Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #144

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Delusion Conspiracy"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2001.

Background...

We conclude our two-part arc concerning the rather daft Frenchman named the Cyclone. Spidey is in Paris, naturally. The rest you'll figure out as we go along, I'm sure.

In Detail...

"The Delusion Conspiracy"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #144
May 1975 : SMURF 144.500 : SM Title
Summary: First Gwen Stacy Clone
Arc: Part 2 of "The Delusion Conspiracy"
Editor:  Len Wein
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Ross Andru
Inker:  David Hunt, Frank Giacoia
Cover Art:  Gil Kane
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Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #121
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #7
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Clone Gensis (TPB)
Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, Gwen Stacy (Clone), Jameson, J. Jonah, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

It is shortly after the events of the previous issue. Spider-Man leaps to a rooftop while gendarmes keep pedestrians away as they sift through the rubble of the building below. Spidey retrieves his camera and heads back to the hotel, flashing back on everything that has happened over the last day from the ransom telegram to the plane flight to the battle with the Cyclone. The part that makes no sense to him is the attack on Robbie Robertson. "Why kidnap the publisher of the Daily Bugle of all people and then, why kidnap his city editor?" he wonders. (This question, by the way, is never answered.) He makes it back to the hotel and changes out of his costume. Moments later, Peter Parker enters the lobby. The concierge approaches him with a note which "was delivered only a moment ago". Pete assumes it is from the kidnappers and he is absolutely right. The note instructs Pete to stay put and wait for further instructions. So, he goes back to his room and ties up the telephone by placing a transatlantic call to Aunt May! (Yeah, who cares about Jonah and Robbie?! What could be more important than having Aunt May ask you if you're keeping warm?) After a few minutes of small talk, May tells Peter that she is on her way out to the movies with Anna Watson. Pete also has to go. Apparently, the kidnappers have gotten tired of getting a busy signal and have decided to come into the hotel (in costume! Where's the concierge when you need him?) and knock on his door.

Back in Manhattan, May and Anna get ready to go out. As May puts on lipstick and straightens her hat, they chat about how nice it is that Peter and MJ seem to have finally hit it off. The talk leads to the tragedy of Gwen Stacy's death. May asks, "Why do the young people die... while we old women go on and on?" (She don't know the half of it!) They step out into the snow (which has really piled up since that rainfall at the beginning of the previous issue) with Anna telling May not to "think such things". "Nothing can change the past" Anna says, "least of all for poor Gwen". And at that moment, something causes May to turn and look across the street. She puts her hand to her mouth then to her brow as her eyes widen in shock. "I must be going insane", she declares and collapses right into Anna's arms. Why? Because she has seen a very familiar-looking young blonde woman walking along on the other side of the street. Anna, who has not noticed the woman, tries to comfort May who now lies back in the snow. But May is convinced her mind is "finally going". She's not worried about herself but she needs someone who can look after Peter. After all, "he's such a delicate boy".

Back in Paris, delicate Peter Parker opens the door, knowing he will be violently attacked. As soon as the door is open, one of the Cyclone's goons barges in and shoves Peter right in the face. He pins Pete's arm behind his back while a second goon comes in and taunts our hero for being careless enough to open the door to them. "You Americans", he chides, "You are so sly but this slyness, it is a pose! Beneath it, you are fools!" Pete complains about the insult to his nationality and gets a punch in the solar plexus for his troubles. The goon tells him to bring the ransom to Notre Dame the following evening "or you will never see your two friends again... alive!"

The next morning, Pete goes to the concierge and gets an attaché case from the hotel safe. It is still early dawn on a Saturday as Pete steps into the foggy streets. No one else is yet up and about. He wanders the neighborhood until he comes upon a hardware store. This gives him an idea. He hasn't really thought about how he is going to defeat Cyclone but "maybe", he decides, "I can find what I need in a place like this". He enters the store and explains his needs to the (fortunately bilingual) shopkeeper. Not long after (having used JJJ's stocks to make this purchase, I assume), he emerges pushing a very large box on a trolley. He marches into the mist, heading for the Cathedral de Notre Dame.

He makes preparations at Notre Dame then passes the day by web-slinging. At nightfall, he is back at the cathedral. He sits for a moment, gazing at the gargoyles and waxing philosophical. Then, at a run, he gets his head back in the game and prepares for action.

Inside Notre Dame, Jonah and Robbie sit with their hands tied. The Cyclone stands nearby and asks if they're comfortable. J. Jonah Jameson is not interested in any sweet-talk. "I'm an American citizen", he says, "and you can't just kidnap..." The Cyclone interrupts and reminds him that he already has been kidnapped. Then he adds (Here it comes!)... "The problem with you Americans is you cannot understand your own vulnerability." According to the Cyclone, "defeat on a very personal level" has made Europeans strong. Americans (who presumably haven't experienced any defeat on a personal level), on the other hand, are weak. Jonah argues that using the "cyclone gadget" (which, it appears, is built into the Cyclone's THUNDER Agents belt) is not an example of strength. This causes the Cyclone to blurt out his origin in two simple panels. It turns out that he was an engineer for NATO and he "developed the cyclone as a weapon of war" (and, sure enough, there he is in a lab churning up a cyclone inside a big transparent tube). After his success, however, he was "told that NATO did not require my invention, since all exotic weaponry would be purchased only from America". And NATO fires his butt on top of that. After hearing the story, Jonah thinks he has it all figured out. "You're blaming America", he says, "and Americans because of your own incompetence. You're crazy". This is not what the Cyclone wants to hear. He slaps JJJ hard across the face. "It is you who are insane if you think to insult me and live!" he says. Just then a voice from the ceiling asks, "what's with all the rough stuff? I thought this was a kidnapping... or don't you want the ransom after all?" Just then, the open attaché filled with stocks (though it looks like a case full of greenbacks to me) is lowered on webbing from above. The Cyclone is still too busy with Jonah to pay attention but the two henchmen notice it. (Somehow we lost one henchman from last issue to this. Oh well! He's probably the lucky one.)

