Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #4

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: Mar 2013.

Background...

It has been far too long since FTB has looked at an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. And we’re not really even doing that this time because this is an Amazing Spider-Man Annual. Only, it’s not really even that since it’s from that short window of time when the Annuals were called King-Size Specials. But, hey! We’ve got a mystery penciller! Well, not so much of a mystery now. All you have to do is look at the credits box below.

In Detail...

"The Web And The Flame!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #4 (Story 1)
Year 1967 : SMURF 052.700 : SM Title
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Larry Lieber
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  Larry Lieber
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Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #4
 Reprinted In: Giant-Size Spider-Man #6
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Annual (UK) 1979
Articles: Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn) (Cameo), Human Torch, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mysterio I (Beck)

So, our formerly “mystery” penciller is also our “mystery” cover artist and it’s a nice composition. On a black background, the Human Torch zooms in, blazing away. He almost flies off of the page but he’s looking down toward Spidey who is at the center of the illustration, filling up more space than the Torch but looking away from us and falling backwards in a strange but compelling pose. Behind him, the Torch’s flame creates a web as if to illustrate the story title, which is positioned below Spidey… “The Web and the Flame!” (In this case, the web IS the flame.) Down in the lower right-hand corner are two figures in shadow. One has a cape on but both are pretty anonymous. They are the “two great mysterious guest villains!” touted in a cover blurb. (Mysterious villains! Mysterious penciller! I love it!) “Not a Single Reprint!” brags the cover in contrast to Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #3, 1966 which was more reprint than new. And it’s a “41-page epic” too! Let’s get started!

Well, but first there’s a greytone frontispiece. Another staple of the “King-Size Special” days. The text begins, “Even Irving Forbush isn’t sure who this issue’s mystery artist is…” and the first caption on the splash page says, “Mystery-Lovers! We’ve got a goofy new treat for you!...[W]e’re keeping the penciller’s identity a secret till the end! And so you’ve got the whole frenzied issue to figure out who he is!” so you know Stan is playing this for all that it’s worth. The illustration on this page reproduces page 11 panel 3, with Spidey and the Torch confronting each other. The bottom of the page plugs the “Special Feature Pages” and features head shots of MJ, Kraven the Hunter, Flash Thompson, Doc Ock, the Blackie Drago Vulture (who was the only Vulture for a year or so) and Gwen Stacy. The friends’ faces, slightly redone, come from “The Coffee Bean Barn!” pages while the villains come from the “Say Hello to Spidey’s Favorite Foes!” pages.

The story begins with a pedestrian splash page showing Spidey web-swinging through Manhattan. He hears “the sound of desperate shouting…the screeching of brakes” and figures he’d better investigate. In doing so, he finds himself perched on a wall in the upper left corner of a double-page spread dominated by the Human Torch who has burned his way through an armored car. There are over a dozen bystanders on the street proclaiming that the Torch has gone bad and wondering who will stop him. (The spread’s composition is interesting. The Torch fills up nearly the entire right side of the illustration. His flame trail makes a curlicue on the left side so we know he has flown from left to right but there is little on the left hand page on which to focus. Everything feels unbalanced and askew. It could be that our mystery penciller composed this spread this way to make us focus on Spidey on the left side. Even though he’s very small in the picture, he’s practically the only thing on that side on which to focus.)

With everyone calling for help, Spidey figures that he’s elected. He shoots a web onto a lamppost and swings down into the Torch’s path. “Hey, wait! Cut it out!” protests the Torch but Spidey wraps him up in asbestos webbing. (Back in the day when asbestos was permissible. Still…Spidey just happens to keep asbestos webbing with him in case he needs it?) If the Torch was going to offer an explanation, he’s now too mad to bother. Instead, he uses a fireball to melt the lamppost on which Spidey’s web is attached. Apparently, Spidey (or Stan) doesn’t trust the mystery penciller’s work. He sees fit to explain, “You melted the lamppost with those freaky fireballs of yours!” The Torch then spins around enough times to get loose of the webbing (which Spidey wound around him rather than just webbing him up). With his webbing no longer attached to anything, Spidey starts to fall. Just as he is about to shoot out a web, the Torch creates a “fire-net” much like the one on the cover that looks like a fire-web. “By heating the air molecules to just the right temperature, I can make them dense enough to give you some support!” he says. (No thanks! It’s still fire, isn’t it?) Spidey declines the invitation. He slithers past the net and lands on the ground (so, in spite of all the fuss about how he’ll fall, he isn’t high enough up to be bothered by landing on his own two feet) right by a fire hydrant. When the Torch is in position, he yanks the hydrant out of the ground. A great spout of water comes surging up from underground and smacks into the Torch. Spidey maneuvers the water to force Torchy onto the awning of the Corner Grill so that he doesn’t hurt himself. (Sort of like putting your thumb over the end of a hose.) Then he uses “web foam” to glue the hydrant back into place. (Not sure how he manages to get the hydrant over the gushing water…that happens between panels…and isn’t that web foam going to dissolve in an hour anyway?) The Torch is so mad that he leaps off the awning and attacks Spidey even though he’s too wet to flame on. (He also calls Spidey a “miserable masked magpie” so he must really be mad.)

