Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #11

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 2001.

Background...

For the sake of completeness, here's our review of the backup story from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #11.

In Detail...

"Chaos at the Coffee Bean!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #11 (Story 2)
Summary: Chaos At The Coffee Bean
Plot/Editor:  Archie Goodwin
Writer:  Bill Mantlo, Scott Edelman
Pencils:  Don Perlin, John Romita, Jr.
Inker:  Al Milgrom, Jim Mooney
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 Reprinted In: John Romita, Jr. 30th Anniversary Special (Story 2)

Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson are sitting at a table in "Empire State University's unofficial hangout... the Coffee Bean Barn" when a masked man with a machine gun rushes in and starts shooting. But let's step back one half-hour in time.

Outside on the street, MJ refers Peter to a familiar old sign. It is a coffee bean wearing sunglasses and a red beret. Two fountain pens are crossed below it as on a "skull and crossbones". Yes, true believers, it is the sign for the Coffee Bean Barn and Peter can't believe the place still exists. "I figured it'd be replaced by something like 'Madame Nadia's Fortune-Telling Emporium' by now" he says. Pete turns to leave but MJ grabs him by the shirt and insists they go down the stairs to the belowground establishment. "You didn't think I was going to waltz away before we checked for familiar faces?" she says.

One familiar face they see, as they stand in the center of the room, is Paul Cassidy, playing guitar on stage. "He's been playing the place since day one, it seems" says MJ. Pete adds, "We had him pegged as the next Bob Dylan". From the stage, Paul recognizes Mary Jane and hails her with a, "Why come you hither to this hallowed hall of hoopla?" (See? The Coffee Bean Barn is still a happenin' place!) MJ introduces Paul to "my man Peter Parker" and Paul recalls him, too. Paul tells them that he has a new manager who is "gonna put this ol' wailer on the map". MJ and Peter take a table and things just start to get romantic when that masked gunman enters the scene.

The masked man trains his gun on all the customers. Pete can't understand why someone would want to bust in on the Coffee Bean; but it's a moot point anyhow. He tries to sneak into the back room to change into his Spidey duds but the gunman spots him. "Freeze, punk!" Pete is told, and he stops in his tracks. But, Paul Cassidy sneaks up from behind and throws his guitar, hitting the gunman in the back of the head. The crowd is impressed. "That Cassidy cat is some mean dude!" says one admirer. And this diversion is enough for Peter to leap up on a wall in the shadows and plan to enter the action.

Down on the floor, Paul leaps at the bad guy but he is not fast enough. The gunman turns and sprays shots at him, all of which (suspiciously) miss him, though he falls to the floor. Paul backs off. Meanwhile, Peter leaps off the wall and through a curtain into a back room. He removes his shirt, revealing the Spidey outfit underneath.

The gunman tells Paul to get up. "Since you're so brave, I'll use you as my hostage" he says. He orders the crowd to throw their valuables to "the punk musician". With Paul holding a bag full of goodies, he and the gunman back out of the coffee house and climb into a big gold car.

Just then, Spider-Man springs out of the back room, takes a couple of bouncing leaps and webs his way up the stairs to the street. He plans to rescue "everyone's favorite Coffee Bean balladeer" little knowing that, within the car, Paul Cassidy is celebrating. The gunman removes his mask and reveals himself to be Hank, Paul's new agent. "Too bad we can't keep" the valuables, Hank tells Paul, but the plan all along has been for Paul to turn up with the money and the gunman's mask and the gun and be declared a hero. "Then", Hank says, "they'll all want you! Nightclubs! Recording studios! The Sonny and Cher show!" Well, actually Hank says, "The Sonny and Cher sh..." because he is interrupted by a couple of gloved hands that reach down on either side of the car and tear the roof back. Spidey has, of course, heard everything. He shoots his webbing in and snatches the machine gun away. Then he crunches the gun in one hand. A desperate Paul orders Hank to "shake 'im off" and Hank ends up heading right for a telephone pole. But Spidey leaps off just at the last instant and the two men do nothing more than give themselves whiplash in the collision. The webhead clings to the telephone pole and sprays webbing down on his captives. Within the hour, he declares, "the men in blue will be ready to take you to your next gig... jail!"

But now Peter must get back to MJ and provide a good explanation so she won't be mad at him for his disappearance. He changes back to the Parker duds (though I thought he left them in the back room) and races down the stairs into the Coffee Bean Barn. But he's feeling pretty secure because, this time, he has thought of the perfect excuse. He approaches a seething MJ with his story but she doesn't even want to hear it. "Don't talk to me, Peter," she says icily. "Do you realize that while I've been sitting here alone for the past half hour three different weirdos have tried to pick me up! I'm beginning to think I should have let them!" And leaving Pete sputtering, MJ heads for the exit. Our frustrated hero raises a finger to his head, as if shooting himself, and thinks, "Face it, Parker, you're a fighter, not a lover! Sheesh!"

Now I know you are all wondering what ever happened to Paul Cassidy and his agent Hank. I mean, even though the stunt backfired and they were sent to jail, wouldn't you think he would get a whole ton of publicity? I mean, the guy probably got all that stuff he was wishing for, as soon as he got out of prison, anyway. The nightclubs, the recording contract, the Sonny and Cher show! Surely, there must be an issue somewhere that gives us an update on Hank and Paul. Well.... no. Sorry. Forget it. He was a one-hit wonder. As were Anton DeLionatus and the Spider-Squad. Enjoy this one while you can because that's all there is, there isn't any more. But there will be another Lookback next time.