What has happened in Spidey's life between the previous battle with Hammerhead and Doctor Octopus and this one? What? Oh, that was Amazing Spider-Man #113, don't your remember? Well go back and read that Looking Back review and then head back here when you're up to speed.
Now, let's see. He battled the Smasher and the Demolisher for the first time (again), took on the Hulk, duked it out with Power Man, saw the birth of the Man-Wolf and the death of the Kangaroo, solved the mystery of the third Vulture, met the Punisher and the Jackal, and was talked into building a Spider-Mobile by a Stan Lee look-alike and a Roy Thomas look-alike. And... something. What is it? It's on the tip of my tongue. Let me think. Let me think. Oh yeah! I've got it! The Green Goblin killed his girl friend Gwen Stacy before dying himself. (Or at least we thought Gobby was dead, anyway.) Here's what happens next.
|Inker:||David Hunt, Frank Giacoia|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #107|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Spider-Man #6|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man vs. Doctor Octopus (TPB)|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man Annual (UK) 1975|
Spidey is patrolling the snow-covered city late on a winter's night when he notices five men coming out of a manhole in the street. The men are dressed in yellow jumpsuits with gray packs on their backs. Each of them is toting a fancy-looking rifle. They do plenty of chatting amongst themselves as they head towards an unnamed skyscraper. They reveal that their boss "paid a month's take" for the rifles, that they are planning to "hit a skyscraper", that the boss is a genius, and that two of the four are named Reno and Flakey. (Yeah. Really.) Of course, it would be Flakey who suddenly disappears. The other men think he bugged out on them but he was actually completely covered up by webbing and yanked into the air. Spider-Man hangs down by a web strand and tells the others he would like to have a little chat.
One of the men responds by firing his gun at the web-slinger, revealing why the rifle cost the boss so much money. It is a "laser device". "What" Spidey says, "they once would've called a death-ray." The webhead swings over the head of the shooter and spins around to kick him in the face. Rather than help their comrade, the rest of the men run for it, each one in a different direction. Spider-Man leaps for the one running into an alley, tackles him and holds him down while he asks "about these guns and about that skyscraper". But the man is too terrified to reveal anything. "I'll die if I talk", he tells Spidey. His boss has a power. If he even begins to say the boss's name, he can be killed. "He can do it, Spider-Man", he says, "I've seen Ha-Hamm-Ha..." and suddenly he screams, his eyes glow and he dies. Smoke comes out of his eyes after his death. Spider-Man is stunned. "A man can't die just from talking", he asserts, and yet, it "sounded as if he were trying to say a name and something just burned out his skull". (Yeah, what was that name he was trying to say, Spidey? The Hamburglar, perhaps?) If Spidey expects any more answers than this, he isn't going to get any. He looks up at some empty and torn webbing. Flakey, it appears, has managed to make his escape.
At the very same time, at a pier "near 34th Street and 12th Avenue, the mob boss known as Hammerhead is having a meeting with the mysterious costumed villain known as the Jackal. The Jackal has proposed an alliance and Hammerhead can see what benefits the Jackal will get from the joining but he doesn't see what he will get. "I've already explained it, fool," says the Jackal (which you would think is not the best attitude to take if you want to get someone on your side). He tells Hammy that his service consists of being anywhere at any time "and no one can ever betray me for no man knows the Jackal's true identity". Hammy is not impressed (and who can blame him?) and calls the Jackal "another costumed bum". The Jackal taunts Hammerhead in turn. He reminds him that Spider-Man destroyed his mob (so, that was Hammerhead's whole mob at Ock's house back in the last storyline?), which forced the gangster to leave the country. Now that he's back, he's too late. The new star in the firmament is the Jackal who needs no mob... "unlike you, I am sufficient unto myself". Hammerhead can stand no more. He pounds his fist on a nearby crate and screams at the Jackal to shut up. Hammy waves his fist at a fleeing Jackal, vowing to make him pay one day... "you and Doc Ock both". This, it turns out, is what the Jackal is counting on. He wants Hammy and Ock both mad and careless. It is his hope that this will lead to their mutual destruction, leaving the Jackal alone with the spoils.
And I was going to go right on with the story but, first, look at this great two-page offer to join Columbia House Record and Tape club! You can get your selections on "stereo records", "tape cassettes", "reel-to-reel tapes" or "8-track cartridges". Sign me up!