And it is finally at this point that Mr. Bellini, “the famous director,” decides to step in and stop the fight. (And all of a sudden there’s a movie camera and movie lights, too. And Spidey didn’t see these?) Mr. Bellini’s name is clearly a riff off of Federico Fellini. Stan met Fellini in 1965. The great director had read a couple of Marvel Comics and wanted to meet the author. So, it makes sense that “Bellini” would be interested in making a film based on a Marvel super-hero…in this case, “The Torch Goes Wild.” Too bad our mystery penciller drew Bellini to look nothing like Fellini.

Spidey tries to save face by quipping to the Torch, “it’s your own fault, useless! You’re just too good an actor!” But, as he wall-crawls away, he thinks, “Bro-ther! I sure blew it that time!” (And it can’t help his ego that the great Bellini yells, “They oughtta lock up a nut like him!”) “I hate to think of how this’ll read after the Daily Bugle gets wind of it!” thinks Spidey and, unfortunately for him, “some of the top movie cameramen in the business got photos of the whole blamed business,” to the delight of J. Jonah Jameson. (But where were all these cameramen? Were they invisible?)

JJJ’s edition that ridicules Spidey for disrupting Torchy’s film hits the streets on a rainy night. One man, wearing a hat perched low and a raincoat with the labels turned up so high they cover his mouth so he looks like that guy in the Bazooka Joe comic strip, hears about it and it gives him “a most dangerous idea.”

“But it’s too nice a day to worry about nasty mysterious villains just yet,” says Stan’s caption. (“Too nice?” Stan, it’s pouring out!) At home, Peter Parker is watching TV when a news report comes on announcing “that Paragon Productions in Hollywood is anxious to make a new film starring Spider-Man and the Human Torch.” The report states that, “The Torch has already consented and a nationwide search is in progress to find Spider-Man.” Hearing this, Peter decides to take the plunge. He’s never heard of the studio and he has no idea what he will be paid but that doesn’t stop him from hopping on a jet to California one panel later. “It’ll be a blast if I get an Oscar and the Torch doesn’t,” Peter thinks.

Six hours later, Peter’s plane flies over Hollywood. (On a studio lot below him a caveman walks along, a Roman soldier flirts with an Egyptian princess and it looks like Kid Colt, Outlaw is there wearing sunglasses. Spidey arrives at the studio and gains entrance by telling the guard he’s willing to prove he’s the real wall-crawler “by carrying you up a steep wall somewhere or swing you across a couple of rooftops on my webbing!” The guard takes his word for it. Spidey then makes an appointment with the “big brass” for 9:00 the following morning. (Did this meeting not happen?) A man in shadows watches from the studio head’s office as Spidey walks away. He and another shadowy figure glory in their upcoming “greatest triumph.” One says, “Before we are done, we will have brought about the destruction of both the masked web-spinner and the Human Torch!” (You have to wonder what these two guys would have done if Spidey hadn’t bothered to come to Hollywood. Sit around all day in their office with no lights on?)

Now, earlier, Peter thought, “I’d better make a success of this little project because it took every last nickel I’ve managed to save all year to pay for the plane fare!” Clearly, this was an exaggeration because Peter had enough money to get himself a hotel room. It appears that he didn’t bring any luggage since it looks like he slept in his Spidey costume. With no limo waiting for him, he web-swings to the studio. On the way, he encounters the Torch and they engage in an exchange of insults. (None good enough to repeat here.) Spidey offers a truce and the Torch accepts. “Remember, this truce doesn’t mean I have to like you,” the Torch says. “Don’t worry, small fry,” Spidey replies, “I’ve got enemies I’d rather be friends with.” (“Small fry?”) Together, the two heroes head for the movie studio.

