Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #102

 Posted: 2009
 Staff: Adam Winchell (E-Mail)


This issue's scribe Cary Burkett wrote last ish's tale with Blacklash, which didn't score all that fantastic with me. This time he's accompanied by Larry Lieber on art duties (none other than Stan "The Man" Lee's brother), so let's see if Burkett himself did better this time.

Story 'A Life For A Life!'

At First Bank and Savings Association, located in a quiet Bronx area, there's never been a robbery or even an attempted robbery--until now. Killer Shrike flies in through the bank's front window, telling everyone to "back away from the teller windows and no one gets hurt." A bank cop tries to pull a gun but is pummelled by Shrike, who throws the cop out the window. Another fires on him, but as his suit is bulletproof, it only serves to aggravate. Shrike fires one of his energy blasts at the officer. He warns the bank staff to start filling bags before he gets really mad.

. Moments later he flies away from the scene, thinking the money will hold him over for awhile but that he really wants a high-paying contract crime job. One that doesn't attract the attention of any superheroes, as he doesn't want the trouble.

He changes out of his costume and heads to his Bronx apartment building. Outside the building a young couple is arguing--a guy named Donnie's girlfriend walks out on him, leaving him outside as it begins to rain.

Pete meanwhile is in New Jersey, on a visit with Harry and Liz. He says his goodbyes to them to head back to New York on a bus, finding an empty seat next to pretty blonde. She says she's feeling rather talkative having just read the same magazine three times. Pete asks isn't it dreadful--she asks in return if he's referring to Spider-man who's on the magazine cover. Pete replies no, the picture itself--his exposure on it was all off. They strike up a conversation and she mentions her name is Donna and she's on her way to pursue modelling and to visit her brother Donnie in New York.

They arrive at the terminal and say their goodbyes. Donna steps out to cross the street and is struck by a hit and run driver in the intersection. Pete witnesses this and runs off to change into costume to chase the car down in a rage. He catches up with the car, as the driver tries to shake him off by swerving around. This enrages Spidey even further and he rips the roof off the car, where he finds the driver is "stone drunk". He leaves the guy and swings off to the hospital to see if he can help Donna.

Changing back to Pete, he's informed by the doctor that one of Donna's kidneys has been crushed and that she needs a transplant from a close relative. They have an address from her suitcase but no one answers the calls there. Pete runs out and swings off again as Spidey to investigate, leaving the doctor to mistakenly think Pete really didn't care that much. The address leads to Donnie's apartment building, where Shrike is also hiding out, paranoid. Donnie is just returning home from aimlessly waundering the streets after being dumped by his girlfriend. His roommate chastises him for missed rent and tells him he better get his act together, further depressing him.

Spidey heads to Donna's apartment and searches through her address book for another person with her last name, finding Donnie listed by first name alone and remembers she mentioned him. Spidey calls the number, but as the narration tells us Donnie's "mood is black--his heart a dark wound--his world a thick void of emptiness" he doesn't answer but instead smashes the phone in rage. Spidey heads to his address in the Bronx. Shrike sees Spidey swinging up outside his window, and gets into his outfit, thinking he was expecting him and that he needs to get the drop on him. He crashes through the wall at Spidey outside and they fight. Donnie meanwhile, in an apartment in the building, is writing out a suicide note.

Spidey runs out of web fluid (after using it up to get to the Bronx) mid-battle with Shrike and goes crashing to the street. He plays possum until Shrike gets nearby and then rises to strike him under the chin, Shrike's costume's only unreinforced part. He finds Donnie's apartment and finds the suicide note inside. Donnie has gone to climb up to and jump off of the roof. Spidey spotted someone climbing up there on the way in and goes to him, telling him nothing is that bad and to stop what he's doing. Donnie recounts his problems and tells Spidey that he doesn't know anything about being a failure since he's a superhero. Spidey says he's lost his girl before too, and failed countless times as well. He says if Donnie jumps he'll be not only be killing himself but his sister and tells him of her situation and takes him to her.

Pete visits days later after the sucessful operation. He thinks to himself that even when we think our lives are worthless, we can reach out to others who need help, and learn how important our lives really are.

General Comments

The plot ingredients are almost identical to #101's: mix writer Cary Burkett and a C-level villain, stir in an angsty one-and-done plot involving non-regular supporting characters and garnish with a snazzy John Bryne cover. This issue does a number of things better though, creating a suspenseful story out of Pete's chance encounter with Donna, and having the encounter with Shrike be serendipitous (and brief) as well. The writing of her doomed brother Donnie is a bit over the top, but Burkett lends the serious topic of suicide the weight it deserves.

Larry Lieber's art here comes off a bit flat--over-melodramatic during the emotional parts, and a little shaky during the fight scenes--but he had a plot-heavy and wordy script to work with (one that's definitely old-school Marvel where we read everything the characters think and feel--I tried to be succint up there in summarizing it and still got all that).

It is very refreshing to read a single issue story that's not wrapped up in an ongoing plot or referencing the other titles for once.

One other funny thing I noticed is that everytime we see Pete here he's running off or leaving--at Liz and Harry's, from the hospital twice, etc. Also, all Spidey had to do in the penultimate scene was say "hey bro, your sister needs a kidney transplant" and saved a lot of time. But instead we got a scene with Spidey commiserating with the troubled guy, admitting his own woes, which was cool and reminds us that Spidey has the same worries and fears as the regular joe (as if we needed reminding since Pete's constantly suffering anyway).

Overall Rating

An almost spitting-image of last issue, but an all-around improvement. Nothing too memorable and at times melodramatic but the good stuff here makes up for the bland parts.

 Posted: 2009
 Staff: Adam Winchell (E-Mail)