Monday, November 25, 2013

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #5

After four straight issues of world building and brand new villains, things are shaken up with Issue #5 as the Marvel Universe is tied neatly together. Yes, the villain for this issue is Doctor Doom, a man both hilarious and frightening at the same time. A man whose ego knows no bounds. How does he do against the quips of the ol' Webhead? Let's find out, and see if we finally break our four issue streak of perfect issues!

Doctor Doom was created for the Fantastic Four comic series, and man, he's a total gasser to use the terminology of the time. He's a raving egomaniac obsessed with (1) Destroying Reed Richards, (2) Mastering magic, (3) launching the Baxter Building into space and (4) figuring out what the hell is going on with all the competing time traveling versions of him out there. It's a pretty busy agenda, so it's a good thing he has a Ph.D. to help him through it. As the Marvel Universe was still in its infancy, it was decided that all of the comics would take place in the same universe. It was something that DC comics eventually did once it absorbed all the various publishing companies, but it was never done as smoothly since it had to happen over a long period of time. With Marvel doing it all at once, it made for concise backstories and canon that wouldn't have to be rebooted over and over as time went by. This issue is once again by the team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. This was actually established in the very first issue of Spider-Man, and is brought back again here. As the co-creator of Doctor Doom, Lee is perfectly capable of putting Doom into a Spider-Man comic. How does he fair against a villain that can (almost) hold his own against the Fantastic Four? Well, not badly, all things considered.

Doctor Doom in this issue is all over the place. He wants to find a co-conspirator to help take out the Fantastic Four, thus hopefully fulfilling both items one and three of his agenda, and a special television report sponsored by J. Jonah Jameson gives him the inspiration to recruit Spider-Man. Since Dr. Doom is smart enough to realize that Spider-Man isn't going to answer a phone call, he somehow deduces that Spider-Man uses the "sensory powers of the spider" so he creates a "spider-wave transmitter" to contact Spider-Man. Wait. Uhm, what? A spider-wave transmitter? I'm wondering why every villain doesn't have one of these and just spend their day sending random annoying messages to him! In fact, I'm pretty sure that the only use of this technology after this issue was in the spider tracers. Still, I'll give Dr. Doom credit for being able to create something that is utterly implausible!

After a very clever "suiting up" panel drawn expertly by Ditko, Spider-Man traces the signal to Dr. Doom's lair (I think he used *69, but there's no way to be sure) and the two meet each other for the first time. Doom calls Spider-Man out for making a show-boating entrance (like he's really one to judge there. I'm pretty sure both the pot and the kettle are black on that one) and immediately manages to tempt Spider-Man with the promise of pissing off J. Jonah Jameson. Spidey finally declines the offer and coats Doom in spider webs.. but wait! That was just a Doom-bot! The real Dr. Doom comes out of the closet (tee hee) and starts fighting Spider-Man with trap doors and laser blasts. He obviously hasn't read the last four issues. Spider-Man escapes with ease. Doom decides that all he has to do is figure out Spider-Man's real identity and use him anyway. Well, there you go. That's simple enough, I'm sure. Why didn't anyone ever thing of finding out who Spider-Man is before now?
Meanwhile, Spider-Man swings his way home after passing a burning building.. something a random passer-by immediately blames on him because, you know, New York. Peter sells the pictures to Jameson, needling him at the same time with a little backup from Betty Brant. Meanwhile, elsewhere in town, Spider-Man is unmasking before all of Peter's classmates. Oh, that scamp! It's just Flash Thompson, resident high school asshole, planning once again to screw with Pete. Here's the amazing thing.The suit was made by the girls of the school, and it is an exact replica even though the very first page of this comic shows a blurry, admittedly rare picture of Spider-Man. Pretty impressive! Of course, it helps that Flash is the same height and build as "puny Parker" or it would just be a silly idea, wouldn't it?