On the set, the director tells Spidey that the film involves aliens landing in Central Park and that Spidey is supposed to “stop the public from panicking” when he sees the spaceship. Spidey checks the script, thinking, “The plot sounds kind of corny to me but I should worry! Just as long as they pay me!” And that’s how a lot of bad movies are made! (By the way, I like the guy dressed as an alien who has a sandwich in one hand and a thermos in the other. Also the starlet checking out Spidey’s butt as he reads his script.)

The Torch comes zooming in, apparently setting off Spidey’s spider-sense. The director calls “Quiiiet on the set!” through his megaphone. In front of a really cheesy backdrop, a spaceship that doesn’t look much bigger than a Buick descends. Six people panic with one saying “A flying saucer from outer space!! Run! Run! It’s landing right here in the park!” This is from the script, apparently. A script that doesn’t believe in the maxim, “show, don’t tell.” Spidey swings in. (One of the fleeing actors says, “Look! Here comes Spider-Man!” continuing the “telling” of things the camera is “showing.”) “Let me talk to ‘em,” Spidey says, “They may not mean us any harm!” (No, of course they don’t mean any harm, Spidey. They’re only coming out of their spaceship dressed in armor and carrying ray guns. One of them even carries a shield and an axe!) Suddenly, the Torch flies in and attacks the aliens. Spidey thinks, “He’s right on cue! He’s supposed to attack them before I can stop him, thus making them decide to battle us!” So, all is well…except that Spidey’s spider-sense is still tingling.

The director calls “Cut!” and asks for a second take with a different camera angle. The scene is repeated, with our mystery penciller playing the part of the camera and giving it to us from a different angle. Spidey swings in and recites his lines, including the Torch’s cue. And, sure enough, the Torch flies in. But this time, he heads right toward Spidey instead of the spaceship.

Spidey thinks, “He’s blown his cork!” and dodges at the last moment, flames raking his back as the Torch flies past. “You incendiary ignoramus,” Spidey says, “I’m gonna snuff out that finky flame of yours for keeps!” but he notices that the Torch isn’t even saying anything, which is very unlike him. As Torch flies through the studio, the crew panics. Declaring, “I can handle that rotten red-hot rat any day!” Spidey leaps over to a light reflector and puts it in Torchy’s way. Instead of dodging it, Torch flies “right into it like a bumbling amateur,” more proof that something’s not right. Then, the Torch just flies away, further puzzling Spider-Man. (I like the Tiperello suspended in mid-air as it falls out of the very sweaty stagehand’s mouth, in this panel.) Spidey pursues but loses track of him so he decides to “check out his dressing room.” He lands in front of the aluminum building that serves as Torchy’s room, but his spider-sense falls down on the job because it doesn’t alert him to the fact that the “Torch” he was following is standing right behind him. “Perfect!” that Torch thinks, “So far, everything’s going exactly according to plan!”

Now, Spidey decides to surprise the Torch by grabbing the aluminum wall and ripping it up and over, rather than using the door. In other words, he thinks the Torch attacked him on the set, then went back to his dressing room and is not expecting him. That appears to be the case because the Torch is hanging around in his dressing room, all unawares, reading his script.

Perhaps Stan realizes that Spidey is looking a little bit dense here so he wisely switches scenes and chooses this moment to reveal the mystery super-villains. He takes us to “the executive offices of Paragon Pictures and he adds this aside, “But remember, nobody make a sound or they’re liable to spot us,” which I love, as it wonderfully breaks the fourth wall and makes you feel like this narrow panel is a slot in the wall through which we’re peeking. And what do we see through that slot? We see Mysterio (who was the shadowy guy with the cape on the cover) talking to the “Human Torch.” “Turn off the flame jets,” Mysterio says, “You’re making it much too hot in here.” The “Torch” complies, revealing himself as the Torch’s old foe, the Wizard. (Mysterio, by the way, was last seen as Dr. Ludwig Rinehart in Amazing Spider-Man #24, May 1965 and the Wizard was last in the classic and very busy Fantastic Four #57, December 1966 in which he fails to escape from prison, but clearly succeeded sometime between then and now.) Mysterio does us the favor of providing exposition. “I must confess that I didn’t believe your asbestos suit, with those flame jets, would enable you to impersonate the Torch so successfully! And the way your uncanny anti-grav discs enabled you to fly, now I know why men call you the Wizard!” (Thanks, Mysterio!) The Wizard returns the compliment. “I must admit that your talents were a great help to me in improving my suit,” he says. “Naturally!” Mysterio replies, “That is why Mysterio is the greatest special effects man that Hollywood has ever produced!” (For all of you who came late to the party.)

