Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #16

 In the past two issues we've had The Green Goblin and Kraven the Hunter. After those smashing issues, can The Amazing Spider-Man #16 possibly keep up? We're going to find out as we dive into today's issue, featuring Spider-Man's first team up with Daredevil, and the menacing villain The Ringmaster!

Daredevil had debuted in his own magazine only a few months before this issue came out, so seeing him on the cover with Spider-Man must have been quite the event at the time. When the blind superhero was first introduced, he was met with a lot of fan appreciation and has maintained a solid presence in the Marvel Universe ever since. I don't like him enough to review every one of his issues, but it is fun to see one of his first appearances and cross-overs. The problem is that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko almost entirely dedicate this issue to increasing Daredevil's popularity, to the point that this doesn't even feel like a Spider-Man story. What do I mean? Stay tuned to find out!
 Just the other night I watched The Greatest American Hero's circus episode, so it's kind of funny to me that Spider-Man deals with the Circus of Crime in this issue. Life has a way of matching life sometimes, I guess. 

The splash page is a lot of fun, showing Spider-Man make his way through a who's who of circus stereotypes. The art is extremely kinetic and it's obvious that Steve Ditko is only getting better at drawing action and Spider-Man's suit, giving him a more athletic build and a showing a much tighter control of the webbing. 

The story opens with Evil Overlord May harping on Peter Parker to call Mary Jane Watson, sure that he's going to like her. Peter rightfully points out that he already has a girlfriend in Betty Brant, but May is having none of it and continues to push him to cheat on the current love of his life. Frustrated, he escapes her skeletal clutches by tossing on a jacket and getting reminded to dress warmly by the ruler of his life. Gotta love that dear, sweet aunt.

A few minutes later, Spider-Man is swinging through the city and thinking that sometimes he thinks he'd "pop his cork" if he couldn't get away from her nagging. Trust me, fellow readers, her evil villainy is only just beginning. She has decades of nagging and Overlording left to do!

As he swings, he spots a robbery happening and swings into action as he sees an innocent bystander in trouble that happens to be blind. The crooks decide that the blind man might be able to identify their voices and that he has to die, so it's a good thing Spider-Man is there to save the day!

 Interrupting them without the use of his Spider-Light (thankfully), Spidey gets their attention to distract them from the poor, blind man stuck in the middle and quickly wraps everything up in a neat, pretty spider-webbed bow. Making sure the blind man is okay, he warns the man not to be on his own at night on the streets and swings away.

Little does Spider-Man know, he just met Daredevil, the newest Marvel sensation. As he changes clothes to move acrobatically across town, we get a run down of his powers from Stan Lee. Essentially, he's blind but all of his other senses are hyper-acute, to the point that he is actually more capable than many people with sight. In his law office, Matt Murdock changes back into his suit and meets with his to co-workers, Karen and Foggy Nelson. 

Remember these powers, everyone, because they are going to be recapped about eight more times.

Foggy and Karen invite Matt to the circus, because I'm sure blind people enjoy it greatly, but Matt declines since he can't trust his feelings for Karen and shouldn't see her socially.  As he declines the invitation, we cut away to the Ringmaster orchestrating everyone under the Big Tent, getting things ready for their big show. He declares that ever since he was defeated by Hulk months ago (apparently from The Hulk Magazine (Now Discontinued) Issue #3), he has planned one spectacular performance to outdo anything they've attempted in the past in his Circus of Crime.
 It turns out his big plan is to put up a poster that Spider-Man was going to appear at his circus that night, and that all proceeds would go to charity. He knows perfectly well that Spider-Man won't appear, but by the time everyone realizes it, they'll all be in their seats and it will be too late for them to do anything about it. That.. hardly seems truly nefarious. There has to be more to it than that.

What he doesn't count on is Peter Parker walking past the advertisement and deciding that Spider-Man showing up might be a keen idea, especially if it's all for charity, not to mention it could help his lacking public image.

He goes to the Daily Bugle and asks Jameson for the night off, who honestly couldn't give a rat's behind whether Peter stays or goes. He simply requests that Peter not take any pictures of Spider-Man, with his new strategy that perhaps that menace will stop getting publicity and move to another city. Considering Jameson's reputation for factual story telling in recent months, this is possibly the best idea he's ever had.

Betty pokes her head in the door and asks if she can talk to Peter for a moment. She asks him if he wants to come over for spaghetti along with his aunt (Betty knows how to keep the old hag happy, I'll give her that). Peter declines, knowing that Spider-Man has to make his appearance tonight, but he accidentally drops his circus ticket to the floor. Seeing it, Betty is hurt that Peter would want to go to the circus without her, once again convinced that her sweet little nerd is cheating on her. Unable to come up with a good excuse, and certainly unable to tell her the truth, he beats feet and gets ready for the circus in stead.

Back at the law offices of Nelson and Murdock, Matt hears that Spider-Man will be at the circus and changes his mind. deciding that he does want to go, as Karen and Foggy assure him they will talk through the entire night, explaining in painful detail exactly what is happening. Yeah, can't imagine why his first impulse was to turn them down!

