Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #18

 It's the eighteenth edition of Every Amazing Spider-Man Reviewed, our weekly Monday feature. It's hard to believe I've done over four months of these, and I still haven't even reached issue 20.. out of 700. 700. I'll have to throw a party in a year or so when I hit issue 70, just for being a tenth of the way there! I just hope to get this project done before I die, no matter how many websites I have to transfer it to in the meantime. I should know a bit about Spider-Man before it's all over, too!

 This week, we have the return of Sandman, as well as a direct continuation of the last issue, which featured Human Torch and Spider-Man fighting against the evil Green Goblin. Over-hearing that his Aunt had suffered another heart attack, Spider-Man fled the battle, making everything see him as a total coward.
 We open there, with J. Jonah Jameson grinning bigger than life as he gloats that Spider-Man has finally been revealed for what he is.. a yellow-bellied chicken! A heel! A grade-A jerk! The credibility of his Daily Bugle is finally proven!
 From there, we have a really nice series of shots of different people talking about Spider-Man being a coward. Green Goblin gloats as being the first one to make Spider-Man run away "like a whipped dog," Dr. Octopus regrets that he wasn't the one to defeat him, Kraven is just glad that Spider-Man is still  alive to hunt, and the Vulture is apparently on a random mountain top somewhere and wonders how Green Goblin accomplished something Vulture couldn't (hint, he's not 85 years old). On the heroic side, the Fantastic Four wonder why Human Torch looks down, and he states that he used to respect Spider-Man until he watched him run away, the Avengers bemoan that he makes all the costumed heroes look bad, and Daredevil (who can't resist mentioning his super-sharp senses sigh) wonders how he could have been wrong in thinking that Spider-Man was a valiant fighter. The people on the street don't even defend Spider-Man, giving up on him as Jameson enjoys his time in the sun.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker is busy dealing with Evil Overlord May, who is having him push her around in her wheelchair, after yet another mysteriously unnamed operation. Anna Watkins comes over to take care of May so that Peter can go to school, where he spends most of his day fretting over how little money they have, especially with all of the medicine she's gulping down now.

After school, Peter dashes off to get back home and make sure his Evil Overlord is safe, fearing what life would be like if he made his own decisions. He finds Anna and May sitting and enjoying a cup of tea, and Peter steps out as soon as he can to try and make some more cash.

As he heads to the Daily Bugle, the only person defending Spider-Man's honor is Flash Thompson, who refuses to give up on his idol, believing there had to be a good reason. Liz is concerned about Peter in the meantime, asking about his aunt. He tells her that she's doing a bit better, and remarking that Flash is really loyal to Spider-Man (wink wink). She then invites Peter to a Peter Sellers movie, which he politely declines, later thinking that Liz is alright, but he prefers Betty - although his only focus right now has to be money.

That afternoon, Spider-Man swings over to the Ace Picture Co. Peeking through the window, he asks them if they are the ones that make trading cards. What cracks me up is that they are obviously many stories up, and someone is asking them a question through a window, and the guy's first response is, "Yeah, who wants to know?"

 I think too many people are asking questions through the windows of high rises in New York. Just a suspicion.

 Climbing through the window and lounging on a wall, he asks them how much money they would offer to be able to make trading cards of him. The guy quickly responds that they aren't interested, much to Spider-Man's surprise. After demonstrating some of his abilities, he's only rewarded with a face full of smoke as he's told that he's washed up, and that they couldn't even give cards of Spider-Man away.

Dejected, he leaves the office of the card company and spots a gang of hoodlums on a roof. He is about to bust up the gang before he remembers his sickly Evil Overlord and decides he can't risk it. If anything happened to him, there would be no one to care for May, so instead he allows the jewel thieves to go free as he swings to a telephone booth to report the crime to the police. Changing clothes, he races home only to find May's doctor there.

House calls! Man, this was a long time ago!

Anyway, he's naturally concerned to find the doctor there and asks if everything is okay. The doctor says he was just passing by and decided to drop in, and that Evil Overlord May seems to be holding her own against her illness. Reminding Peter to keep giving his aunt the expensive medicine that will sink the family into irrevocable debt, he heads off as May greets Peter, welcoming him back to the prison of a home that she provides for him.

