Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: Rick Leonardi | Inker: Jim Mooney
Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Ben Sean | Editor: Denny O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The White Tiger's body is dumped outside the Daily Bugle building just as Peter Parker is on his way out. As the car which carried the Tiger speeds away, Peter tags it with a spider-tracer before turning his attention to the ailing Tiger, who has a note reading "This is the first" pinned to his chest. An ambulence arrives and carries the Tiger and Peter to Bellevue Hospital, where Blackbyrd appears to watch over the Tiger as the emergency surgeons work on him. Meanwhile, Peter changes to Spider-Man and goes in search of his spider-tracer.

The web-slinger eventually tracks the car to a junkyard where Gideon Mace's men are disposing of it. Spider-Man takes the soldiers out and speaks with Mace over their radio. Mace brags that he and his men are headquartered at the decommissioned East Side National Guard Armory, and the wall-crawler heads there immediately. He allows Mace's men to believe he has been killed by their land mines, thus sneaking into the building and getting the drop on them. After working his way through several armed soldiers and their howitzers, Spider-Man comes face to face with Mace. The webbed wonder gets the upper hand on the villain, but Mace orders his men to open fire, even if it means taking him out. Mace is gunned down as Spider-Man dives for cover. Later, Mace is wheeled into Bellevue just as the White Tiger is removed from the operating room, in stable condition.

A week later, Hector Ayala removes the tiger amulets, declaring that the White Tiger will be no more. He and his girlfriend Holly move away from New York to find someplace where they can live once more in anonymity.

The Sub-Plots: None referenced in this issue.

Continuity Notes: Peter is back working at the Daily Bugle, per events occurring in Denny O'Neil's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, as of this issue.
Peter recalls that the White Tiger's secret identity was revealed on television in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #20. He also informs Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson that he and Hector were students together at Empire State University. On the ambulence ride, Hector recounts his recent travails, as seen in his back-up serial, to Peter.
Later, at the hospital, Peter notes that he hasn't seen Blackbyrd in "months", with a footnote referencing issue #10. He also recalls that, as Spider-Man, he had difficulty getting information from Blackbyrd in #9. But this time Blackbyrd is more cooperative, recounting Gideon Mace's past as an enemy of Power Man.
In a nice "it could only happen to Spider-Man" touch, the wall-crawler runs afoul of the pigeon that he accidentally tagged with a spider-tracer in issue #49 during his search for Mace's car. He notes that the incident occurred "last week". This issue is specifically stated to occur on a Saturday, and the Smuggler storyline which began in issue 49 was also on a Saturday -- thus placing this issue exactly one week after Spider-Man's fight with the Smuggler and six days after his encounter with Mysterio.
Also notable regarding the timeline is that Hector's giving up the amulets takes place in an epilogue "one week later", and his departure from New York is three weeks after that. However as we will see, the next issue takes place prior to the epilogue, only a week after the main action depicted in this story.

In a bit which comes off as downright quaint by today's standards -- or even the standards of just a few years after this issue -- a helpful footnote from Denny O'Neil tells readers who "the Punisher" is when Spider-Man briefly compares Mace's men to the gun-toting vigilante.

Before leaving New York, Hector asks Blackbyrd to get his amulets back to the Sons of the Tiger, and a footnote tells readers to "see almost any issue of DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU" for more on that group.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "It's interesting because Jonah Jameson is basically a good guy. He's maybe a bit conservative, but he's for the rights of man and all good things, blah, blah. It's just that he's got this hangup about Spider-Man. He really doesn't like him; he goes against his grain. Jameson comes out against vigilantism, which all superheroes are to a certain extent. I think Spider-Man's wisenheimer attitude and the fact that he started out doing it for money, folks, goes against his grain. ... [Jonah] is cheap and he is a tightwad and he is a curmudgeon, but it doesn't mean that deep down he's not a good man." -- "The Amazing Roger Stern", FANTACO'S CHRONICLES SERIES #5, FantaCo Enterprises, 1982

I agree with Stern's assessment of Jonah here, however as someone who considers himself fairly conservative, I have to admit that I take some slight offense at his implication that being conservative and being in favor of the rights of man are two mutually exclusive qualities!
Spectacular Spider-Mail: Writers rave about Marie Severin's art and the introduction of the new Prowler in issue 48. Stern also reveals that the peculiar fellow who fished Peter's giant stuffed bear out of the trash following a brief fire in that issue was none other than former Marvel writer Len Wein, who gave Peter the bear in the first place.
Len Wein, as drawn by Marie Severin in issue 48.
Also On Sale This Month: Namor returns to aid Spider-Man against the Frightful Four in AMAZING #214, then Spidey and Ant-Man tackle Taskmaster in MARVEL TEAM-UP #103 (and if that issue isn't written by David Michelinie, I'll eat my hat).

My Thoughts: Spider-Man against a paramilitary vigilante group -- especially with a personal stake in the matter -- is a great kernel of a story, and the set-up, featuring the White Tiger's near-lifeless carcass dumped at Peter's feet, is a fantastic start to the issue. Stern handles Peter's grief very well, and the humanizing moment for Jameson is most welcome. There is perhaps a bit of a cop-out at the story's finale, as Gideon Mace is only wounded (albeit critically) by the hail of gunfire spewed forth by his own men, but overall this is a strong conclusion to the White Tiger serial. What we have here is basically Spider-Man transplanted into a seventies exploitation revenge film, which, as I've noted several times before, is one of my favorite genres.
Aided by the expert inking of Jim Mooney, Rick Leonardi's Spider-Man is perfectly on-model. Unfortunately, beyond that, this isn't Leonardi's finest work. His distinctive loose, fluid style is not in effect yet, and while there are glimpses of the artist he would soon become, at this point in his career the work is mostly plain and unexciting.
I'm uncertain what made Roger Stern choose to pick up the White Tiger and bring his career to an end in such a depressing fashion. Maybe he just saw that the character had been neglected for years and felt he should be written out if he wasn't in use. But in any event, Stern goes all-out with the end of the Tiger, brutally taking his family from him and then forcing him into retirement. This is possibly Stern's most violent Spider-Man story, at least on a level of personal importance to the wall-crawler, but because of that level of grittiness, which isn't usually seen in a Spider-Man tale -- especially during this era -- it's a story to remember.
Next Issue: We will skip issue #53, a fill-in by Bill Mantlo, even though it is included in the Omnibus, and move directly into #54, wherein Marie Severin returns and Spider-Man has a rematch with the Smuggler.

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