Jack Russell is lycanthrope, for those unfamiliar with that term, that means he's a werewolf. More specifically, he's the Marvel Universe's Werewolf. He and Spider-Man first met one another in Marvel Team Up #12, where they battled Moondark. It was during that encounter that Spider-Man learned the Werewolf's alter ego is Jack Russell.
Currently, Peter Parker is out in Los Angeles on assignment for the Daily Globe. Whilst in L.A., Peter, as Spider-Man, crossed paths with Jessica Drew (aka Spider-Woman) for the first time in Spider-Woman #20. A brief battle ensued, Spidey then convinces her to stay away from crime and, after all of that, he never even learns that her name was Spider-Woman!
Nevertheless, after his run-in with Spider-Woman, Peter has remained in L.A. for a few more days and would soon cross paths once again with the Werewolf and an aptly named foe...Tatterdemalion
Still on assignment in Los Angeles for the Daily Globe, Peter Parker finds himself at the gala opening of Cat's Jazz Club. With the club packed, Peter thinks, "everyone who's anyone must be here." Sure enough, Peter spots Jack Russell (aka the Werewolf) at a nearby table. Peter recognizes him from Marvel Team Up #12, but Russell does not know that Peter Parker is Spider-Man.
Unfortunately, the musical festivities are interrupted by tattered-rag-wearing miscreant who announces himself to the affluent crowd as the Tatterdemalion. When one of the attendees stands up to him, Tatterdemalion simply touches him with his gloved hand, this causes the man's expensive wardrobe to simply burn off of his body. The villain then announces his intentions in regards to their wealth, "I want not a whit from you...I only want--that you should not have it." He then proceeds to burn money from one woman's purse.
Both Peter and Jack realize they need to intervene but are hampered by their inability to convert into their alter egos in the presence of such a large crowd. After Peter gives a feeble attempt to stop Tatterdemalion (as the weak photographer from the Daily Globe), the lights inside the jazz club cut out. A brief interlude then proceeds, as two of the jazz musicians are approached by a mysterious man who claims that the "cover of darkness" was not meant for them. He mentions that "two in the audience" (meaning Spider-Man and Werewolf) will deal with Tatterdemalion. The mysterious figure then escorts the two musicians out of the club. The narrator then informs the reader "until next issue..."
Getting back to the story, the darkness allows Jack to morph into the Werewolf and Peter to change into his Spider-Man costume so that they both can attack the Tatterdemalion. Meanwhile, another mysterious figure, this time a woman, appears to be monitoring Spider-Man for use as "a weapon in [her] secret war."
Spider-Man and the Werewolf struggle to stop Tatterdemalion, a combination of his boosted strength and oil-drenched clothing make him a formidable foe for the two heroes. After Tatterdemalion suffocates Spidey with his chloroform drenched hat, he blasts the Werewolf with the weighted-end of his scarf. This neutralizes both Spidey and Werewolf, then Tatterdemalion absconds with the unconscious Russell.
After regaining his strength from the chloroform exposure, Spider-Man follows Tatterdemalion out of the club but quickly loses him. Luckily, the mysterious woman from inside the club removes a manhole cover showing the escape route the villain had taken (ie, down the sewers). Soon after, the Werewolf wakes up, rope-tied to the ceiling inside of Tatterdemalion's lair. The villain explains that he and his crew, which is basically a bunch of hobos, would like to have some "sport" with him (presumably before they kill him). It becomes clear that Tatterdemalion's ire toward Russell is rooted in the fact that Russell is the son of a wealthy baron. However, he goes on to say that, as the Werewolf, Russell has been forced to live like animal...like them.
Before Tatterdemalion can enact his plan any further, his security alarm goes off, alerting him to an intruder nearby. That intruder, of course, is Spider-Man. Tatterdemalion goes out on the offensive against the webslinger. Spidey is a bit more prepared this time and is able to land a few blows on Tatterdemalion, but the villain manages to escape Spidey once again.
Spider-Man chases Tatterdemalion back into his lair, where he's greeted by the hobos who throw hot soup at him! The distraction caused by the web-slinger gives the Werewolf the opportunity to severe his rope restraints and free himself. Soon after, the two are once again battling Tatterdemalion. This time they're able to remove his hat and scarf, so that Spidey can land one clear blow to his face, knocking him out cold.
As things start to settle down with Tatterdemalion subdued, Spider-Man spots a woman in the sewers with them (it is the mysterious woman from earlier in the story). He quickly bails on Werewolf to chase down this mysterious figure who is headed for the surface. Eventually tracking her to her home, the story ends as the mysterious woman reveals herself to Spider-Man...she is Dansen Macabre and appears to have a significant interest in our web-slinger!
Oh boy, this was quite a story. Tatterdemalion...certainly gets the award for the oddest name choice I've come across in a while. The name alone is quite the mouthful...and a little on the nose for the character. And I'll be perfectly honest I had to look up the definition of that name mid-story to see if there was something I was missing. I wasn't, it basically means ragamuffin. Come to think of it, 'Ragamuffin' may have been a better name for the character!
Anyway, getting back to the story itself, at the front end of this one I was really excited for the potential the story had. Tatterdemalion breaks into the ritzy jazz club, prepared to teach those wealthy snobs a lesson about their wealth...that had me really intrigued.
I thought we may be heading down a path toward some philosophical debate about who are the real 'bad guys' in a capitalistic society. Unfortunately, we went to no such place. The moment Tatterdemalion sees Jack Russell, he gives up his whole plan and instead shifts toward a vengeance plot against Russell. Wait...what about the rich jerks you were just scolding?? And if you think about it a bit deeper...if Tatterdemalion hated the Werewolf that much, why not just spend your time and energy going after him directly? I mean, did he not know Russell was at the jazz club until he got there? You would think he would've scoped the joint out before heading in.
Once his plot against the wealthy caste is abandoned, the story goes off the rails. Spider-Man struggles to defeat him essentially because his clothes were oily and slippery. And when Spidey charges into Tatterdemalion's hideout, the hobos toss hot soup at him...really??
This one really unraveled. A potential dissection of the evils of money devolves into hot soup in the face. Aside from the soup, Tatterdemalion's attire-based weaponry (ie, his hat and scarf) also made this one tough to take seriously.
On the positive side, the story did manage to build some intrigue into the subsequent issue by introducing not just one but two sets of mysterious characters. I guess I'll have to review that one next!
Too much potential squandered and a little too corny at times, this one gets a below average grade. 2 Webs.