Monday, December 30, 2013

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #10

Wow, has it been ten weeks already that I've been reviewing every The Amazing Spider-Man? We're closing in on the very first year of the adventures of Pete and Evil Overlord May, and it's been a heck of a ride so far. We've met some iconic villains, a living but not living brain, and even watched in awe as Peter conquered glasses! Now, we're moving on to a new group of villains. As the cover promises, "Never has anyone fought such merciless foes as.. The Enforcers!" Is the tag true to its word? Let's find out!

We open to the splash page that cautions you to think twice before daring to read such an epic adventure, a new plateau of greatness! That Stan Lee is nothing if not modest. It's of course done by Stan "The Man" Lee and Steve "Swinging" Ditko, with letters by Sam Rosen. Ten issues in, these guys have got it down to a pretty good science.

The story starts with someone telling a man in a weird, white mask that everything is all set for Operation Hi-Lift as Spider-Man approaches. As they talk, a burglar with a bag of jewels escapes out of a high-rise window and onto a flagpole, which seems a tad bit suicidal. Still, the cops are more worried about the jewels than the thief, which goes to show that New York hasn't changed much in fifty years.

Spider-Man sees the burglar trying to get away from the police and lunges for him, only to have the burglar jerked up by a cable wrapped around him. Spider-Man is left behind as the helicopter takes off. This makes me wonder if, perhaps, they could have done all of that without waiting for Spider-Man, but we'll continue on. Spider-Man launches himself from the flagpole to the helicopter, only to be greeted by a blast of blinding chemicals.

As he plummets, he fashions a web parachute, because science, and kicks himself as the gang of criminals celebrate in a smoke-filled room. Don't these guys know about second hand smoke? Jeez!

The guy in the white mask, now known as Big Man, declares that he's taking over all the rackets in the city, and he's going to run them like a big business. I'm thinking tax shelters will definitely be involved! His enforcers, a man with a lasso, a large man with a vest, and a small man, go in for the attack as the mobsters don't take kindly to being put out of business.

The small one, Fancy Dan, uses fancy footwork and speed in order to knock some of the enemies down. After all, he is a master of Judo and "entitled to wear the coveted black belt!" Hmm, I guess I should stop wearing my black belt and switch to brown. I don't know anything about Judo. The big guy with the vest is named Ox, and he can shake off a punch and knock others out in one swing. Finally, Montana is the guy with the lasso, and he uses it to be overly complicated in taking down his foes, apparently.

While Big Man's thugs show off, Peter is at the Forest Hills Hospital visiting his Aunt May who, in a shocking bit of continuity, is recovering from her operation the previous episode. Flash and Liz Allen are there, in order to visit and show some support to Evil Overlord May. In a continuation from the last issue, Flash is grudgingly going along while hoping no one realizes he might actually care a little bit. It's always impressive when you can punch someone so hard their entire personality changes! 

The doctor informs Peter that his Overlord is doing better, but she is going to need a blood transfusion, and asks him what his blood type is. Peter, naturally, panics about donating his blood, worried that it might be infected by radioactive spider spit. Liz and Flash misunderstand his hesitation and think he's a monster (and honestly, who can blame them) while Peter with a half-Spider face gives in to necessity and the knowledge of certain doom should Evil Overlord May ever find out he hesitated to give his life for hers.

Fortunately, we're told ahead of time that his blood checked out and everything will be fine. Also, we'll be spared a Spider-Aunt. Worried now that he'll be weakened by the loss of radioactive blood, he hopes that he won't be needed to fight crime for a while. He tells May that the Abbotts next door want to go to Florida for a week and the Overlord tries to get out of it, but ends up in a car with two random people leaving Peter all alone.

He promptly calls up a hooker and starts up his own escort business after dancing around in his underwear and sunglasses. It's a bit jarring, but.. 


Oh, that was a movie we watched last night. My bad. No, Peter is much more boring that that. Foiling Spider-Man's hopes that he won't be needed, Big Man starts a massive crime wave all across the city with daring and very unlikely criminal plots. Desperate to work it all out, Spider-Man roams the city in the hopes of finding out who Big Man really is.

