Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Writer: Roger Stern | Artists: John Romita, Jr. & Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Editor: Tom DeFalco
Bossman: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Spider-Man fights the mutated Tarantula within the Brand Corporation labs. Will-O'-The-Wisp soon comes around and joins the fray, and he and Tarantula plummet into Jamaica Bay locked in combat. Spider-Man changes back to Peter Parker and departs. At home, he develops the photos he took while at Brand, but learns that they are worthless thanks to low-level radiation from the nearby machinery.

At the Daily Bugle, Raymond Royton of the U.S. Department of Justice meets with Jonah Jameson, Joe Robertson, Marla Madison, and Ned Leeds. After recapping DoJ's extensive list of the Brand Corporation's many illicit operations, he asks the Bugle to kill its exposé on Brand, lest that it interfere with the case being built against the corporation. Jonah reluctantly agrees. But Spider-Man, listening from outside the window, decides to continue his own investigation.

That night, the wall-crawler sneaks into the townhouse of Brand executive James Melvin, but Will-O'-The-Wisp arrives as well. After revealing to Melvin that he once worked for him as a scientist named Jackson Arvad until Melvin's underhanded practices transformed him, Wisp attempts to kill his former employer. Spider-Man intervenes and he and the Wisp have a brief skirmish, which is interrupted when the Tarantula appears and grabs Melvin.

The Sub-Plots: At his apartment, Peter is pestered for the rent check by his landlady, Mrs. Muggins.

Continuity Notes: Last issue's events are invoked twice during the opening scene as a Brand scientist recalls that Melvin blasted Will-O'-The-Wisp with a "magno-pulser" and then Spider-Man saves the lives of some guards he had knocked out upon his arrival.

Later, on his way home from the Brand facility, believing Wisp and Tarantula have perished, Peter considers that they died in the same way as the Black Cat, falling into the sea. When he gets home, Peter thinks about Aunt May's plans to open a boarding house for senior citizens as revealed in MARVEL TEAM-UP #124.

Raymond Royton recaps several past Marvel stories featuring the Brand Corporation. None are footnoted except for issue #233's Nose Norton story; however most come from the Thing's MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE series, while two come from IRON MAN issues 120-121 and 142-143-144, which featured Brand's parent company, Roxxon.

Later, Will-O'-The-Wisp recaps his origin for Melvin -- he was a Brand scientist named Jackson Arvad, who was bullied by Melvin into working to the point of exhaustion and thus failing to prevent a power surge in the "magno-chamber". The ensuing explosion transformed him into an ethereal, green leotard-clad beefcake with luscious, flowing blond locks.
Uncle Rog Speaks: "We have some very fine artists, like John Buscema is a great artist, but his Spider-Man isn't that great. You have to understand that Spider-Man moves in a way no other character does. He'll come into a room and he's almost never on the floor. He's on the ceiling or the wall. You have to be able to adjust your mind to that if you're going to be able to draw it." -- "The Amazing Roger Stern", FANTACO'S CHRONICLES SERIES #5, FantaCo Enterprises, 1982
The Spider's Web: Readers rave about the conclusion to the Juggernaut story in issue 230. Curiously, multiple compliments are paid to the cover, which has always seemed especially silly to me, featuring Spider-Man swinging toward that gigantic, comically enraged Juggernaut face. I find the ominous cover to issue 229 far, far, superior.

Also On Sale This Month: It's Spidey vs. the Owl in PETER PARKER #73, and Spidey alongside the bouncing Beast in MARVEL TEAM-UP #124.

My Thoughts: After the initial fight with the mutated Tarantula, this story is mainly exposition and set-up for next issue's finale, but it works quite well in that capacity. We get a summation of most of the Brand Corporation's various illicit operations (though not all, such as their appearance in the early stories where the X-Men's Beast turned blue and furry), plus an origin for Will-O'-The-Wisp, who had been kicking around as a very minor character in the Spider-Man comics for close to six years at this point, and some advancement of the "Daily Bugle vs. the Brand Corporation" storyline, including one of those nice, sparingly used character moments for Jonah Jameson as he tells Leeds that killing the exposé goes against everything he believes in, but he know he has to do it for the greater good (we also get a nice look at his swanky top-floor publisher's office in the bargain).
There's also a bit at the beginning, where Spider-Man is fighting the Brand Corporation guards, which stuck out for me. They wonder aloud how he's aware of their presence as they attack from behind, and he thinks about his spider-sense, declaring it a "secret weapon". When I was very young, I feel like Spider-Man used to blab about his "handy, dandy spidey-sense" to everyone who would listen, friend and foe alike. By the time I started to read regularly, in the late eighties/early nineties, the spider-sense was a closely guarded secret which he rarely shared with anyone, even fellow heroes who didn't already know about it. I agree that this is something one would want to keep secret, but I'm curious which writer first decided it should be treated this way, and just when the change happened in earnest.
Though he's featured in a small handful of Stern stories to this point, this is our first real Will-O'-The-Wisp spotlight issue, and while I still don't like the character much -- I think he's boring and dopey-looking -- Stern at least humanizes him with one of the tragic origins that so many Marvel villains used to have. I could even argue that it's doubly tragic because the whole thing is his fault. Sure, his boss was a jerk who overworked him, but he could've quit if conditions were that bad. But he stuck in there, worked himself to exhaustion, and created his own fate. Though the Wisp here seems to revel in his powers, which is not something I recall ever seeing from him before.
Otherwise, this is a pretty standard "setting the stage" issue. The Brand Corporation storyline has been intriguing so far and has brought out some nice character moments for Spider-Man and his supporting cast, including Ned, Jonah, and Marla. Let's see if Stern can stick the landing next time, shall we?

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