Recently in ASM, Spider-Man battled the Gibbon, a delusional monkey-looking man who was being manipulated by Kraven the Hunter. In a subplot, Gwen Stacy told Aunt May to stop babying Peter. The old lady, upon hearing this, left New York and only left a vague note as an explanation for Peter. Our hero quickly began worrying about his aunt and her frailty, blaming himself for her disappearance. A few policemen spotted Spider-Man leaving May's apartment, causing them to post a police bulletin accusing him of kidnapping her. As Spider-Man, Peter brought May's note to Robbie Robertson to inspect.
|Pencils:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Inker:||John Romita, Sr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Sr.|
Our story begins with Spider-Man exiting the hospital where he dropped off Martin Blank, the Gibbon, following their battle last issue. The nurse, startled, explains that Spider-Man must follow a procedure and fill out forms for the patient. “Y-you can’t just drop him in a bed--an-and tell me to call a doctor!” she stammers. Sadly, that’s exactly what our hero does, telling the poor nurse to burn Blank’s horrendous Gibbon costume. Watching Spidey swing off, she decides that Doctor Dregford won’t be happy.
As he swings through the streets of New York, Spider-Man regrets treating the nurse as he did. Although he feels sorry about the Gibbon, he is more concerned about Aunt May. He ruminates about how she’s always cared about him. Knowing how sickly she is, Peter has always been careful to hide his secret identity from her. However, May always seems to get caught up in his fights, whether it be against Doctor Octopus (ASM #54) or the Beetle (ASM #94). “Spider-Man always gets all the glory--hot-shot Pete gets all the scholarships--and May Parker gets nothing but grief’” he thinks. “No wonder she went away. Who could blame her? When it comes to safe living…being related to Peter Parker is like living on an atomic testing ground!” Peter figures that, when Gwen told May she was being overprotective, she meant well but never realized the consequences of it.
Suddenly, Peter’s spider-sense begins tingling! He hears screeching brakes and gunshots! Upon looking to the street, he watches two cars crash after one cut the other off. No civilians are harmed, but they avoid the angry gangsters who erupt from the vehicles and begin harassing a debt-owner. As Spider-Man’s about to enter the conflict, he exclaims, “What am I doing? My aunt’s disappeared--and I’m gettin’ set to mess with some fifth-rate gangland mugging?” The debt-owner tries to talk his way out of his situation, but the thugs are persistent in their violence. As he’s leaving to look for Aunt May, a gangster spots Spider-Man and begins firing at him. The gangsters are surprised when the hero leaves, assuming he has a plan of some sort to capture them. But he doesn’t. “We chased Spider-Man” one of the thugs victoriously claims.
Spider-Man, upon a rooftop, plans on leaving when he hears yelling. When he glances to a nearby building, he notices a gangster terrorizing a bookie. The bookie frantically calls for Spidey’s help, but when the thug fires at him, our hero complains, “I can’t win! I just can’t win! If I butt out, they’ll kidnap that poor slob--yet if I get involved, it may take me hours--hours I could spend searching for Aunt May!” He swings away, exclaiming that one day, he’ll “find the courage to face myself again--and live with the man I’ve become!”
Soon, Spider-Man reaches his apartment and silently changes to his civilian apparel. Peter leaves his room and finds his roommate, Harry Osborn, relaxing on the couch. “You must’ve been burning the old coal, Pete. I called twice, thought you’d like a burger,” Harry says. Peter tells his roommate that he still hasn’t heard anything from Aunt May, and leaves the apartment to morosely tread through New York City.
In hours, Peter subconsciously arrives at the Daily Bugle and notices that Jonah has personally written an article on his withdrawal from crime as Spider-Man. Peter enters the Bugle Building, hoping to avoid Jonah and talk to Robbie about the note from last issue. Immediately, Jonah spots him and grumbles, “Heard about your aunt, kid. Tough…real tough. That’s the trouble nowadays; everybody’s got problems…even a lovable, generous old guy like me…” That’s no excuse, though, for the fact that Peter hasn’t produced any photos for three weeks. Jameson lifts a promotional piece that says: “Spider-Man’s True Color: Yellow” which is drawn by an artist instead of photographed. Peter begins to apologize, but the publisher takes none of it, ranting his salary will be put on hold until he begins producing pictures. Peter asks if there’s anything Jonah wants a “rush” on, and he leaves, shouting, “Robertson, you talk to him! I’m going to have myself a nice, simple nervous breakdown!”
Peter sits down, head in hands, and Robertson explains that Jonah’s only upset because be lost a scoop indirectly because of Peter. Apparently, Jonah had planned on publishing a story about “that crazy wall-crawler abducting May Parker” but May’s note, which disproves it, irritated Jameson. Peter explains his troubles to Robertson, but he cannot help, suggesting he leaves it to the police. Before Jonah calls for her, Betty shows sympathy for Peter and his aunt.
Outside the Daily Bugle, Peter wonders if he should look for Aunt May or save his job. Our main character, planning on getting some coffee, notices two kids fighting over whether Spider-Man retreated or not. “Everybody knows how much that Daily-Bugle fink hates Spidey! He’s probably makin’ it all up--” As they’re about to lunge at each other, Peter grabs them and says, “There’s a time for fighting--and a time for shaking hands and calling it quits.”
