Monday, August 4, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #225

"FOOLS...LIKE US!"
Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Shortly before dawn in the Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan, two FBI agents have responded to a note from the serial murderer named Foolkiller, only to be disintegrates by their prey. That same evening, on the Empire State University campus, Peter Parker spies Foolkiller sneaking into the registrar's office and pursues as Spider-Man. The wall-crawler saves the registrar from death, but Foolkiller escapes.

The next day, following a visit to the Daily Bugle, Peter returns to ESU and speaks with his student, Greg Salinger, about the "fools" working in the campus mail room. Moments later, when Debra Whitman tells Peter that Greg called her a fool earlier that day, Peter realizes that Greg must be Foolkiller. He changes to Spider-Man and races to the mail room just in time to save the workers there from Foolkiller's wrath.

Foolkiller makes a run for it, but when he encounters a vagrant who informs him that only a fool would go up against Spider-Man, he turns his gun on himself. Spidey arrives and stops Foolkiller from committing suicide, then unmasks the maniac as Greg Salinger.

The Sub-Plots: Obviously the Greg Salinger storyline from Stern's final few SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN issues comes to a head here. Notably, Peter recalls that Greg seemed to trigger his spider-sense in SPECTACULAR #60 while his back was turned, and realizes this happened because of Greg's natural psychotic state when he was unaware of Peter's presence, but that since he liked Peter the danger subsided when they engaged in conversation.

In order to cash in on Jonah Jameson's new policy of only purchasing photographs of Spider-Man messing up, Peter sells the Daily Bugle a set of pictures showing Spidey's initial failure to catch Foolkiller. Joe Robertson advises Peter not to stoop to the level of his rival, Lance Bannon, by playing to Jonah's baser nature in this way.

Continuity Notes: One of the FBI agents killed at the issue's outset is called Sam, a name shared with one of the two agents who accosted Greg in SPECTACULAR #59, though the other agent has a different name from Sam's partner in that previous issue.

Peter thinks about his recent run-ins with the Vulture, Goldbug, and Lightmaster, as seen in AMAZING #224, SPECTACULAR #62, and MARVEL TEAM-UP #113.

At one point, Foolkiller recaps his history as the second person to take up the serial killer's mantle, following the original Foolkiller's death. It should be noted that the original Foolkiller was created by Steve Gerber in the pages of MAN-THING and the second version, Greg, first appeared in Gerber's OMEGA THE UNKNOWN. Presumably Greg was created by Gerber as well, though his first appearance in OMEGA, as a mysterious shadowed figure, was written by Roger Stern.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "Plotting a story is sometimes like coming up with the punchline for a joke, and then backtracking to see how you got there. the Foolkiller story that appeared in AMAZING #225 was like that. The Foolkiller thought that all fools needed to die, and he vowed to kill them all. The only problem with that, I realized, was that everyone is a fool sometime. Oooo! What if he thinks Spider-Man is a fool and tries to kill Spidey, but then he realizes that only a fool would fight Spider-Man? There was my story." -- COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN, Titan Books, 2004
The Spider's Web: Three letters this issue cover Denny O'Neil's story in issue 221, and a third, much longer correspondence offers Stern advice for his term on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: bring back the classic supporting cast, who had been sorely underutilized over the previous couple years by O'Neil.

Also On Sale This Month: Spider-Man takes on the Molten Man in PETER PARKER #63, while MARVEL TEAM-UP #114 finds Spidey working with the high-flying Falcon.

My Thoughts: Foolkiller seems to be one of Steve Gerber's pet characters, as he wrote the majority of stories featuring all of the character's various iterations, but it seems that if anyone should be qualified to pick this particular villain up, it would be Stern, who -- as noted above -- wrote his very first appearance.

And thanks to Stern having more than a passing familiarity with Foolkiller, this turns out to be a fun sort of a psychological thriller. Stern wisely sets up the Foolkiller's menace by having him kill the FBI agents in the opening scene, lest the villain seem otherwise ineffective as Spider-Man saves all his other targets. And, having made Greg Salinger a mostly likable guy in his previous appearances, the rug is well positioned to be pulled from beneath both Spider-Man and the reader as we learn together that this guy is a homicidal maniac.

On another front, it's nice to see Stern exercising his new role as the writer of Spider-Man's flagship title by blending the casts of both main spider-books. Where previously Stern was relegated to using the ESU teaching assistants and Aunt May as his primary supporting cast members, now we see him utilizing Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, and Debra Whitman all in the same story. Though the ESU cast will continue to be primarily the bailiwick of SPECTACULAR, this sort of mingling will continue for the duration of Stern's run, resulting in a more natural and cohesive feel for Peter's life.

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