A New York cabdriver knows Spider-Man's secret identity. He needs $500,000 for an operation or he will die. Will he betray Peter Parker to save his life?
Charlie Clemmens is still trying to decide what he should do when he notices that a crowd has gathered. A passerby tells him that a man is on the ledge of a nearby building contemplating suicide. Charlie gets out of the cab he's driving, bolts into a bar, and calls the Daily Bugle. Soon after, the man on the ledge decides to jump, but is plucked out of the air by Spider-Man, who sets the jumper down and beats a quick retreat. Charlie takes pity on the man and offers him a free ride home.
Later that night, Charlie sneaks into his son's bedroom, giving him an autographed picture of Spider-Man. His son, Benny, asks if they can go to "that thing on Friday." Charlie is noncommittal, but a voice from down the hall gives him an excuse to leave.
The next morning, Charlie walks into a local jewelry store and asks to see the manager, trying to find work as a security guard. The manager asks for his credentials, and Charlie throws a diamond necklace on the desk that he lifted from under the current guard's nose. The manager is outraged, but is quickly overruled by his superior. "Can you start Monday, Mr. Clemmens?"
From there, Charlie heads over to visit his ex-wife Gladys, who is, again, none too happy to see him. "I've agreed with myself to do something," he says, "something I'm not real anxious to do. Then I'll be going away for a while. A long while." Suddenly, Charlie has another fainting spell, but quickly comes to. He asks Gladys to apologize to Benny, "tell him I'm sorry I couldn't take-just tell him his daddy loves him." He leaves, and a single tear runs down Gladys' face.
The scene shifts to a local make-out spot. It's nighttime, and the three
crooks from last issue are sneaking up on a young couple in the throes of
passion. The two kids offer little resistance, and the crooks are just
about to clean their wallets and make a clean getaway when a car rolls up.
A voice from the car orders them to give the boy back his wallet and the
crooks, who think it's a cop, do so. The newcomer turns off the car's
lights and reveals himself as Charlie. Charlie remarks how far the three
have slid since "the good old Boucher Bank days." "What do you know about
that?" "I was there." The three quickly lose patience with Charlie and
are about to kill him when he makes them a proposal. The four of them rob
the jewelry store where Charlie works, taking a million dollars in precious
stones. In exchange for half the money, Charlie will "give you something
worth more than half of a million in ice. . .
". . . I'm the guy who's going to give you Spider-Man!"
Well, I was hoping better from ol' Charlie. Although I guess it wouldn't be much of a story if he didn't at least TRY to sell Spidey's identity. It's hard to think too poorly of Charlie, though. Yeah, he's selling out Spider-Man, but what would any of us do if it was the only way we could survive? I'd like to think I'd be stronger than that, but who knows? Charlie seems like a decent enough guy who's been pushed into a corner. And every species on earth, including humans, are at their most dangerous when they've been cornered.
I have to wonder about Charlie's approach, though. Spilling Spidey's secret to three small time thugs hardly seems like a reliable way to get $500K. Surely J. Jonah Jameson could be persuaded, albeit reluctantly, to part with the cash in exchange for the scoop. And if not him, than other newsmakers certainly would. Why concoct a plan which is more complicated than it needs to be and carries the risk of long-term jail time? Is it possible that Charlie's running a scam of some kind?
The interplay between Charlie and his family was good, if a bit superfluous. The main thrust of this story is seeing what Charlie's going to do and what happens when he does that. So we'd better find out what that "thing" is that Benny wanted to go to on Friday next issue, or this was just a bit of wasted space.
Three and a half webs. This is the kind of story that will live or die on the strength of its last issue, so until then I'm playing it safe with the rating.