Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #231

"CAUGHT IN THE ACT..."
Scripter: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Jim Mooney
Letterer: Joe Rosen | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Precinct Captain: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Cobra robs a police evidence locker of several gems from a jewel theft ring, the latest in a series of similar crimes. At his home, he makes plans to see his fence about them. Meanwhile, Jonah Jameson has assigned Ned Leeds to investigate the Brand Corporation. Ned and Dr. Marla Madison go to meet with Ned's contact, "Nose" Norton -- who just happens to be the Cobra's fence, as well.

Cobra arrives at the same time and sees Nose consorting with Ned, who he recognizes as a reporter from his last trial, and assumes Nose is selling him out. He jumps Nose, Ned, and Marla in an alleyway. Fortunately Spider-Man is in the area, having been informed (as Peter Parker) by Betty Leeds that Ned was headed to a bad part of town.

The web-slinger defends the Cobra's victims and makes short work of the wily villain, but as he heads away to turn Cobra over to the police, the pair is attacked by Cobra's ex-partner, Mr. Hyde.

The Sub-Plots: When Betty calls Empire State University looking for Peter, Debra Whitman informs her that he has quit his job as a teaching assistant but is still a graduate student.
Continuity Notes: Cobra is living in a high-tech penthouse purchased, using the cash proceeds from his first evidence locker robbery, from a financier who needed to skip town in a hurry following an embezzlement charge. Cobra is pleased to be free of Mr. Hyde, believing his one-time accomplice to have perished in CAPTAIN AMERICA #252 by Roger Stern and John Byrne.
Following heavy damage to his regular costumes in PETER PARKER #68 and last issue, Peter has sewn two brand-new outfits, and has accessorized them with the long-absent underarm webbing had been a part of his original look for years.

In a nifty piece of misdirection, Stern has a mysterious, hulking figure emerge from the construction site where Spider-Man defeated Juggernaut last issue. He thinks about revenge on a "little nuisance" and we are clearly meant to believe him to be Juggernaut. It's only on the very last page that we learn this is Hyde and the nuisance of which he speaks is Cobra, not Spider-Man.

As Jonah assigns Ned to investigate the Brand Corporation, he mentions Marla's kidnapping by Killer Shrike in PETER PARKER #57. Later, "recent issues of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN" are referenced as Debra thinks about something she suspects regarding Peter.

When Ned and Marla arrive at a bar called Maxie's for their meeting with Nose, Marla comments on the establishment's shabbiness. Ned tells her she should be glad Nose didn't want to meet at Josie's, the waterfront bar frequently seen in Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL issues.
Spider-Man mentions his previous encounter with the Cobra in PETER PARKER #46 multiple times during their rematch.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "I always liked Ned. It wasn’t his fault that he took Betty Brant away from Pete -- they were on a break at the time! Ned was basically a straight shooter, a really good guy. A good reporter, an honest guy." -- "When Hobby Met Spidey", BACK ISSUE! #35, 2009

The Spider's Web: Compliments and critiques on part one of the Black Cat two-parter in issue #226 comprise this month's missives. Also, a writer wonders if this very issue, marking the twentieth anniversary of Spider-Man's first appearance, would be double-sized. The response is a negative, stating that the powers-that-be are saving the big celebration for Spidey's twenty-fifth. The same response also notes that while this issue would be the twentieth year to the cover date since AMAZING FANTASY #15, issue 238 will mark the twentieth anniversary of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

Also On Sale This Month: Cloak and Dagger return in PETER PARKER #69, then Spidey meets Dominic Fortune in MARVEL TEAM-UP #120.

My Thoughts: Stern provides a sequel to one of his earliest SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN issues from two years previous, as Spider-Man has a rematch with the Cobra. This could be seen as Stern "fixing" one of his own stories, as he has done for others', by allowing Spider-Man an easy win over an opponent who should not have been much trouble for him in the first place. PETER PARKER #46 saw the Cobra nearly make a fool of Spider-Man by gassing him and slithering out of his every attempt at capture. Here, the web-slinger makes quick work of the Cobra, which is probably what should have happened the first time they crossed paths.

Otherwise, this is a strong sub-plot issue, from the minor -- such as Peter restoring the underarm webbing to his costume -- to the bigger, as seen when Jameson sends Ned Leeds to investigate the Brand Corporation, carrying over the Will-O'-The-Wisp plot from Stern's SPECTACULAR run. This is Ned's first appearance in a few years, the character having dropped out of sight along with his wife when Marv Wolfman departed AMAZING in 1980. As noted by Betty two issues ago, she and Ned went through marriage counseling and have only now returned to their jobs.

Ned was a foil for Peter and a competitor for Betty's affections dating all the way back to the earliest Stan Lee/Steve Ditko issues. As Stern notes above, he was mostly portrayed as an honorable, stand-up guy -- but Wolfman seemed to have an interest in separating him from Betty, possibly to restore her as a potential love interest for Peter -- so the last few times readers saw him, he came across as something of a jerk, paying no attention to his wife and then attempting to rough up Peter after Betty fled into his arms. Fortunately, time and a good writer can redeem such behavior, and Stern does so easily here by providing us with Ned Leeds: hard-boiled reporter of action.
Sadly, Ned's redemption will only remain in place for the remainder of Stern's run. The eighties will not be kind to the character. But for now, we can continue to read about him and remember him as we see him here and in subsequent issues.

2 comments:

  1. Love this issue. My first spidey comic was 224. These issues are the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, and I like your screen name, by the way!

      Delete