The action packed issue continues (yawn) as Peter turns on the TV for his aunt. Thrill as he gets out of a chair! Marvel as he turns a knob! I'm trying very hard to make this interesting, but something has got to happen at some point in this comic.

He calls Betty to see if she is still mad at him, but she just hangs up on him, complaining about how he could dare call her after how he treated her (she thinks he went to the Spider-Man Fan Club meeting with Liz.. see last issue), and Jameson wonders where Peter has been keeping himself, since he hadn't seen the boy in a while. Betty tells him about Peter's aunt, and he decides to get a get well card for the aunt, although he states that if you don't seal the envelope it can be sent for a penny cheaper. (Is that really a thing, or just a way to get something stolen? Pretty sure it's the latter) He cozies up to some of his employees after that, smiling and grinning, and utterly creeping them all out. It's a nice moment, as they all wish he would go back to being grumpy. One compares him to a tiger that just made a kill, and Steve Ditko obviously has a lot of fun with drawing Jameson's face.
 Back in Queens, Peter sits by May's bed, worrying and feeling lonely, and tries to call Betty again. She doesn't answer, however, hiding in her apartment and putting hands over her ears, resisting the urge to make up with the kid. Rejected yet again, Peter slumps into a chair, continuing the action packed events of this issue. He remembers his most recent fight with Sandman (in Annual #1 which will be reviewed very soon and features the very first Sinister Six), the time that Kraven hunted him, the special moment shared between Spider-Man and Vulture as he almost fell to his death, and Dr. Octopus trying desperately to hug him with his deadly arms.

Of course, Stan Lee decides that's more than enough of action and cuts back to Peter looking forlornly at his Spider mask, thinking about all of the close calls he's had and how dangerously he's been living his life. Turning off the television in disgust after it reports that Jameson is winning the good citizenship medal for writing against Spider-Man, he decides the first thing he has to do is make things right with Betty.

Finding her outside the Daily Bugle (I am trying to pretend he wasn't stalking her) she tells him that it's too late and there isn't anything more to discuss. She rushes off before he has a chance to say anything, stating that since he went to the fan club with Liz Allen she no longer has any use for him.

Thinking that he can't exactly tell Betty that he had to do all of that because he's Spider-Man, he's interrupted by Jameson driving up in his limo, greeting him in his new, creepy, cheerful manner. He thanks Jameson for the get well card as Betty looks from somewhere above, wondering why she had to fall for Peter Parker, and why she still feels for him.

 That afternoon, Peter finally has another idea for making money and changes back into Spider-Man. He ends up in a laboratory, and offers to sell them his spider webbing. He demonstrates the way it can support a massive piece of metal with just a single strand, but just as they are sold the webbing breaks and the metal comes crashing to the floor. Horrified at this failure, they reject him after finding out it was designed to break up after a certain amount of time so his enemies wouldn't be webbed up forever. They tell him they might be interested in a permanent version, but until then they have nothing to discuss with him.

As he webs away, frustrated, he gets stopped by Sandman, saying that he's been waiting for a chance to clean the street with Spider-Man. Still afraid of getting hurt or killed and no longer being able to care for May, he dodges Sandman's attack and runs away as Sandman calls him a coward once again. Frustrated, he continues to try and escape as everyone on the street sees him fleeing once again, taking it as more proof that Spider-Man is scared of everything.

Sandman eggs him on as the street crowd heckle him, until finally Spider-Man can duck into an alley and hide under some old boards until Sandman walks past him. Changing quickly into Peter Parker once again, Sandman looks into the alley and asks the changed Peter if he's seen "spineless" Spider-Man anywhere, which naturally he says he hasn't.
 Peter makes it home, finding May there by herself. He sees that they are almost out of medicine once again, and Evil Overlord May once again mentions that it's a shame about Anna Watkin's niece Mary Jane being out of town, since then Peter and her could go out.

Jameson continues to ham up his victory against Spider-Man, showing clips of Spider-Man running away from Sandman as the heroes and villains look on in surprise and Peter broods that there's nothing he can do about his reputation as long as May is sick.

