Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #242

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Other People's Villains

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

The Mad Thinker first appears in FF #15, June 1963. A genius with a computer-quick brain, the Thinker is able to predict any future eventuality as long as he takes all possible factors into account. Using this ability, the Thinker takes over the Baxter Building and nearly defeats the FF but he is stymied by the x-factor...not the mutant group but the unexpected factor that he is not able to calculate; in this case Reed Richards' instruction to mailman Willy Lumpkin to ring a bell that deactivates all of the Baxter Building devices. Through his long criminal career, the Thinker has created the faceless hammer headed Awesome Android (first seen in FF #15), teamed with the Puppet Master (for the first time in FF #28, July 1964 and known as the "Deadly Duo" in Strange Tales #126, November 1964), revived the original Human Torch and created Quasimodo (in FF Special #4, November 1966) and designed robot replicas of the Fantastic Four (in FF#96, March 1970), among other things. He previously opposed Spider-Man (teamed with the Thing) in Marvel Team-Up #6, January 1973. Now, he stays behind the scenes as his brand-new Awesome Android tangles with the web-slinger.

In Detail...

"Confrontations!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #242
Jul 1983 : SMURF 242.500 : SM Title
Summary: Mad Thinker & his Battle Droid, Mary Jane returns
Editor:  Tom DeFalco
Writer:  Roger Stern
Pencils:  John Romita, Jr.
Inker:  Kevin Dzuban
Cover Art:  John Romita, Jr.
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Articles: Mary Jane Watson-Parker

Peter Parker, carrying a duffel bag and depicted with that half-Spidey mask over the left side of his face, walks into the Science Hall at Empire State University. The new term is about to begin and Peter, who has not been particularly interested in his studies lately, is checking on his grade from his biophysics final to see if he is going to be allowed to stay in school. And why hasn't Peter been concentrating on his studies? Well, conscientious Roger Stern gives us the lowdown. For one thing, he's just back from Rain, New Hampshire on a Bugle photo assignment that ends up involving Spider-Man, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Necrodamus, the huge android known as Alpha, and androids of Mark Twain, Abe Lincoln, Confucius, Albert Einstein, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and others that were constructed, in fact, by the Mad Thinker back in Captain America #269, May 1982. (Pete's visit is shown in Marvel Team-Up #129-130, May-June 1983.) But more importantly, he's been spending most of his time "at the hospital watching over the Black Cat". The Cat was shot by Doctor Octopus' men in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #76, March 1983. In that same issue, an unshaven Peter heads directly from his hospital vigil to his final exam, shows up late, and can barely concentrate on his work for all of his worries about the Black Cat. When he's done, he rushes off, answering Dr. Sloan's question of "How do you think you did?" with "I don't know right now and I couldn't care less!" Now in the Science Hall and up at the bulletin board, Peter is surprised to see that "the final scores are posted for every discipline except biophysics". Dr. Sloan walks up behind him and tells Peter he is surprised to see that he is even taking an interest. "A week ago" he says, "you said you didn't give - what were your words? a scratch about them!" (Yes, Pete does tell Dr. Sloan "I don't give a scratch for grades" on page 9, panel 5 of PPTSSM #78, May 1983.) Peter allows as to how things are different now but Sloan doesn't let him off the hook. He sticks a finger in Pete's face and reminds him that "you need at least an 80% on your exam just to stay in the graduate program". Peter tells him he has "had a lot of personal problems lately" and then asks the Doctor how he did but Sloan doesn't know yet. "Ever since Debra Whitman quit her job and went back to the Midwest I've had to get along without a secretary," he explains. (Deb left town in PPTSSM #74, January 1983.) This has put Sloan behind on his grading. He tells Peter he "won't be finished for at least another day". Peter asks if Sloan has heard from Deb. "I did receive a call from her" the Doc replies, "but just a brief one. She seems to be doing well, but she still has a lot weighing on her mind." "Don't we all" says Pete... and that pretty much does it for Debra Whitman from then all the way to now. Peter wishes Sloan "Happy Grading" and hits the street again. He stops to buy a Daily Bugle from a curbside machine (the price of the paper is 25 cents) and notices that "Jameson's still milking Doc Ock's capture for all it's worth" (which happened in PPTSSM #79, June 1983) but he also notices that the picture of Ock is an old one he took a couple of years ago. Peter notes that he would have had new photos of Ock "and money in my pocket" if he hadn't lost his camera during the fight. (And Pete did lose his camera on page 19 panels 6-8 of PPTSSM #79 but Roger missed this moment from page 7 panel 5 of PPTSSM #78 where Peter holds out a handful of film rolls at the Bugle after Joe Robertson asks him if he has photos and replies, "Sure do, Robbie! Sensational stuff! Spider-Man in action against Doctor Octopus, the Owl, the Gladiator, and Vermin! They're some of the best pics I've ever taken! I almost died getting some of them and I want top dollar cash or I'll go elsewhere!" When JJJ balks, Peter threatens to expose the rolls and Jonah caves in and buys them. So Pete should have that money in his pocket after all.) He reflects once again on how Ock's men put the Cat in the hospital and how Ock tried to finish the job (in PPTSSM #78-79) and how Spider-Man saved Ock's life even as he captured him (again in PPTSSM #79). "I hope he thinks about that every single day," thinks Pete but he seems unaware that his declaration to Ock that "I'll always find a way to beat you! You'll never win! Never!" is the beginning of the time during which Doc Ock is terrified of the web-slinger. Peter finishes reading the paper, rolls it up and holds it in his right hand (his duffel bag hanging from his left shoulder) as he walks along the sidewalk. He is unaware of the driver of a car (with fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror) just behind him. "There he is" the driver thinks and roars up to the sidewalk alongside Pete. The car turns out to be a little yellow sports car and the driver is Bugle photographer Lance Bannon. "Get in, Parker!" he yells, "We have to have a talk! A long talk!"

