Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spectacular Spider-Man #102 (Marvel Comics, May 1985)

Spectacular Spider-Man #102 (May 1985)Tuesdays and Thursdays, I update PC/MS. It's a web-comic. You might like it. I probably have no business having a... another daily blog, but I'm going to give it the old college try. Today, I'll try talking about a comic book. Which comic book? I have no idea. How about Spectacular Spider-Man #102? This comic book isn't part of any over-reaching story arc, really, nor is it part of any crossover, yet it's part of the mainstream Marvel continuity. Such things to be exceptions these days. Written by Cary Burkett, with pencils by... Larry Lieber? Well, shoot. Larry Lieber supposedly draws the Amazing Spider-Man comic strip, so this'll be interesting to see. I know he's done other things, mind you, but this is a chance to cross-advertise. I am shameless.

Anyway, the story is called "A Life for a Life". We'll see how this goes. It opens with minor villain Killer Shrike flying into a bank which has never known the touch of a criminal. He robs the bank, taking out guards, but it's only to keep him going until he gets a job. He decides that what he needs to do is advertise! However, he knows that if he makes himself too visible, then those superheroes will come down on him like a sack of hammers. As he makes his way home and hopes that the beings in Manhatten with powers far beyond the ken of mortal men ignore a bank robbery in the Bronx, we see a couple breaking up as it starts to rain. No idea if that'll have any bearing on anything, other than a segue to Peter Parker wishing the Osborns (in this case, Harry and Liz) farewell.

It may be worth mentioning at this point that Peter Parker seems to be channeling the fashion sense of Jimmy Olsen (click on any image for a larger version):Superman's Pal Peter ParkerAnyway, he hops on a bus from Jersey and meets Donna Gardner, who is moving to New York. As it turns out, her twin brother, Donnie, moved to New York earlier. Donnie, by the way, is the name of the guy who was being dumped earlier. I guess that bit did have a bearing on things, but how much of one? Considering how Peter is no doubt going to mysteriously hit it off with Donna and escort her to Donnie's place, probably a decent-sized one. As the bus ride ends, the pair say their farewells and...

Donna gets hit by a car pretty much immediately. Well, shoot. There goes my theory.

Peter dons his Spider-gear and he's off to catch the driver what done it. He catches him, finds out he was drunk, webs him to his car, and then heads off to find the ambulance carrying Donna. He switches back to Peter, finds out Donna needs a relative's kidney, and then heads off again to find Donnie. Donnie, who lives right across the hall from Killer Shrike. I don't see how this couldn't end well!

Spider-Man is busy trying to find out anything he can about Donnie's whereabouts, and to this end he breaks into Donna's apartment, goes through her personal belongings, and eventually finds Donnie's phone number. Unfortunately, Donnie is despondent over being dumped, so he's ignoring the phone. Eventually, he tears the phone off the wall and decides to go kill himself. Spider-Man is already off to Donnie's apartment, though.

So, sixteen pages into the story, we have Spider-Man swinging around town and trying to save the life of a girl he met on a bus by locating her brother, who is going to kill himself unless someone stops him, and who lives in the same apartment as a secretive super-criminal. Sixteen pages, folks, and nearly every panel is chock-full of story. Take that, decompression!

Anyway, Donna's condition is worsening, and Spider-Man is just finding Donnie's apartment. How he knows which apartment building is his, I have no idea. He's been web-slinging the whole time, and has only seen it from the air. Unless he can see the adress of the apartment building from two hundred feet in the air, or something. In any case, Killer Shrike sees him, and does his best Superman impression:The only thing that's missing is a phone booth.Yep, Killer Shrike is paranoid, which as we all know, makes him much more dangerous. While the two engage is super-fisticuffs, Donnie is still contemplating suicide, and decides to go through with it, writing a note first. In any case, Spider-Man runs out of web-fluid during the fight and lands on top of a truck. In a somewhat poetic turn, Donnie decides to jump off his apartment building. Spider-Man quickly finishes Killer Shrike, and then high-tails it to Donnie's apartment, begging the question of how he knew which one was Donnie's apartment. He notices Donnie climbing onto the roof, but pays it little heed. He soon realizes his error when he reads Donnie's note. He quickly makes his way to the roof, and tries to talk Donnie out of jumping. This proves effective, partly because Spider-Man knows how much life can stink, and also because of the danger Donna is in:In the end, Killer Shrike is arrested, Donna and Donnie are saved, and Peter waxes philosophically that, even if you think your life stinks, it's important to somebody.

I'll be frank with you: I've owned this comic for about six years now and never read it, so this was my first time through. I had no idea it was an anti-suicide PSA when I cracked it open, and I would have appreciated the message of this comic a few months ago. All in all, though, pretty decent. A good bit of decent story, a second-tier villain who gets taken out pretty easily, and the sort of personal drama which makes Spider-Man such an enjoyable hero. Best of all, it was self-contained. You could give this comic to some guy on the street and he wouldn't be left wondering what the heck was happening. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be thinking, "I gotta check out more of this Spider-Man" either. So, in the end, a pretty all right piece of comics.

Soon, I'll review the Spectacular Spider-Man from May 1995, and then from May 2005. We'll see what difference ten and twenty years can make.

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