Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #116

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

Black Cat underwent an experiment by the Kingpin to gain actual bad-luck powers, something she hid from Peter. The powers began to jinx Spidey, contributing to him breaking off their relationship. Pete then went to Dr. Strange to get the hex removed, negating Black Cat's actual powers in the process.

In Detail...

"102 Uses For A Dead Cat"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #116
Jul 1986 : SM Title
Summary: Black Cat, Foreigner, Sabretooth
Editor:  Jim Owsley
Writer:  Peter David
Pencils:  Rich Buckler
Inker:  Bob McLeod
Cover Art:  Rich Buckler
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Articles: Black Cat, Mary Jane Watson-Parker

The Black Cat is in Foreigner's penthouse office, getting roughed up by 4 of his thugs. A thug with a mohawk asks Felicia if it's her first time she's had her nose broken. Mohawk says he's had his broken four times, so that makes him 3 times as tough as her. In a daze, Felicia hallucinates that the Mohawk thug wailing on her is Peter in costume.

Spidey, meanwhile is swinging around wondering what Cat is doing. He ruminates on the events that have taken place between he and Felicia lately, how her bad luck powers rubbed off on him, and how he had to break things off with Felicia, how Dr. Strange removed Cat's bad luck hex, and how Flash Thompson has been accused of being The Hobgoblin. Pete realizes that he's in the vicinity of Mary Jane's apartment, and how she's the one friend he has left that he can count on.

Pete changes into his civilian clothes, thinking it's good MJ and he are just friends or all they would do is argue. He sees Roderick Kingsley leaving MJ's apartment. Pete thinks Kingsley has caused him nothing but aggravation. Pete confronts MJ, saying Kingsley has the IQ of kelp. MJ says Kingsley happens to like her body, which Peter snorts "Oh I'll bet!" MJ replies that Kingsley, being a fashion designer, wants to see how she looks in his clothes. MJ says she doesn't like Pete's attitude, and that thanks to Kingsley, she was able to pay for repairs to Pete's damaged apartment. Pete accuses MJ of sneaking around behind his back and storms out. MJ thinks if she didn't know better, they just had a lover's quarrel.

Elsewhere, at Foreigner's penthouse, Foreigner is shooting arrows at a target. Sabertooth is there with him, thinking Foreigner told him to be quiet while he aimed, and wonders why he's taking so long to fire the arrow. Sabertooth then realizes that Foreigner's trying to shut him up. Sabertooth says he should kill him for that, that he doesn't take guff from anybody. Foreigner asks if he takes American Express. Sabertooth says if he wasn't counting on Foreigner to throw him some work, he'd take him apart. Foreigner says Sabertooth would die trying. Sabertooth said he killed several men, including a CIA, FBI, and Interpol man trying to find Foreigner, and that finally an anonymous drunken wino finally gave Sabertooth the Foreigner's address. Foreigner reveals that he was the wino in disguise. Sabertooth realizes that the smell of alcohol covered Foreigner's scent, otherwise his hyper senses would've sniffed him out. Sabertooth says he needs a job, that he hasn't killed anyone in a few days and he'll lose his touch. Foreigner says work for costumed assassins is hard to come by, as Sabertooth stands out in a crowd. Sabertooth asks what he needs to blend in. Foreigner replies he needs "Orthodontia. Electrolysis. A Manicure. And pupils." (Lol!)

Back in the Penthouse office, Cat is now making out with the Mohawked thug who broke her nose. Cat suddenly snaps out of it, kneeing the thug in the groin, saying nobody manhandles her. She heads for the wall safe, taking out the other thugs in the process. Pete meanwhile is literally climbing the walls and ceiling in his apartment (in a cleverly illustrated, 6-panel page), as he thinks about the situation with Felicia. He thinks he doesn't want to argue with her anymore, or see her, but wonders if she still wears that great perfume.

The scene shifts to a family moving into a new apartment, young Alexander and his scientist father. Alexander says he's feeling a little down, which enrages his father Fritz, who says it's Alex's fault they had to move to Alex to a new school district because of claims of child abuse, which interrupted Fritz's important work. Alex asks his Dad not to hate him, Fritz tells him not to be stupid, that a father loves his son, and to get his room shipshape or there'll be trouble (what a loving guy he is). Once alone, Alex's hand starts glowing with energy, and he worries he won't be able to control it much longer.