Don't worry, though! J. Jonah Jameson is on the case as well! Convinced that Spider-Man is behind all the crime (because, uh... ) he is scolded by a police officer, but shakes it off, convinced that Spider-Man invented Big Man in order to throw everyone off the track. Heading back to his office, he tells his columnist, Foswell, to write up a series of articles proving that Spider-Man is Big Man. Foswell isn't too pleased with this assignment, pointing out that just last month that ran an incredibly erroneous story accusing Spider-Man of being Electro, but Jameson is having none of it!

Betty Brant leaves the paper, as it is quitting time, and immediately gets stopped by Montana, Fancy Dan, and Ox. She claims she paid off a loan to them, but they point out that she forgot the interest. That interest will get you every time. She declares that Big Man isn't being fair, and Fancy Dan points out that it's kind of a stupid thing to protest.

Peter happens by at that time, and his half-Spider face flares up as he steps in to take care of things. Ox grabs him in a bear hold as Fancy Dan gets ready to work on his face and Peter is forced to take it in order to not risk showing that he's Spider-Man. On the next page, the half-Spider face is used another three times. Pacing, guys! Pacing! Don't use all your half-Spider faces in one issue!

Betty tells him that he can't go after them, as they are The Enforcers! Peter, naturally, wonders how Betty Brant got caught up with them, but she lies and says it was a case of mistaken identity. Betty runs off, sad that she can't let the dearest, most wonderful boy she's ever known get mixed up with The Enforcers because of her (her words). Peter mopes that Betty can't possibly care for him if she won't tell him her every little, dark secret (which is silly). His heart wounded, he changes back to Spider-Man and goes back to trying to hunt down The Enforcers.

Spotting the guy who pointed out Betty, he webs him up and questions him, but the guy is too scared. Determined, Spidey decides to make the thug more afraid of the guy in bright tights than the men who kill people for a living. Webbing up his eyes, he removes it a few minutes later and tells the thug that he's in Spider-Man's spider web, as a giant black spider hovers behind him. This scares him into giving away an address as it is revealed that the spider is just made out of leftover webbing (because webs).

Exactly five seconds later, which is oddly specific, Spider-Man swings over to Oak Street and is immediately lassoed by Montana. The Big Man congratulates him and then tells them to get rid of him as Spider-Man charges into action.

He give Ox a punch before dodging an attack from Fancy Dan, marveling at how quick he is, but manages to land a solid hit before his wrist is lassoed. Distracted, Ox gives him a solid right hook.  It dazzles Spider-Man just enough to flip over, and Fancy Dan throws him back over to Ox. 

Slightly recovered, he punches Ox a second time and works to catch his breath as he reminds the viewers that he's weakened due to the blood transfusion. Knowing he can't win this fight, he takes out the lights and ducks out. As he rests, he sees J. Jonah Jameson walk past and wonders if he might be Big Man.

Back home, Pete enjoys the privacy by kicking back on the sofa and resting his Spider Mask on the end table. He calls Betty, but she worries about answering the phone. Finally, she does and quickly blows him off, saying she'll talk to him the next day, determined not to let him get caught up with The Enforcers. To protect him, she decides to move out and never see him again. 

The next day, Peter asks Jameson where Betty is and he tells Peter that she had to go out of town for a while, which Peter isn't exactly okay with. Stopping by with our old friend Foswell, Peter asks him if he really believes what he's writing about Spider-Man being the Big Man. Foswell admits that he just writes whatever Jameson tells him to, and that he'd say Peter Rabbit was the Big Man if told to. Wow, that's journalistic integrity at its finest. No wonder so many people can't trust reporters today!

Unable to tackle The Enforcers as Spider-Man, he decides to try to do it as Peter and get captured that way. It's... actually not a terrible idea. He might be getting better at this whole hero thing!

At school the next day, he lays hints that he knows who Big Man is and that he's going to tell the police and nab a big, fat reward. The kids tease him, but some thing that his talent with puzzles might mean that he actually did it.

