Wednesday, July 30, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #224

"LET FLY THESE AGED WINGS!"
A tale tastefully told by our Amazing Spider-Team:
Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Pablo Marcos
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Seeker of True Happiness: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man foils a bank robbery while the Vulture escapes from Bellevue Hospital after a chance meeting with Nathan Lubensky in the physical therapy ward. Vulture goes on a days-long crime spree in the diamond district while hiding out as one of Nathan's fellow tenants in the Restwell Nursing Home.

Eventually Peter Parker shows up at Restwell for lunch with Nathan and Aunt May, and recognizes the Vulture. Peter changes to Spider-Man and fights his winged foe inside the nursing home, but the Vulture eventually escapes after briefly taking Nathan hostage before realizing he considers Nathan a friend and letting him go.

The Sub-Plots: No sub-plots per se, though we do get an appearance by Peter's rival photographer at the Daily Bugle, Lance Bannon, who was introduced to the series about a year earlier by Denny O'Neil and John Romita, Jr.
Continuity Notes: Peter recalls that Aunt May had a coronary bypass in issue #179. Though not footnoted, the Vulture's time in traction at Bellevue, following SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #45, is referenced multiple times.
The Vulture, whose surname was implied and then definitively stated to be Toomes in some of Stern's previous stories, now reveals his first name -- Adrian.

Aunt May thinks about Peter's callous behavior in SPECTACULAR #56, stating that the issue occurred "a month ago."

Uncle Rog Speaks: “[Nathan's] name should have been Nathan Kubelsky, but it ended up Lubensky. He was my SUNSHINE BOYS character, you see, and I wanted to name him after George Burns and Jack Benny. Nathan was George Burns’ real first name, but I couldn’t remember Jack Benny’s last name. Lubensky sounded about right, so I went with that. Of course, Benny’s last name was really Kubelsky” -- COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN, Titan Books, 2004

John Romita, Jr. Speaks: "I think there was some novelty in having another Romita on [AMAZING SPIDER-MAN], and that I was more than capable, they felt, to do the book, so they said, why not." -- MODERN MASTERS VOLUME 18: JOHN ROMITA JR., TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008

The Spider's Web: This month's letters are very general in nature, covering topics from social relevance to the Black Cat, with only one missive dedicated to a specific issue -- a Michael Fleisher/Bob McLeod fill-in from #220.

Also On Sale This Month: It's Spider-Man against Gold Bug in PETER PARKER #62, then Spidey and Quasar -- together! in MARVEL TEAM-UP #113

My Thoughts: The Vulture is revitalized this issue. After spending months in traction, during which time he allowed hospital orderlies and guards to convince him he was nothing more than a useless, frail old man, he sees his contemporary, Nathan Lubensky, filled with vim and vigor, telling off the younger generation and functioning independently despite his physical handicap.
And just as his favorite villain gains a renewed sense of purpose through this story, so does writer Roger Stern. Having jumped ship from the "red-headed step-child" series and onto the flagship, Stern now finds himself with a strong regular penciler in John Romita, Jr. Stern's scripting, almost always good, steps up a notch or two here. The plot is strong as well, using a plausible coincidence as a springboard to return the Vulture to the spotlight. Stern seems more self-assured than he has been since the early SPECTACULAR days, back when he allegedly had Marie Severin as his "regular" penciler.

The artwork by Romita is tremendous as well. He has already been on AMAZING for over a year at this point, and he has made the title his own. His panel layouts, while maintaining a traditional grid structure, are creative and interesting. His characters all have distinctive looks to them, and his New York comes across as a living, breathing city. He imbues everything Stern requests, from Peter having a simple but jovial phone call with Aunt May to the Vulture dueling Spider-Man in the close confines of a nursing home, with great energy.

These pages are a pleasure to look at in terms of both words and pictures. This development is not a first for Stern's Spider-Man run, but it is a first in terms of knowing that pretty much all subsequent issues will look just as good. Stern cut his Spider-writing teeth on SPECTACULAR, working for far too long with sub-standard artists that rarely inspired him to greatness. But that's all about to change, now. There is a reason Stern's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ranks at or near the very top of so many definitive Spidey runs, and we're about to witness the proof.

3 comments:

  1. This was one of my first Amazing Spiderman comics. I remember buying it at the 711. These early 200 issues still to this day are still the best Spidey stories to me.

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    1. I agree; Roger Stern really knew what he was doing and the partnership with John Romita, Jr. was outstanding. Though I might hold up the Stan Lee/John Romita run a bit higher than this one, but not by much.

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  2. I really liked this comic too. It was one of my earliest as well. This was a good time in Spider-Man comics.

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