But Peter isn't interested. He figures Lance is just angry because he didn't get the New Hampshire photo assignment. But as soon as Lance says, "The street is no place to talk about personal matters", Peter climbs right in since he thinks, "That's the most curious thing Lance's ever said. He's never wanted to talk about anything besides photography before." So, off they drive with Peter wondering what is bothering Lance and getting "the sinking feeling that I'm not going to like the answer".

The scene shifts to a maximum-security prison in upstate New York. There is one prisoner in particular that is closely watched by the guards and avoided by the other prisoners. He is known as The Thinker and our first good glimpse of him reveals a stocky man with a great mane of hair sitting on a wooden stool in the posture of Rodin's famous statue. It appears that the Thinker ("considered mad by the world at large") simply "sits entranced" for several hours each day amidst his books and sink and bunk in his cell. But in reality, he is projecting his thoughts by way of "the micro-transference unit implanted in [his] cerebral cortex" which allows him to leave his body in jail while his mind settles into "this simulacrum body in [his] Manhattan hideaway". There in a room that looks to be entirely made of metal (including the floor) are two green faceless metal androids (looking quite a bit like the Guardsman, the old Iron Man foe). There is also a bank of monitors where the Thinker can "relive past triumphs". At the moment, he is viewing scenes of victory over the Fantastic Four (from FF #15, June 1963), the X-Men (from FF #28, July 1964) and the Avengers (from Avengers #39, April 1967) and much as he'd like to cherish the moments, he has to admit to himself that each of those victories eventually turned to defeat. There was always some x-factor that "continually upset [his] calculations". While musing over these battles, a monitor comes to life. It reveals a "delayed transmission" from the New Hampshire base where the Thinker created the famous people androids. The scene he views is of Spider-Man battling Alpha ("that largish android... cobbled together from my old equipment") from MTU #129. The Thinker is impressed with how well the wall-crawler did against such an imposing foe and this gets him thinking about how capable Spidey is... and how little he knows about him. Putting his hand up to his face, he recalls that, in prison, "I've heard rumors that [Spidey] is somehow able to avoid danger almost as if he could sense it". It occurs to him that if that ability existed and if he could recreate it artificially, it could go a long way to eliminate the x-factors that continually haunt him. Calculating quickly, the Thinker determines that there is "a 93.7% chance of Spider-Man showing up on the Eastside within the next three hours". He orders one of his green androids, which he calls "Battle- Droid 12" to "prepare to receive new programming". (Now admit it, in all the years of Spider-Man battles with super-villains, this is one of the best motivations ever given for a bad guy to initiate a fight. It's just such a nice meshing of the Thinker's flaw with one of Spidey's abilities. Nice job, Roger!)

