Monday, 13 April 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #63. The two Vultures

Amazing Spider-Man #63, the two Vultures
(Cover from August 1968)

"Wings In The Night!"

Written by Stan Lee
Art by John Romita and Don Heck (officially)
Inking by Mickey Demeo
Lettering by Sam Rosen


Just in case anyone was in danger of forgetting how good a visual story-teller John Romita is, he kicks off the story with a classic of a splash page, all packed with menace and mood, as the original Vulture perches on a rooftop, gazing sullenly down at the rain-soaked city, for all the world like a malevolent gargoyle.

That's right, fifteen issues after dying, the original Vulture's back. It seemed a perverse, and frankly disrespectful, decision to kill him in the first place and it seems Lee and Romita have come to the same conclusion.

It's also clear, from the first few panels, that Romita's back too. OK, so he's never really been away but, for most of the last few issues, he's been happy to just do the layouts and the odd face, leaving the rest to Don Heck. However, right from the start of this tale, he's clearly far more involved, contributing strings of panels, in alternation with Heck.

They're not alone on this artistic roundabout because, as the story progresses, it's clear that Jim Mooney's contributing panels too and, in one or two cases, entire pages. For some reason Mooney isn't credited but, for long-time Supergirl fans, his style, especially when it comes to the way he does eyes, is impossible to miss.

As for the story, we're told, in flashback, that when he realised Blackie Drago'd done the dirty on him, the original Vulture was so fired up by lust for vengeance that he made a miracle recovery, climbed from his hospital bed, knocked out his guard, put on the fallen man's uniform and left the prison by pretending to be part of the search for Drago. Once away, he licked his wounds, built himself a new pair of wings and, when he was ready, returned as the Vulture. Blimey, maybe they should hand out "thirst-for-revenge" tablets on the NHS if a need for vengeance can cure a dying man so completely.

You might think that after this unlikely recovery the Vulture would be a happy man.

Not at all. He's not happy that people might think Blackie Drago's a better vulture than him and so, after liberating a spare pair of his wings from the city museum, he liberates Drago from the local jail.

Drago, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, thinks he's rescued him so they can team up. Er, that's right, Blackie, the last time you saw him, you told him, while laughing, that you were the one responsible for the fatal "accident" that had left him at death's door and that it was all a plot by you to steal his wings and identity. Of course he wants to team up with you.

In fact, the original Vulture plans to fight him in the skies above New York so that everyone can see his total defeat and recognise the original as the real deal.

That all cleared up, they start to fight, just as Peter Parker's approaching The Daily Bugle building. Earlier in the story, thanks to his webbing not sticking to a building in the torrential downpour, Peter hurt his arm and is in no mood to take on two Vultures at the same time. He leaves them to their fight, happy to stand on the Bugle rooftop with J Jonah Jameson and take snaps of the scrap.

But of course, he hasn't counted on the old Peter Parker luck, because there's a child on a nearby rooftop - a child who, thanks to the fighting, finds himself hanging from a crumbling roof edge.

That's it, our hero can stand idle no longer. Doing a disappearing act when Jameson's not looking, Pete changes into his Spider-Man guise and goes to the rescue. The sight of his old nemesis prompts the real Vulture to get the fight over with quickly, and Drago falls to a rooftop declaring that he knows when he's beat. He reckons that no one could beat the Vulture.

Really? Does that include Spider-Man?

Well, normally, Spidey can beat the Vulture - he's done it enough times in the past to prove that.

There's only one problem.

That injured arm.

After carrying the boy to safety, he can no longer move it, which means, as the issue draws to a close, that he's going to have to face one of New York's deadliest menaces, with just one arm.

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