Friday, 11 December 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #139. The Grizzly

Amazing Spider-Man #139, first ever appearance of the Grizzly
(Cover from December 1974.)

"Day of the Grizzly!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Ross Andru.
Inks by Giacoia and Hunt.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by Jan Brunner.


A low-budget TV show tells me, every Saturday, that animals do the funniest things. It's a shame no one's ever told the people at Marvel, where animals just seem to want to kill Spider-Man. Over the years we've had the Rhino, Dr Octopus, the Beetle, the Kangaroo, the Lizard, the Vulture, the Chameleon and pretty much everyone but the Hamster. And now, we get the latest addition to our menacing menagerie. We get the Grizzly.

But everything in its order. Before a man can fight, he must first find a home. After one issue living with Flash, Peter Parker lands himself yet another apartment. How he finds it's something of a mystery. Early on, we're told Liz Allen's found it for him but, when he catches up with her, she's just in the act of buying the newspaper which contains the ad.

That aside, it's an oddly straightforward tale whose lack of twists and turns makes it feel nothing like its twenty pages in length. Such simplicity might leave some feeling they're not getting their money's worth. But, you know what? I like it for that. There must be something about me. I like the previous issue for being straightforward in its plotting and I like this one too. I sometimes get the feeling that, if there were a story where all Peter Parker did was walk from one end of the room to the other, it'd be my favourite tale of all time.

But, of course, this is The Amazing Spider-Man and so something happens. The Grizzly happens.

In truth, he's not that new. He's basically the Rhino in everything but name. And, if the Rhino comes to mind for us, we're clearly not alone as Spidey complains that a blow that's had no effect on him would have dropped the aforementioned rogue. It poses the obvious question of why Gerry Conway didn't just bring back the Rhino but the answer becomes clear later in the tale when we find out he's a mere lackey for another villain - and the Rhino was always too obdurate to settle for being anyone's lackey.

On the pictures front, there's two stand-out moments for me. There's a nice panel where J Jonah Jameson opens the office door to see the Grizzly looming over him and promptly slams it shut again. It's the sort of character based tongue-in-cheek scene that Andru was so good at. There's also a lovely panel where Spidey, in pursuit of his ursine foe, swings past the Chrysler Building.

In truth, my one complaint about this issue would be that, towards its conclusion, Peter Parker gets knocked out way too easily. I mean, despite knowing it's a trap, he just stands there while the Jackal - who must be in full view to do it - hits him in the stomach. Oh, Peter, will you never learn? Clearly not. