Wednesday, September 10, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #237

"HIGH & MIGHTY"
Plot: Roger Stern | Script: Bill Mantlo | Breakdowns: Bob Hall
Finished Art: Frank Giacoia | Letters: Rick Parker | Colors: Bob Sharen
Editor: Tom DeFalco | Tall Person: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Wilbur Day, the villain called Stilt-Man, decides to increase his reputation by defeating Spider-Man, the only hero he's ever beaten before. In order to prepare himself for the confrontation, Day breaks into a CordCo facility on Long Island to upgrade his armored suit. As Stark International security forces respond to Day's entry, Spider-Man spots them en route and follows. He infiltrates the factory and battles Stilt-Man, but when the wall-crawler is knocked out by a sonic weapon while saving Stilt-Man's life, Stilt-Man spares his foe and drops him off outside with the Stark security forces before vanishing into the night.

The Sub-Plots: Peter chats with Aunt May about her newly opened boarding house for senior citizens, then drops by the next day to meet her tenants. He also worries about her ability to pay the mortgage and taxes on the house, then sets out to make some cash after a pep talk from Nathan.

Continuity Notes: Day recaps his career as Stilt-Man, including early appearances in DAREDEVIL #8 and 27, as well a subsequent spot in THOR #269 (Stilt-Man fought Thor?!). The final flashback is to Frank Miller's DAREDEVIL #186, wherein the Kingpin's goon Turk knocked Day out and stole his armor.
Day's radio mentions Spider-Man teaming up with Tigra, which, though no footnote is present, is a reference to MARVEL TEAM-UP #125. Later, Spider-Man is seen combing the city for Dr. Octopus and the Owl, currently embroiled in a gang war in the pages of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN.

The security of CordCo, which was acquired by Stark International in IRON MAN #156, falls under the jurisdiction of Stark's security chief, Vic Martinelli, putting in an appearance here. This is the sort of "non-guest spot" I enjoy in comics. Stark International is mentioned and a recurring character from Iron Man's series shows up, but neither Tony Stark nor Iron Man himself are anywhere to be seen. It's one of those things that makes the shared Marvel Universe feel big and expansive, yet interconnected at the same time.
This issue marks the first appearance, in the pages of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, of Aunt May's boarders. These characters will remain in the wings for the remainder of the eighties, rising to prominence briefly during the David Michelinie/Gerry Conway years around 1989 or so when newlyweds Peter and Mary Jane are forced to move in with Aunt May for a while, before eventually fading into obscurity.
Clockwise from far left: Nathan (with miscolored hair), Peter, May,
Martha Lund, Arthur Chekov, Rose Palermo, Victor Palermo, Sophie Lund.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #237 was a story I plotted for Bob Hall to draw, to buy [John Romita, Jr.] time to draw AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #16. I came down with the flu before I could script it, and Bill Mantlo filled in for me once again" -- SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN OMNIBUS Introduction, Marvel Comics, 2014

The Spider's Web: The Cobra/Mr. Hyde story in issue 230 is covered, and one writer provides a report card on Tom DeFalco's first full year as series editor. When asked for more of the Black Cat, editorial plugs PETER PARKER #75, and when asked for a new Green Goblin, the response is to check out the very next issue.

Also On Sale This Month: The Owl-Octopus war erupts in PETER PARKER #75, and MARVEL TEAM-UP #126 finds Spidey at the mercy of the Hulk.

My Thoughts: Well, what can you say? It's a fill-in that's not a fill-in. Stern plotted it, but he did so with minimal references to the ongoing continuity. And since Mantlo is scripting, he tosses in a handful of comments about his own storylines in SPECTACULAR, but pays no lip service to the recent goings-on from Stern's pen. The lack of any mention of the Brand Corporation seems odd, but under the circumstances it's understandable. One assumes, however, that had Stern scripted the issue, Spider-Man would have thought at least a little bit about the Tarantula's fate, Will-O'-The-Wisp, etc. But because of this disjointed feel, the story reads like filler, not at all as important as Stern's many other outings with non-traditional Spider-villains. This is easily an issue we could have skipped, but due to Stern's involvement, I've covered it.

One plus for the issue is Mantlo's script -- he has dropped a lot of the overly wordy prose that dragged down his last guest-scripting spot on Stern's final SPECTACULAR issue, and his Spider-Man dialogue is still nearly a match for Stern's own. However, Mantlo indulges in one of my pet peeves -- depicting a character as talking while he is ostensibly holding his breath. This happens all the time with Kitty Pryde in X-MEN. Bizarrely, Spider-Man even brags to Stilt-Man that he's holding his breath while he's holding his breath! I don't care if you have the proportional lung space of a spider -- if you're speaking while holding your breath, you're gonna run out of air real quick.
There's also a funny bit where a pickpocket tries to steal Peter's wallet on the subway, but Peter senses the grab, gives chase, and snags the guy with his sticky hands until the police arrive. It's one of those little "Peter uses his powers in public" bits that are fun to see every so often, and it may well be the highlight of the issue.
In fact, the only other thing worth noting is the impressive cover by Ed Hannigan. Spider-Man's figure is a little iffy, but the rest of it works, skewed perspective and all -- and Stilt-Man demolishing the logo and trade dress is a very nice touch. I've read that Jim Shooter was not a fan of logos being blown up this way, so either he was distracted when this cover went to press, or he made an exception. The interior artwork by Bob Hall, on the other hand -- while perfectly competent -- lacks the flash we've come to expect from Romita, and only adds to the "filler" feel of the story.

Otherwise, there's not much to see here. As Stern himself says above, he conceived this done-in-one to give Romita time to get ahead on his schedule. This is essentially a time-killer as we prepare for the arrival of the Hobgoblin next issue.

Next Issue: It's the debut of a brand-new Marvel superstar in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #16, by the regular AMAZING team of Stern and Romita, Jr.!

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