Just as one of them makes a grab for it, the case is closed up and whisked up out of reach. The webbing comes right down again but this time Spider-Man is hanging onto it. He hangs upside down and kicks each goon in the jaw, knocking them both out.

Spidey leaps to the ground and confronts the Cyclone who says (yes), "Pig! I will flatten you!" He is so enraged that he makes the mistake of trying to land a punch on Spider-Man. Needless to say, the web-slinger easily evades the punch, then lands a couple of good haymakers of his own, all the while lecturing the Cyclone on his lack of class for picking a church in which to hide his kidnap victims not to mention for kidnapping J. Jonah Jameson in the first place. Unfortunately, the wall-crawler doesn't finish the Cyclone off. The villain pushes a button on his belt and the tornado winds start to swirl around him.

Spidey tries to hang on to the Cyclone's shoulder but the winds are too strong. Using "the force of a hundred cyclones" the Gallic Gust-maker sends Spider-Man flying. "This time" he vows, "you will die!" The web-spinner makes a frantic grab for a balcony railing to keep from being knocked through a window. He snags it, rights himself, and then tries to web-sling right down through the eye of the tornado, heading right for the Cyclone's head. Would that this had succeeded. It would have saved us all from the ludicrous resolution that is coming up right now.

The webhead only gets about halfway down the funnel before the winds catch him and throw him out onto the cathedral floor right next to a large object that looks like a haystack covered by a green sheet. The webster is forced to return to his original plan. He only hopes "there's enough electricity in this cathedral for my gadget to work". The Cyclone swoops in for the kill. Spider-Man reaches up to the large object and removes the green sheet. Underneath is a giant electric fan. (I kid you not.) The Cyclone doesn't take it very seriously but that's his hard luck. It turns out that Spidey and the hardware store guy know exactly what they're doing. The wall-crawler flips the switch and the fan creates "a vortex in reverse" to the Cyclone's winds. The Cyclone still doesn't take it seriously. "Don't you realize what I am?" he boasts, "I am power incarnate! Nothing can stop me!" Then the fan blows him, hard, against a stone pillar, knocking him completely out.

With the villain vanquished, Spider-Man joins JJJ and Joe Robertson and unties their hands. Jonah is in agony over being rescued by Spider-Man and the two of them engage in some verbal sparring, until they are interrupted by the voice of Peter Parker coming from an upstairs belfry. "I've got all the pictures we'll need for the Daily Bugle" the voice says, "but if you want, I can take some more". Spidey tells the two men that Peter can explain how he got involved in the case, then he swings off. But he actually doesn't go very far. First, he retrieves the "remote-control activated tape recorder" he had previously stashed up in the belfry so that he could play Peter's voice and make Jonah and Robbie believe that Parker and Spider-Man were there simultaneously. (And where did he pick up that item? At that same convenient hardware store?) Then he figures to change back to Peter Parker and answer questions as best as he can.

But Gerry gives us no specifics on that. Instead he jumps ahead to the arrival of the airplane at Kennedy International. Peter is expecting Mary Jane to be waiting at the airport but she is a no-show so the three men take a cab. During the ride, Peter thinks about MJ... something he has been doing "a lot lately". "And unless I'm way off beam, I think she's been thinking a lot about me", he decides. What, then is the explanation for her not coming to the airport?

The mystery deepens when the cab arrives at Peter's apartment and Anna Watson is waiting for him in the doorway. Before he can take more than a few steps with his baggage, Anna tells him that his Aunt is in the hospital because she saw something inexplicable... something "upstairs". Peter drops his bags and runs up the stairs before Anna can finish what she is saying. He is afraid for his Aunt but also overwhelmed with "a lurching premonition and the sudden overwhelming knowledge that after tonight his world will never be the same". He opens the door to his apartment and standing there, waiting for him, clutching her purse in her hands, is his dead girl friend Gwen Stacy... alive and well.

What's the deal with Gwen Stacy? Well, over the next five issues, it is determined that she is a clone of the original created by the Jackal and... I don't have to tell you any of this, do I?

In General...

Aunt May in the hospital? Big deal. She's got her own suite there, I think.

As for the Cyclone, he is hired by the Maggia and shows up in New York (in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #22-23, September-October 1978) with four henchmen where he battles Spidey and Moon Knight. It is Moon Knight who defeats him this time. He drops a capsule into Cyclone's tornado funnel which releases "a small explosion of liquefied gases". The result is a rapid drop in temperature that puts the Cyclone into shock, causing him to "slip sideways out of control" and crash into a wall "at a tremendous velocity". After that? Well, the guy ends up drinking in the wrong bar, my friends.