Monday, March 3, 2014

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #19

It's that time again, True Believers! Another week and another exciting (hopefully) issue of Spider-Man! Last week, we had a bit of a downer, place-holder issue with Peter spending his whole time moping. This time, however, the cover declares that "Spidey Strikes Back!" and promises appearances by Human Torch, Sandman, and.. well.. The Enforcers. Sigh. Two out of three ain't bad, I guess. Are we going to do better this week and get some great drama and action? There's only one way to find out!

As always, this issue is written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko, with letters by S. Rosen. Nineteen issues in, Stan Lee has a solid grip on Spider-Man, and Steve Ditko continues to innovate with a character that moves in ways no comic hero ever has. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single Spider-Man artist since Steve Ditko have him to thank for every pose they put Spider-Man into. He created all of them, and they still haven't been bested fifty years later.

As always, this issue is written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko, with letters by S. Rosen. Nineteen issues in, Stan Lee has a solid grip on Spider-Man, and Steve Ditko continues to innovate with a character that moves in ways no comic hero ever has. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every single Spider-Man artist since Steve Ditko have him to thank for every pose they put Spider-Man into. He created all of them, and they still haven't been bested fifty years later.

The splash page lets us know that Spider-Man was out of action last issue (as were the readers) but that Spider-Man is now dedicated to fixing his public image and defeating the rumor that he's a chicken! Will Flash be vindicated for his faith in Spider-Man? Will Aunt May manage to pull off yet another illness to continue her control of Peter? Yeah, probably. Heh.

We start the issue with immediate action, Stan Lee making it clear that this is not like last issue. Hoodlums are robbing the Midtown Bank and cheer that they've made it away clean as they are interrupted by the.. sigh.. spider signal. I have not yet properly described my hatred for this hackneyed gimmick, and I probably never will. Just imagine how much I hate this thing, multiply it by ten, and you'll get close. Anyway, despite the crooks remembering that the newspaper has stated that Spider-Man is a coward, our hero flips down in the middle of them and proceeds to dismantle them bit by bit in a great little action scene. You can almost tell that even Steve Ditko is thrilled to show Spider-Man in action once again.

Once they're all knocked out, the street crowd cheers that Spider-Man knocked them all out before the crooks even noticed, but one person in the crowd sneaks off, planning to warn "the boss" about Spider-Man. Who is this mysterious man? Who is the boss? That's a question an entire 80's sitcom wasn't able to answer! Perhaps this comic can, though.

J Jonah Jameson is sitting in a lecture hall, not far away, when a lackey taps him on the shoulder and tells him about Spider-Man courageously taking down the gang of hoodlums, just as the publisher is preparing to give a speech on, "How I Proved That Spider-Man is a Cowardly Fraud." Awwwkward.

 Jameson flees the scene of the speech, punching a wall in frustration as Human Torch flies past and see him, exhausted from a fight he apparently experienced in Strange Tales #127. No, I won't be recapping that one. We'll just assume it was a big fight. Before he can make it home, though, he's caught by an undefeatable.. uhm.. rope lasso.

On a guy that burns. Hot. And he can't defeat a rope. Montana (the rope guy) chuckles to Ox (the strong guy) that Torch must be too tired to do much with his flames, trying to explain why the rope isn't burned, but how much heat does it really take to burn a rope? There are reasons why Stan Lee never taught science. Many, many reasons.

Anyway, Torch tosses off a few fireballs and Fancy Dan (the.. uh.. jumping and karate guy) comes out with a fire extinguisher and takes out Torch, leaving him for the newcomer, Sandman, to sneak up behind Torch and smother him.

Having successfully ambushed one-fourth of the most effective super team in Marvel Comics for some unknown reason, they slap each other on the back and load him into the back of the van. They are interrupted, though, as the random stranger in the crowd from the first page rushes up to Sandman, letting him know that Spider-Man is back in action, having collared Rock Gimpy's entire gang.

Rock. Gimpy. Just sit back and savor that sweet Stan Lee goodness for a moment.


Back at their hideout, they load Torch into a glass cylinder to limit his oxygen access as the rest of The Enforcers hear that Spider-man is back in action. They shrug off the threat, figuring they can deal with it and decide they just need to find out more information on Spider-Man.

You know, because they've only all fought him multiple times. But still, maybe there is some useful information to glean!

As they talk, Spider-Man is swinging across town, still feeling high after taking down the bank robbers and wishing he could have seen Jameson's face when the news got out of his easy victory. He makes his way back to his house, peeking in on Evil Overlord May and feeling relieved that she hasn't developed another crippling illness in the last half hour. Changing clothes, Peter hops into bed and gets a solid night's sleep.

