Wednesday, September 24, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #240

"WINGS OF VENGEANCE!"
Stern Writes Again | Roughhouse Romita Jr. to Meet Babyface Bob Layton: Artists Fight!
Rosen Named Letterer of the Year! | Starts Today! Color Section by Bob Sharen
Editorial by Tom DeFalco
Shooter Indicted; Editor-in-Chief Charged in Kickback Scandal!!

The Plot: The Vulture, who has been living in semi-retirement in the Southwest, sees an article in the Daily Bugle announcing that Bestman Electronics will be at the High-Tech Expo in New York City. Infuriated, the Vulture books a flight for New York the next day.

When the Vulture arrives at the Expo and begins wreaking havoc, his escapades make the news on a local public access channel. Spider-Man soon arrives to challenge the Vulture, who is scouring the expo for Gregory Bestman. Vulture eventually grabs Bestman after Spider-Man is stunned by an electrical gizmo. The web-slinger tries to give chase as the Vulture escapes, but instead falls to the ground below.

The Sub-Plots: The Vulture has set up a new life for himself in a retirement community located, presumably, in Arizona. He has stolen enough to set himself up comfortably, but otherwise seems content to live a normal life until he sees Bestman's name in the newspaper.

Peter has a nightmare involving several of his enemies plus the Black Cat, and in that dream the spectre of the Hobgoblin stokes Spider-Man's guilt over creating him. Soon after, Amy Powell attempts to visit Peter at his apartment, but finds that he has left.

To shake off the nightmare, Peter pays a visit to Aunt May and Nathan, and Nathan shows off his new cable television system to Peter.

Continuity Notes: The Vulture reads in the paper that Spider-Man has been fighting the Owl and Doctor Octopus in recent issues of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. Peter's nightmare also mostly features material from SPECTACULAR, including appearances by Owl and Ock, the Black Cat, and the Gladiator.
On his way to Aunt May's, Spider-Man takes a brief tour of his old stomping grounds, including General Techtronics Lab, where he was bitten by the radioactive spider, as well as Midtown High, where he spent his early years as a web-slinger. When he gets to Aunt May's, she informs Peter that Anna Watson will soon be coming north for a visit.
Nathan recognizes the Vulture on TV from their time in physical therapy together in issue 224.

Kris Keating and his special weapons task force appear outside the Electronics Expo during the Vulture's raid.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "Spider-Man is driven by guilt. He enjoys these powers. He revels in them, they are great. But because of him, the man who meant the most to him died and he can never forget that. That's what drives him on, that's what makes him go out and put his life on the line. Have you ever noticed that Spider-Man isn't really afraid to die? He's put his life on the line so many times, just instinctively, without thinking, because he's so driven by it." -- "The Amazing Roger Stern", FANTACO'S CHRONICLES SERIES #5, FantaCo Enterprises, 1982
John Romita, Jr. Speaks: "[Bob] Layton was a heavy-handed inker, and no matter how tight my breakdowns were he got credit for the finishes. ... He was definitely a presence." -- MODERN MASTERS VOLUME 18: JOHN ROMITA JR., TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008

(Full Contextual Disclosure: Romita is discussing his collaboration with Layton on IRON MAN in the above quote, not this issue of SPIDER-MAN.)

The Spider's Web: Correspondents write in about the continuing Brand Corporation saga in issue 235, and one reader helpfully provides footnotes for all the various Brand and Roxxon activities which were shown via flashback in the story. The annual statement of ownership appears, informing us that AMAZING SPIDER-MAN averaged about a half a million copies printed per month over the preceding year, with about 240,000 of those in paid circulation.

Also On Sale This Month: Doc Ock is back in PETER PARKER #78, and Spidey learns that even an android can cry when he spends quality time with the Vision in MARVEL TEAM-UP #129.

My Thoughts: Besides the Hobgoblin, who appears in three stories spanning seven issues in a little over a year, the Vulture is the most prolific villain in Roger Stern's Spider-Man run, showing up in three stories as well, across five issues in about four years. So when Stern says the Vulture is his favorite Spider-villain, I think it's fair to believe him.
And his depiction of the old guy continues to impress. Stern has humanized the Vulture in a way no one else up to this point ever had. He's no longer just another costumed criminal for Spider-Man to tangle with. He's a three-dimensional senior citizen. He's not the most sociable man in the world, but he's comfortable living with people his own age. While he may wish this citizens of his generation were more ambitious, he doesn't think less of them or belittle them. It's a nice approach to the character, and one few writers have taken. The Vulture is usually either a generic costumed bad guy or an embittered old man longing for his youth. Stern's Vulture, while evil, is comfortable in his own skin, regardless of how shriveled it might be.

Artistically, this issue sees a reunion between John Romita, Jr. and his IRON MAN inker, Bob Layton. And while Romita's above statement about Layton may have been true with regards to their Iron Man days, what we have here is a much more even pairing. Layton's inks are still as slick and flashy as ever, but the characters, faces and all, are rarely hidden or redrawn. They look unmistakably like Romita's work (except, for some reason, that image of Flash Thompson in Spider-Man's flashback above). I wouldn't have minded seeing this duo work together a few more times in this manner.
Besides the Vulture, Stern also dips into sub-plot land by giving us a quick reminder that the Hobgoblin is still out there, and reminding us again of Amy Powell's interest in Peter -- though they still haven't crossed paths face-to-face since issue #235. We also get a very nice bit where Spider-Man sort of reaffirms his mission statement as he hurriedly leaves Aunt May's house to confront the Vulture, thinking to himself that since he allowed the villain to escape last time they fought, it will be his responsibility if anyone is harmed today -- a thought drilled into his head by his recent failure to catch the hoodlum Georgie, thus leading to the birth of the Hobgoblin.

Lastly, though not especially noteworthy, this may be the most "of its time" issue Stern has ever produced, between Nathan's excitement over basic cable TV, plus the fact that the Vulture, living far from New York, is only able to get his local news by requesting that his newsstand operator stock the Daily Bugle. I grew up in this era, and it's hard even for me to remember a time when the internet didn't place all information at our disposal at a second's notice!

Next Issue: The origin of the Vulture.

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