Monday, December 23, 2013

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #9

 Welcome to my ninth review of The Amazing Spider-Man, which just happens to also be the ninth issue! What a coincidence! I was left disappointed after last issue, featuring The Living Brain, but I'm hoping we can get back on track. This issue features the first appearance of Electro, who goes on to become a long-time Spider Foe. How does he do on his first appearance? Let's find out!

As usual, this issue is done by the great combination of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and I can say that Ditko absolutely brings his "A" game to this issue. The art is just fantastic, as you'll see in the samples I share. The splash page is about as energetic as it comes, calling it a "Book-Length TRIUMPH" and that, "If you're just starting to read this story, we ENVY you!" You've got to love Stan Lee's showmanship. He really did know how to get people excited in what was, at the time, a really new creation.

We start off with Spider-Man quickly making his way across town as people on the street marvel at him (uhm.. no pun intended there). It seems as if he is rushing toward a shoot out between cops and criminals, and the bad guys all panic until Spider-Man swings right past them!

What could possibly be so important that he ignores a shoot-out and doesn't save the day? Even stranger, he changes his clothing on the street as he races to his destination, figuring it's too dark for anyone to see him anyway.

Oh, I should have known. He's rushing to see his Evil Overlord May. As always, she's sick, although this time she needs the pills that Spider-Man was rushing to get to her bedside. The doctor has declared that her dessicated corpse is only going to get worse, and Peter worries about how he will live his life without his Evil Overlord dictating his every move.

As he worries, another man in strange, yellow and green tights and a contraption strapped to his chest absorbs electricity in his room and declares the world ready to meet Electro!  He decides the best thing to do is start small and rob an armored car... which, really, wouldn't be my definition of small, but that just shows how powerful he is!

Slinging around electricity like he's made of it (see what I did there?) he easily overpowers the guards and makes off with a fortune in cash. As he enriches himself, though, Peter is told by the doctor (who actually makes a house call! Gasp!!) that his Evil Overlord is getting worse and has to go to the hospital.

He's distracted in school the next day as his sensitive school mates all decide to pick on him, showing their caring and concern once again. Still, Flash begins to have second thoughts about torturing and actually reaches out to Peter to make friends, but Peter blows him off without a word. Burned utterly, Flash decides to give up on being nice, making that the fastest attitude turn around in history.

At the hospital, Peter finds that Betty has been sitting with the Evil Overlord in the hospital, probably marking time until the old bat croaks and she can finally take over Peter for herself. They share a nice moment, but Betty is concerned, thinking that it's strange.. that he's like a smoldering volcano carrying a deep secret within him. Subtle, Stan. Really subtle. Worried about money, he decides to get some pictures, only to find that it's started to rain. Utterly defeated by drops of water, he trudges home and wrings out his uniform before deciding to study. Unable to focus, he spends most of his night worrying. This isn't really surprising, though, considering it's the first time in his life he's been out from under the thumb of his Evil Overlord. That would throw anyone.
The next day, Electro shows his versatility by robbing a bank instead of an armored car. He just happens to do it as the other wonderful person in Peter's life, J. Jonah Jameson, is trying to get some monetary figures. I swear, Stan Lee is a genius for thinking to put absolutely NO ONE sympathetic to Peter in his supporting cast. I never would have thought of it, but it really does make it clear that Peter is one incredibly sad sack, just like all of us!

Anyway, Electro manages to shock J. Jonah Jameson and the incredibly old man who fortunately doesn't seem to have a pacemaker. That could have easily turned into a much darker crime. Using his electric powers to somehow override the time lock (because Stan Lee science!) he grabs the large bags of money with the comic "$" drawn on them and starts climbing up the side of a building. Thankfully, there is a science expert on the street who helpfully yells out that he's holding on to the iron beams by using electricity, using them like a magnet. Thanks, random bystander!