Doom spends this time building a spider tracker, which reacts to spider impulses much like a Geiger counter reacts to radiation apparently. Which, you know, science. All he has to do is canvass the ENTIRE CITY and he'll find Peter eventually. Through the miracle of coincidence, Doom happens to find Flash in his spider suit on one side of a fence as Peter walks by on the other side, triggering the detector. Peter then walks on, completely oblivious, as Doom makes off with Flash. I guess we can only hope that Mr. Thompson dies soon after. Fingers crossed!

Doctor Doom interrupts the nightly broadcast of the Ed Sullivan show, easily his most heinous act yet! How will Peter Parker's evil overlord, Aunt May, ever see her juggling act, or the chorus by some Midwestern university? How indeed? Doom uses the chance to call out the Fantastic Four, claiming that he'll kill the imprisoned Spider-Man if they don't show up. Peter gets a call from Liz, stating that Flash had dressed up as Spider-Man and asking for his help. Wait - why in the world would Liz call "Puny Parker" of all people? Bizarre. He blows it off, secretly planning to save Flash. Of course, first he gloats that all his problems will be over if he just lets the Fantastic Four do their thing and let Flash Thompson die. He eventually gets back on the road of the just and... Evil Overlord May shoots him down, forbidding him from leaving the house. After a bit of household sabotage, Peter manages to outwit the Evil Mastermind Aunt and get on his way to saving the day... but not before wasting a panel showing off Spider-Man's Spider-Light again. Yeesh.
Spider-Man heads across town, looking for Doom, and finally his spider-sense tingles and leads him to an old factory, since that's where anyone diabolical would hang out. He sneaks in and then, well, gives up his stealthy advantage by shining his damned Spider-Signal against a wall, getting Doom's attention. After this, it's just a matter of getting through Doom's defenses, in a wonderful series of panels showing off Spidey's agility and abilities. Finally, though, he gets maneuvered into standing on a high-output electric panel, freezing him with what would "kill an ordinary man". Luckily, Lee's Spider-Man isn't a total idiot and shoots Doom with his webbing, tying the metal-bound villain into his own trap, forcing him to turn it off.

But then!!! A Doom Bot appears behind Petey and grabs him, holding him in place while a giant laser-wielding robot comes after Spider-Man and things look grim. I swear, most of Latveria's GDP must be dedicated to supplying Doom with his devices. Seems like a bad plan for a ruler. I mean, would be be okay with our president using our taxes to build spider-killing robots and otherwise constantly invading and harassing another country because of dermatological issues? I think not! Anyway, after a few more panels of some sensational brawling, Doom manages to blind Spider-Man and get the upper hand. Spider-Man just barely holds on, when.. the Fantastic Four come flying up in their Fantasticar! Not ready to deal with the four of them at the same time, Doom hoofs it out of town quickly, and Spider-Man flees the scene, leaving Flash Thompson trapped as he remembers that Evil Overlord May is still waiting on him to bring some breakers back from the store. Luckily, the FF are more conscious of do-gooding and rescue Flash Thompson, while Spider-Man goes home to beg forgiveness from the frail, old lady that commands his every move.

In the end, he fails to get pictures for J. Jonah Jameson, but he does get some flirtatious advances from Betty Brant, so that's not all bad. He goes to school, where Flash is telling everyone what a hero is was and how he saved the day (leaving out the part where he surely wet his pants) and Parker moves into the distance, groaning as Liz called Flash Thompson a real He-Man.

On the plus side, this was another fun episode in the beginnings of Spider-Man. It showed a bit more insight into his relationship with J. Jonah Jameson and Betty Brant, and does a good job of balancing time with Peter with time with Spider-Man. As with all the early comics, this is a self-contained story packing a LOT of detail into very few pages. Unfortunately, the whole thing with the Fantastic Four falls a bit flat, with them coming in at the last minute to save the day as a predictable deus ex machina. As much as I hate to say it, this definitely breaks the Five Spider streak, resulting in today's rating. Tune in next time for Amazing Spider-Man #6, featuring The Lizard!


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