Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #247

Background

Recent events in Spectacular Spider-Man:

- While searching for the Chameleon, in the Identity Crisis storyline, John Jameson was shot by the one he was searching for. A new Jack O'Lantern, who has been stalking JJJ and Marla, has found him injured, but not too seriously, thanks to a bulletproof vest. Jameson pops three rounds into Jack's pumpkin, but Jack just regrows his head, breaks John's hand, and tortures him, hinting past connections to the Jameson family. The next time we see John, he's miraculously healed, and kisses a rejuvenated Dr. Kafka passionately, while in the shadows, Mad Jack, the new Jack O'Lantern, gloats that he'll make John kill Jonah. Oh, and Jack talks a lot to Maguire, his black cat, who's always with him.

- Flash Thompson has been fighting his drinking problem, and after some bad moments, Betty Brant has agreed to help him overcome it.

- The Chameleon has found Peter's secret identity, was beaten by Peter, was beaten by Mary Jane (!), and was apparently killed by a mysterious Kraven.

- Peter was bitten by Morbius. This happened in Peter Parker #77, but the effects spread to all the titles for months.

- Last issue, Spider-Man has faced his greatest challenge to date! The Legion of Losers! Ok, maybe it wasn't such a challenge after all... Oh. And the previous issue ended with Jonah being found beaten to a pulp inside the Bugle's elevator, courtesy of Jack O'Lantern II.

Story 'Mad Jack'

Jonah is in the hospital. Marla is crying like a 4-year-old, even though the doctor just told her that he's out of danger. Jonah wakes up, and jokes with her. When his son asks him who did that to him, Jonah lies and says he can't remember. Spidey is outside, and he suffers from vertigo, side-effects to Morbius's bite.

This only lasts a few seconds, time enough for the Spider-Sense to warn him about Jack O'Lantern, who's hovering near Jameson's window. Spidey webs him and hoists him up to the roof of the building. They change some banter, and while Mad Jack (aka, Jack O'Lantern II) assures Spidey that he has no interest in him, he still orders Maguire (the cat) to attack him (Very well trained. I can't get my cats to "stay" or "sit", and this one attacks when he hears "Right, Maguire?"). The cat doesn't make the Spider-Sense tingle, but soon something behind the Wall-Crawler's back does: Jack removes his head, and while it floats towards Spidey, it explains that he's much different from the previous Jack O'Lantern, a loser. And when the head stops in front of Spidey, it goes like this:

Head: "Boom."

Spidey: "Boom?"

"BOOM!".

While the Web-Head recovers from the blast, Jack pops up another head, and his cat climbs back to his glider. Jack warns Spidey again, that he doesn't wish to fight him, he's only interested in the Jamesons, but if Spidey crosses his way again, he'll see what Hell is. Spidey tries to chase him, but the vertigo prevents it - this was probably DC sabotaging Spider-Man... (sorry, bad pun.) When he recovers, Pumpkin-Man is already gone.

At college, MJ is daydreaming in class, and is embarassed by the Professor. Her friendship with Jill Stacy is going well, though, specially because Peter doesn't have much time to be around her.

At the Bugle, Flash drops by to see Betty, and she gets rid of him (very bad gal'. She had promised to help him...). He leaves downcast, and when Robbie asks who he was, she described him as "nobody", and an "aquaintance".

Continuity Police: why the heck would Robbie ask who Flash Thompson is???

In a restaurant, Marla Maddison, Dr. Kafka and John Jameson are talking. Maguire interrupts the talk, miaowing, purring, and rubbing against John's legs. This prompts him to get up and leave, while at the counter, a drunkard Flash is picking up a blonde chick...

At the hospital, Spidey provokes Jameson to raise his morale. It works, and Jameson sends him away, feeling better with himself. Then he waits for Mad Jack to show up outside. Mad Jack arrives, and a battle ensues. Peter punches through Jack's pumpkin (it burns), and he just starts allucinating. He smashes (or he believes he does) a giant Jack O'Lantern head, and plunges from Jack's glider to the street below. Mad Jack praises him, saying his mind is as powerful as he thought, and regrets they're not on the same side. Spidey tries to stop his fall, but vertigo strikes again (see? I told you so. DC is trying to kill Spidey after all), and he fails his web-shot. Surprisingly, Mad Jack stops his fall. He says he was serious when he said he didn't want to fight, let alone wanted Spider-Man dead. Everything he wanted, was to keep Spider-Man busy while his partner made his part. He leaves, saying that one day he'll find out that they're both very similar. Spidey hears the "partner" bit and storms through the window in JJJ's room. He punches the guy who was smothering Jonah's face with a pillow, and turns on the light... Jonah is dead, and the killer is John Jameson...

General Comments

Well, I'll first review the issue like I was reading it as it came out, since unfortunately SpiderFan couldn't review it back then. DeMatteis fed his subplots well. A single panel reminding us that the mysterious new(?) Kraven was still out there, and Betty's second thoughts in helping Flash. The main plot was also very good. The new Jack O'Lantern, Mad Jack, and Maguire make Macendale look like a kitten (no pun intended), and are very intriguing. The cliffhanger was also great. Jonah dead, killed by his son, and a new, very powerful villain on the loose. Great DeMatteis stuff. Of course, Marla and Ashley rejuvenated quite a bit in the last few years...

Now I'll comment on it like a backissue: of course Jonah isn't dead, Dr. Kafka recovers John's mind, Mad Jack isn't all-powerful, and the mysterious Kraven was another son of the original. But I still liked the way it was done. Oh! And the dizzyness wasn't caused by Morbius' bite, but for an ear infection. A lame plot, but one developed by another writer, so we can't really blame this book for it.

Mad Jack ended up being revealed as Maguire Beck (you'd think a woman would be more fashionable), cousin to the first Mysterio and Daniel Berkhart, the second Mysterio. She became the solo Mad Jack after Quentin Beck killed himself and Danny became Mysterio once again. Jack's a cool villain, though now she's in the slammer.

Overall Rating

Luke Ross draws battle scenes like few (Mad Jack looks superb), but it bothered me a bit that all the female faces looked the same. Then there was also something else that bothered me. In a few issues, we find out that Mad Jack's powers are just illusions (like Mysterio, but with a Pumpkin instead of a Fishbowl). While this is a cliche that's been done way too often (make villain look omnipotent only to reveal that it was all an illusion: check), this leaves me wondering how the heck was John Jameson healed? I can buy it if the broken hand wasn't real, if Mad Jack just convinced him so, but he was shot, for cryin' out loud! The man was bleeding!

As a backissue, I'd give it 3.5 webs, but since it should have been reviewed back in its time, I think it would have earned 4 webs easily. Anyway, it's a very solid reading. You can't go wrong with DeMatteis & Ross.