The night has turned to seven o'clock in the morning and Spider-Man makes his way over to the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four. He slips into an open window to Johnny Storm's bedroom. (What the heck happened to all that high-tech intruder alert stuff the FF is supposed to have?) Johnny, a.k.a. the Human Torch is still in bed. He wants to know what Spider-Man is doing there at such an early hour. Spidey replies that he is there to pick up his car. Yes, that's right. Spidey and Johnny have been working on a car with a non-polluting engine for the last five weeks and the wall-crawler can't receive the "second part of the advance" from Corona Motors until he delivers the actual car. Johnny leads him to a garage and introduces him to the Spider-Mobile. It is a dune buggy with oversized tires, designed to mimic the look of Spidey's costume. The web-slinger takes a look at it and scratches his head. "Now that's what I call a fiasco" he says. (And he doesn't know the half of it. The Spider-Mobile was only used sparingly and then unceremoniously wrecked less than a year after its introduction, making one final appearance after that under the control of the Terrible Tinkerer. Clearly, the creators were embarrassed and loathe to use it. Which begs the question, why was it ever introduced? Who forced Gerry Conway to bring us the Spider-Mobile and why? Does anybody out there know the answer?)
Spidey gets behind the wheel and takes the Spider-Mobile out for a spin in the snow. Johnny gives him some last minute instruction. "The switch on the left works your spider-signal, the one on the right shoots webbing." And the Torch has also included a seat ejector because "every hero's car has to have a seat ejector". Spidey tests the signal and webbing and is impressed with how they work. Then he peels out with the Human Torch blazing along right above him.
The Spider-Mobile leaves the side street it was on and swerves out onto Park Avenue. "Unfortunately", Gerry tells us, "it swerves into the wrong lane". Cars collide as they struggle to avoid the oncoming dune buggy. Spidey ends up taking the S-Mobile onto the sidewalk where pedestrians scatter, in fear for their lives. The Torch asks Spidey where he learned to drive and the webhead reveals that he never did. "The closest I've ever gotten to wheels" he says, "was a motorcycle I once owned". That's enough for the Torch. He flies down and wrests the wheel away from Spidey. He orders the wall-crawler to stop. "You are not driving that thing until I give you a few pointers", he tells Spidey, "I'm not going to be an accessory to mass murder."
As Johnny takes over the driving, Dr. Octopus watches from the shadows. He has just been released from prison and he gloats over how much good fortune he has had in his life. It was luck that introduced him to May Parker and now, he believes, Spider-Man has given him all he needs to achieve victory. Carrying his various items of luggage in his metal arms, Doc Ock makes his way to the heliport on the roof of the Pan Am building. A helicopter is waiting for him and one of his men apologizes for not meeting him at the jail. They were planning to, "only we didn't know when". Ock is not very forgiving. He has had to walk thirty-four blocks because his men didn't meet him and he lashes out at the apologizer with one of his tentacles, leaving him behind and unconscious as the chopper lifts off and heads for Westchester. While leaving, a very chatty Ock reveals that he was the man responsible for having lawyer Albert (previously called Jean-Pierre and yet to be called Arthur) Rimbaud murdered in ASM #120 (May 1973).
Back at the old homestead, Spidey slips in through his bedroom window and changes into a robe. Harry doesn't seem to be anywhere about and Pete reflects on the fact that his roomie has "been acting pretty weird" since his father died. The phone rings and it is Aunt May calling. Pete tries to talk May into leaving Ock's house and returning to Queens but there is a knock at the door before he can get very far in the conversation. Mary Jane has come to visit and Pete tells May he will call her back later. Peter gets dressed (in a snazzy angora sweater and hiking boot ensemble) while MJ picks through his books and records. (He has Sartre, Camus, and Jung on paper and Aretha Franklin on vinyl.) Actually, MJ is there on a mission of mercy. "Professor Warren is still mad about your missing all his classes," she says so she has decided to be his guardian angel and make sure he gets to school. As the two head uptown together, Pete is a bit peeved. With MJ hanging around, he won't be able to change to Spidey, much less get to the Spider-Mobile. As they walk, MJ chats about an upcoming Christmas Eve party being thrown by Betty and Ned. MJ thinks it is just what they need. "Yeah Mary Jane" says an unenthusiastic Peter, "That's just what we need."
"Three days pass", bringing us to Christmas Eve, and those guys in the yellow jumpsuits at back at the scene of their aborted crime. This time they have jet packs and cool-looking yellow crash helmets. They set off an explosive in a building and fly out of it carrying big blocks of wood with handles. (OK, not really, but that's what it looks like.) They settle back to earth, gloating about how prepared they are for Spider-Man even though he probably won't show. But suddenly, the spider-signal shines on the wall of a nearby building and the goons are greeted by something they are definitely not expecting. The Spider-Mobile!