So the android is sent on his errand. (Roger tells us he is composed of "magnanium steel, synthetic tissue, and micro-circuitry".) He zips up out of a skylight and flies standing at attention, perpendicular to the ground with two little pipes sticking out of his ankles, firing jets and providing his lift. Having sent his android on its way, the Thinker concentrates and allows his mind to go back to his real body in prison. A guard wearing shades stops at the bars of his cell and asks what the Thinker has been up to. With a sly grin, the villain replies, "Nothing to be alarmed at. I was merely... thinking!"

While this has been going on, Peter Parker and Lance Bannon have stopped off at P.J. Dutton's, "a well-known Manhattan watering-hole". They sit at the bar. Lance is buying but Peter only wants a club soda. Finally, Lance gets to the point, which is Amy Powell. Peter's not entirely sure who Lance is talking about but he is reminded that he had "coffee and pie at O'Brian's eatery" with Amy "the other day".

Let's get up to speed on Amy. She first appeared in ASM #230, July 1982 in the city room of the Daily Bugle arguing with Lance who has been seeing someone else at the same time as he is seeing her. When Amy confronts him on this, Lance reminds her that she's "the one who wanted an open relationship". Amy stalks off, determined to get back at Lance. She shows up again at the Bugle in ASM #233, October 1982. She's supposed to be meeting Lance but he is late and she bumps into Peter Parker instead. Peter barely notices her but Amy finds out from another Bugle employee who Pete is and she remembers that he is Lance's competition. This gives her ideas which she tries to follow up on in ASM #234, November 1982. This time she bumps into Peter on purpose and comes on to him but Peter blows her off and runs to catch the elevator. In ASM #239, April 1983, Amy tells Lance that he may have competition from Peter Parker and later calls Peter to ask him out. Pete who has been asleep for ten hours and needs to get back on Spidey patrol tells her "Maybe some other time!" and hangs up on her. In ASM #240, May 1983, Amy goes to Peter's apartment but he isn't home. Finally on the last page of ASM #241, June 1983, Amy buttonholes Peter, takes his arm, and tells him "I'm buying you a cup of coffee right now and I won't take no for an answer!" Lance is in the shadows spying and becomes determined to keep Peter from "getting mixed up with my lady"... open relationship or no. But what he doesn't know is what Peter is thinking as Amy leads him away: "A new romantic entanglement is the last thing I need. Maybe if I humor her, she'll lose interest."

So, it's not surprising that Peter barely knows who Amy is. When Lance tells Pete that he and Amy have been seeing each other for two years, Pete assures Lance that "she means nothing to me". But she means a lot to Lance. He puts his head down on the bar and admits to Peter that he has an open relationship with Amy in which they agreed they were each free to see other people but that now he wants to get more serious. "I don't know how to tell Amy," he tells Pete, "If she doesn't feel the same way, I might lose her." Lance further admits that he and Amy have been "playing this game with each other... one of us making a play for somebody new just to get under the other's skin". But now Lance is afraid Amy may actually be falling for Peter. Pete doesn't care whether she is or isn't falling for him. He's appalled at the thought of being dragged into this game and he plans to stop it right now. He asks Lance for Amy's work number. (And he reaches for a great old push-button phone at the bar.) It turns out Amy works at Bloomingdale's and even has her own desk with a nameplate. She also takes the conversation right over. Although Peter begins with the intent of calling a halt to Amy's schemes, he ends up with a dinner date at D'Angelos at eight. (And it also sounds like Amy plans to come over to his place afterwards to "cuddle up in front of your fireplace" and finding out that Peter doesn't have a fireplace doesn't faze her at all. "Well, never mind! I'll bring along a bunch of candles!")