Peter and Matt walk past each other, with Peter's spider sense tingling, but he just shrugs it off and heads up to the top of the tent as Spider-Man, ready to put on a show for charity. The tent fills quickly with people, all of them shouting for Spider-Man. Matt can sense Spider-Man above the tent, listening to his "unusually strong pulse rate", so he's not nearly as surprised as the rest of the audience when he swings down from the ceiling. 

I'm going to do something I don't normally do and repeat word for word text from one of the captions. Bear in mind, this is ten pages into the comic, and we've already been told twice what Matt Murdock is capable of.

"Judging by the direction of air currents, SpiderMan is slowly descending from the ceiling... and he's upside-down, because his heartbeat is higher than the sound of his voice!"

That's written the panel after we see Spider-Man lowering from the ceiling. Gee, I wonder if we'll be reminded yet again in a bit what Daredevil's powers are?
 Unaware that the blind lawyer is beating the audience over the head with the details of his power set, Spider-Man goes into an acrobatic routine meant to astonish everyone. The crowd is eating it up as they watch, and the Ringmaster realizes this could actually work to his advantage. As everyone wonders how Spider-Man pulls off his tricks, the Ringmaster rushes into the tent, waving at Spider-Man to get his attention. As Spidey lowers to see what's happening, he's hypnotized by Ringmaster's hat, and soon the entire audience is hypnotized. 

Ooooh, so that's Ringmaster's plan. Bilk people for their tickets, and then send his goons into the crowd to steal their valuables. He figures that the hypnotizing will last for one hour, and when they find their valuables missing they will blame it on pickpockets. All of them. Three hundred victims of pickpockets at the same time.

The Ringmaster isn't exactly a genius.

Matt, being blind, quickly realizes that everyone else in the audience is mesmerized and drops down behind the stands to change into his dashing yellow, black, and red costume. Seeing a costumed hero untranced and attacking him, Ringmaster sics Spider-Man on him as he tries to avoid getting hit. Artistically, the battle is great and really acrobatic, but the entire thing is ruined by Daredevil's constant narration about hearing this and sensing that, which really removes a lot of the drama from Ditko's wonderful art.
 Having saved Ringmaster from Daredevil, Spider-Man promptly stands still and awaits further instruction as Daredevil once again charges to attack the mesmerizing menace. Darn you, Stan Lee! Now you have me alliterating!

Ahem, anyway.

Daredevil climbs up to the trapeze platform, figuring he'll have more room to maneuver than on the giant, expansive floor of the circus tent. Uhm, sure. Once again, "My radar sense informs me of objects hanging nearby... and my logic knows that they must be the trapezes!" Oh, good gravy. Enough with explaining his powers, already!! Spider-Man follows him, and Daredevil tries to dive bomb Ringmaster, but he's once again stopped by Spidey. Flipping over Spider-Man's head, Daredevil manages to kick a ball at Ringmaster, and knocks his hat off his head. 

Explaining that "my super sensitive hearing picked up the sound of tiny electrons vibrating within the Ringmaster's hat!!" Daredevil grabs it and uses it to break Spider-Man from his trance. (Hey, wow! Did you know Daredevil has super sensitive hearing? I sure wish they had told me that before now!)

Spidey is free to think again, and quickly figures out what happened thanks to his "brilliant brain." The two heroes bond for a moment before being attacked again by the Ringmaster. Without Spider-Man getting in his way, Daredevil is able to help make quick work of the circus goons. Spider-Man does some fighting of his own, and Daredevil decides he doesn't need to help anymore and changes back into his clothing, complaining that having to change outfits all the time is a total bore.

Superhero Problems.
Spidey is free to think again, and quickly figures out what happened thanks to his "brilliant brain." The two heroes bond for a moment before being attacked again by the Ringmaster. Without Spider-Man getting in his way, Daredevil is able to help make quick work of the circus goons. Spider-Man does some fighting of his own, and works his way through all of the performers in several pages of action that is great to watch, but honestly way too padded. Normally, Spider-Man issues are packed with events, but here it is just Spider-Man beating up the same people over and over. I can almost see Steve Ditko yawning in the artwork, and it's kind of unfortunate.
 Long story short (too late), Spider-Man knocks out the Ringmaster and uses his hat to get everyone back to normal, presumably getting around to returning all of their stolen good. It never actually says that they do, but I'll try and be positive in this case. Matt Murdock slips away from his friends to tell Ringmaster to call him if he needs a lawyer, and Spider-Man watches from the rooftops as Ringmaster and his crew are loaded up and carried away by the police.

Spider-Man swings off into the evening, looking forward to being nagged some more by Evil Overlord May and getting beaten over the head by his upset girlfriend Betty.

With a reminder that Spider-Man will be back next month and Daredevil appears in his own monthly magazine (please buy it please pretty please) we close out another issue of Spider-Man!
 Guys, I apologize. I tried to make this issue as entertaining as I could, but.. yeesh. I think at this point if anyone ever tries to explain to me Daredevil's powers, I'm going to punch them and then apologize for it. It was just repeated over and over and over. I know Stan Lee was proud of Daredevil, and he should be. He was a hero that had never been considered before. Still, the supporting story around Daredevil's appearance was weak, the villain was so easy to beat that it had to be seriously padded, and Stan Lee never met anyone that said "Show, don't tell" that he didn't hate with a burning passion. As much as I hate to do it, this issue gets a measly..


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