Spidey arrives at ESU for Peter Parker's night classes just in time to hear that Night School has been cancelled by school President Dwyer. The reason, he says, is that the school just can't afford it. A professor - Ramon Vazquez - leads the student protests against Dwyer, charging that the move is based on racism. The solution he gives is to sell the Erskine Manuscripts, papers in the school's possession from the legendary creator of the Super Soldier Project. But Dwyer doesn't want to part with such a scientific treasure.
In his civilian clothes, Peter strikes up a conversation with a protesting student, Hector Ayala, who bemoans that his first day of school will be his last. He'll just have to go back to the schooling of the South Bronx, a good education "if you're into learning' about dope, numbers, rats and poverty!"
With his advisors, Dwyer threatens the "loudmouthed slum kids" with the treatment all radicals get. And a shadowy figure hopes to lead his people by becoming El Tigre Blanco - the White Tiger - once again.
Meanwhile Pete's pretty down about what's been happening, noting that Erskine's papers draw some students to come to ESU in the first place. While he goes to study in the library a group of costumed henchmen follow him inside. This is noticed by Ayala, who follows them after evoking his amulets to become the White Tiger.
The swift White Tiger gets to the Erskine Papers first where Peter finds him after he was froced to knock out a guard. Pete clumsily tries to stop him - slipping on the floor and landing on his funny bone - before White Tiger drops a bookshelf on him.
Another guard who hears the commotion is stopped by the henchmen who are themselves attacked by White Tiger, with one uttering, "Who in boltin' blue blazes--?!" An angry Peter joins the fight but is punched aside by the costumed figure, with Peter thinking, "Three years of high school French (?) isn't helping me understand a thing that's going down...except that it doesn't feel good." White Tiger seems dismayed at his accidental hit on the youth and leaves, with the henchmen taking off as well with the book.
Dwyer is among those who come to the scene and he declares a state of emergency after the attack by the "Puerto Rican Hoodlum."
Finally in his Spider duds again, Spidey investigates the Daily Globe's files on White Tiger, including the highlights of battles with the Prowler and Jack of Hearts and alongside Iron Fist and Shang Chi. He decides to investigate the detective who was often seen with him, Nathaniel Alexander Byrd - Black Byrd.
After a tense introduction, Black Byrd fills Spidey in on more of the Tiger Amulets' story, how the Sons of the Tiger split over Lotus Shinchuko. Ayala found the discarded amulets and became the White Tiger. A lowlight of his early career was finding that his brother Filippo was the head of The Corporation, an underworld drug-running network. Filippo was killed and after the Sons of the Tiger and Lotus depart, Hector decides to start again at school.
Vazquez is assessing the situation between students and administration when he surprisingly finds that the stolen papers are in his possession. White Tiger has been following their trail and threatens Vazquez unless he tells them how it happened. Cue Spider-Man's entrance, setting up a nifty cliffhanger for next issue.
An excellent story which reintroduces a very compelling character in White Tiger. The convention of having an Hispanic character say a sentence in Spanish and then repeat the same in English is a bit frustrating, but Ayala manages to become a sympathetic character who just wants for himself and his people to have the same education as everyone else.
It's always interesting to see Peter deal with issues that just don't have an answer. It's sometimes easier for him to deal with the black and white of a good guy-bad guy brawl than it is to decide if the value of a scientific treasure is more important than giving aid to disadvantaged students.
White Tiger's concern for Peter after hitting him the second time seems a bit strange after having dropped a bookshelf on him a few moments before. Another point regarding his motivations is somewhat unclear as well, as he is seen to threaten the supportive Vazquez at the end of the story. We do not actually see the henchmen taking the book, so at first it may not be apparent that White Tiger has lost it during the brawl. His own thoughts do tell us that he is on the trail of something.
Aside from the book's possession being unclear, this is a great issue for Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito. The White Tiger is a dynamic looking character whose moves look fluid and whose costume stands out well.
It was a little surprising that Black Byrd would tell so much of Ayala's origin, including his secret identity, to Spider-Man. As we will see in later issues, Ayala's secret identity will not be guarded as carefully as Peter's.
The flashbacks are welcome, especially for those who aren't familiar with this character's appearances before his "first time ever in a color comic," as the cover blurb says.
A satisfying story with a compelling anti-hero type. Excellent art.
According to our friends at the Marvel Chronology Project, Spidey appears in quite a few places between issue 8 and this issue. He takes on the Silver Samurai with Black Widow in Marvel Team-Up 57, lends a hand to Nova in Nova 12 who returns the favor in part two to the story in Amazing Spider-Man 171. Spider-Man and the Ghost Rider tackle the Trapster in Marvel Team-Up 58. Spidey then guest-stars in Human Fly 1. Amazing Spider-Man 181 comes next chronologically even though it was published almost a year later. After this comes the beginning of the great Claremont/Byrne run on Marvel Team-Up, with Spidey teaming with Yellowjacket and the Wasp against Equinox in Marvel Team-Up 59 & 60. The Human Torch and Ms. Marvel help out against the Super-Skrull in Marvel Team-Up 61 & 62. Then it all comes back to this issue. His next appearance after this is number 10.
The Bullpen Bulletins note the passing of artist Bob Brown from leukemia.