Spidey drives his car right at the bad guys and they all scatter. (And, even though they have jet packs, it never occurs to a single one of them that they can fly away.) He actually hits one guy with his car then uses the S-Mobile's web-shooters to wrap up two others. Only one guy is left. He runs off, carrying two of the "woodblocks". (We can now see that these are cases filled with files.) Spidey ignores the fleeing felon for the moment. He stops his dune buggy and starts to interrogate the trio he has caught. (Actually, he talks to two of them. The guy he hit looks pretty much laid out.) But before he can get very far, his spider-sense tingles to warn him of the arrival of the boss. Hammerhead has made the scene and he introduces himself by charging headfirst into the Spider-Mobile. Spidey leaps away to the safety of a wall. The S-Mobile is knocked on its side by the power of Hammy's head. (An aside here: Why are Hammerhead's men now dressed like Ock's men were in the previous storyline? Is Hammy trying to make people think Ock is behind the shenanigans or did he just think the yellow jumpsuit look was too good not to swipe?)
Spidey thinks he is fairly safe, clinging high up on the wall but Hammerhead doesn't worry about striking him directly. He just charges headfirst into the wall, which apparently shakes it enough to get Spidey to leap back to earth. The webhead lands with his back to Hammy, thinking he has a couple of seconds to turn. But, Hammy tells us, "He doesn't realize I've been practicing, that I move faster now than I did the last time we fought". Using that newfound speed, Hammerhead head butts Spidey from behind. The force of the charge knocks Spidey out and sends him tumbling into an alley where he collides with the garbage cans.
It takes the web-slinger sixteen minutes to come to. (I love how precise Gerry is.) When he awakens, Hammerhead and his men are gone and the police have arrived. Two cops stand over the upended Spider-Mobile and make fun of it. ("Looks like a refugee from a kiddy TV show.") They haven't yet seen Spidey, however, so the wall-crawler seizes the element of surprise. He webslings over to the cops, binds them up in webbing, kicks his car back onto its tires, and gets in the driver's seat. As he is about to drive off, Spidey sees an envelope sticking out of a pile of snow. The envelope has Aunt May's name on it. Spidey figures that this envelope is what Hammy and his men were after and that they must have dropped it in the fight. He assumes that the contents of this envelope will tell him why Doc Ock had Albert (formerly Jean-Pierre and later Arthur) Rimbaud killed (though I'm not sure Spidey's even supposed to know that Ock was behind that killing) and what Doc wants with Aunt May. He snags the envelope with some webbing and drives away. What he doesn't notice is the Jackal watching from a nearby rooftop. He is the one who has planted the envelope. Why? So that "Spider-Man will know what both Hammerhead and Doctor Octopus know and they'll all three destroy each other leaving the Jackal triumphant over all!" All clear?
So, Spidey reads the contents of the envelope and goes into action, right? Well, no. He drives to Betty Brant's place, changes out of his Spidey-stuff, and flips a switch on the Spider-Mobile that transforms the car so that it looks like a blue Studebaker or something. Why has he headed over to Betty's? Don't tell me you've forgotten about the Christmas party?
Betty lets Peter in. From all we see, the party attendees are Betty, Ned, MJ, J. Jonah Jameson, and three people we have never seen before. MJ tries to steer Pete over to the mistletoe but he is snagged by JJJ. Peter figures he is going to get another in a long series of Jonah tongue-lashings but instead he is told he is getting a Christmas bonus. Pete is stunned at the old skinflint's generosity... until he finds out the bonus is "one of my very own personal-mixture cigars". MJ again tries to get Pete under the mistletoe but our hero begs off. "How do I tell her", he thinks "I'm not ready yet for another romance, that the only girl I can think of is Gwen and she's dead". He lets himself into a dark adjoining room, turns a table lamp on, and opens the envelope. When he reads the contents, he knows what Doc Ock is up to. He also knows he must get up to Westchester immediately to protect his Aunt May. So, he switches to his Spidey duds right then and there and exits via the window, saying "With any luck, nobody'll miss me at the party or remember I went into a room and never came out!" (Oh good plan, Pete! Nobody'll miss you? There are only seven other people there! Though, in fact, this lame plan works, as we'll see next issue.)
Spidey makes his way to Westchester by hitching on the tops of cars. He leaps over the wall at Ock's mansion, swings on the limb of a tree, and lands right outside a window. There are voices coming from inside and he recognizes one of them as belonging to Aunt May. He peeks inside and can't believe what he is seeing. A wedding ceremony is taking place. Aunt May is marrying Doctor Octopus!