Comics : Book 8: Spider-Man, Crime Campaign
This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club
This review was first published on: 2003.
The 1970's Marvel Pocket Novels were the first real foray made by Marvel characters into the genre of the full-length novel. The series opened with Spider-Man in Marv Wolfman's "Mayhem in Manhattan", then worked through a series of other characters before returning to Spider-Man in #8, "Crime Campaign".
Mayhem in Manhattan was a terrible effort, we gave it one single web. The writer this time is Paul Kupperberg, the bad guy is Kingpin instead of Doc Ock. Peter has fallen out with Mary-Jane, and hence is single again. Can these add up to a better story?
Book 8: Spider-Man, Crime Campaign
Aug 1979 : SM Title
Like the other novels in this set, we're slightly smaller than a standard paperback. We're a little shy of 200 pages, and we're black and white inside. Small line art Spidey sketches front each chapter, but they don't relate to the story.
There's no intro this time. The book is packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, who were jointly credited for the first story. Both tales are set in Manhattan, and both figure a "criminal mastermind" with a campaign to make some cash. But at that point, we start to see some significant divergence.
Aunt May and Mary Jane don't figure in this story. Instead, we have Jonah Jameson, and his "niece", a cute blonde who turns out to be a PI (they were cool back then) who Jameson has hired to seduce Parker and figure out how he gets all those Spidey pics. But that's a sub-plot, and you have all the details now.
The central plot concerns a TV anchorman whose daughter has been kidnapped by Kingpin, who has forced the popular media frontsman to stand as Mayor. Kingpin has taken millions of dollars from his fellow gang-lords in order to cut them into his plan, which is to push his candidate into they Mayoralty then milk cash from the city for years to come.
So how come Spidey is involved? Well, firstly, Peter Parker manages to needle Jonah into standing for Mayor also. Secondly, Parker gets sent to cover a mayoral rally, and thirdly, Silvermane's plan to secretly undermine Kingpin's authority has him using a fake Spider-Man to threaten the Kingpin's candidate, and to lead the read Spidey into conflict with Fisk.
Meanwhile, Fisk's wife is tearfully imploring him to give up his life of crime.
There's nothing desparately innovative in the plot. The story starts with a fairly standard "Spidey rescuing some hostages, in spite of being shot at by the cops" scene. We get a fairly two-dimensional Jonah Jameson. There's Jameson's cute PI/niece, who wants Peter to teach her to take photos, as the two of them fall in love in a spectacularly unconvincing fashion.
There are no real super-hero combats... Spidey tackles various thugs, a few cops, plus a fake Spidey. He does eventually battle Kingpin, who is basically super-powered, I guess. During one of the fights, Spidey is weakened by a convenient "power-sapping gas". During the other fights against various non-super-powered types, his powers might as well be weakened, as he fumbles his ways through a few scraps he should be able to finish in his sleep!
Like many novels, the story carefully attempts to nestle itself into the comic continuity of the time - but fails over time. The comics of course ignore the events of the book, and post-humeously render the continuity impossible.
Of course, the book commits its own continuity gaffes also. Silvermane seems to have a love for "silver stuff" which is rather jarring. He also seems to have forgotten that he was actually a world-class weapons expert in his time. There's more, but that'll do for examples.
On the plus side, there are a couple of good twists at the end, and the writing overall is "adequate", compared to the "very poor" efforts of the first of these novels. I wouldn't suggest this is a good book by any stretch of the imagination, but at least we're heading in the right direction.
Judging against its peers, perhaps this book deserves three webs, but I can't bring myself to infer that this book meets my standards for "passable reading", so let's call it 2.5 webs, plus.