Peter Parker: Spider-Man (Vol. 2) #36

Background

Last issue, Spider-Man followed in the footsteps of the Punisher and the Beetle when he became a black man. Well, he didn't really turn black. It was just in the imagination of an underprivileged kid. But only time will tell if Spider-Man follows in the footsteps of the Punisher and Michael Jackson to turn white again.

Story 'The Big Score'

Meet Billy Fender. He's an insurance claims investigator who's been trying to figure out the secret behind Spider-Man so that he'll be able to cash in on his story. And it seems that tomorrow is going to be Billy Fender's big day.

Fender's story started when he came up to the city six years ago to make a few bucks doing surveillance on a cheating wife. While he was taking pictures from across the street, he heard gunshots and ran out to investigate, to find the Rhino rampaging down the street. Fender narrowly avoided being trampled, but then looked up to see Spider-Man swinging by overhead, in pursuit of the Rhino. And Fender was fascinated by the web-slinger. In his own words, "At that moment, I realized I had a new purpose in life: I had to know who he was."

After that, Fender stayed in New York, where he got his job at the insurance company, checking out phony super-hero-related claims. He sometimes manages to use his job to gather information on Spider-Man, although it's often difficult for him to escape the office when he's being hassled by his crooked boss or Galactus is attacking.

Fender thinks he has Spidey all figured out. Over these last six years, he's studied the web-slinger's patrol routes and speech patterns, allowing him to narrow down the number of suspects. He considers that Spidey would have to be pretty smart to be able to make his web-shooters. And he knows that there are chemicals in Spidey's webbing that are most commonly found in a photo lab. Fender figures that Spidey would probably have a pretty impressive physique, but that he'd hide it under baggy clothes. Fender even figures that Spidey's arranged to have himself appear in public next to his alter ego a few times, just to throw people of the scent.

But Billy Fender's got all this figured out. He's so sure, in fact, that in the morning, he waltzes right into his boss' office while his boss is in a meeting and quits. Then he marches over to the Daily Bugle, confidently marches through the City Room, and knocks on J. Jonah Jameson's door. Jonah answers the door with his characteristic charm, and Fender tells JJJ that he has the story of his lifetime for him. It's the story of Spider-Man's secret identity... which, according to Fender, is none other than JJJ himself.

General Comments

Shoot... Spidey never took his mask off this issue, so I guess we're gonna have to wait another month to find out whether or not he is once again caucasian.

This is another solid story. Paul Jenkins has crafted an interesting, if unspecatcular story. I was actually wondering if Fender really did know Spidey's secret identity. There were also several humorous parts in the story, like the phony insurance claims, and the ending was very funny. The pencils by Staz Johnson, filling in for Mark Buckingham, were also quite strong.

My problem with this issue, though, is this: What is it doing in "Peter Parker: Spider-Man"? This is why we have "Tangled Web"... so that stories that don't directly affect Spider-Man can see print. Normally, I wouldn't mind this story turning up in PP:SM, but in this case, we had the same kind of story last month. For the last two issues, Peter Parker has not appeared in "Peter Parker: Spider-Man". I'm a Paul Jenkins fan, and I really love what he does with Peter Parker and his supporting cast (particularly Caryn and Barker the wacky dog), so I find it frustrating to read a story that doesn't utilize these characters.

Overall Rating

Three webs for a solid story in the "Tangled Web" genre... I miss my friend Peter Parker, though. Come back, Pete.