Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #344

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

First appearances of Cardiac and Cletus Kasady.

In Detail...

"Hearts And Powers"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #344
Feb 1991 : SMURF 344.500 : SM Title
Summary: First Cardiac, Rhino
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Erik Larsen
Inker:  Randy Emberlin
Cover Art:  Erik Larsen
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #15
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Carnage (TPB)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Venom Returns (TPB)
Articles: Cardiac, Carnage, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Mercado, Joy, Rhino, Venom

A security guard is investigating a noise within a warehouse, and believing it to be a rat he soon leaves. Slightly peeved that he was mistaken for a sewer- dwelling rodent, Spider-Man hops down from his hiding place and resumes taking photos of tankers marked as hazardous material. They contain chemicals vital to process cocaine which are being shipped in large quantities to South America in a perfectly legal transaction. As the authorities are powerless, Spider-Man is making it public so as to bring the organisation down. Suddenly there is an explosion and Cardiac begins to take out the workers with an electrified staff. The security guards open fire on Cardiac but his suit is apparently bullet proof. Just as he is about to kill every-one in the warehouse be igniting the chemicals, Spider-Man webs up Cardiac's staff and tells him that the transaction is perfectly legal so killing a warehouse full of people isn't the right way to solve the matter. Although an admirer of the web-swinger, Cardiac begs to disagree, failing to see how there could be any other just way of dealing with such evil, and stating that although he doesn't want to hurt him, he will not let him interfere with his plans - firing a bolt of plasma energy into the ceiling. Spider-Man is forced to dodge the falling timbers and Cardiac makes his escape.

In an alleyway Cardiac unmasks and is revealed as Dr Wirtham. As a physician he is tormented that he has taken life when he is upheld to preserve it, but there are certain tasks that only he can perform and so he must not let his resolve waver.

On break from a TV shoot for Secret Hospital, MJ takes a lunch break with Peter, who makes a joke comment about the on screen kiss she was just filming which causes MJ to start guilt tripping about what she nearly did with Jason Jerome. Taking a seat, she tells Peter how much she loves him and dozes off in his arms.

Arriving at Wirtham Towers, Dr. Wirtham cancels his invitation to a charity dinner that evening (telling his secretary to double his contribution instead) - he has more pressing matters to attend to this night. In his office he muses over how a promise he once made to "someone very special" lead him to create one of America's finest medical Empires, which is now no more than a tool against the corrupt corporate systems. So much of what is wrong in the world is condoned - he plans to change that. He peels away the skin on his left hand to reveal mechanical components.

In his Arctic hideaway, Justin Hammer is informed of the considerable loses of Sapirdyne Chemicals as a result of last nights raid. Seemingly unphased by this news, Hammer simply tells his lackey to inform Rhino that his new retro-design battle suit is ready for him...in return for a small favour.

Peter is attending class at Empire State and discovers that the university buys chemicals manufactured by Sapirdyne Industries. This puts him into a bad mood he believes he will only be able to get out of once he finds the meaning behind what happened last night.

That evening at the Riker's Island prison complex Eddie Brock is getting in shape so as to be in peak physical condition to avenge the symbiote (which was killed by Styx in Amazing Spider-Man #333), while cell mate Cletus Kasady heckles him for entertainment. Kasady gives his own personal philosophy that Brock doesn't need to be Venom - all he needs is the will to do the things other people lack the courage to do. Not content to listen to a serial killers out-look, Brock speaks his desire not to have to share a room with a murderer. Kasady makes a throw away comment about him not having to worry about that if he keeps up the complaining. Gazing out the window he notices a pair of large white eyes staring in the darkness outside, and leaps from his bunk. When next he looks there is nothing there.

Spidey swings through the Bronx wondering of the fate of the chemicals manufactured at Oscorp and if Harry Osborn would do something as unethical as the directors' board of Sapirdyne Chemicals. Pushing the thought from his mind he focuses on the problem at hand: Sapirdyne. Meanwhile down below Cardiac suits-up. He dwells on the sacrifices he has made to acquire his powers and pole-volts the fence (using his staff which elongates when a small pulse surges through it). Noticing no security, Cardiac becomes aware that something is wrong...when suddenly he is sent flying into a wall, loosing his staff as he does so. Rhino stands over him, confused as to how Cardiac survived the impact of his new suit, and charges again.

From outside Spider-Man sees the wall buckle and heads for the sky-light. Inside, Cardiac is near powerless against Rhino without his staff and starts heading for a catwalk via a ladder, which melts behind him so as to halt Rhino's advances. However, Rhino climbs a cable and cuts him off, when Spider- Man swings into the fray and knocks him off. Still unsure as to Cardiac's true intentions and allegiances, Spidey at least knows Rhino is a villain and so decides to take care of him first. Rhino rams the wall and the cat-walk falls. Cardiac clings to the wall while Spidey attempts to temporarily blind Rhino, but his face is filled with a clear visor which vaporises the webbing. Spider- Man wonders if there is a connection between Rhino and Scorpion, who's visor also dissolves his webbing. He web-tosses a barrel of chemicals across the floor, causing Rhino to slip and plough head-first into a wall - giving Cardiac enough time to regain his staff. Enraged, Rhino tears open a power conduit and whips at the Webster with the many live wires, which he is unable to avoid. With Spider-Man down, Cardiac leaps to the offensive and throws Rhino through the wall, before zapping the chemical tankers. Mission complete, Cardiac warns Spider-Man (determined to know the reason for Cardiac's involvement) that the chemicals will ignite upon contact with the exposed power lines (Rhino overhears this and makes his hasty exit), and after a moments hesitation Spidey's sense of self preservation prevails - just as the building explodes.

Spider-Man watches from afar as the fire service douse the inferno. Knowing there is more to these events than meets the eye, he wishes he knew how to find what it is. Back in the Arctic, Justin Hammer decides the only way to handle the situation with Cardiac is to put Spider-Man on the pay-role...

In General...

This is the first story of a longer running arch so there's a lot going on and many open-ended questions here - the biggest one being what is Cardiac's true motive? He obviously has it in for evil corporations, but are they all those associated with Justin Hammer, and if so why? I found the character himself a little cliché and similar to The Prowler, but I must admit I liked him. He is clearly conflicted when it comes to his actions, being both a doctor and a vigilante, and this provides an interesting character. It is hinted that, if nothing else, his left hand is mechanical so could this mean he is part robot; was critically wounded and has artificial limbs; a spider-slayer perhaps? Maybe some of these will be answered next issue.

The fight with Rhino (spanning 7 pages) was entertaining and the new battle- suit is a great new look...well, more a slightly tweaked look. However, nothing really happens in during it. Sure the fight itself is good, but it just feels unnecessary, along with the scene involving MJ. The other problem I had with this issue was the blatantly stated return of Venom. When they killed him off (for all intensive purposes) in Amazing Spider-Man #333 it was done in a style that brought closure to the Venom saga. Sure it was a shame to see a classic villain die after such a short run, but it was done in such a way that I felt it justifiable. The return of the symbiote from the dead reeks of poor sales trying to be bolstered.

Overall Rating...

Some good open-enders here and an interesting new character, but some filler elements drag the grade down. Hopefully the next issue will expand the more important issues explored here