Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #65


We conclude our Looking Back of this three-part story arc which began back in Amazing Spider-Man #63.

Story 'The Impossible Escape!'

The crowd closes in on the unconscious Spidey but, as you may recall, Captain George Stacy and Gwen are there, as well. The Captain tells the crowd that they should not take the mask off "not without expert legal advice". Uniformed policemen move in and hold off the crowd. They call for an ambulance and leave the wall-crawler masked. Gwen, meanwhile, heads for the Daily Bugle. She wants to find out what happened to Peter. As she heads in, she passes JJJ heading out. (Surely that webbing couldn't have evaporated already?) He wants to be present when Spidey is unmasked. When the Captain tells him the unmasking will not take place, Jameson replies, "What are you, Stacy, some kinda nut?"

The ambulance arrives and the paramedics load Spidey in. (Though, they don't bother with a stretcher and it looks like they dump him like a sack of potatoes.) Jameson confronts George Stacy about the unmasking and George replies that "even a helpless masked man has his rights". "I knew it!", replies Jonah, "You're a religious fanatic!"

Meanwhile, Gwen has made it to the Daily Bugle roof and learned that there's nothing there but rubble. She returns to her father, concerned because Peter can't be found. (In fact, she starts crying again.) George tells her not to worry. Peter is probably developing film somewhere, he says. (Of course, we all know that, as Captain Stacy is dying, in ASM #90 (November 1970), he reveals to Spidey that he knows he is also Peter Parker. We can probably assume that he already knows this at the time of this story.) He adds that everything will be all right and tells Gwen, "If you hear anything, I'll be at the infirmary with Spider-Man".

Back in the Bugle offices, JJJ is exultant about Spidey's capture. "We've got a special edition to get out", he tells Joe Robertson (who is being examined by a physician after his trauma on the roof). But "wasn't the web-slinger fighting to protect the city from the Vulture?", Robbie asks JJ. "That's what he wanted us to think!", Jonah replies. "It was just a grudge fight, that's all! Personally I can't stand anyone who carries a grudge!"

The ambulance arrives at the prison infirmary. Spidey, now on a stretcher, is wheeled in and placed under a 24-hour guard. One doctor wants to unmask him but another tells him that "the police commissioner himself has personally ordered hands off" while he consults with "the city's legal eagles" to see if an unmasking will violate Spidey's civil rights. Outside the room, George Stacy confers with attorney Foggy Nelson about the ruling. And inside, Spidey finally returns to consciousness. In an instant, he realizes where he is and that he hasn't been unmasked. He decides to lie still, feign continued unconsciousness, and hope to regain his strength.

Hours later, Captain Stacy uses the prison pay phone to talk to Gwen. He tells her that he won't be home for dinner. Then, his side of the conversation comes to an abrupt end. Six convicts are escaping from the prison through the infirmary and one has grabbed the Captain around the throat, figuring "the only way to break out is with a hostage". Poor Gwen is left to scream into the phone, wondering why her father no longer answers.

The cons bring Stacy up to the barred door. Once they show the guard that they have a hostage, he'll have to let them out. But there is no guard there. In fact, the cons have noticed a lot more activity around the area than they expected. Something must be going on.

And the object of all that activity finally sits up in bed, feeling much better. He hears some commotion over by the exit and notices the convicts holding George Stacy hostage. (And now the Captain's hands are tied behind his back and his mouth is taped closed, though God only knows where the convicts got the rope and the tape.) "Nine times out of ten", Spidey figures he could take care of the cons and easily free Captain Stacy but his head is still a bit groggy and he's not sure if his shoulder will start acting up again. It goes without saying that he must thwart the jailbreak but he decides to try an indirect method. "My best bet", he thinks, "is to bluff it out, make them think I wanna throw in with them".