Back at Foreigner's penthouse, Foreigner leads Sabertooth into the office where Cat was, saying he wants to reward Sabertooth for being patient by showing him the solid gold notebook he has. Foreigner comes across his beaten thugs, and asks to be brought up to speed on the situation. Sabertooth offers to go after Cat for Foreigner. Foreigner says he appreciates the offer but he doesn't need help and he'll personally attend to Cat himself. Sabertooth refuses to listen and, sampling some of Felicia's blood on the floor and getting her scent, jumps out the window to hunt her down. Foreigner then fires his henchmen that Cat beat, and they say "We Quit!".

Felicia is back at her apartment, bandaging across her broken nose and thinking how the haul she got from Foreigner's office wasn't worthwhile, getting a few hundred bucks, jewels and a solid gold notebook that couldn't possibly be real. She wonders if the Kingpin took away her bad luck powers, as he's the one that first gave them to her. She suddenly realizes someone's in the room and orders them to come out--Spidey's crawling on her ceiling. She gives him a big hug, but Pete says he's not back "in that way..". He's there to ask her about the bad luck hex that's been sticking to him, and how Dr. Strange told Peter that Cat's powers might be affected at the source (her). Felicia becomes enraged when she learns Peter had something to do with her missing powers and takes a swing at him. She says she loved him but Pete snuck around behind her back, and to get out. Spidey says he'll leave but not because she wants him to, and that their relationship was dead going in because there was no way for Peter to trust Felicia from the beginning.

As Spidey swings away, Sabertooth sneaks up on Felicia in her apartment, telling her she's going to die for ripping off the Foreigner. Felicia thinks to herself that her apartment is rigged with traps, and all Sabertooth has to do is get a little closer to her. Suddenly Spidey swings back in the balcony, yelling "Surprise!" and kicking Sabertooth in the head. Felicia screams that Spidey is ruining her chance, and Spidey asks "chance for what? To let whiskers here find 102 uses for a dead cat?!" (and we have a title). Sabertooth says that Spidey is old friends with his enemies Power Man and Iron Fist, and Spidey dies first. Spidey jumps out on the balcony again to draw Sabertooth outside. Referring to himself in third person, he says Spidey can't avoid Sabertooth. Spidey says sure he can, he'll just brush between meals. Sabertooth says killing Spider-man will impress his employer the Foreigner. Spidey thinks to himself how he's just manipulating Sabertooth into fighting so he can get action shots for the Bugle. Spidey, busy mugging for the camera, gets his chest swiped by Sabertooth's claws, ripping Spidey's black costume. This makes Spidey mad, saying he'll have to sew it and he hates sewing. To buy some time, Spidey shoots webs into Sabertooth's face. Enraged, Sabertooth tears the webs off, taking most of his face with them. Felicia screams from the balcony that she didn't need Spidey's help and she'll get even with him for it. Spidey takes Sabertooth to the hospital. Pete thinks to himself that Felicia accused him of butting in, and Pete accused MJ of the same, but that Pete accusing MJ is different, isn't it?

Foreigner is watching Sabertooth's capture on the news, saying it's too bad but that he told him not to butt in--and that now he'll have to deal with Cat himself. Finally, back at Alexander's household, his father has been drinking and is mad that Alex's room is still a mess. He swings on his son but Alex catches his punch, his energy flaring, and incinerates his father into a pile of dust.

In General...

Peter David was born to write Spider-man. The humor, the characterization, it's all there, and it's all pitch-perfect. Rick Buckler's art gives the story a nice gritty, realistic tone. He did the art for David's "The Death Of Jean DeWolff" storyline, and they're a great match. His writing of Black Cat here is funny and a little kinky as she's beaten by the thugs and then makes out with one of them; she comes off as more and more unhinged. It's only the characterization of Sabertooth that seems off here, but only in light of everything they've done with the character since. In the mid-80's, Sabertooth was still at this time a B-level villain, and they seemingly hadn't tied him yet to Wolverine, Weapon X, Fall of The Mutants and everything else. The fact that Foreigner supposedly trained him is something that's probably never been referred to since. It's nice to see a cathartic encounter between Peter and Felicia, and breaks up the tedium of their on again, off again fling in the books of this time. David even continues some story threads here such as Alexander's story that he revisits in future issues.

Overall Rating...

Genuinely witty, good action, great characterization. Peter David makes it all look too easy. Classic stuff, highly recommended.

Footnote...

Sabertooth appears again to get revenge after this encounter in PPTSS #119. Alexander's fate is decided in issue #118. Roderick Kingsley is eventually revealed to have been the true Hobgoblin.