We continue our inaugural "Worst of The Worst" with part three of the four-part Facade! story arc.
|Cover Art:||Alex Saviuk|
The Facade armor is hidden in a nearby truck as Betty Brant sits in a limo driven by Victor, the valet for Archer Bryce. He explains that Bryce must have been called away during the time he tried to locate Betty. Back at the Bugle, Detective Chase is on the case. He interviews the security guard who was temporarily paralyzed by Facade. The guard tells Chase that the villain must be after Betty Brant. There are only two other people logged in at the building: John Jameson and Cole Cooper.
At the darkroom, scene of Lance Bannon's murder, Cole is investigating. He slips past the "Crime Scene" tape that covers the doorway. If there is any trace of the evidence Lance had as to the identity of Facade, then Cole is determined to find it. (To learn the truth or to suppress the evidence that he is Facade? You'll never know.)
In JJJ's office, John is lying on the couch, sunk in thought. He knows that Chase did not believe the "instant alibi" that he and his father presented. John's thought that "this Facade thing is spinning completely out of control..." is meant to make us believe that he is the killer.
In Forest Hills, Mary Jane Parker enters the unlocked home looking for Aunt May. MJ finds her... stretched out on the floor, eyes wide open, hands twisted into claws. Aunt May has had a stroke.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man arrives at Lance Bannon's apartment. He has hoping to find Betty there, in her role as investigative reporter, so that he could protect her from attack. But the apartment is empty. (It looks like a snazzy place with lots of plants... including a palm tree... and photos of attractive women on the walls.) As he enters through the window, Spidey ruminates over the similarities between Lance and Peter Parker. Deep in the despair over his "parents", he believes that "Lance's recent engagement to Amy Powell is just more proof that tragedy's inevitable if you let anyone in too close". These sad thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Amy and J. Jonah Jameson at the front door. Jonah has helped Amy clean out Lance's desk and has given her a ride to the apartment. Now, Amy needs to pick out a suit for Lance to wear at his funeral and she'd rather do this alone. Jonah, distraught over the tough love he has given his own son, tries to reassure Amy that his gruffness toward Lance was a sign of affection. She assures him that Lance knew that... as she leaves Jonah behind in the hall.
In the apartment, Amy reflects on Lance's ambition. He was driven, not by arrogance, but by "a very real fear of failure" that he hid from everyone except her. Now that drive has resulted in Lance's death. Spidey, outside the window, doesn't really know Amy Powell "yet her loneliness echoes so loudly". He decides to talk to her and tell her that Lance's death will be avenged. (Yeah, right.) He swings off, telling himself that "I could do more for Amy and maybe even myself by sharing her grief somehow but the Spider can't afford to". (Yes, this story takes place at the time that Peter got so traumatized that he retreated from reality and called himself The Spider.) His next stop is Betty Brant's apartment.
But Betty is not at her apartment. She is at the palatial home of Archer Bryce. Victor tells Betty that they will wait in the elevator on the first floor but the elevator command is overridden and they ride to the top. Archer Bryce greets them, dressed in a checked robe and slacks, and holding a glass of wine. Betty asks for an apology for being stood-up in the limo but Bryce replies that "I was under the impression that you had requested an interview with me, Ms. Brant". (Does this mean that Victor stashed the Facade armor and returned to Betty, pretending that Bryce wanted to see her? Could be.) Bryce leads Betty out to the terrace where a candlelight dinner for two is set up. He seats her and pours her a glass of wine. Betty asks for clarification on "Bryceco's interests in the F.A.C.A.D.E. bio-armor" (except... wasn't it Brycecorp last issue?) but Archer wants to hear all about Betty first... "especially your fascinating investigation into this Facade! killer".
That night, the phone rings at Aunt May's home. A sleepy Mary Jane answers, hoping it is Peter who is calling. The mystery man on the other end of the line introduces himself as "an old friend of the family's who's been trying to reach May Parker". MJ tells him that May is in Forest Hills hospital. The mystery man angrily crushes the phone receiver in his bare hand. Yelling, "Not May, not May!" he exits a snow-covered mountain cabin and heads for the motorcycle parked outside.
In the parked truck, the mysterious villain climbs into the Facade armor once again. The armor closes up and smashes out of the back of the truck, taking to the air. (So much for using this hiding place again. Couldn't he just open the door?) Our faceless bad guy is ready to "do whatever it takes now to protect the secret of Facade forever". (And he has done one heck of a job, if you ask me.)
At her home, Betty works on her computer into the night. She has downloaded the Bryceco files from the Daily Bugle. The problem is that she is attracted to Bryce. She wonders what it is about her so that she is attracted to such men as Ned Leeds who became the Hobgoblin and Archer Bryce who might be Facade. (Ned was not actually the Hobgoblin, of course, but Betty and we didn't know that then.) In her search, she discovers that Bryce has "been liquidating personal holdings piece by piece around the world to avoid focusing public attention, in an effort to maintain corporate assets". In other words, things are not as rosy for Archer as he implies. As she reads, Betty notices a shadow cross the back patio. An instant later, Facade crashes through the patio door (and calls Betty by name, for what it's worth) but he is too late. Betty has already fled the scene.
Facade knows she can't have gone far. He smashes out a window and searches outside. Now, I'm not about to try to decipher Betty's living situation. It looked like a town house, now it looks like a first-floor apartment. In any event, she has climbed up three flights on a fire escape. The trouble is, the alley they are in is "a dead end in all directions" (making it a pretty silly place to put a fire escape, then, right?) so the only way to go is straight up. Facade spots her immediately. He tells her he just wants to talk but he uses the suit's power to pull the fire escape completely off the wall. Betty has just made it to the roof as the fire escape falls away. She hangs onto the ledge for dear life. What's worse, she has no time to pull herself to safety. Facade flies up quickly to meet her. Luckily for Betty, Facade is met by the two-footed attack of Spider-Man!
Facade falls, and lands in a jumble of fire escape and rubble. Spidey races down to engage him again. Betty manages to pull herself to safety but she is surprised that the webhead did not stop to rescue her. She realizes that "something's wrong with him". (Yeah, Betty, he's The Spider!) As Spidey reaches the ground, the big left arm of Facade emerges from the rubble and sends the wall-crawler sprawling. As Spidey rights himself with his webbing, Facade flies up to meet him. The web-slinger slips away from a frontal assault (as Betty watches from the roof, knowing she should flee but unable to turn away), and then evades the green power blast. Facade is confident that, in the "tight confines of this alley", his blasts will strike Spidey sooner or later. But our hero leaps about, spraying webbing as he goes, and manages to entangle the armored bad guy in his spider's web.
Spidey thinks this is the end of the battle but he has not considered the strength of the armor. Facade shreds the webbing, and then starts with the green power blasts again. A startled Spidey is a little slower to respond. He is further slowed by the sight of Betty still up on the roof. He yells at her to run. During this pause, Facade returns to the demolished fire escape and begins chucking pieces of it at the wall-crawler. It is nearly impossible for Spidey to evade all this metal in such a confined space but he does so. Betty finally flees the scene and Spidey faces down with Facade. The bad guy fires his... guess what?... green power blast again. This time, Spidey blocks it at the source with his webbing. But he's in for a surprise. It turns out that the webbing "conducts bio-electricity". The green blast continues right up the webbing and shocks Spidey full force. He falls to the ground, paralyzed. But not enough to suit Facade. "Not permanently", he declares while reaching for the helpless web-slinger, "Not yet!"