Jameson shows the clip again in slow motion, and that pushes Johnny Storm (Human Torch) of the Fantastic Four over the edge, frying the television cord and turning it off. The Thing (Ben Grimm) mocks Johnny for thinking that there must be more to the story of Spider-Man being a coward, but Johnny states that he's very serious and wonders why someone who has risked his life a dozen times over would suddenly become a total coward. Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) agrees with Johnny, and that's all he needs to "Flame On" and turn into the Human Torch, flying out to try and find Spider-Man as the remaining three of the Fantastic Four watch, wondering what he is planning.

Peter sees the flaming message in the sky, "Spider-Man Meet Me At Our Last Meeting Place..," but doesn't dare leave his Evil Overlord alone again, so Torch ends up sitting on top of the Statue of Liberty alone, wondering why Spider-Man never showed up. Worried that something really has changed with Spider-Man, he sits alone as the sun sets behind him.

 At Peter's school the next day, Flash is still attempting to defend Spider-Man despite the mounting evidence, and several other school kids make fun of him for it. His emotions are bolstered a bit by Flash's dedication, but that night Liz rushes over to Peter's house, saying that Flash is going to prove Spider-Man is brave by dressing up like him and walk through the streets, thinking that the real Spider-Man will rescue him if something goes wrong.

Almost immediately, Flash does get in trouble as he comes across three hoodlums stealing a car. He tries to bluff them, but they attack instead and make short work of him, pounding him mercilessly. Peter closes in, wanting to help out, and the police rush in as well seeing three people beating up someone. They cuff the car thieves and approach Flash as he takes off his mask, wondering if Spider-Man had shown up to save him. Disappointed that Spider-Man wasn't there for him, he gets a ride home from the police as they recommend he never, ever do this again. Peter hears all of it from the corner of a building, glad that he didn't have to give up his secret identity and that Flash was okay.

Back at school, Peter sees Flash and asks if he could talk to him for a moment. Instead, Flash lashes out at him and storms off, leaving Liz to tell Peter that he should stay away from Flash for a while until he cools off. Peter says that avoiding Flash is something he's got a lot of practice doing, and walks off wondering once again how he can get the money for more medicine for his aunt.  On his way down the street, though, he sees Betty leaving a movie with another guy on her arm looking happy.
 Thoroughly kicked, Peter slinks off down the street, admitting that he's lost Betty and won't be with her again and realizing that all of his problems are due to being Spider-Man. Arriving back home, he strips off his Spider-Man costume and tosses it into a bag, deciding to give up "this Spider-Man jazz." Oh, that sweet sixties jive! He crumples up the bag and tosses it into a garbage can, deciding that no one was going to miss the hero.

The next morning, he heads downstairs and finds that May is walking around, testing her legs. He tries to get her to sit back down in her chair, but she verbally blasts him with her Evil Overlord powers, shutting him up. She tells him that she might be old, but she's not a quitter.

As she lectures him, the doctor shows up and says that May sounds a lot more chipper, and that she won't have to take any more medicine. Peter is thrilled, remembering that they had just used the last of what they had. The doctor checks out May one more time and says that she's getting a lot better, and that she doesn't need someone sitting with her all the time anymore.

Feeling better now that May is improving, he reads another headline in the Daily Bugle talking about Spider-Man, saying that he's the biggest phony since the Cardiff Giant. (Who says comics aren't educational!) Deciding that May's message was right and that he shouldn't be a quitter, he puts down the paper determined to mend his ways. He digs the costume out of the trash, declares that Jameson will be eating his words about Spider-Man, and changes back into the red and blue, striking a pose and promising that he's going to embrace his destiny, and his identity as Spider-Man.
And that wraps up another week. After a great issue last week, we end up with... this. There's not much in the way of action, a whole lot of repetition, and more art where Steve Ditko seems to be a bit bored with the whole thing. His work is still good, but it's not inspired. The blurb at the end of the last page even acknowledges that there wasn't a single fight in the entire issue. I'm okay with there not being a fight, but the story of Aunt May being sick has been done already, and better, and it really just felt more that the issue was going through the paces more than anything. Next week, things should pick up with a newly determined Spider-Man out to clean up his reputation and take on Sandman and (sigh) The Enforcers with another guest appearance from Human Torch!

So, check back next week for more excitement. All that's left for now is to give this a Spider Rating. It's not a tough call, considering how disappointed I was. I have to give this issue..


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