Hearing the description of Electro again and seeing him climb a building, Jameson decides that Electro must be Spider-Man, using a second identity. As if to prove his point, Spider-Man swings past right at that moment. Using his powers of Super Journalism, Jameson runs a front page story that Electro is Really Spider-Man (on the basis of indisputable evidence). Surely, that couldn't go wrong! After all, as the woman on the street buying a paper declares, "How could they print it if it weren't true?!" Oh, just wait, ma'am. Fox News hasn't even been invented yet! (rimshot)

Peter, of course, is annoyed to find himself being called Electro, but sets it aside as he goes to talk to a doctor, who declares that they could make Evil Overlord May healthy again for a mere thousand dollars. As we all know from watching Johnny Dangerously, medical bills can cause anyone to fall into crime, so we should be thankful that Peter just goes to Jameson and asks for an advance of a thousand dollars. For those who don't want to do the math, that's approximately $7600 in 2013 money. Not a tiny advance! Jameson, of course, almost has a stroke at the idea, but tells Peter that if he can get a picture of Electro, he can have his money.

I know. I know. You would just whip up an Electro suit, take a few pictures of him doing "amazing" things, and collect the cash. See, that's why you're not Spider-Man. Peter knows that he has to actually hunt down and capture Electro to see the money, so that's what he sets off to do!
Almost immediately, he spots someone prowling on a rooftop! With.. a giant telescope. And.. not actually moving. I'm not sure Spider-Man actually knows what prowling is, now that I think about it. No longer harassing innocent users of telescopes, he continues to roam the city until he finds a room with a light flashing in it and assumes it's Electro, only to find that it's workmen repairing a power line. In a building. Eh, it's Stan Lee.

Finally, his Spider Sense goes off, sparing us from more hijinks of Spider-Man and the Window Peeping Incident and he sees Electro using his powers in an admittedly clever way, tracing the power lines to find a hidden safe. I've got to give credit for that one!

He finds jewels and money and decides to load it up as Spider-Man pauses to get a picture. Unfortunately, Electro sees his reflection in a mirror on the wall (let's face it, his costume isn't exactly stealthy. If only he had a darker version of it!) and comes racing out to fight. He hits Electro in the face with his webs, but the electricity from Electro burns it off (proving yet again that the amazing webs really kinda aren't) so Spider-Man goes in for a punch, leading to him getting shocked.

To Electro's credit, he's actually kind of disturbed when he thinks that Spider-Man is killed from the shock. Not disturbed enough to stick around for the police, but it does bother him for a moment. Of course, Spider-Man isn't actually dead and manages to take his photos to Jameson for the money.

What? He didn't?

Yeah, he actually took pictures of himself, super-imposed it over Electro's pictures to make it look like he's changing to Spider-Man, and sold those to Jameson. One has to wonder how he originally planned to make it look like Electro was changing into Spider-Man. It probably would have involved nudity, though, so it's best not to think too hard on it.

Feeling terrible about taking advantage of Jameson, he still takes the money to pay off the hospital as the city goes crazy at the idea that Spider-Man could have turned bad. One bystander says that Jameson is insane, and that Spider-Man would never take another identity when no one even knows who Spider-Man is! (Or heck, let's be utterly ridiculous and say that he would never take FOUR identities at the same time!)

At this point, a break is taken as we see the origin of Electro. Originally a line man named Max Dillon, he is a selfish jerk, but the best man the electric company has. Bribed with a hundred dollars, he finally agrees to go up and save someone who is having trouble on a high tension pole. Making his way up the pole, he saves the person just as he was struck by lightning, somehow causing him gain strange, electric powers! Adding wires and a capacitor to his chest, he practices and gains the skills he needs to knock over trucks and banks, as well as creating for himself a wacky, tacky costume! Comics!

As we all know, all good criminals needs to have flunkies, so Electro heads to the prison downtown and decides to break out all the prisoners. As the police battle the breakout, Peter decides the best thing to do is.. uhm.. sit at the hospital during Evil Overlord May's surgery, as she decreed that he wasn't to leave her. Betty is kind enough to sit with him, eager to wrap him around her little finger and swoop in for the victory, while the stand-off at the prison continues.

