue, and for Mike Zeck as well, as the letters cover the Cobra story from issue #46. Also, a freshman at the University of South Carolina steps up to defend the behavior of some of Peter's students, and later, Stern helpfully explains that the Ryker's Island prison frequently seen in Marvel comics of the era is "a sideways version of Riker's Island which is a not-quite-so-fortified correctional facility not far from New York's LaGuardia Airport."

Also On Sale This Month: Hydro-Man menaces the web-slinger in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #212, and MARVEL TEAM-UP #101 features Spidey and Nighthawk -- together!

My Thoughts: This has to be one of the more peculiarly structured issues I've ever read. The first third wraps up the Smuggler story, featuring the issue's only dose of costumed Spider-Man action. The next third is all sub-plot territory, while the final segment is set-up for next month's episode. It would be a weird template to follow any time, but especially for a fiftieth anniversary issue, it's downright bizarre.
But despite the unusual structure, the story holds up, and even serves as a nice recovery following last issue's misfire. In part, the art of John Romita, Jr. plays a large part. Spider-Man is the character Romita was -- literally -- born to draw, and right from the beautiful first page splash, abetted by Jim Mooney's inks, this just looks like a Spider-Man comic should. A good artist will elevate a mediocre script, and Romita is -- perhaps second only to Marie Severin -- the best artist Stern's run has seen thus far.

Fortunately, Stern's script doesn't need any elevating to begin with. The conclusion to the Smuggler's story is a bit shakey, but then so was the first part. It's servicible, though, and besides -- the real meat of the issue is in Peter's reaction to Aunt May's engagement. His mother figure has announced that she's re-marrying. Peter is a young man here. As a graduate student, he's probably about twenty-three or so -- and his reaction, that Aunt May is betraying Uncle Ben by hitching up with this new guy, is exactly what you'd expect from such a youthful person.

The fact that Peter still blames himself for Ben's death doesn't make things any easier, I'm sure. As he muses over the situation, Peter recalls his uncle as "the greatest guy in the world." That's a lot for Nathan to live up to. Fortunately he demonstrates his worth by lunging into a brief skirmish with the aliens to help Peter protect Aunt May and Debra, a selfless move which has to score some points for an action-oriented person like Spider-Man, who spends his every day defending the helpless.
But, as the story ends on a cliffhanger, we're left without a resolution for Peter's feelings toward Nathan. I really don't remember if Stern continues to play up Peter's difficulty with his aunt's new beau. I realize that he eventually does accept him before Stern's tenure ends, but I hope it's something that gets built to, rather than resolving quickly in the next installment, or -- worse -- getting dropped entirely. But I suppose we'll find out soon enough.

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