While Peter holds the kids, Mary Jane and her Aunt Anna show up to talk to him. Anna explains that Harry informed them that he might be at the Daily Bugle. They’re worried about May, and Peter shows them note. Upon seeing it, Anna asks if May might have been forced to write it. With her conspiracy plot in mind, Peter wonders if all the gang-related kidnappings could be connected in a way. Mary Jane coolly attempts to convince him that May’s simply “digging a whole new scene”; after all, Peter Parker doesn’t have any enemies. But Spider-Man does!
In an alleyway, Peter changes to Spider-Man, wondering if somebody discovered his secret identity and took May. He swings around, hoping to find a gangster to interrogate and figures he’ll take photos for Jameson while doing so. Luckily, Spidey quickly finds a man pulling a person into his car forcibly. Our hero picks the criminal up and tells him, “You’n me are going for a little ride!” When the questioning begins on the ledge of a building, the thug is reluctant to share information, explaining he was only following orders. Spidey convinces him to begin talking by threatening to drop him. The thug states, “All I know is the money--! I get orders over the phone--hit this guy, hit that guy--” Additionally, a gang war is occurring between two bosses, both of whom are unknown to him. Our hero believes the gangster and webs him to his car for the police. As he leaves, Spidey yells that it’s low how the thug “simply sells his gun without even knowing who bought it.”
Watching Spider-Man swing off on the streets are Gwen Stacy and Flash Thompson. Flash, being a major Spidey fan, calls for the hero, but he doesn’t notice. Gwen is thankful for this. Although she no longer blames him for her father’s death, Gwen doesn’t like Spidey because, when she sees him, she says, “It just reminds me of everything I’ve done wrong…to hurt Peter…without thinking!” Flash utters that Peter draws trouble like a magnet, and Gwen tells him to stop picking on her boyfriend. “I was just kidding. Parker’s all right, I guess…though he’s never gonna be a Spider-Man!”
Hours later in an area below the Williamsburg Bridge, Spider-Man spots three armed thugs preparing to invade a building. One of them looks familiar to our hero. Suddenly, one thug rips the door off the building and his partners-in-crime fire into it. After setting up a camera, Spidey dives into the action, knocking the thugs over. Webbing their guns, he jokes, “It’s not healthy to play with bang-bang toys.” He’s surprised, though, when a gangster punches him, far stronger than he expected. Quickly, the thug hits our hero with a plank of wood. Spidey is rendered nearly unconscious by the blow, but his hand grabs the criminal’s leg as he flees.
When he gets his head back, our hero notices that he pulled a harness off the escaping gangster. It contains an “amplifying power pack” and he wonders how it works into everything. Sadly, the gangsters cannot provide him answers because they are gone. He contemplates…could the harness be a piece of a puzzle? Suddenly, his spider-sense begins tingling--stronger than ever before! He hears the “harsh grating of steel against stone” behind him and a voice yells, “You’ve interfered with my plans for the final time, my friend!”
This voice is revealed to be Doctor Octopus, who rants, “You must die!”
Usually, when I look at Gerry Conway’s Amazing Spider-Man run as a whole, I tend to consider this issue as the beginning, although he wrote the last one. In ASM #111, Conway simply finished Stan Lee’s story about the Gibbon. Sadly, I wish I could wave off this issue like the last one as well, but I cannot. This, in my opinion, is the worst issue of Gerry Conway’s ASM run.
The main conflict of this issue is, of course, Spider-Man copping out and deciding to forget crime. This is totally out-of-character for Peter’s character; he would never leave a person if they were in immediate danger in front of him. His excuse for doing this is weak: he believes he must attend to more pressing matters like searching for Aunt May. This makes very little sense, though, because Peter aimlessly walks around New York City instead of looking for May. I would think that, if the matter was so pressing that it forced him to leave his basic principles, Peter would be more persistent and driven to find May. Of course, Peter has given up being Spider-Man before (ASM #50 among many) but he never walked away somebody with a gun up to their head in those stories. I would be okay with this story if it was revealed that the criminals Spidey let go went on to do something terrible to him to teach him a lesson, like in Roger Stern’s brilliant ASM #238.
Not much else major happens in this issue…I guess Conway’s writing of the supporting cast is pretty spot-on. This is how Conway depicts the characters with the script: Jameson’s an egotistical, evil person; Mary Jane’s too groovy to care about Peter’s problems; Harry’s laid back; Robbie’s wise and comforting; Anna’s a concerned old lady; Gwen’s as sweet as ever; and Flash is a bit of a jerk, but he’s still likable. During his run, Conway changes some of these characters and their personalities, but he does a good job picking up where Lee left them; sometimes writers completely alter supporting characters for their agenda without consideration to how they were depicted before they entered the title.
Quickly the highlight of this very poor issue is John Romita’s legendary pencils. The dynamism and energy simply oozes off of each page. The layouts are absolutely amazing and even his talking scenes are wonderful. As far as Spidey artists go, I would place Romita above Ditko in terms of influence; he really set the artistic standard for the character. Sadly, Romita’s talents are a bit wasted on this terrible plot.
This is very poor and Peter's out-of-character. It's amazing how badly Conway began a somewhat good run. The highlights are the supporting cast and Romita's artwork.