When Peter hangs up and admits that he now has a date, Lance tells him, "Well, best of luck, old man!" But Peter won't accept this. "My life is complicated enough as it is!" he tells Lance, "I refuse to be part of some screwy triangle!" He tells Lance to be at his place at seven-thirty. "We're both going to make that date!" he says as he storms out of the bar. Lance throws four bills onto the bar and makes for the door himself. "How's that going to solve anything, Pete?" he cries. He's still trying to ask the question as he gets outside but Peter is nowhere in sight. Lance does a double take and wonders, "Where'd he go?" never imagining that Peter is three stories up on the roof of a nearby building. Even as he reflects on his mistaken impression of Amy, Peter changes into his Spidey suit. As he leaps high into the air and shoots out a web, he recalls how "she took over the phone conversation" and thinks, "I hate it when people do that to me". Now he's so angry, he actually thinks, "Grrr!" (I don't know about you but I don't think I've ever been so angry that I actually thought "Grrr!") The only thing to do is some web swinging to "mellow [him] out". He makes his way to the Eastside Con Edison smoke stacks. "Wonder if I can beat my old time for a triple-ricochet bounce", he thinks.

It's not something any of us are going to find out because as soon as Spidey lands on one of the stacks, his spider-sense starts tingling like crazy. Then a green arm punches through the smoke stack from the inside out to where Spidey was standing before he leapt to safety. The green arm leads to an entire green body. "Great" thinks Spider-Man, "A big dumb robot is after me!" We recognize it as the Thinker's android, of course, but don't ask me what it was doing hiding in the smoke stack on the off chance that Spidey might decide to land there. Courtesy of the Thinker's calculations, no doubt. Actually, this turns out to be the perfect opportunity for the ticked-off web-slinger to dish out some punishment. He lands on an opposing smoke stack and propels himself right back. "Head up, Chrome-Head" he declares, "Here I come!"

He curls up into a ball and strikes the Android right in the torso with a "Wham". He follows that up by kicking the Android off of the smoke stack. It lands with a very loud "Thud!" as Spidey reclines on the side of the stack, his hands behind his head. After a moment, the wall-crawler makes his way to the ground. The Android is flat on its back and is so heavy that it has crunched about a foot into the pavement. Spidey assumes the robot is done for until he gets another warning from his spider-sense. Suddenly the Android rises and two tubes emerge from its chest. "Oh goody! Flame-throwers!" thinks Spidey as the tubes spit fire out at him. Only his reflexes keep him from having his webs singed off.

On the street, three police officers evacuate people (there are twelve that we can see), telling them "there's danger of falling debris". One bystander says, "Sounds like there's danger of falling buildings!"

Meanwhile, Spidey flees the recovered Android and is annoyed to discover that his green faceless foe flies. The Android holds his right arm out, pointed at Spidey and the web-slinger wonders, "Does he expect me to hold still and let him punch me?" He finds out the answer when he lands on a ventilation shaft. A concussion blast from the Android's arm destroys the vent as Spidey leaps out of the way. "What that dirty..." thinks the wall-crawler, "That does it! Now I'm mad!"

Over at Peter's apartment building in Chelsea, a redhead wearing a blue jacket, jeans, and heels walks up to the front door. Before she can buzz the apartment, the landlady, Mrs. Muggins, opens the door and tells her that Peter is not in. She recognizes the redhead as someone she has seen around before and tells her that she'd be wasting her time waiting for Peter since "that boy keeps odd hours". The redhead says she will be back later and leaves. Mrs. Muggins remembers that "respectable young women didn't call on men when I was her age" and wonders "what's this world coming to?"

Back at the battle, Spidey picks up a section of the ventilator shaft and throws it at the Android who runs right through it. Between the two combatants, seen only by the reader, are the blue eyes and bushy eyebrows of the Thinker. He is using "his transference implant" to spy on the battle and he can't believe what he is observing. "Spider-Man is actually standing up to a model of android which once nearly destroyed the Fantastic Four", he thinks. (Hey, that's right! It's the same faceless green guy that came after the FF in FF #70-71, January-February 1968, using the same flying ankle units, radar scanner and ultimate weapon coming out of his face. [We'll get to those last two soon.]. The FF can't stop him and finally win when Reed Richards trips the Android, causing him to stumble through the portal into the Negative Zone where he is "Eternally lost in the endless reaches of an anti- universe!!") "How does he do it?" the Thinker wonders of Spider-Man as he observes the web-spinner leap over the Android, grab it by the neck and piledrive its head into the roof. All of this wondering seems to creep into Spidey's consciousness. In the moment that the Android is trying to get up, the web-slinger has "the weirdest feeling I was being watched". He sloughs this off, attributing it to the squadron of cops observing him from a roof across the way. Then he realizes that the one on the end isn't a cop at all. It's Lance Bannon taking pictures of the fight for the Bugle. "This must be National Let's Use Spider-Man Day", he thinks, "Amy uses me to get back at Lance (Although technically Amy is using Peter, not Spider-Man.), Lance uses me to make money, and Greenie here wants to use me as a punching bag!" Then his spider-sense flares up because the Android is rising to his feet again.

