Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #164

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This story is part of an Arc: "Kingpin Sucks Spidey's Life Force"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

*This is Part Two of Spider-Man's battle with the Kingpin. Last issue was actually broken up chronologically, with Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #1 and Marvel Team-Up #52 falling between pages 9 & 10 of that issue.

In Detail...

"Deadline!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #164
Jan 1977 : SMURF 164.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "Kingpin Sucks Spidey's Life Force"
Editor:  Len Wein
Writer:  Len Wein
Pencils:  Ross Andru
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
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 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #8
Articles: Glory Grant, Kingpin, Lizard, Rose (Richard Fisk)

Spider-Man is strapped to the "Vita-Drain," a gizmo that will transfer his "life force" to the unliving form of Richard Fisk right beside him. Kingpin explains to Spidey how troublesome the wall-crawler has been to him recenlty and also how Richard got to this point. He is about to give the order to begin the process when his wife Vanessa walks in, trying to get Wilson to change her mind about sacrificing another man for her son. Kingpin doesn't listen.

The process works and the now-living Richard walks off with Vanessa as Kingpin informs the now-free Spider-Man that he probably has less than six hours to live. Some of Kingpin's flunkies take Spidey and unceremoniously dump him out of a car in the street. Spider-Man somehow makes it home and dresses just in time to receive a visit from Glory Grant. Seeing him barely able to stand and shaking, Peter's friend goes to get a doctor. But Pete knows that only one doctor can help him now.

Spide barely makes it to the office of Dr. Curt Connors before collapsing. Connors puts Spidey into an "enervator" which Connors says will help him with some luck. Spidey says, "Could you do me a favor, Doc, and leave luck out of this? That little lady and I aren't usually on speaking terms."

Nevertheless the process does make Spider-Man stronger, but an attempt to increase the machine's power more causes an explosion which shakes up the doctor. He is able to give Spidey a special taser which might counteract the Vita-Drain and siphon the energy back to our hero. Spider-Man leaves with only two hours left to find Fisk but thanks Connors for his help. Ominously, Connors still feels the effects of the explosion.

Spider-Man swings around the city for the next hour and a half, desperately trying to find the Kingpin and family. Finally, just as the effects of the enervator are wearing off, he feels his Spider-Sense tingle and finds them at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Father and son are arguing about Richard having Spider- Man's death on his conscience when Spidey's taser hits the younger man between the eyes.

The process works but Spider-Man is still woozy as the Kingpin comes after him, destroying a scaffold in his attempt at reaching the wall-crawler. He pushes a large grappling hook at Spidey who dodges and webs Fisk's feet to a platform high above the water. He tries to warn Kingpin of the hook's backswing but Kingpin can't move and is hit and falls. Kingpin grabs a beam but refuses to accept Spider-Man's hand for aid, choosing to try to destroy the wooden platform as he falls. Both men hit the water amid the wreckage, but only Spider-Man emerges. at the surface.

Vanessa refuses to allow the Kingpin's men to fire on Spider-Man. She claims to be in his debt - even though Spidey took his life force back, Richard was rejuvenated enough to live on. "You stole my husband away from me tonight, Spider-Man," she says, teary-eyed. "But you gave me back my son!" She warns him never to cross her path again and drives away to find a place where her son can recover in peace.

In General...

A good ending to this two-parter that sets up a future plot line with a foreshadowing of the Lizard's return.

Wein shows that Richard is far more his mother's son than his father's. Vanessa and Richard share the thought that another man shouldn't have been sacrificed to bring him back to life. And when he is revived, it is the Kingpin who is left alone as mother and son walk off together to talk. Richard would be used to even greater effect as the Rose in the mid-to-late '80s, still with a criminal bent inherited from his parents, but also unwilling to want to take life himself.

Vanessa also has her own code of ethics. Also unwilling to take life needlessly, she nonetheless is fiercely protective of her family. But when given the choice between vengeance for a loved one's loss or gratitude for a loved one's return, it is the latter that wins out.

Kingpin's strength seems a little excessive here as he has an ability to bend a steel scaffold. I've always had a little trouble believing that all that bulk is really muscle and have found the most effective Kingpin stories to be the ones in which is is a master manipulator forced to fisticuffs only when necessary.

There is also the "unconscious hero doesn't lose his mask" factor in this story. In a story featuring a Vita-Drain and an enervator, it's the fact that the Kingpin doesn't look to see who Spider-Man really is that is the hardest plot point to accept. Sure, he thought Spider-Man had no time left. But, still, don't you just want to know who he is? Not even a little curious?

There's a funny scene in which two older ladies view a staggering Spider-Man after Kingpin's flunkies threw him out of the car. "Well, I never! It's that Spider-Man person - as drunk as a heathen on holiday!"

Was Stan right? Legend has it that "The Reprehensible Riddle of the Sorcerer" story from 1968 was consigned to Marvel Super Heroes #14 because Stan didn't think artist Ross Andru quite had the look for rendering Spider-Man and his combatants. Nine years later, Andru's male faces have a very simplistic, one-note feel to them (reminiscent of Fawcett's Captain Marvel character). Vanessa, however, is drawn with a very effective harsh delicacy. His Spider- Man is passable, but awkward at times, with Spidey's weakness being a difficult image to convey.

Overall Rating...

A good story showing the Kingpin family dynamics and Spidey facing near- impossible odds. If you can excuse the presence of a "Vita-Drain" it's an entertaining yarn.

Footnote...

Interesting ads this issue include some Marvel books, including Bring on the Bad Guys and the Mighty Marvel Comics Strength and Fitness Book. The thought of the Hulk "working out" with little dumbbells is priceless. There is also a Hostess ad, "The Incredible Hulk and the Green Thumb." And Spider-Man and Captain America "Ricochet to Freedom!"

Meanwhile Peter Parker appears on a house ad for Ms. Marvel #1, a cover also featuring Mary Jane and Jolly Jonah. And a teaser for a Spider-Woman appearance in Marvel Spotlight appears as well. That same Bullpen Bulletins page announces the new Black Panther series by Jack Kirby: "Despite the recent demise of Jungle Action, we have a lot of faith in the Panther as a character." [Is this 1977 or 2006?] Also congratulations were given to Herb Trimpe and Linda Fite on the birth of their daughter, Amelia.

A note on the letters page thanks some officials at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for allowing artist Ross Andru to take photographs there for the sake of accuracy in his art.

Don't worry, folks, Kingpin's not dead. He appears next officially in Amazing Spider-Man #196. That will be his last big story arc before the Frank Miller Daredevil run that brought him to the A-list of villainy.

Our hero appears virtually immediately in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #2 at the conclusion of this story.