Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #101

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

The Death of Gwen Stacy is a well-known event in the life of Spider-man. The Green Goblin, after overcoming temporary amnesia and remembering that Pete was really Spidey, abducted Gwen and took her to the George Washington Bridge, throwing her off during a fight with Spider-man. Spidey catches her on the way down with a webline just in time, but finds that the sudden snap of the webline causes her neck to break. Spidey forever after mourns Gwen and blames himself for the loss of his first true love.

In Detail...

"Echoes..."
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #101
Apr 1985 : SM Title
Summary: Blacklash
Editor:  Jim Owsley
Writer:  Cary Burkett
Pencils:  Juan Alacantara
Inker:  Jack Abel
Cover Art:  John Byrne
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Articles: Betty Brant, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn) (FB), Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

We open in Central Park, Spidey hanging upside-down on a web outside the open-air Delacorte Theater, where a Bluegrass Music festival is happening. Spidey thinks to himself that a Bluegrass concert may be just what he needs to snap out of the sour mood he's in. Lowering down cash for admission to the ticket-taker, Spidey swings in and makes a web hammock for himself between two poles. "..what more could a guy ask for?" asks Spidey as he stretches out, but he's broken out of his reverie by the giggling of two lovers outside the theater below, making out. Spidey decides this isn't the place to get cheered up, because this time of year makes him think about Gwen. It would've been her birthday in a few days had she lived, he thinks as he swings away.

He stops to help a delivery van that's stuck on a jack, but notices he's stopped not far from the George Washington Bridge, off of which the Green Goblin tossed Gwen. Spidey thinks unconsciously he must've wanted to go there. He swings up to the top of the bridge, and in a series of panels remembers how it happened. He thinks that he didn't want to forget Gwen but that it hurts to remember. Peter goes home, sleeps, and gets up the next day, leaving to scare up work at the Bugle as the rent is due soon.

Meanwhile the same morning, at The Keefe Complex (noted for it's "Revolutionary Development of Computer Technology") in Lower Manhattan, Blacklash is smashing into the facade of the building with his whip. Seems a big multi-million dollar project is being delivered that Blacklash wants to steal, but he wasn't ready for the massive security that's there that day. Inside the building, a woman named Sue is bringing the lunch her newlywed guard husband Ed forgot to bring to work. Blacklash breaks through the wall, spots Sue, and snaring her in his whip, escapes. He threatens that if anyone tries to come after him she gets her brains splattered across the floor. He takes her to a nearby abandoned tenement.

Peter at the Bugle is complaining to Betty how all the day's open assignments have been taken by staff photographers, when Joe Robertson comes out and puts Pete on the hostage situation. The police have surrounded the building where Blacklash is. Blacklash demands an escape helicopter or he'll "mail the skirt home in a box". Peter arrives on the scene and sees that it's Blacklash up in the building. He realizes this is no regular situation and that he needs to change into his Spider-man duds. He sneaks under a billboard in front of the tenement, noting a rope hanging off the building in front of an open window. Suddenly his Spidey sense goes off--at the same time as someone on the ground spots him and calls out "Spider-man!", Spidey notices a security guard sneaking in the same open window that Spidey wants to go into. Blacklash hears the commotion, demanding Spidey show himself or it'll be Spidey's fault if Sue gets killed.

Spidey lands on the street in front of the open window with Blacklash, confirming that he's there and to not hurt the girl. Suddenly reporters on the ground swarm him, asking him a ton of questions. In all the commotion, Spidey overhears two reporters talking about how the hostage is the confirmed wife of one of Keefe's security guards. Spidey puts two and two together, realizing that that's the guard he saw sneaking in, going against the odds to save the woman he loves (making Pete think of Gwen again).

In the confusion, Spidey escapes the reporters and sneaks into the sewer system, somehow finding a way up into the tenement from down there (because, you know, all NY tenements have passageways that lead down into the sewers). He spots Ed Palmer, the guard, running in the hallways trying to save his wife. Spidey webs him up, thinking that he doesn't have time to explain that he's doing it for Ed's own good, that if Ed were try to go up against Blacklash he would merely get himself and his wife killed. Spidey thinks that if he fails, at least Ed can blame him and not himself like Spidey has with Gwen for years.

Spidey gets in through the ceiling over the room where Blacklash is holding his hostage. He webs Blacklash's whip hand and gets Sue to safety. Blacklash gets free of the webbing and goes for his spare whip. He lashes Spidey's arm as Spidey jumps through the air to deliver a blow, but the lashing only allows Spidey to clip Blacklash. Blacklash snaps his whip's handle, and his whip becomes "instant nunchucks" (groan). Blacklash wails on Spidey with the whip-chucks, saying he owes him big for how Spidey and Iron Man humiliated him in the past. Blacklash backs Spidey into a corner with his spinning whip. Webbing does no good--Blacklash says his spinning can even deflect bullets. Spidey shoots a gob of sticky webbing on the floor in front of Blacklash's feet, who stupidly keeps walking into it even while commenting on it, gets stuck in it, and smashes up the floor in front of him instead as he falls.

Spidey turns his back on Blacklash to check on the hostage, when Blacklash fires his whip at Spidey like a projectile (wasn't it just stuck in the smashed up, webbed up floor?) Spider-sense alerting him, Spidey dodges just in time, but it explodes the wall behind him, burying him in debris. Blacklash says the noise is probably bringing the cops and says he's going to finish off Spidey quickly before he escapes, wrapping the whip around Spidey's neck. Spidey is about to give up, but thinks how the fear in Sue's eyes reminds him of the fear he saw in Gwen's. He reaches the button on the handle of Blacklash's whip, making it retract, and pummels Blacklash in the moment of surprise. He tells the hostage to run to her husband who's waiting (webbed) downstairs. Spidey escapes though the sewer exit again and swings home. They're still covering the hostage situation on the TV news--Ed the guard says Spidey kept him and his wife from getting killed and may god bless him. Pete says he needed to hear that. The last few panels serve as an epilogue, when a few days days later Spidey is seen putting a rose on Gwen's grave.

In General...

Nothing too superlative here, but the story is generally effective. Spidey broods and mourns over Gwen, something we've seen him do many many times before and since. The guard's wife being held hostage gave Peter a nice personal stake in the situation. Blacklash is a lame villain and is one I've never understood--are his whips electrified? How are they powerful enough to break through concrete walls? How did Spidey not lose his head when the whip was wrapped around his neck and he pushed the button to have it retract? Burkett covers most of the ideas he comes up with here in his script, but there's still a few "yeah, right" moments like how Spidey got up inside the building from the sewers (or even into the room from above, as if through an air vent system, where Blacklash was holding Sue hostage--it is supposed to be an abandoned apartment building, right?). The part where the reporters are swarming Spidey outside in the street was pretty funny--some of the questions they asked him are if he's a Republican and how sees through his white eyelets.

Overall Rating...

This is a fairly run-of-the-mill story that acknowledges the Gwen Stacy history and gives us a conventional comic beat-'em-up. The art is adequate. Nothing much to see here, but the cover by Byrne is really nice, which bumps the rating up a half of a web (the cover also follows the common practice of Marvel choosing a cover with black-suited Spidey to go with a story of a red & blue suited Spidey--you just never knew what you were getting with Spider-man in the 80's).