After school, Peter is stopped by Flash, who warns him not to go telling everyone that he figured out who Big Man is. It's a very touching scene which lets Flash grow as a character, but it's too late since, apparently, Big Man keeps track of all the high school gossip in town. It seems like an odd priority, but hey.. I'm not the master criminal here.

Big Man knows who Peter Parker is, and they go by to collect him. Stuck in the car with Fancy Dan, who is blowing second hand smoke in his face in an effort to kill him in about twenty years, he is told that Big Man knows him, which only reinforces his theory that Big Man is J. Jonah Jameson.

Tossed into a cell to wait for Big Man, he takes the chance to change clothes and break out of the ceiling vent. He stumbles across a room full of gangsters and decides that discretion truly is the better part of valor, but he's punched from behind and knocked down into the crowd where he has to fight for his life.

He leaps into a car, but Ox just knocks it over. Big Man throws some barrels at him, but Spider-Man just uses the barrels to roll around as a weapon and knocks down the thugs. Not giving him a break, they have Ox start throwing tires at him, which he dodges (and even goes straight through one of them, which is kind of cool) and then skates across the grease-covered floor while all the others fall down. 

He tries to keep dodging and kicks a few of them, but Fancy Dan manages to land a "skillful Judo attack" and pulls him back down to the floor. He manages to get out of the hold, but he's getting tired and needs to find a way to get a signal to the police, whom he warned earlier to watch for word from him. 

That, of course, means... sigh.. the Spider-Light. He shines it onto a reflective part of his web shooter and angles it so that it bounces off of a street light and onto a wall across from a cop. Who knew he could aim so well, in so unlikely a manner? 

Anyway, the police screech off into the night as the thugs remember they still have a Spider-Man to beat up. The police arrive as Big Man starts to shoot at Spider-Man, and we all know how well bullets work on him. Dodging them with ease, Big Man takes the chance to get away and Spider-Man goes off to confront Jameson, thinking he's the bad guy.

As he peeps through the window, though, Jameson sees Foswell and tells him that he's going to need better evidence that Spider-Man is the Big Man. Just then, the police come in, however, and claim that Foswell is the Big Man, presenting over-sized shoes and a comically padded coat, as well as a voice changers. Foswell admits to it immediately, going so far as to say, "I'd have gotten away with it, too... if not for some crummy luck!" I know, I was hoping it would end differently, too.

Scratching his head and feeling befuddled, Spider-Man kicks himself for not being the world's greatest detective (that job's taken, anyway, Spidey.. don't feel bad) and Jameson goes nuts against Foswell, accusing him of being in league with Spider-Man and begging Foswell to admit it or he'll be a laughing stock all over again.

Angry that he'll always be embarrassed and frustrated by Spider-Man, Jameson declares that he'll never be able to respect himself as long as Spider-Man lives. He admits that Spider-Man is brave, powerful, and unselfish - everything he is not. Knowing he can never climb to Spider-Man's level, all he has left is to try and tear Spider-Man down. It's a great moment wonderfully illustrated by Mr. Ditko. Spider-Man, meanwhile, is back home and gets a letter from May saying she's having a great time in Florida, but no communication from Betty.

Believing that she has to come back sometime, the scene cuts to Betty in a small town in Pennsylvania, where she's locked herself in a hotel room and is crying, sad that life is so meaningless and empty without Peter in her life.

And so we close out on the tenth issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. I was a bit worried that we were looking at a direct rip-off of Dick Tracey, but it was more of an homage if anything, and I'm okay with that. The idea of Spider-Man being weakened by a blood transfusion was a little weak, but I did like how it tied back to the last episode and put more focus on overall story and character growth. It's never, ever going to be remembered as a classic and I'll be absolutely shocked if you tell me that Foswell ever appears again, but it was good for what it was, and leaps and bounds better than The Living Brain, which is definitely the current champion of worst issue. Worry not, I'm sure it will be dethroned soon enough!


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