Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #265

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 1997.

Background...

I have a confession to make. Sometime back in the mid-eighties, I got tired of reading Spider-Man. Partly it was because they cancelled Marvel Team-Up. Partly it was because Roger Stern had left Amazing. Partly it was because the mystery of the Hobgoblin had droned on so long that I no longer felt suspense in connection with it. Whatever the complete reason, the run of stories in the early 260s of the flagship title finally did me in. I hung in for Bob Layton's "unmasked" story in #262 and Tom DeFalco's Spider-Kid story in #263, but Craig Anderson's Red Nine tale in #264 was the end of it. I stopped cold. (Even today, the thought of Red Nine is enough to break me out in a cold sweat. Maybe that's why I'm thinking of doing him for a future Looking Back.) Didn't read another Spider-Man book for almost ten years. But I did continue collecting them.

Let me tell you what it's like when you continue to buy a title but don't read it. As the months fly by, you eventually learn all the surprises that the series had to offer before you ever see them for yourself. Try as you might, you cannot avoid it. It filters through in Comic Shop conversation or you see an entry you didn't want to see in the Overstreet Price Guide or the following issue's cover gives away the previous issue's shock ending. Anyway, after learning that Ned Leeds was the Hobgoblin before ever reading it, after seeing that Venom had gotten his own limited series before I had gotten to Amazing #300, I knew it was time to catch up. I dug in a few years ago and hunkered down for some heavy-duty reading.

Here's the bad thing about reading them this way... there are absolutely no major surprises. I found out Pete's parents were robots before I even got to that storyline. By the time I got to the parents, I learned that the clone had returned. And so on. (For any of you worrying about me losing the impact of current stories, let me assure everyone that I have been caught up for some time now. But thanks for asking.)

Here's the good thing about reading them this way... no matter how lousy the story is that you are presently reading... be it Sidekick's Revenge or Maximum Carnage... you know you could just skip it and go on to the next one. Not that you do skip it, of course, but having a big pile of unread Spideys to get to gives you faith that there is better stuff on the horizon. (And, let's face it, having multipart stinkers that you have to wade through for months without knowing whether things will improve is HARD! And, let's further face it, none of us are reading these things because it feels so good when you stop.)

What does all this have to do with the upcoming Lookback? Nothing, except that Marvel gave a series a few years back to a character I was pretty much unfamiliar with. Her name was Silver Sable and I hadn't read a single story with her in it. The reason I hadn't was that I had stopped one issue shy of her first appearance. Hey, Red Nine is a hard act to follow but since other people kept reading after that notorious issue, somebody had to do it. So, Amazing Spider-Man #265. First Silver Sable. Second Black Fox. Written by Tom DeFalco. Pencilled by Ron Frenz. Inked by Josef Rubinstein. Dig in, people.

In Detail...

"After The Fox!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #265
Jun 1985 : SMURF 265.500 : SM Title
Summary: Black Fox, First Silver Sable
Editor:  Jim Owsley
Writer:  Tom DeFalco
Pencils:  Ron Frenz
Inker:  Josef Rubinstein
Cover Art:  Ron Frenz
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #277
 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man #265 (Silver Reprint)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man vs Silver Sable (TPB)
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Black Fox, Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Nathan Lubensky, Silver Sable

A fence named Andre is very taken by an exquisite diamond brought to him by his old friend, the Black Fox. The Fox, a grey-haired, mustached cat burglar of the old Hollywood "To Catch A Thief" school, informs his friend that he will no longer provide merchandise after tonight. "I intend to use the proceeds from this sale to finance my retirement." Andre pours the champagne and proposes a toast but before it can be consummated, the police pound on his door. They have a warrant for his arrest.

Knowing that he can't leave the jewels to become evidence, the Fox pockets them in his black jumpsuit and heads for the window. Andre hopes to hold off the cops but the door is broken down before he can make a move. Guns drawn, the police enter, but the Fox tosses a smoke grenade and leaps through the window, shattering the glass. He lands in an awning below and jumps to the street. But ("I'm getting too old for this kind of thing.") he sprains his ankle in the process. Unfortunately, he is not home free. He may have eluded the police but not the squad of masked men who pursue him in a red van. The Fox decides to get off the streets and heads for an alley. The van clips a green car, damaging it. The driver of that car yells at the exiting squad, looking for payment for damages. Suddenly, a blond-haired man in the same purple and orange outfit as the masked men appears at the car with a pad and pen. "Silver Sable International will see that you are fully compensated for any damage to your vehicle, sir", he says.

The Fox encounters a chain-link fence that slows him down. Even as he is wondering who could be after him, the masked pursuers pull automatic weapons and fire at will. One thinks, "I'm glad we're armed with mercy bullets! Our orders are only to capture the Fox, not to kill him." but the Fox doesn't know that. He leaps the fence, deciding, "I'm definitely getting out of this business!"

At Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Harry Osborn is trying to interest Peter Parker in holding his recently born son Norman. Peter passes ("I prefer viewing babies from a distance.") but an arriving Mary Jane declares herself more than ready to hold "that brown-eyed little hunk!" Harry comments that he never thought of MJ as the baby type and the future Mrs. Parker replies, "Are you kidding? I'm crazy about these little rug rats... just as long as they belong to someone else!"

Pete excuses himself, saying he must check in at the Daily Bugle. But as he leaves, he admits to himself that "that family jazz" was getting to him, that he hasn't felt comfortable around Mary Jane since she admitted she knew he was Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Aunt May is still mad at him for dropping out of graduate school and his relationship with the Black Cat has gone bad. The elevator arrives, empty, and Peter decides to take advantage by using it to change into his Spider-duds. On the ground floor, a young couple named Lori and Ron have flown from Pittsburgh to see Harry and Liz's baby. (Who are these people? Are they ever seen again?) They get more than they bargain for as the elevator doors open to reveal a leaping Spidey who tells them he is "your friendly neighborhood Spider-stork" and lets them know that the Osborns are on the eighth floor. (Blowing his secret ID in the process?)

Out on the streets, Pete webslings through town until he spots a recklessly driven van containing masked men with powerful firearms. They have the Black Fox backed against a building. The cat burglar can stand no more and is in the process of surrendering when Spidey swings down to take out the gunmen. And while Spider-Man tackles four men at once, the Fox takes advantage of the scuffle to toss his grappling hook and scale the building to safety.

Spidey has mopped up the gunmen and is wondering where the van went when a police car arrives and a very angry Lt. Keating gets out. (Keating, you may recall, was later revealed to be the Foreigner in disguise but that was clearly not the intent at the time of this writing.) The Lieutenant tells Spidey that he has busted up a joint operation between the NYPD and "representatives of the Symkarian government" who were looking to apprehend an international jewel thief. As an embarassed Spidey swings away, two men in a nearby car decide that our hero may become "troublesome in the future. We'd better contact Silver Sable immediately."

And over at the Symkarian Embassy located on East 53rd Street, (Though if you go looking for it, I'll bet you won't find it.) Silver Sable is informed by her Uncle Morty that her agents has failed in their pursuit of the Black Fox because of the Web-Slinger. Silver already knows but she is not upset. Her client is a major insurance company offering 200,000 dollars for the Fox's apprehension but also offering 10,000 dollars a day in expenses and 50,000 dollars for damages. With that offer, Silver figures she can easily run the operation for 15 days and still make a profit. Uncle Morty reminds her that the Wild Pack was not formed for profit and Silver, giving us a nice succinct origin, replies that "my father founded the Pack with the aid of the government of Symkaria to hunt down Nazi war criminals. But I believe in changing with the times! Under my leadership, the Pack will hunt anyone... for a price!" (Also part of changing with the times, I suppose, is that skin tight silver costume Sable wears. It is the same color as her hair and it all makes for an inviting target in her practice session with her men, but she manages to take them all out anyhow.)

After her session, Silver accepts a warm towel from her servant Madeline. Distracted by the fact that she accidentally injured one of her men rather seriously ("Sounds like I shattered his knee-cap!", she thinks, during the battle, "There goes my medical insurance rates again!"), Silver seems prone to attack from an assassin masquerading as a second servant. However, the would-be killer wastes time brandishing her knife and proclaiming "Silver Sable must die!" which allows Silver to halt the assault and punch out the attacker. Just in case you haven't yet gotten the idea that Silver Sable is one cool cookie, she blandly tells Uncle Morty, "She's probably an assassin sent by our old enemy. Have her interrogated." and to Morty's shaken exclamation of "You... could have been killed!", replies "Anything is possible. I'll be in my jacuzzi if I'm needed further."

Back in Forest Hills, Aunt May is in the attic going through an old chest. With a tear in her eye, she goes through old photos of her and Peter together until called downstairs by her companion Nathan Lubensky. Nathan knows what May has been doing and tells her to stop this "silly feud" she is having with her nephew, brought about by her disappointment over Peter quitting graduate school. May indignantly replies that Peter "shouldn't have quit on himself", but when Nathan answers with "But it's perfectly all right for you to quit on him...", she reconsiders and decides to give a call. Unfortunately, after dialing three times and getting a busy signal, May decides to try later. And the reason for Peter's line being busy? Because he is trying to call May at the same time.

Peter decides it is just as well that he cannot get through on the phone. "If I really want to patch things up between us I'm just going to have to confront her in person." But in the meantime, he can't stop thinking about the Black Fox. "He managed to escape because of me." Now Pete feels it is his responsibility to bring the jewel thief in.

However, one problem presents itself. His Spidey duds are a sweaty, smelly mess. No time to clean them. The only solution is to don the black costume that the Black Cat sewed for him.

Swinging through town in his ebon suit, Spidey muses over his costume dilemma. "I really like the way this black one looks on me... but I still have an attachment to my old red and blue one." He comes up with a possible solution... "I wonder how it would work if I only wore my black costume at night and saved my red and blue one for daytime use?" but then decides, "That idea's too dumb even for me!" (Personally, I sort of like that idea but what do I know?) Suddenly, his spider-sense tingles, and Pete realizes that a helicopter is following him. He decides to take them on a "game of follow-the-spider" and ducks between buildings. The two men in the copter, agents of Silver Sable, attempt to follow.