The Wizard then goes into flashback mode relating how he read the Bugle article about Spidey botching the Torch’s movie appearance. (That was page nine, panels 1 & 2; the guy with his hat low and his collar up so he looked like he was out of Bazooka Joe…remember?) Reading the paper in the flashback, the Wizard conveniently thinks some things in the past that help us right here in the present. “The Torch’s film is practically over, it was just a quickie done on behalf of a government agency!” (Oh good, ‘cause I was wondering. But…world famous director Bellini is making quickie government films? How sad is that?) And, “I’ve enough money salted away to set up an actual studio on the coast!” (Oh good, ‘cause I was wondering about that too.) He puts an ad in the paper to attract Mysterio’s attention. (What do you suppose that ad said?) When Mysterio appears, the Wizard offers a partnership. Mysterio is willing to hear the proposal and declares, “if I approve of it, I shall agree to lead you in its execution.” The Wizard counters that he is the one “who must give the orders.” Declaring himself “many times your master,” Mysterio shoots the Wizard with some sort of paralysis ray but it turns out that he has shot “a moveable mechanical statue” at the desk. The real Wizard is hiding behind a curtain. (In true Wizard tradition.) He comes out with a gun trained on Mysterio. Having both proven themselves to be sneaky, untrustworthy creeps, they agree to an equal partnership. Now, back in the present, they prepare for phase two.

Back at the Torch’s dressing room, Spidey pulls his punches so he won’t hurt the Torch “while he’s not in flame,” even though “he tried to parboil me before.” The Torch ducks a punch and starts to flame on. “That’s it!” Spidey yells, “Get your flame going so I can stop holding myself back!” Now in full flame, the Torch throws a fireball that Spidey dodges by leaping to the ceiling. “I can dodge those things while reciting McLuhan backwards,” he says. Spidey then leads the fight outside. The angry Torch brags, “You’ve got about as much chance against my flame as Woody Allen would have against the Hulk!” “Don’t bet on it!” Spidey replies, “Ol’ green skin would probably laugh himself to death!” (Marshall McLuhan, 1911-1980, was a professor of media theory best known for the phrase “the medium is the message.” When Spidey quips about reciting McLuhan backwards, he is referencing something that should be very hard since it was difficult enough to recite McLuhan forwards. I assume you all know who Woody Allen is so I won’t go into that but I do think it’s interesting that Stan brings up McLuhan and Allen in consecutive panels ten years before Woody grabs McLuhan from off-camera to shut up the pompous know-it-all in line at the movies, in 1977’s Annie Hall.)

The two heroes exit the dressing room, which turns out to be inside the studio set. (A look back at page 18 panel 4 reveals that the dressing room’s location is ambiguous. There are no obvious signs that it is outside but it looks more outside than inside.) Spidey swings up to the rafters and grabs the asbestos tarpaulin positioned up there. (Asbestos webbing, asbestos suit, asbestos tarpaulin. Sure seems like asbestos is everywhere! Well, yeah, it sort of was.) He drops the tarp on the Torch, dousing his flame. Then he socks Torchy in the jaw (but still pulls his punch a little bit). As Johnny falls, he comes free of the tarp and is able to flame on again.

Things seem to be going swimmingly for our villains but then one of them gets impatient as super-villains are wont to do. Watching on a big view screen, the Wizard, with his hand on a lever, complains that “Neither one of them is exerting his power to the fullest extent!” Mysterio tells Wiz not to pull the lever, that he is enjoying the show. But the Wizard is, apparently, unable to control his own right arm and he accidentally jostles the lever enough to activate “some kind of ray” that shoots down at Spidey and the Torch from the studio ceiling, missing them by inches. When they look up and see a large metal Kirbyesque device up in the ceiling, they realize that they might “have an enemy in common nearby.” (Not sure why the big metal raygun wasn’t immediately obvious to them up there but…oh well.) But that’s okay because the Wizard and Mysterio have sunk big bucks into this operation. (Crime must really pay!) They activate a contraption that drops down from the ceiling and emits gas that douses Johnny’s flame (the third time that has happened this issue, by the way) and makes it hard to breathe. As Johnny collapses, hanging onto the metal ring emitting the gas, Spidey uses his webbing to clog nozzles from which the gas is coming. This allows Torchy to flame on again and he uses his power to burn up the remaining gas. Spidey asks, “Wasn’t it you who attacked me on the set before?” When the Torch denies it, Spidey believes him. He tells the Torch, “I’m gonna find out who’s been turning us against each other!” His spider-sense leads him to a metal cubicle way up high in a corner of the studio. (This looks to be much higher than the ray machine or the metal ring gasjet. That ceiling just keeps getting higher and higher.) The Torch shoots flame at the cubicle, steaming it up so much that the villains must flee. “We’ll use Escape Plan A,” says the Wizard.