Having been knocked flat twice, the Android's programming "demands its ultimate weapon". This turns out to be two very Kirbyesque golden tubes that pop out of its faceplate and start firing. Spidey recognizes it as a "charged-particle beam" which disintegrates whatever it was that was right behind him as he leapt away. The web-slinger comes to two conclusions. First, "Whoever built laughing boy must be big league!" and second, "I think the only way I'm gonna stop this thing is to drop something big on him!" The only trouble is, "anything big enough to do a number on him would probably be too heavy for even me to lift!" So, he takes a couple of high bounds and crashes through the window of the unoccupied power plant. He hopes the Android will follow him and that "the darkness in here [will] frustrate his photo-cells or whatever it is he uses for eyes". This, unfortunately, does not work. Yes, the Android follows, but as soon as it punches its way through the wall and flies down into the "dimly-lit generator room", a red disc appears on its face that allows him to track by radar. The Android walks between giant turbines trying to sense movement and is unprepared for the barrage of machinery that starts falling on him. Spidey is up above tossing down every bit of junked hardware he can find. There is so much of it that it messes with the Android's radar signal and the green fellow keeps walking right toward a massive web in his path. The Android hits the webbing and tries to keep walking, stretching it as he goes. Spidey drops some more debris down as the Android keeps walking. The webbing is so strong that it doesn't break. Instead, the turbines to which it is attached are affected. As the pulling continues, the "massive turbine housings" and "steel moorings buckle and then, snap!" When that happens, turbines, girders, everything in the room lands right on top of the Android. Just what Spidey wanted. Something big enough to drop on him.

The web-slinger swings down and takes a look at the severed left hand of the Android. He bends down to retrieve it, hoping to learn something about the Android's construction. But just as he starts to reach down, his spider-sense shrieks at him again. He uses his webbing to snag one small green shard of the Android and leaps for the nearest window. Just as he gets outside, the Android self-destructs, taking a chunk of the Con Edison plant with it. "I'll bet they use this as an excuse to ask for a rate hike" thinks Spidey as he swings away.

Back in his jail cell, the Thinker decides that "the rumors were correct" and that Spider-Man "does indeed seem to sense danger". He vows to find out how it works, to "formulate a plan to uncover the secret of his ability". Then, he resumes his Rodin posture on the wooden stool, thinking, "I shall have to give this much thought."

The wall-crawler swings home with the idea of eventually analyzing the small chunk of Android that he grabbed. But first he wants to get "this personal matter taken care of". Back at 410 Chelsea Street at 7:26 PM, Peter is putting on an orange velour pullover when there is a knock at his door. It figures it must be Lance arriving a few minutes early. But when he opens the door, he finds Amy Powell carrying a picnic basket. She is dressed in a black top that slides down to reveal one bare shoulder. When Peter protests that they were supposed to meet at the restaurant, Amy says she changed her mind. "As the afternoon wore on, I got in the mood for a picnic, an indoor picnic!... So I stopped at this marvelous gourmet deli and had them pack us dinner." She opens the basket to reveal a bottle of wine, some Gouda cheese, a loaf of bread and something in a white package. When Peter starts to protest that "it'll have to wait until we...", Amy puts her hand on his cheek and cuts him right off. Presumably the rest of Peter's sentence would be, "talk about you and Lance" but Amy deliberately chooses to take it another way. "You devil!" she says, "You don't waste any time, do you?" and she plants a long passionate kiss right on his mouth. (Aw, the poor guy. Where do I sign up for such abusive treatment?) In the midst of the kiss, there is another knock on the door. Peter pulls away (lipstick all over his mouth) and figures it must be Lance. "If we're quiet, maybe they'll go away!" says Amy, pulling Peter to her once again and adding more lipstick to his face. Peter tries to protest but doesn't seem to do a very effective job. (Who can blame him?) Sure enough, the knocking stops. But then there is the sound of a key in the lock and the door opens. Amy, draped all over Peter, asks "Who... who are you?" to the newcomer. And the answer? "Uh... I'm Mary Jane Watson", says the entering MJ (whose outfit is now green instead of blue), "Have I let myself in at the wrong time, Petey?"