Down at the waterfront, the Black Fox enters an establishment apparently called "Bar". He hasn't had a chance to fence the jewels he has stolen. Nevertheless, he feels it is time to leave the country. The Fox's contact at the bar informs him that a freighter will pick him up in an hour. This, though, is overheard by yet another of Silver Sable's omnipresent agents. He informs his boss of this information and the news of the Fox's location is sent out to all the other agents, including the two in the helicopter. Their sudden retreat arouses Spidey's curiousity and he hitches a ride on the belly of the copter in order to see what's up.

The chopper arrives at the waterfront and Spidey gets an eyeful of "the same trigger-happy goons who were chasing the Fox this morning". He figures the Fox will be much happier if he is found first by the web-swinger. As Sable is informed that "the Fox is minutes away from capture" (looks like she just washed her hair), Spidey comes upon the jewel thief and taps him on his shoulder. But before Spidey can explain the situation, the Fox panics, throws his smoke grenades at our hero and runs. Unfortunately, he runs right into the arms of Sable's gunmen. The masked agents fire at will with their mercy bullets. The Fox cries, "I give up" but the barrage does not end. He is battered mercilessly by the bullets which causes an outraged Spidey to intervene by webbing up the shooters and swinging away with the Fox.

Dodging bullets from more arriving agents, Spidey takes the Fox to the roof of a warehouse to get his bearings. There he learns that the Fox was intending to skip the country, though in Spidey's opinion, "You'll probably be seeing your next sunrise through the bars of a jail cell." But the Fox tells Spidey he was hoping to be reunited with his family. "I have a most beautiful wife," he says, "and four lovely children but I haven't seen them in years. My work has kept us apart... I always thought I'd have plenty of time to make things up to my family. I was wrong. I guess I just waited too long. I'm much too old to survive another prison term, Spider-Man." And to this tale of woe, our compassionate hero declares, "You won't have to... if I can help it!"

But at that moment a helicopter shines a spotlight down on the pair and demands their surrender. Spidey responds by webbing up the searchlight. He leaps to the docks, carrying the Fox with him, distracting the armed guards by shooting some web balls into the water. While the agents look for the source of the sound, Spidey deposits the Fox in a conveniently placed speedboat and sends him on his way. "Where does your family live?" Spidey asks of the departing criminal and the sly Fox answers, "On the French Riviera! Farewell my friend!"

The sound of the speedboat alerts the guards to the Fox's presence and they prepare to "Blast him out of the water!" but Spidey springs up and occupies the gunmen. A second boat moves to intercept the Fox's boat and Spidey thwarts it by webbing a large wooden crate and slinging it out into the water. It crashes into the pursuing boat, sinking it. The Fox glories in his victory. He is getting away with a fortune in jewels, thanks to the assistance of Spider-Man. But his victory is short-lived. In the pocket which held the jewels is now nothing but a small card, which reads, "Compliments of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."

Back on the docks, Silver Sable arrives and tells Spider-Man that she is not very pleased with him. Spidey counters by giving her the jewels that he slipped off the Fox, telling her she can claim the reward for their return. ("A reward," Silver says, "which would certainly cover most of my expenses.") Spidey swings away into the night with Sable thinking, "What a thoroughly intriguing man! I must learn more about him."

"Sometime later", at Aunt May's house, someone rings the doorbell. Nathan goes to answer it as May clears the table of dishes. When she hears Peter's voice saying, "Hi Nathan! Is my Aunt home?", May is so flustered that she drops a dish, which shatters on the floor. Stooping down to clean it up, May is faced with Peter also stooping down to help. "I've missed you", Peter says to her. They look at each other, down on the kitchen floor for quite some time. Then May responds, "I've missed you, too."

On the letters page, Mike Souza of Kenyon, Rhode Island suggests that Spidey give his symbiote costume to the Hobgoblin. "I can see the Bugle headlines now: Symbiote, once costume, now human bloodsucking leech, kills Hobgoblin." Hey, considering what we now know about Venom, it's a good thing Spidey didn't take Mike up on his idea, huh?

Bitts Collins of Granbury, Texas, worries about the webbing Spidey used with his symbiote costume, now that it has been revealed that it was all alive. "Is it lurking around the back alleys attacking winos, or does it have something bigger in mind?" This is a good question, actually. What does happen with all that webbing the symbiote gives off?

And the following people were listed in various letters as possible identities of the Hobgoblin: Harriet Osborn (Don't panic if you haven't heard of her. This letter writer made her up.), Betty Leeds, the Gwen Stacy clone, May Parker, Louise "Weezie" Simonson, Elliot Brown, Lance Bannon, Mendel Stromm, "that Williams guy that was in ASM #249", and Clara Peller! (Remember her?) One writer, Tod Preece of Leander, Texas, even mentioned Ned Leeds as a possibility. I guess he was happy for, oh, about ten years.