Escape Plan A turns out to be “some kinda nutty three-dimensional decoy images.” When Spidey and the Torch get up to the cubicle, they find Mysterio and the Wizard out on the catwalk. But when they try to engage them, the bad guys fade away, since they are the aforementioned images. (Now, a really smart plan would be to create three-dimensional decoy images of two other villains so that Spidey and the Torch don’t discover who their opponents are.) While the images distract our heroes, the bad guys climb through a trap door onto the roof of the studio. Mysterio declares that it is now time for him to take charge. “[W]e can now use the trap which I have set for them,” he tells the Wizard. “All that remains is to lure them to the proper site.”

Meanwhile, Spidey and the Torch figure out that the villains must have gone up to the roof. They follow, with Torchy burning through and Spidey punching through the ceiling. Once they get there, they find the Wizard and Mysterio riding “one of the Wizard’s nutty jet machines.” (It looks very unsafe but also very Kirbyesque. Jack Kirby, though, is not our mystery penciller, unfortunately.) “I knew they’d see us if we hovered here long enough,” Wiz tells Mystie. Now that they have lured Spidey and Torchy, they take off at “max speed.” Our two heroes pursue, with Spidey attaching his asbestos webbing to the Torch’s ankles so he is dragged along behind. (“You could probably make a bundle hiring yourself out to water skiers,” says the wall-crawler.) The bad guys head for “the specially-created area that they use for their jungle movies.” Torch figures they hope “to lose us in the foliage,” but the villains have something else in mind. For once the teen heroes arrive, they hear the “thoom, thoom” of something large and heavy walking through the jungle. Suddenly a giant mechanical gorilla emerges, grabbing and snapping a palm tree with one hand. “I’ll bet Mysterio and the Wizard are working the controls from somewhere,” Spidey says. He wants to talk about it a little bit but, without hesitation, the Torch attacks the big ape.

This is exactly what the Wizard wanted because the gorilla is…yes, that’s right…”constructed of fire-proof plastic.” “With one simple blow of his fire-proof hand,” the ape stuns the Torch, snuffing his flame. (Yet again.) Johnny lies sprawled out on the ground. The gorilla reaches down to pick him up and Spidey leaps onto the mechanical ape’s back. Once there, the web-slinger deduces that “if he’s mechanical, he has to have a control center somewhere.” The accommodating villains have placed a trap door in the center of the ape’s back so that Spidey has no trouble finding the controls. He opens the trap door and smashes the machinery within. The gorilla picks up the Torch, however, before Spidey’s blow immobilizes him. Spidey leaps over to the gorilla’s right arm, realizing that “He’s holding the Torch too tight! The kid can’t breathe!” Using all of his strength, Spidey pries the ape’s hand open. Stan lets the four panels of this sequence speak for themselves, without dialogue or sound effects. He’s wise to do so. This may be the best page in the story, letting the reader really feel the effort required for Spidey to open the hand. (By the way, remember how Mysterio mocked the Wizard for his stupid plan? Yeah, the mechanical giant ape was so much smarter!)

As Johnny recovers, Spidey returns to the trap door. He “noticed some magnetically-activated fluid used to operate the gear drive” within the control machinery. (How he managed to do that and just what magnetically-activated fluid is is beyond me.) The fluid comes in a handy, removable flask from which he fills a few of his web cartridges. (Accommodating of the bad guys to build it like this.) He has “a hunch this may come in mighty handy when we have to tackle our two frantic friends again!” And if Stan has bothered to spend three panels on it, you just know that it will!

