Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #64. The Vulture

Amazing Spider-Man #64, the Vulture
(Cover from September 1968.)

"The Vulture's Prey"

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

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how much experience of fighting crime a hero has, he really needs someone to give him a few pointers on the subject. This issue's a case in point. The tale kicks off with Spider-Man perched atop a building, clutching his injured arm, as the Vulture closes in for his deadly attack. Clearly the concept of keeping any weakness a secret from your foes is beyond the tactical might of Spider-Man, and the Vulture immediately picks up on the fact that our hero's injured. Then Spidey picks up on the fact that the Vulture's picked up on the fact that his arm's injured.

Of course he's picked up on it, you muppet! You're clutching it! Argh!

It'd be quite a nice touch if, at this point, the Vulture refuses to fight his arch-nemesis, on the grounds that defeating an injured foe would prove nothing, and flies off to return another day. After all, the reason he wanted everyone to see him beat Blackie Drago in the previous issue was to prove how tough he is.

Needless to say, such consistency is beyond the average super-fiend and, within moments, the pair are fighting. In trouble from the start, Spider-Man entangles the villain's legs with webbing. What with being able to fly, the Vulture's never likely to be deterred by that and flies straight at the Bugle building, aiming to mash Spidey to a pulp by sending him crashing into it.

Fortunately, our hero's tactical sense has improved since the opening panels and he has the sense to let go of the webbing by which the villain's swinging him. Unfortunately, he's landed on a sign which the Vulture promptly launches himself feet first at, sending large chunks of it falling toward the onlooking J Jonah Jameson. Good riddance some might say.

But not Joe "Robbie" Robertson who flings himself at JJ and pushes him aside. With his usual luck, the old blow-hard's fine but Robbie's injured. Jonah, his traditional lack of logic intact, blames Spidey and grabs him from behind to hold him ready for the Vulture's next attack. Spidey flings him aside but makes his arm worse in the process.

The fight resumes and Spidey, unable to hold onto the Vulture any longer, falls to the street below. Just in time, he fires off a load of webbing to create a cushion. But, despite landing on it, he lies still.

Anxious to see if he's finally achieved victory over his nemesis, the Vulture flies down and lands.

And still Spider-Man lies unmoving.

Is this it?

Is he finally dead?

Of course he's not.

The moment the villain gets close enough, our hero grabs him, digging his fingers into the hump on his opponent's back - the hump that contains his wings' power source. With that damaged, the Vulture could be captured, and so, with what power he has left, the winged wrong-doer flies off, leaving Spider-Man to call after him in taunting triumph.

But it's all front. Spidey's taken too much punishment and passes out - as the surrounding crowd close in, suddenly realising they have the chance at last to unmask the man of mystery.

An unusual issue in being basically one, long, twenty page, fight - the only breaks coming from inserts featuring the women in his life. Captain Stacy, recovered from his brainwashing, has finally remembered what happened when Peter Parker "attacked" him and tells Gwen that Peter was only trying to help him. Gwen bursts into tears (she's doing a lot of that these days). Then, making their way along the street, they bump into Betty Brant who tells them what's unfolding on the Bugle roof. Realising that Peter's in danger, Gwen bursts into tears (I said she was doing that a lot).

On a decidely less lachrymose tangent, Mary Jane's had a radical change of image, gaining herself a terrible new hairdo that isn't a patch on her classic style but does at least help to distinguish her more clearly from the previously near-identical Gwen Stacy.

On the art front, it's still a seemingly random patchwork of panels and pages by Romita, Heck and a still-uncredited Mooney. Next issue, that situation at least will start to be resolved.

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