The next morning, Peter heads down for breakfast and finds Evil Overlord May healthy and perfectly capable of controlling every aspect of his life once again. Cheered at being dominated by his cruel aunt, he leaves home with a smile and heads for school.

Before he can get there, though, there is a crowd gathered around Flash complimenting him for always being right about Spider-Man. Flash tries to use this as a chance to get back with Liz Allen, but she shoots him down with a zing and leaves him clutching his bruised, broken heart yet again.
Flash fails to get anywhere, as Liz declares that Flash remains firmly in the dog house, and Peter tries to make nice and offer some supporting words. Rather than appreciating it, Flash calls Peter "Puny Parker" once again and threatens to pound on Peter for a while. Uhm, with fists, not.. you know.. any kind of double entendre. Uhm. Moving on.

Peter regrets that Spider-Man's biggest fan has to see Peter as some kind of lightweight, and that he can't get a better fan than Flash Thompson. After school, Peter is heading down the street when his spider sense tingles and he recognizes Fancy Dan walking down the road. Figuring that he must not be up to anything good, he quickly changes into Spider-Man and follows him until Fancy Dan heads into a building. inside, Spidey follows by clinging to the ceiling, but is spotted by the other crooks and quickly move into action.

Ox throws Fancy Dan at Spider-Man, who gets a good kidney punch in on our hero, knocking him down to the ground. On the floor, Spider-Man recovers quickly but is caught by Montana's lasso, holding him in place as Ox gets in a solid punch. Shaking it off, he enjoys the fight as the hoodlums threaten to take him down. He gets punched again by Ox, but shakes it off quickly once again and gives Montana a solid kick as he sings a little ditty.

OK, yeah, that really did crack me up. Just hilarious. Only Spider-Man would break into song while fighting. Well, until Deadpool is created, anyway.

Anyway, the lookout spots the police approaching and warns all the others to make a break for it before they get arrested. As they clear out, Spider-Man makes his own exit and changes back into Peter Parker. He heads to the Daily Bugle, where he finds his ex-girlfriend, Betty Brant, who is hanging out with another man. The new guy, Ned Leeds, was shown in the previous issue, but I think this is the first time he's been named. I could be wrong. I'm not going to lie, I fell asleep a few times through the last issue. Anyway, he's important. Trust me.

After the awkward meeting between Betty and Peter, our hero does his best to reassure her that everything is okay between them and he's okay with her being with Ned. As he walks off, though, Betty feels a flash of fear that perhaps Peter has found someone else to love. Really, Betty? You need some self-respect, girl!

Anyway, Jameson is storming through the offices of the Daily Bugle, his happiness of the previous issue completely gone as he yells at anyone who gets close enough to him. Unfortunately, Peter happens to be one of those people as he gets chewed out for not having any new photos. Unable to ask if Jameson wants photos of The Enforcers, he decides to go ahead and try to get some anyway.

Back at the hideout, Torch is still trapped in his glass tube, trying to burn enough to get through the glass, but there's not enough oxygen. Every time he tries, he gets close to passing out, since there is only just enough air to breathe.

While he's trapped, Spider-Man is as free as a bird as he swings through the city, heading back to the Daily Bugle to mess with Jameson. The publisher yells at him, threatening that he'll eventually find some way to beat the wall-crawler, and Spider-Man retorts with what is essentially, "I'm shaking in my booties."

Feeling better after screwing with his favorite, flat-topped publisher, he spots one of the thieves that worked with The Enforcers and webs him up to question him. Spider-Man asks them where the hideout of The Enforcers is. The goon quickly flips, telling Spider-Man that they are housed in an old warehouse across from Clancy's Gym. He also mentions that they have the Human Torch there, which gets Spider-Man's attention. He swings off, suspecting that he's heading into a trap as the goon slips down from the wall and calls to warn Sandman that the spider is coming.

Outside the building, Spider-Man's spider-sense goes off like an alarm clock, warning him of danger as he spots look-outs all around the warehouse. He knows there will be trouble, but he has to rescue the Human Torch, so he sneaks past the sentries using every spider-trick in the book until finally he's outside the window of the room housing Torch. He webs up his camera to take pictures and sneaks into the room, figuring he can break the glass without any trouble with his spider strength.

Before he gets a chance, though, Sandman shows himself and surprised the wall-crawler, attacking him as Spider-Man leaps deftly out of the way. Torch yells out a warning, but it's too late as The Enforcers appear from behind and once again catch Spider-Man in a rope (how embarrassing) and Ox clobbers him at the same time as Fancy Dan.

