Comics : Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #13

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This story is part of an Arc: "Sub-City"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Filling Gaps

This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

Spidey came back from the Beyonder's planet after Secret Wars with a new black & white costume, not knowing at the time it was a living alien life form that was taking him over symbiotically. Upon separating from the alien, Pete began to wear a cloth version of the same costume design, while the alien symbiote survived and attached itself to someone who hated Peter Parker just as much--Eddie Brock. The vicious Venom was born--who first stalked out the shadows looking for Peter at his apartment but found Mary Jane instead. MJ was unhurt but got a nasty shock from this encounter. Peter agreed to hang up the black and white costume once and for all, sticking to the red & blues from that point on (those last two plot- points took place in Amazing Spider-man (Vol. 1) #300 )

In Detail...

Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #13
Aug 1991 : SM Title
Arc: Part 1 of "Sub-City"
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  Todd McFarlane
Pencils:  Todd McFarlane
Inker:  Todd McFarlane
Cover Art:  Todd McFarlane
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 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #13
Articles: Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Morbius

The story opens with a giant hulk of a man squeezing out through a sewer cover--he says he and his friends are hungry, that 'leader' needs another 'bad one', so he'll get it for him. Out in an alley, he beats an old sleeping bum to a bloody pulp and drags him into the sewers.

Cut to Mary Jane and Peter at their apartment. Mary Jane is saying how bored she is. She suggests they call up Flash and Felicia, maybe Liz and Harry, and go dancing. Peter grabs her instead and webs her up to the ceiling with his web-shooter. He says she's got an hour to put up with this treatment, for that's how long it takes the webs to dissolve. He says he also knows where she's most sensitive.

The next day Peter swings over to the Bugle as Spider-man to look for work. Jonah is busy chewing out someone named Carl about wanting the Bugle to do a story on disappearing homeless. Jonah refuses to investigate the story. Peter overhears and asks Carl about it. Carl says he has word from a few of his homeless contacts that they're being bodily removed out on the streets. He says maybe a few pictures could generate interest in a bigger story. Peter agrees, if only to spite Jonah. Spidey's later that day hanging upside-down, eating donuts, thinking of himself as a bit of a pushover for taking the story but that maybe he'll be able to do some good. He spots a man running through the alleys. Spidey catches up to him, stops him, the man is babbling that 'they're coming'. Someone's throwing piles of trash at Spidey, which he dodges. Then the big man from earlier in the story throws a punch at Spidey, which he avoids. The big guy escapes again down a manhole, Spidey follows, but is set upon by the sewer-dwellers. He can't see them to hit back, so he leaps out of the sewer.

Back at Pete and MJ's apartment, she's telling him "no, no, no, no" over and over again. She says that Venom hurt her, and the thought of seeing the black costume again would be too much. Pete says he knows what it takes to win, and that his red & blues are like a beacon to the under-dwellers. He reasons that safety is what's kept him alive all these years as Spider-man. Mary Jane says she knew what she was getting into when they married, but that she has trouble coping with his career sometimes, and that the hardest part is that deep down she knows she can't really be of any help to him. Pete says he'll find some other hero to handle the situation, but Mary Jane says no, for Peter to do what he has to. But that she doesn't want to have to see the costume.

Two days later, Peter has a new black & white Spidey outfit from the Fantastic Four's seamstress. He tries it on and it fits like a glove. Pete admits that he'll owe MJ big time for this.

At night, back in the sewers, the big guy is bringing yet another body down into the sewer system. A gathering of the under-dwellers has begun, led by Morbius. He thanks the under-dwellers for their loyalty. He says he loathes himself for having to drink blood to survive, but that them bringing him bodies to feast on spares him the agony of choosing who will die so he can live. A cloaked under- dweller is thinking how Morbius is becoming more unstable, and as Morbius begins to mutate more, he fears for his fellow sewer people.

Spidey's swinging around the city in the black & white's, in a nice splash page, thinking some gibberish about how criminals still don't fear the heroes, that they know how to use the law better than the heroes, and that thousands of kids would like to have Spidey's job, but the jokes on them (???). He drops into a manhole, thinking the black duds should at least give him some more camouflage down in the sewer system. An army of the sewer-dwellers attack him, calling him "the bad one" over and over. Spidey is quickly overwhelmed by them. Somebody pops in to inform Morbius that there's an intruder. He says no one trespasses without paying the price.

In General...

Hmm..I'll try to save the larger analysis for part two of this story, and just talk about this issue. The art is the typical exaggerated McFarlane fare, but with the excellent coloring by Gregory Wright it all comes together very well. Morbius has never looked nastier. The art makes this fairly conventional issue--Pete goes to the Bugle, runs into somebody who sets him on the path of the villain of the month--much better than it is. The Pete / MJ scenes are handled well enough--you actually believe that MJ was really shaken up by her run in with Venom, and having Pete back in the black & white duds would stir up those bad memories.

It's a rush to see McFarlane drawing the Spidey poses in the black & white costume again. His writing of Pete's interior monologue while wearing it just falls completely flat though. It's almost as if he knew there was something that Pete should be saying internally, so he just came up with a bunch of babble that adds nothing to the narrative. I'm also not sure why Pete would have to have the Fantastic Four's seamstress whip up a black costume, but whatever.

Overall Rating...

McFarlane shows more confidence in his writing here. It's a half-way decent setup for part 2, and his art just sweetens the deal. Seeing Toddy draw the webhead in the old black & whites again rocks--he was one of the last to draw Spidey in the outfit, so it's fitting he be the first to put Pete back in it again. Other than that, there's not a lot else to write home about here. I'm really not sure why he couldn't fight off the sewer-dwellers in the darkness by using his spider-sense---he's used it so many other times to fight blind, why not here?!

Footnote...

This issue's cover is of course an homage to Todd's own cover for the series' first issue, Spider-man (Vol. 1) #1.

The letters page is full of amusing scribes taking Todd to task for his lack of writing ability.