Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #115

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This story is part of an Arc: "Who the Heck is Hammerhead?"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2001.

Background...

We conclude our looking back at the three part arc which introduced Hammerhead, as we began a couple of issues ago with Amazing Spider-Man #113.

In Detail...

"The Last Battle!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #115
Dec 1972 : SMURF 115.500 : SM Title
Summary: Aunt May, Assassin
Arc: Part 3 of "Who the Heck is Hammerhead?"
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  John Romita, Sr.
Inker:  John Romita, Sr.
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
Add. Art:  Tony Mortellaro
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #94
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #6
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius), Gwen Stacy, Hammerhead, Jameson, J. Jonah, Leeds, Ned, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Okay, Spidey's knocked out on the floor of Doc Ock's Westchester home, felled by a blow from his Aunt May. Now Hammerhead comes crashing through the front door with a couple of goons behind him. All of them are armed to the teeth. Hammerhead calls Ock out for a fight but he doesn't expect the Doctor to be right around the corner. Nor does he anticipate one of Doc's tentacles swinging around that corner, disarming him, and knocking one of his gunsels to the floor. Ock flees into a room, closing a steel door behind him. One thug (Who is this guy? Jimmy? Bert? Ernie? Who can tell?) fires his machine gun at the door, to no effect. He figures that Ock has simply locked himself in for safety but Hammerhead knows better. Octopus has actually entered one of his war rooms. He flips a switch and six hat hooks placed on the wall out in the hallway swivel down and fire laser beams at Hammy and his buddies. Doc is already writing his victory speech, when he checks a video screen which monitors the outside grounds and learns of the arrival of a half a dozen more of Hammerhead's men. To counter them, Ock orders out his "Defense Force Nine". Squads of Ock's henchmen, still dressed in a variation on the old Master Planner jumpsuit (the suits are now yellow but still look like they have hockey pucks covering their ears) come out of the walls. They all have gas masks on for a very good reason. They are all carrying guns that spray smoke. They initiate "Operation Darkout", blinding Hammy's men (and they're really elitist and snooty about it, proud of their technology as opposed to the invading hoodlums who look like they came out of "In the Days of the Mob"). In the midst of this chaos, Hammerhead takes charge (literally!). Using his steel-plated head, he runs at Ock's reinforced door again and again. Doc, protecting the door inside with his tentacles, worries that Hammy may eventually break through. Still, he figures to be gone before that happens. He still hopes to initiate his "ultimate plan" which has something to do with May Parker.

Elsewhere in the mansion, May doesn't know what she should do. It looks like that terrible Spider-Man is regaining consciousness but she can't bear the thought of hitting him again. She decides the best way she can help "that nice Doctor Octavius" is to call the police. Off she goes, in search of a phone.

After May is gone, Spidey manages to get to his feet. He thinks he caught a glimpse of his Aunt May before he was knocked out but he isn't quite sure. He sees smoke and explosions at the end of a long hallway and decides to take his act in that direction. Doc Ock, in his war room, spots Spidey on one of his video monitors but has no time to concern himself with this new development. He contacts "Defense Force Three" and orders them to get the rocket launch ready for departure while he goes in search of Aunt May. But before he can make a move from his chamber, the steel door is smashed open by the very hard head of the Hammer-man.

Hammy comes in shooting but Ock easily knocks the gun away with one of those metal arms. He extends all four of them, pinning Hammerhead to the ground, but has no chance to do any more damage before a couple of Hammy's goons enter the room, firing away with their chatter-guns. Ock decides it is time for a strategic retreat. He takes a secret exit out of the room.

Out in the hallway, Spider-Man crawls along on one of the walls. Suddenly, his spider-sense tingles, letting him know that someone dangerous is nearby. Then the tingle fades as quickly as it arrived. Little does Spidey know that there is a hidden passage just on the other side of the wall on which he is walking. His spider-sense went off just at the moment Doc Ock passed him on that hidden walkway, heading in the other direction. Spidey figures Ock must be in his base of operations in the East Wing. Instead the good Doctor is entering a room twelve feet away through a secret passageway. Inside that room is May Parker preparing to use the telephone.

Putting on all his charm, Ock assuages all of May's fears about Spider-Man and gunshots by telling her "it was but a small misunderstanding, an accident". He assures May that there is no need to call the police. And just to make sure, he sneaks one of his metal arms around behind her back and snaps May's neck!!!! (No, sorry. Wishful thinking. He snaps the telephone cord so she can't make a call.)

