Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #117

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

Black Cat lost her powers due to Spider-Man getting the bad luck hex on him removed by Dr. Strange. She broke into the Foreigner's penthouse office and stole a solid gold notebook. Peter is on assignment with Joy Mercado in Appalachia, Virginia. He goes missing after a battle as Spidey with the villain Magma and after being caught in a cave-in in the Missing In Action arc. Consequently, Spider-man doesn't appear in this month's issues of Spectacular and Amazing, hence the "Where is Spider-man" tag-lines all over the covers.

In Detail...

"Dinner Hour"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #117
Aug 1986 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man missing - Dr. Strange, Foreigner, Black Cat
Editor:  Jim Owsley
Writer:  Peter David
Pencils:  Dwayne Turner, Rich Buckler
Inker:  Bob McLeod, Del Barras, Josef Rubinstein, Keith Williams
Cover Art:  Rich Buckler
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Articles: Black Cat, Doctor Strange, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

7:00 PM finds the Black Cat in a new costume outside Dr. Strange's house. She recaps events from the last issue, when her bad luck powers cut out on her during the robbery at Foreigner's, and recalls her encounter with Sabertooth that Spider-man interfered in. She finds her way into an open window at Doc Strange's, thinking how mundane it is for the Sorcerer Supreme to leave his second story window open. As she hops in, she's blown back out the way she came by a whoosh of air. She realizes the house itself threw her out as she catches a ledge. The meeting with Strange may be harder than she thought.

Across town, Alexander is running away from home, riding in an empty subway car, hungry and wondering what will become of him. The line reaches its last stop, Alex is out in the streets. He wonders what the police will do to a young child his age, for incinerating his scientist father with his powers inadvertently last issue. He got his power from toying around with one of his father's machines in his lab. Meanwhile, Alex's mother is going through the motions of her homemaker routine, trying not to think about her missing son and husband, gone for two days. She thinks if she'd only stood up to her alcoholic husband Fritz, things would've been different. She sees ashes all over the floor of Alex's room--Fritz's ashes--and doing what she does best, unknowingly vacuums them up.

Meanwhile, at the Robertson household, Joe is having his son Randy and his new wife Amanda over for dinner. Randy and Amanda are in Randy's room, where Randy is throwing darts at a dartboard. Amanda can tell something is bothering Randy--tension between him and his dad Joe--and believes she's the cause. Randy says Joe's hang ups are his problem, that Randy not telling him about the marriage beforehand was an attempt to hurt his father. Amanda calls him gutless, and Randy says he'd never do anything to hurt his dad. Joe comes in the room to tell them dinner's ready, a stray dart going into the door frame next to Joe's head. Joe asks if Randy's trying to drive a point home. He tells Randy to move the dartboard before someone gets a third nostril, and that dinner's ready. Joe castigates himself for how he reacted, wondering how Bill Cosby would've handled it.

7:14 PM finds the Foreigner easily breaking through Felicia's apartment deadbolt, which is supposed to be the best of it's kind on the market and pick-proof. As he wonders why the Cat doesn't have a better intruder-prevention system, long blades fire themselves from the fireplace. Foreigner drolly bats and snaps them away, thinking how original but humdrum they are, wondering how he can enjoy winning when it's so bloody easy, longing for a challenge. He finds the off-switch to the death traps and goes to Felicia's bar to make himself a drink ("Hmm. No bottle here aged much past this morning. Save me from Americans" he thinks).

Back at Dr. Strange's, Cat has broken several of her implements trying to get into the house, when the window suddenly opens by itself. She goes into the house, through the hall and then through a random door to find herself--out in the street again, with no door behind her when she turns around.

Alex is out in the streets, trying to avoid police cruisers. He runs into a skeezy, mustached man in a trench coat and hat who introduces himself as Bert. Back at the Robertsons, Randy is saying how becoming a social worker is what he was always cut out for, and Joe interrupts to remind Randy that at one time he wanted to go into journalism like him. Martha Robertson admonishes Randy for talking with his mouth full, saying it's a good way to choke. Randy says there's no room for food when his foot is taking up all the space anyway. Later on, Joe and Martha are washing up the dishes, and Martha says Joe is acting like a fool. Joe says he was never good at hiding his irritation. Martha says Joe is acting insulted by Randy and Amanda getting married, and that Joe isn't giving Amanda a chance because she's white. Joe says he's more insulted that Randy didn't see fit to consult Joe about a major decision in his life.