Stepping from out of the shadows, Spidey reveals himself to the cons and tells them he wants to join the jailbreak. One of them is excited by the prospect ("If he means it, we can use a guy like him!") but the nasty-looking one with the dark eyebrows and five o'clock shadow (who appears to be the leader) doesn't like it. "He never helped any of us on the outside", he says, "Why should he wanna help us now?" To make matters worse, the sole black convict of the group reveals that it was Spidey who put him in prison to begin with ("He must be one of the dozens of petty hoods I've put on ice in the past few years", thinks the webhead.), so he'd rather polish the web-slinger off... right now! One con takes a poke at Spidey "while he's still weak" and the fact that the wall-crawler "just stood there and took it" encourages another one to join in. (And, hey, let's face it... except for the African-American one, all the crooks look pretty much the same. And though some of them eventually get names like Mack and Gimpy, it's all pretty much the same guy times six.)

Spidey decides to nip this rebellion in the bud. He tells the cons that the only reason he took the punch was that he "couldn't believe any con would be dumb enough to take a poke" at him. He easily lifts one of the men and throws him at two others. And he is happy to discover that his shouldner doesn't hurt anymore. Yet another five o'clock-shadowed con tries to brain Spidey from behind with George Stacy's cane but Spidey pops him one in the gut, then lifts him up by his shirt collar. The man warns Spidey to let him go, unless he wants the other cons to knock off Captain Stacy.

Spidey knows he is sure to lose if he acknowledges that Stacy's life means anything to him, so he decides to bluff again. With a cry of "Do what you want with him, it's no skin off my nose!", he slaps the man he is holding. The leader is surprised by this... and taken in by the ruse. "He means it!", he exclaims, and all the others fall into line. They decide that Spidey is "trying to break out, just like us" and they decide to leave the escape plan up to the web-slinger. "This is it", Spidey tells himself, "I've got to think fast!" And he proceeds to tell the convicts what they are going to do.

Meanwhile, Harry Osborn has been searching for his father. Norman has gone missing after showing signs of a nervous breakdown. Harry checks his father's Club but is told that Norman hasn't been there for days. But Jolly Jonah Jameson is there and, spotting Harry, opens the conversation by asking, "Say, boy, where's that no-good roommate of yours?" Harry tells JJJ that he's too worried about his father to keep track of Peter. They have a few choice words for each other and Harry leaves the Club, with Jonah standing in the doorway telling him, "Kids! You're all alike! No respect for anyone! Now, when I was a boy...". "Nuts!", Harry thinks, "He was born fifty years old!"

Right outside the club, Harry runs into Mary Jane. Harry looks so low that, according to MJ, he looks like he lost his "last thrillin' Dylan disc!" (That's Bob, not Jakob, by the way.) Harry is too concerned with his father's disappearance, with the way the mention of the Green Goblin and Spider-Man seemed to make him worse, to even bolster much of an answer. He walks away with MJ sarcastically saying, "How did Rowan and Martin ever make it without you?" (Do I have to explain all of these '60s references?) and (my favorite line), "Say hello to the other swingers at the funeral home!"

Back at the prison, the cops have caught on that "there's a break at the infirmary". They all grab riot guns but are told to hold their fire since Captain Stacy is a hostage. In the infirmary, Spidey tells the cons that he can free them by breaking the bars bare-handed. He leads the way, climbing on the wall, as the cons follow below, and he hopes that they will relax their grip on Stacy so he can "tear into them". They never do. Finally, Spidey arrives at a barred window that he bends enough to allow himself to escape but the cons complain that it will do them no good. It is too high off the ground for them to reach it. Spidey tells them that he will use it to find "an escape route in the yard outside". Meanwhile, he tells them, they must get through the guards by "holding Stacy in front of you".

As he exits through the window, Spidey puts together his plan. He knows he must free Captain Stacy and he decides that the only way to do that is to pick the convicts off one by one. The way to do that is to plunge the whole complex into darkness. So, "while the cons waste time getting thru the locked infirmary gate", Spidey goes in search of the master fuse box.

There are now three armed guards at the infirmary gate but the convicts threaten to kill Stacy if they are not released. They further taunt the guards by telling them that Spidey has thrown in with them. A disillusioned Captain Stacy can't believe the web-slinger has really done it.