With the Torch back to his old self, Spidey uses his spider-sense to track Wizard and Mysterio, “which,” according to Mystie, “is exactly what we want them to do!” The heroes find a bunker complete with a narrow observation slit. Then they find “an unguarded rear entrance” in the form of a cave. They see the bad guys ahead, “bending over that electronic instrument panel.” The panel turns out to be a “peri-screen” on which Wiz and Mystie can watch the teens entering. Once they’ve lured them in, the Wizard throws a switch, “causing you both to be coated with an invisible magnetic field which will soon destroy you.” (Hmmm. Magnetic. Where did I just read something about that?) Then two transparent doors drop down, trapping the guys in a section of the cave. (Yes, it’s time for yet another death trap.) Then the Wizard pulls another switch and all of the cave’s boulders start hurtling toward them. “This must be what they meant by coating us with a magnetic field!” says Spidey, “In some crazy way, the rocks themselves are being drawn to us!” As Spidey dodges, Torchy melts the rocks with his flame. “But they’re coming faster and faster, more and more of ‘em,” says Johnny, “Don’t know how much longer I can keep it up!” Then he tries another tactic; melting through the glass door. Instead he just bounces off. The barrier is too thick. But Spidey has an idea. He tells Johnny to concentrate his flame into one spot, “like using a magnifying glass to burn a hole with the sun’s rays.” Johnny successfully burns the hole in the glass. (Did the barrier really have to be glass? Could the bad guys have used really thick stone or metal and watched with their peri-screen?) Then Spidey shoots his webbing through the hole and snags the magnetic field switches. “That hole is big enough for me to use the magnetized webbing I just whipped up, thereby reversing the magnetic field!” he says. (I knew Stan wouldn’t use those three panels for no reason.) With the magnetic field reversed, the boulders fly away from Spidey and Torchy and into the control panel, blowing it up and knocking Wiz and Mystie for a loop. The staggered Wizard reaches for his gun but Johnny melts it. Spidey webs them up.

Mysterio is overcome with despair. “Defeated again!!” he says, “Oh nooo, not again!! Not again!!” (I love that line. But think how he’ll feel the next dozen times he’s defeated.) “Awww, shut up, you creeps!” says Spidey, “You think you’ve got troubles? What about the money I was counting on from your phony movie?” Just then the police show up. (Where did these guys come from?) Ready to take the Wizard and Mysterio away.

Then, soon after, the press shows up too. Spidey starts to clear out but Torchy tells him there was a reward for the Wizard and Mysterio and he wants to give him his half. Just what Spidey needs to buy a plane ticket back to New York. This was back in the good old days when you could buy a plane ticket for a reasonable price and leave right away. (People used to park right in front of the terminal and run right in, without any security checks, too.) So, it is only an hour after getting his reward that Peter Parker is fast asleep on the plane heading home. A stewardess looks at him and thinks, “He must have had too much sight-seeing in Hollywood! I guess he’s the type that tires easily!”

In General...

Hey, wait a minute! We just finished reading all 41 pages and we still haven’t been told the mystery penciller’s identity. Well, there are some extra features we have to go through but let’s finish up with this story first.

Let’s start with that mystery penciller. His work is competent enough. I like it better than some recent Spidey artists who don’t seem to even understand anatomy. But there’s nothing that really stands out about the work. No Kirby power, no Ditko speed and perspective, no Romita lushness. The best of the work is the page where Spidey opens the gorilla’s hand, the page that Stan wisely leaves silent. Stan’s decision heightens the impression that this is a powerful page, or course, by singling it out as such. But it’s also worth noting that Stan singles out this page because it has so much more life than the rest of the work. Take a look back at page 18 panel 4, when Spidey approaches the Torch’s dressing room. Is it outside or inside? There is no way to tell. There are no markers in the background, in the foreground, anywhere. Since it’s an aluminum hut, it’s natural to assume that it is outside but we learn on page 23 panel 1 that it is inside. That’s lazy storytelling. Many of the action scenes are lifeless. I like the impact of the water hitting the Torch on page 7 panel 1, I like the perspective behind and below the “Torch” as he flies at Spidey on page 16 panel 1, I like the strength displayed as Spidey lifts up the wall to Torchy’s dressing room on page 20 panel 2. But there just isn’t enough of that stuff.

The story is also uninspired. The Wizard and Mysterio lure Spidey and the Torch to Hollywood. There, they try to nail Spidey in front of a bunch of witnesses by having the Wizard impersonate the Torch. What were they going to do with the Torch if that worked? Who knows? It doesn’t work. They then reveal themselves to the heroes much too soon and put them through too many death traps. None work. They’re caught. None of the details are fleshed out. How did the Wizard set up an entire functioning movie studio so fast? How come their death traps actually lead to their hideout? Stan doesn’t want you to stop and ask yourself these questions. He tries to keep the action coming. But he must stretch it out over 41 pages. Even with some pages having only a few big panels, the story can’t support the length.

Overall Rating...

Still, it is Stan who is writing so it moves right along with snappy dialogue, clever moments, and plenty of action. And while the artwork doesn’t inspire, it doesn’t detract either. Call it two webs.

Footnote...

On to the extras…