Over at the Daily Bugle, Gwen Stacy is ostensibly looking for Peter Parker but it looks like she's really there to find fresh victims on which she can unload her guilt about her role in Aunt May's disappearance. (She's dumping the story on Betty Brant this time around.) J. Jonah Jameson shows up and chums up to Gwen, reminding her that he was one of her father's friends and that he and she "shared something of an adventure a few months ago". (JJJ is referring to the Gog story from ASM #103, December 1971.) But when he finds out she is there looking for Peter, he turns into ol' sourpuss again. He "hurrummphs" that Peter "only shows up to collect his check", then leaves. (Jonah leaves, not Peter.) Ned Leeds is nearby, however, (and looking very spiffy in his early 70s hairstyle) and he tells Gwen about the tip he gave Pete about May Parker being at an employment agency and getting situated at a Westchester address, though he never got a chance to tell Pete that there was "something about the name of the owner". An eavesdropping Joe Robertson smells a story. (Why? Because he's that good, that's why.) He requisitions a car and allows Ned and Gwen to go along with him.

Back at the mansion, the standoff continues. A huge cloud of smoke makes it impossible for Hammerhead's men to see anything. All they know is that they have been firing into the smoke for a half an hour and somebody has been firing back. But, wonders one thug, "how d'we know it ain't some crazy machine" holding them back with gunfire while the others escape? Spidey can see the action fairly well from his high perch and he knows that Ock's men are still there. He sets up his camera to get photos, and then swings over the heads of Doc's goons. He clears the smoke and swoops into a stairwell, only to find more of the yellow suited thugs who, spotting him, take a shot at him. Spidey knocks the men aside, moves down into the basement and springs into a locker room, with gunfire still on his tail. He decides that he can maneuver better in darkness, relying on his spider-sense and reducing the chance that any gunsels will take shots at him, so he smashes out the light bulb and takes to crawling on the ceiling. He doesn't get far before his sense informs him that there is someone on the other side of the wall. Capitalizing on the element of surprise, Spidey punches right through the wall with his right hand. The startled enemy on the other side of the wall is Hammerhead, who recovers quickly and smashes Spidey's hand by slamming it, using his machine gun as a club. Spidey responds by smashing his left hand through the wall and giving Hammerhead a bear hug. But the gangster breaks free by shoving his head back and jarring Spidey enough to loosen his grip. The wall-crawler now comes through the wall himself, asking Hammy where he can find Doc Ock. The mob boss doesn't know and he doesn't care. With what he's just stolen from Ock's control room he figures "all I've gotta do is bide my time an' this whole city, maybe even the entire country is gonna fall right into my lap!" He charges head first into Spider-Man's stomach, then leaps out a window before the webhead can recover, and drives off in one of his cars. (I could have sworn that Spidey was down in the basement when he found that locker room and never went back upstairs again but the battle with Hammerhead clearly takes place on the first floor. I'm also trying to figure out why Spidey's spider-sense pinpointed Hammy on the other side of the wall but couldn't do the same when Doc Ock was on the other side of a wall. Oh well.) Spidey doesn't follow. Not only is he determined to stay and find Aunt May but the blow to his gut has stirred up his ulcer again. He can't even budge from his present spot.

Just as Hammerhead's car pulls out of one end of the circular driveway, a yellow car pulls into the other end. Ned, Robbie, and Gwen have arrived. They take one look at the house, hear the rattle of gunfire, and know that things are very wrong. Robbie uses the car phone to call the police.

Back in the house, Spidey grits his teeth, braces himself against the agony of his ulcer and forces himself to stand. With Hammerhead's men scattered and disoriented, the web-slinger decides to start gathering them up but then he rounds a corner and comes face-to-face with Dr. Octopus... who has his arm around Aunt May!

The web-slinger is convinced that May has been kidnapped and is Doc Ock's captive. He knows he must save her but worries that too much trauma will trigger a heart attack. Ock, meanwhile, consoles May and assures her that he will protect her from the evil Spider-Man. Ock attacks with his arms but Spider-Man dodges. The wall-crawler accuses Doc of "protecting" May by using her as a shield. Ock replies that "Mrs. Parker is quite aware that I've only her best interests at heart!" Spidey uses one of Ock's arms as a trapeze, swinging down and kicking Otto right in the chops. Doc fights back, clubbing Spidey in the head and chest with his arms. Aunt May remonstrates with him, begging him not to resort to violence. "You're a man of science," says the poor deluded sap, "not a vicious beast like that awful Spider-Man creature". Ock replies that he must fight fire with fire and must do his part to make the world safe "for gentle women like you". May is taken by this. "Doctor Octavius, you're so kind" she says as Otto is kicking the crap out of his opponent. "Merely as kind" replies the Doc, "as a man in love". And Spidey, who suddenly found himself losing the battle, hears this and is angered into a newfound strength and purpose. He grabs one of the metal arms and yanks on it, lifting Ock into the air and slamming him into the wall. Without allowing the super-villain any recovery time, Spidey leaps down, grabs Ock by the scruff of his neck and starts punching him repeatedly and uncontrollably. All the while he delivers a lecture. "It's one thing when you call me a fool", he tells Ock, "it's one thing when you make war with a bunch of third-rate gangster types from Central Casting, but it's something else again when you play games with a helpless old lady!" But, ironically, the old lady isn't quite so helpless. She yells at Spidey to "Stop it! Stop hitting him!" and when the wall-crawler looks up, he sees that his Aunt is prepared to back up her order. She has picked up Otto's gun, which fell to the floor when Spider-Man yanked on him. Now she is training it at the wall-crawler at point blank range. "She won't miss" from that range, the wall-crawler realizes. "It's over... all of it... it's over!"

