Monday, 16 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #57. Ka-Zar and Zabu

Amazing Spider-man #57, vs Ka-Zar and Zabu
(Let's face it, jackpot; you just hit the tiger. Cover from February 1968.)

"The Coming Of Ka-Zar!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Layouts by John Romita.
Pencilled by Don Heck.
Inked by Mickey Demeo.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.


So, after over a year of John Romita, the strip gets a new penciller. It's not a complete break because Romita's still doing the layouts but the actual pencilling's being done by Don Heck. Heck was an odd artist. Some of his work - such as his art on the early Iron Man tales - could be surprisingly pleasing to the eye but other work by him could be actively painful to behold. A lot depended on his inkers and whether they had the sense to ignore his tendency to randomly place dead black areas on his drawings. His work on Spider-Man is somewhere between the two. Not his best but a long way from his worst and is certainly helped by Romita's simple but elegant layouts, especially Romita's tendency to concentrate on the characters' faces wherever possible.

At the tale's launch, we find Spider-Man still without a clue who he really is and feeling hungry. He snatches a sandwich from a rooftop party and heads off to find a place to sleep. He finds it, on a ledge at the nearest railway station.

Meanwhile, as our hero settles down for a good night's sleep, Aunt May finds that sleep eludes her. Concerned for her missing nephew, she drags herself from her bed - you've guessed it - just long enough to have one of her attacks.

In a heated meeting, questions are being asked, Various VIPs are demanding to know why John Jameson let Spider-Man go when he had a chance to capture him. Jameson points out that his orders were to retrieve the nullifier, not to arrest Spider-Man. Captain Stacy defends him but someone not in the mood to defend him is Jameson's own father who's still hell-bent on getting Spidey. Suddenly, things start to become a repeat of issue #15 where JJ recruited Kraven the Hunter to catch Spider-Man. This time, he has the sense to recruit a hero, Ka-Zar who's just arrived in town with his sabre-toothed tiger Zabu. Apparently, the jungle lord has business in the city. Jameson doesn't care about that. He just wants Ka-Zar to bash up Spidey. Ka-Zar, being a man of judgement, doesn't like the cut of Jameson's jib but agrees to listen to him regardless.

Meanwhile, Harry's still fretting about Peter's disappearance. He decides to check in the missing student's room and, on a cupboard floor, finds one of Spider-Man's spider-tracers. It can only mean one thing.

Spider-Man has kidnapped Peter Parker.

Waking from his slumbers, Spidey hears a report on a nearby radio that claims he's kidnapped someone called Peter Parker. It also claims that the only person to have spoken up in Spider-Man's defence is John Jameson. With Jameson as his only defender, Spidey decides that he should go and see the man. He finds him at police HQ, with Captain Stacy. He tells them he's lost his memory.

But, just as he's getting somewhere, Gwen walks in. Sadly, after the highs of recent issues, Gwen's now reduced to standard super-hero girlfriend mode - a mode she'll never really escape from now on - and tearfully demands to know what he's done with Peter, while futilely pummelling Spidey with her fists. Clearly this is getting him nowhere and Spidey takes off, leaving those present to wonder just what he might do in his current state.

Another concerned about what Spider-Man might do is Ka-Zar. Convinced by the tale Jameson Senior's just spun him, the lord of the savage land sets off to find him.

He's not the only one because Spidey's out to find Spidey. He reasons that maybe he can find out more about himself by visiting the offices of a newspaper. So, he drops in on The Daily Bugle, where JJ's delighted to discover he's lost his memory. The jackalesque publisher uses this knowledge to try and trick Spider-Man into removing his mask.

And it's about to work!

That's when Ka-Zar smashes in through the window. Jameson's less than pleased. He was on the verge of discovering Spidey's secret identity. Ka-Zar's not intersted in all that. All he cares about is that Spider-Man's trying to escape. So, Ka-Zar goes after him and the mandatory slug-fest breaks out, culminating in Central Park where Spidey decks Ka-Zar with one punch.

Sadly, he's in no position to enjoy his victory because that's when Zabu arrives and, looking to defend his master, leaps at Spider-Man. Man and sabre-tooth land in the water...

...but only the big cat emerges.

Recovered from the knock-out blow, Ka-Zar leaps into the water to search for the missing. And, emerging from the water with his foe's limp body, the lord of the jungle declares that Spider-Man is dead.

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