In the Spider's Web, J. Kenneth Riviere of Atlanta, Georgia enjoyed the Tarantula/Will O'The Wisp/Roxxon story from ASM #233-236, October 1982- January 1983 but thinks that Roxxon, "the evil, remorseless, corporation you love to hate... are going to have to get caught for good in their own intrigues". Tom DeFalco answers, wondering, "How often do the other Roxxons of the world get caught?" Future comics scripter Evan Dorkin of Staten Island, New York doesn't say too much of interest but I figured I should mention him. The gem of the page is from Bill Dargen of Tacoma, Washington who writes, "I rarely even glance at letters pages which makes it all the more amazing that I chanced to note Todd Wilson's letter wherein he mused, "Hasn't Spider-Man fought the Juggernaut before?" and decided, "... no! But as I was looking through Amazing Spider-Man #37, something on the letters page caught my eye... a suggestion from one Bill Dargan of Manhattan Beach, California to set the Juggernaut against Spider-Man!" What a jolt when I read that! And how much smaller the world seems. That was me... sixteen years ago! I feel glad and ancient all at the same time. I wonder what percentage of Marvel's audience goes all the way back to the beginning? I was in my late teens when I wrote that letter. The thoughts of days gone by set me to reflecting further upon the overall impact Marvel has had on my life, and I see that it has been a positive teaching, molding and motivating force for me. Becoming intrigued with the science-fantasy aspect of Marvel's multiplying series, I was prompted to pursue a career in the sciences, and am today a clinical laboratory scientist, specializing in immunology. I have no doubt that Marvel helped increase my vocabulary, improved my grammar and refined my abilities to express myself. I have become the president of an association of medical professionals. I attribute much of my personal writing and speaking abilities to a lifetime of immersion in Marvel; thus, to you must go some of the credit for my successes." There's actually a little more than that but you get the idea. You have to wonder if he's still reading now. And, hey, check out our review of ASM #37, June 1966 in next month's "From the Beginning" where I'll be sure to include parts of Bill Dargan's original letter. (Which, actually, doesn't ask for a Spidey/Juggernaut battle. Bill's just upset over the trauma Spidey has been through so he sarcastically says, "Why don't you just turn Juggernaut loose on Spidey and get it over with?" But don't let me spoil a great "follow-up letter" story!)

The final spit and polish:

ASM #243, August 1983 picks up right where our issue left off. Pete and Amy are interrupted by Mary Jane with Amy wondering who "this woman" is and why she has a key to Peter's apartment. Pete introduces them and explains that he and MJ "were engaged once... sorta". Lance arrives soon after. As soon as Amy sees Lance, she calls him a beast and storms out with Lance following. Left alone with MJ, Peter offers to share the picnic dinner but she turns him down. She is just back in town after spending time in Florida with Aunt Anna (this is the first time Peter has seen her since Daredevil #160, September 1979, unless that's Pete with her in the NBC newsroom in Marvel Team-Up #96, August 1980) and only wanted to stop by to let Pete know. She returns his apartment key, tells Pete she doesn't know how long she'll be in town and takes her leave. Peter eats the picnic by himself.

Amy and Lance end up at a coffee shop where Amy admits she was only making a play for Peter to make Lance jealous. Lance tells Amy he loves her and Amy reciprocates, taking his hand. At some point, they actually get engaged (Somebody look that up and tell me in what issue that takes place, okay?) but it is not to be. Lance is murdered by F.A.C.A.D.E. in Web of Spider-Man #114, July 1994. In Web #115, August 1994, Spidey promises a tearful Amy that "Lance Bannon will be avenged" (which turns out to be a hollow boast since F.A.C.A.D.E. is never caught). After Lance's funeral (in Web #116, September 1994), Amy is never seen again... which may be just as well considering how later writers turned the smart, independent, manipulative siren that Roger created into a big puddled mass of helplessness and mediocrity.