It all happens in two seconds. First, May starts to pull the trigger. Then, a siren wails, signaling the arrival of the police. May, rattled by the siren, closes her eyes as she pulls the trigger. The gun goes off with "a loud echoing retort". But in that split-second, Spidey has leapt for the window. He knows he is very lucky that the siren "startled Aunt May into firing blindly" and he's also darn lucky that a window has magically appeared in a hallway that clearly didn't have a window before. Crouching behind some bushes outside, Spidey watches the cops rounding up the bad guys and decides he isn't needed anymore.

Robbie, Ned, and Gwen watch on the sidelines as the police bring out all the occupants of the house. When May comes out, Gwen runs up to her and gives her a big hug. She tells her how worried she's been and how badly she feels "for ever telling you those terrible things". But May believes Gwen was completely right. "I have been a silly old fool" says the silly old fool, "and I know that now". Robbie chimes in, telling her that he is happy she is now safe from her abductor but May doesn't know what he's talking about. She wasn't abducted. She came to Dr. Octavius looking for a job and he gave her "a position when I hardly knew what to do".

The police have confiscated Ock's tentacles and now they lead the dis-armed Doctor out the front door. Otto asks if he can have a moment alone with May and the police consent as Robbie, Ned, and Gwen speculate on what Ock must be saying. They also realize that Peter is nowhere about. "Do you think something's happened to him?" a teary Gwen asks, "Something awful?"

But no, nothing's happened. Pete is simply using the basement locker room to change out of his Spidey duds and back into his civvies. (Which, by the way, he didn't have with him. In fact, tracking backwards, it looks like the last time he had his clothes was back on page 21 of ASM #113 when he left them on the roof of the Daily Bugle. Oh well. Maybe he cops some clothes that some Ock henchmen left down in one of the lockers.) He sneaks out a window and comes running up to Aunt May with a lame excuse about being in such a hurry to find her that he got lost. May isn't interested in his excuses. She has made a decision which she believes is for his own good. She is not coming home with Peter. Doc Ock has asked her to stay and "keep his house in order" while he is away in prison and she has decided to accept. Touching her nephew's cheek, she tells him he is a grown man who doesn't need her anymore... "but Doctor Octavius does". May goes back into the house and a stunned Peter can only lean against a conveniently placed car and mutter "Oh wow." (Then he recovers enough to get real melodramatic, telling his friends, "I've got to work this out... cause if I don't I think I might crack up." And "working this out" doesn't even seem to include the fact that Aunt May has proven herself to be a bloodthirsty old dame who pulled the trigger on Spidey without a flicker of conscience. Pete seems to have conveniently blocked that little nugget for all time.)

And at a New Jersey airport, Hammerhead has boarded a flight to who-knows-where. He touches an envelope he has in his breast pocket. It is the mysterious info he stole from his foe. "When Octopus gets outta jail" he vows, "I'll be waiting for him. An' then it'll be the two of us, the two of us against the world!"

Spidey gets his real mask back when he swipes it from JJJ at the Daily Bugle in ASM #116 (January 1973), his ulcer is eventually entirely forgotten (we can assume it got better, I suppose), and Aunt May does indeed stay up in Westchester as Doc Ock's housekeeper for over a year's worth of issues. In ASM #119 (April 1973), Peter intercepts a telegram for Aunt May from a Montreal lawyer named Jean Pierre (later called Albert and Arthur) Rimbaud who asks May to come to Canada to discuss a "matter too delicate for discussion here or on phone". Peter goes to Montreal in May's stead. When the two men finally meet in ASM #120 (May 1973), Rimbaud is shot and killed by an unknown assailant. What happens then? Check out the Lookback for ASM #130-131 (March-April 1974) included in this very installment of PPP.