Finally, Evil Overlord May comes out of the surgery and the doctor is kind enough to knock her out with drugs, freeing Peter from her control long enough to take out.. what? Oh, he has a scene with Betty first. Good gravy, he's a terrible superhero! After a touching moment, he tells Betty that he has to take pictures of Electro, and she declares that he is enjoying the danger too much. Appreciating the irony, Peter FINALLY makes his way to the scene of the crime.
As he swings in for the fight, Jameson immediately recognizes that this probably won't do much for his image or his paper. Bemoaning his new fate as a laughing stock, he can only watch as Spider-Man crashes through a window and puts on some rubber gloves and rubbers (no, it's not what you think. Back in the day, rubbers were rubber boots, not condoms. Peter was not there looking for some action. Well he was, but not THAT kind of action! Argh, this is just too confusing. We'll just continue on.) Properly equipped with his rubbers.. sigh.. he sets up his automatic camera from an air vent and creates fear and confusion within the criminal ranks by shining his MIGHTY SPIDER-LIGHT! I don't know if there are words enough for how I hate that freaking stupid light.

Spider-Man bashes his way through the random, nameless crooks until he makes his way to Electro. Protecting himself, he tosses metal bearings in front of himself to deflect the lightning bolts. Electro responds by using his massive power to.. uh.. throw a chair at him. Rightfully, this is greeted with a right hook from Spider-Man. Electro manages to suck up some more electricity, but then trips on the metal bearings on the floor (I guess they were out of banana peels).
Taking care of a few more thugs, he catches up to Electro again as the police manage to grab all of the other prisoners and get them back under control. With no one left to worry about, Spider-Man can focus on his super-charged foe, and begins dodging lightning bolts with ease.

And then Electro pulls out a gun.

No, seriously. He can shoot beams of energy that move at the speed of light and he pulls out a gun.

The heck?

Mocking Electro mercilessly for pulling out a freaking gun, Spider-Man kicks some sand at him (before extinguishers became prominent, sand was kept around for fire fighting. Now you know!) and webs up the gun while Electro is distracted. I'm betting he doesn't talk about this moment at the Arch Villain Conventions.
Fortunately, he is backed into a water main as Electro shoots whips of electricity at him. Using his science knowledge, he hits Electro with the water and short circuits him, knocking him out cold. In a big reveal, he pulls off Electro's mask and... has no idea who he is.

I really, really love that moment.

Grabbing his camera and leaving Electro for the police, Spider-Man beats feet and takes his pictures to Jameson, who is understandably pissed off at Peter for giving him false evidence and sinking his entire newspaper. That kind of thing would cause anyone to be unemployed, and Jameson yells at him that he's fired and going to be sued!

A cocky Peter, however, points out that he works freelance and offers pictures of Electro fighting Spider-Man as a peace offering. Gloating that he's making a fortune from Peter's pictures, he laughs sinisterly as Peter agrees to the deal.
Betty is pretty bitter about Peter deciding to do his job and actually make money, and reveals that she left high school the year because of someone Peter reminded her of. She goes into no more detail than that (drama!) and Peter sulks, stomping off to go console himself with the presence of Evil Overlord May. Glad to have her doing better but upset about Betty, he's surprised to find her running up to him apologizing for her words earlier. The walk off into the city in awkward silence as the issue ends, promising more excitement and adventures in the next issue!

There is one humorous moment in the letter's page when a David Catena from Pennsylvania submits the following letter.

Darn that Steve Ditko! That guy's going nowhere! No one will ever remember him!! Hehe. Hindsight is fun. Of course, he was being compared to a Jack Kirby who was in his prime, so there is that.

Overall, I did enjoy the issue. There were some odd moments, but honestly the comic book mocked them about as quickly as I did. The idea of Electro pulling out a gun on Spider-Man is something I'm not going to forget anytime soon. Electro will soon be back in the mainstream spotlight as he is played by Jamie Foxx in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2, so it's kind of fun to go back and see where it all started. Next issue, we'll be introduced to The Enforcers as we move into double digits! Are they total rip-offs of Dick Tracy villains? There's just one way to find out. As for the debut issue of Electro, I give it..


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