Spider-Man uses his agility to flip out of trouble, though, and warns them that he won't go down easily as he offers a punch to Fancy Dan and Montana, knocking them out of the way. Sandman moves in for a quick power-punch, though, knocking Spidey back. He responds with some webspray over Sandman as Fancy Dan grabs him from behind.

Not feeling the love, Spider-Man tosses Dan off his back and dodges Montana's rope once again (seriously, worst schtick ever) as the goons try to pile up on him. Sandman rolls up behind him as a sand ball and knocks him off his feet, but Spider-Man just does a handstand and avoids two more punches, making it clear that they just aren't a match for a healthy Spider-Man.

He socks Ox in the stomach, followed with a left haymaker which sends the big man flying, only to have to dodge Sandman all over again. Starting to feel winded, Spider-Man dodges the blow and guides himself to crash into the glass tube holding Torch, adding a new player to the mix. Torch promptly eggs Spider-Man for taking so long to free him, and shoots fireballs at the goons.

Realizing they now have two wise-cracking superheroes to fight, the nameless goons lose their enthusiasm and start looking for a way out of the whole mess. Torch lassoes them with a flame wall, though, allowing Spider-Man to web them up helplessly, leaving just the big wigs to take out. The villains focus on Torch, trying to take him down once again while Ox holds onto Spider-Man. This time, Sandman takes the time to mention that Montana has an asbestos lasso, so we can all celebrate that in thirty years he'll be dying of mesothelioma. Poor Montana. He just wanted to be a respected bad guy. He'll be missed.

Spider-Man frees himself from Ox, though, and crashes into The Enforcers, freeing Torch from trouble. A large fire walls herds in Fancy Dan and Montana as Spider-Man clobbers Ox once again, knocking him down for the count.

Sandman is able to make a break for it, though, rushing off and declaring that they'll never catch him. Spider-Man attempts to web Sandman, but Torch gets in the way, leading to both of them getting tangled up in webs together. Spider-Man is prepared to give up and wait for the webbing to dissolve, since it's too strong for him to rip, but Torch just makes his hand go nova and burns right through it.

The heroes are freed from the webbing, but Sandman is long gone, which Spider-Man hates since he turned Spider-Man into a laughing stock last issue. Spidey even references it, leaving Torch to ask what happened to cause Spider-Man to chicken out. Dodging the issue, Spidey runs off to find Sandman and shut him down. As they get close, however, the see two police officers tackling Sandman and arresting the exhausted criminal, who is too tired to be able to fight back. As he is being arrested, the cops celebrate that Spider-Man is back in action and Sandman is just grateful to not have to fight our webslinger and his flame-brain friend once again.

Spider-Man makes his exit, leaving Johnny to explain everything that happened, such as why they captured him in the first place. I guess we're never really going to know why they decided to steal such a dangerous foe away. Maybe they just wanted a new friend? Who knows. At the Daily Bugle, Jameson bemoans Spider-Man being a hero once again, and debates joining the Foreign Legion and getting the heck out of Dodge.

Peter comes along and offers Jameson photos of the fight between Spider-Man and The Enforcers, sending Jameson over the moon with joy that they are sensational. Peter hates giving them to one of Spider-Man's biggest enemies, but money is money, so he sells them and asks Betty if she might like to have a soda with him and celebrate his first day back on the job.

She tells him that she has a date, but they could do it tomorrow. As they make nice between them, Ned Leeds comes up and everyone has nice words for each other. As Peter walks away, though, Betty is upset that Peter wasn't more jealous and wonders if maybe she lost Peter forever.

Peter, she's really needy, man. You're better off without her. Seriously. Elsewhere, the late edition goes on sale and the crowd eats up all the pictures of Spider-Man in action, figuring that the whole thing about Spider-Man being a coward must have been a publicity stunt. At the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four, Torch is questioned about why Spider-Man turned cowardly the month before, but Johnny replies that he has no idea, and that getting information out of Spider-Man is like pulling teeth. Finally, outside Midtown High School, Peter makes his way home and is followed by a mysterious man in a purple suit. The stalker makes a phone call to another mysterious man in a green robe who declares that he wants Peter under surveillance every minute, so that he can know exactly when to act.
Who is this mysterious man? What is he planning for Peter? We're just going to have to wait until the next issue of Spider-Man, with Amazing Spider-Man #20! That's going to be in two weeks, though, since next week we're going to dive into the spectacular Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 with the first appearance of the Sinister Six!! How will Spider-Man manage to survive six of his deadliest enemies at one time? Check back next Monday to find out! Until then, Spider-Man has returned to action and despite the nonsensical inclusion of Human Torch it still nets this issue..


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