At 7:42, Cat spies on Strange meditating through his window. Strange comes right through the window in his astral form, surprising Cat. Strange remarks on how Cat can see him in this form. Cat says she's come to punch out his lights for taking her powers away. Strange says her powers haven't vanished, but mutated, and he would like to examine her. Cat tells him to go haunt a house. Strange asks if she has no curiosity about herself. Cat says curiosity and her don't get along too well, and that if he comes near her again she's calling Ghost-busters and leaves. Doc says he won't waste his time or power on someone who doesn't know how to ask for help and goes back to meditating.

Cat heads back to her apartment, upon which Foreigner sets upon her, throwing blades at her and asking about the gold notebook. Cat asks who he is, he replies "Men call me..the Foreigner..women call me frequently." To which Cat replies "Okay, Frequently. Why're you here?". Foreigner again accuses her of stealing the gold notebook. Cat says she had it melted down to create the spiked trim on her costume, and lunging at him, to try and take it. Suddenly Foreigner vanishes, appearing behind her delivering an incapacitating karate chop.

Alex is walking down the street with Bert, who says he wants to nothing of Alex's past, that friends don't care about little indiscretions. Bert leads Alex to a waiting car, tells him to get in. Alex says his mother taught him not to ride with strangers, which Bert says is sound advice for children but not young men like Alex. Bert introduces him to his pal Rod, waiting in the car. Alex calls him a creep and starts to run. His hands start to flare up, and he launches an energy blast that destroys the car. The flames spread to a nearby power station, which also explodes. Alex wonders if anyone will notice. The explosion causes a black out in the city.

At the Robertson house, Joe is eating an apple, still sitting around the table with the kids when the lights go out. Joe instructs Randy to grab the flashlight magnetized to the fridge. Joe starts to choke on the apple he's eating. Someone administers the heimlich maneuver. Joe asks Martha how she knew how to do it, but when Randy comes back with the flashlight, he sees that it was Amanda who saved him from choking, not his wife. She asks if this is a good time to tell Joe she's Jewish.

Back at Cat's, Felicia asks Foreigner why he stopped attacking her to make himself a drink. Foreigner replies he was hoping for more of a challenge. Cat tells him to go pick on Spider-man. The lights go out, and Cat notices she can see the outline of Foreigner even the dark. Her powers have certainly changed. She mounts an attack on him, but he easily knocks her out over the railing of the balcony. Foreigner says he could let her go and then shoot her on the way down, but he has a proposition for her. After a time elapse, Foreigner has laid out a plan to destroy Spider-man. Cat asks why he wants her help now when he was about to kill her. Foreigner says he has a weakness for women with silver/blonde hair. Cat thinks to herself that by agreeing to the plan, she'll have to give up any hope of ever being with Peter, but that Peter made it clear he doesn't want her. She agrees to Foreigner's plan, and that when they're through, Spidey's life will be rubble.

In General...

Leave it to David to come up with an interesting tale, even one that doesn't involve the title hero. Spidey's supporting cast has always been one of the best things about the book, and here a few ancillary characters get a chance to shine, like Black Cat and the Robertsons. He deftly weaves their stories together with Alex's, with Alex being responsible for the power outage. There's nice irony and some foreshadowing in this story that I always liked with David's writing, as well as a dark but humorous vibe running throughout.

With Dr. Strange being featured so prominently on the cover, his role in the story is negligible--he's basically there to provide Felicia with the information that her powers are changing. David writes the Foreigner very sleazily and drolly, even introducing some of his hypnotic techniques, which is how he gets the drop on Cat here. He figures pretty big in the story David tells with the rest of his Spectacular run. As for Alex? His story resolves next issue. If there's one drag on this story, it's that a clutch of inkers pitched in to finish this issue and it shows, especially right around Alex's power station exploding. Definitely not a deal breaker for the issue, but it's nicer to have consistent art when possible.

Overall Rating...

Engaging story, and more great characterization and witty dialogue from Peter David, who more than rises to the challenge of scripting a Spidey-less Spidey issue. The lack of consistent art and of course the lack of the webhead himself keep this one from getting a higher score.