Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #229

"NOTHING CAN STOP THE JUGGERNAUT!"
Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Jim Mooney
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Dream Analyst: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The crippled precognitive Madame Web dreams that a powerful being is coming for her. She calls Peter Parker and informs him that she will need Spider-Man to defend her. Meanwhile, a ship owned by Black Tom Cassidy enters New York Harbor. Juggernaut exits the ship to go capture Madame Web as part of Black Tom's latest scheme.

Web calls Peter at the Daily Bugle and informs him that Juggernaut is coming by sea. The web-slinger intercepts the villain but is unable to stop him from proceeding through Manhattan, crushing everything in his path. Spider-Man finally faces down the Juggernaut in Madame Web's home, but the unstoppable villain overcomes him and pulls Web from her life support machine. Web goes into convulsions and Juggernaut realizes she will be no use to him dead, so he discards her and departs.

As paramedics tend to Madame Web, Spider-Man vows to find the Juggernaut and make him pay for what he's done.

The Sub-Plots: Peter pays a visit to the Daily Bugle and chats with Glory Grant and Robbie Robertson. Robbie's former secretary, Betty Brant, shows up after a lengthy absence patching up her marriage, and Robbie offers her job back.
Continuity Notes: Madame Web previously appeared in Denny O'Neil's issues 210 and 216, where she learned Spider-Man's secret identity.
Yes, there was a time when Peter didn't whip off his mask for any old person who asked.
Though not footnoted here, Black Tom and Juggernaut were last seen working together in SPIDER-WOMAN #37-38, published about a year before this issue. Their partnership began in UNCANNY X-MEN #101 from 1976.

While at the Daily Bugle, Peter is reminded of the Black Cat thanks to an offhand comment from Glory Grant.
Madame Web attempts to contact the Avengers and Fantastic Four to aid Spider-Man, but both groups are out of town, with footnotes directing readers to issues 219 and 241 of their respective magazines.

Spidey also seeks assistance from Dr. Strange, having learned of Juggernaut's connection to Cyttorak -- an elder god frequently invoked by the Sorcerer Supreme -- but he, too, is away. Strange's assistant Wong suggests that Spider-Man look up the X-Men, but they're living on an island in the Bermuda Triangle at this point in time, and therefore likewise unable to be reached.
While Spider-Man is busy at Strange's sanctum, Kris Keating's special powers task force tries to stop Juggernaut with no better results than Spidey. Keating's himself does not, however, put in an on-page appearance.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "I wanted to do something we'd never seen before. I wanted Spider-Man to fight someone who posed a real physical threat. It had to be someone who could pound the living daylights out of him, someone that Spider-Man couldn't possibly beat. I don't know why, but I just thought of Juggernaut. After all, his power is that he can't be stopped, so what if Spider-Man has to find a way to sop him and all the other heroes are out of town?" -- COMICS CREATORS ON SPIDER-MAN, Titan Books, 2004

The Spider's Web: This issue features no letter column; however the fill-in that we skipped in #228 did have one. In it, writers weigh in on Stern's first AMAZING issue, the Vulture story from #224. Opinions are universally positive, however one nit-picker takes issue with Peter's frustration over Jonah Jameson and Lance Bannon ruining his prints by opening the darkroom door since he could easily have reprinted them. There is also a rebuttal to a letter from issue 224 in which a reader had identified superheroes as not being proactive enough.

Also On Sale This Month: Boomerang challenges Spider-Man in PETER PARKER #67, then Spidey teams up with, coincidentally, Juggernaut's step-brother -- Professor X -- in MARVEL TEAM-UP #118.

My Thoughts: As we've already seen, Stern devotes a great deal of his time on Spider-Man to pitting the wall-crawler against villains with whom he would not normally be associated. This is perhaps the greatest of those stories, and is certainly the best known.
Stern has spent many issues building Spider-Man back up to his established power levels following years of struggles against even the most mundane, "street level" villains. And now that he's accomplished that task, he sets Spider-Man against his strongest challenge ever, to remind readers that, although the web-slinger may be a powerhouse, there's always someone tougher out there.

Over the course of this issue, Spider-Man (and others) attempt to stop Juggernaut in the following ways:
  • Kicking him to knock him over.
  • Snagging him with webbing to hold him in place.
  • Setting a massive web net to halt his advance.
  • Enlarging a pothole to create a makeshift "tank trap" for him to fall into.
  • Skittering around on his body in attempts to stop or slow his pace.
  • Firing a full-scale artillery barrage at him.
  • Webbing up the door to Madame Web's apartment, using the webbing as conductor for a million volts of electricity to electrocute him.
  • And lastly, simply attempting to lure him out of Web's home.
And none of it works! I haven't read every story featuring Juggernaut over the years, but as an X-Men fan I've seen more than my fair share. And while plenty of those stories have presented the Juggernaut as a tenacious, impossible adversary, few -- if any -- have gone this route and depicted him as a truly unstoppable force of nature. Everything Spider-Man tries, every trick in his repertoire from agility to webbing to brute strength, fails. By the time Juggernaut reaches Madame Web, the reader may still be rooting for the web-slinger to win but it has become a foregone conclusion that, for now at least, he will not.
In other news, this story brings us the return of Betty Brant to Peter's world. Betty was a very long time supporting player in the Spider-Man comics, but had been written out of the series in the seventies by Len Wein when she married Bugle reporter Ned Leeds. Marv Wolfman subsequently brought her back, but her marriage was on the rocks and, in a moment of weakness on the part of both, she slept with Peter. Betty disappeared again for Denny O'Neil's run, but Stern has begun the process of rebuilding Spider-Man's core cast here, starting with Betty. Ned will follow soon after, as well as a few other familiar faces in the months to come.

A truly frightening threat for Spider-Man and the beginnings of the restoration of the classic supporting cast signal the start of a very special, rightly acclaimed two-parter in Spider-Man's canon. Roger Stern -- abetted as always by John Romita, Jr. -- does it again.

No comments:

Post a Comment