Outside, Spidey discovers the fuse box. It is inside the Warden's office. Only trouble is, the Warden and a guard are in there as well. The Warden is on the phone ordering "no shooting while Stacy's with them" which reassures Spidey that his plan can work. He bends the window bars and sneaks into the room, then webs up the Warden and his assistant. "You'd never believe me if I told you I'm on your side", he tells them, "so I won't even try!" Then, he turns toward the fuse box. But first he spots a telephone.

Realizing that he hasn't called Aunt May in days, he decides to take advantage of the moment. The webbed-up men are apparently out of sight and hearing range so Pete removes his mask (to reveal a face still bruised and sore from his fight with the Vulture) and makes his call. But, when Aunt May answers, she wants to know where Peter is. When he says he can't tell her, she gets more worried than ever. "I was a fool", thinks Pete after ending the call and redonning his mask. He's only made his Aunt more concerned. "And with her weak heart, she mustn't worry!" (Hey, don't worry, Pete! Turns out your frail old Aunt is immortal!)

Feeling that he must finish things quickly, Spidey shoots a web at the master fuse box and rips it from the wall. In a flash, all the lights go out. Then, he finds the convicts stumbling around in the darkness. He tells them that he shut off the lights to make it harder to find them in the dark. All the convicts buy into this. He leads the group through an open door, letting all of them pass through except the last two. These cons are quietly taken out of action by Spidey, who conks their heads together. When the other cons wonder where the wall-crawler is, he joins them again in a hurry. (Oh, and, by the way, the two guys with their heads conked are the aforementioned Mack and Gimpy.)

The men continue in the darkness. Spidey crawls along the ceiling above them and tells them that he has "everything mapped out" for them. But the leader notices that M. and G. didn't make the trip, so he sends two more cons back to look for them. This plays right into Spidey's hands and, in an instant, the two men are unconscious and hanging from the ceiling in webbing.

Now it gets a trifle confusing. Spidey takes down a con who is carrying a lead pipe as a weapon by punching him from behind, then he punches out a second and a third. He states that that is "five down, one to go" but it sure seems like seven down to me. However many it is, there is only one con left, "the toughest one", the one still holding Stacy as a hostage. This con notices that all of his buddies seem to be missing. ("Duke! Red!" he calls out, in case you were thinking that these guys didn't actually have any names.) And it is Spidey's bad luck that the auxilary generators kick in and a spotlight comes on, revealing two of the cons webbed up on the ceiling. The leader realizes that he's been double-crossed by the web-slinger. Holding Stacy close, he demands to have the gates opened now or else his hostage has had it. Spidey realizes that "it's now or never". He yells at Captain Stacy to move and this allows him a webbing shot at the convict's face. When the con grabs for the webbing, Spidey swoops down and knocks him unconscious with a quick righthand blow. He then unties Captain Stacy.

The Captain tells Spidey he never really believed in the alliance with the convicts. He promises to testify in the wall-crawler's behalf. Spidey is stunned by this. "You mean", he says, "you expect me to stay here as a prisoner till I come to trial?" Stacy tells him it is his chance to clear his name but Spidey refuses. "They might decide to unmask me", he says. The Captain asks him why he must hide his identity if he's not a criminal but his words come too late. Spidey slips through the bent bars of a window and departs (telling himself that the reason he can't allow himself to be unmasked is the effect on Aunt May).

Moments later, the police storm the room to find all the convicts captured and Captain Stacy unharmed. George tells the cops that he owes his rescue to Spider-Man. When one man protests that, with his escape, Spider-Man is now a fugitive, the Captain replies, "Perhaps... but that doesn't alter the facts. Because of him, the jailbreak was foiled and I stand before you unharmed."

And later still, J. Jonah Jameson arrives at the office of the Deputy Commissioner to complain about Spider-Man's escape. When told that the webhead foiled a jailbreak, JJJ complains, "He probably started it, just to take the heat off him." Outside, Spidey eavesdrops on Jameson's rant. "Life would be a bed of roses if you were my only hang-up", he thinks. But he's got other things to worry about it. For instance, he's got to visit Aunt May and just what is he going to say to her?

Which ties everything up very nicely except for that Norman Osborn subplot. For the rest of the story on that, check the Lookback for Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2. The next issue box promised "Mysterio". For that story, check the Lookback for Amazing Spider-Man #66-#67.