ASM #243 also gives us the follow-up on Peter's biophysics grade. In spite of showing up late for the exam, in spite of his troubles, in spite of not caring, Peter gets an "A" on his final. Later he gets a letter from the registrar offering him "continued study in the graduate program of the Department of Bio-Physics" but by then it is too late. He has already made the decision to drop out of school.

And what about that Thinker stuff? You know, that small piece of the Android that Spidey picked up. The Thinker's resolution to find out the source of the spider-sense. Well, Spider-Man does bring the Android-shard to Dr. Curt Connors (also in ASM #243) to have it analyzed. Curt tells him that it "appears to have come from some sort of cybernetically-augmented android" which Spidey already knows and that it "contains some of the most complex organo-metallic compounds I've ever seen" but that seems to be the end of this plot thread. The shard is never mentioned again.

But, do you think Roger forgets to follow up on the Thinker's spider-sense quest? It takes him about thirteen years to get to it but, no, Roger doesn't forget. (Though he doesn't use it the way it is presented here as a way for the Thinker to eliminate x-factors.) First, he plots the Thinker's next appearance in Fantastic Four #301, April 1987 in which the Thinker temporarily teams up with the Wizard against the FF but severs the partnership when he determines that their plan will likely harm Franklin Richards; punctuating the dissolution by self-destructing the Thinker android in which he was storing his consciousness and reverting back to prison. But he must have had a spare because he's hanging out in an android body in his hideout when he finally puts his spider-sense plan into operation in Spider-Man Team-Up #2, March 1996 (in a story plotted by Roger and scripted by George Perez!) By this time, Spider-Man is Ben Reilly but the plan still works just fine. Somewhere along the line, the Thinker has acquired a spider-tracer and he uses it as a conduit to Spider-Man's brain, inflicting severe pain. With Spidey in his power, the Thinker considers his options. "Overwhelming your spider-senses has already provided me a crude though effective means of controlling you... Vivisection's another option. Isolate the neuro-functions that activate your danger sense and duplicate it for my own ends. Cloning yet another." But the Thinker never gets to begin on any of these plans because he is attacked by one of his own androids that fries his host body so abruptly that the Thinker is truly driven mad even as he reverts to his real body in jail. (I'm not sure when the Thinker gets back to normal and gets out of prison but he is free and apparently his old self in Fantastic Four: Foes #1, March 2005.) The android is being controlled by Quasimodo who is looking for a mobile body of his own again and plans to steal the body of the Silver Surfer. Thanks to the intervention of Thanos, he fails... all of which has taken us far a field of the Thinker but it at least ties up the loose end of the Thinker's plans for Spider-Man.

In General...

If you're wondering what makes Roger Stern one of the best of all Spider-Man scripters, you don't have to look at his acknowledged classics like the Juggernaut story (ASM #229-230, June-July 1982) or "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man" (ASM #248, January 1984). The real test is what he accomplishes in a routine issue. This one is a good example. First, there are all the subplots with Peter wondering if he passed his final exam, Amy putting the moves on him, Lance opening his heart to him, and the return of Mary Jane Watson. Then there's the use of the Mad Thinker, an FF villain with almost no previous interaction with Spider-Man. What really boils down to a simple Spidey versus robot story is spiced up by the Thinker's mind-transference technique and the very original reason why he targets Spider-Man. The Android hearkens back to those great Lee-Kirby FF stories of the 60s. If Reed Richards could only stop that Android by suckering him into the Negative Zone, then Spidey should have just as much trouble with its cousin. The battle plays fair with Spidey having to dump tons of equipment down on the Android to stop it. And not only does Roger respect the continuity of the past, he doesn't forget his own continuity in the future; finishing off the plot thread thirteen years after the publication of this one.

Overall Rating...

Tie it all together and you've got a "routine" issue that deserves one of our highest ratings. It gets four and a half webs only because I have to reserve five webs for the true classics. Looking this issue over again makes me wish Roger Stern would take on writing Spider-Man again.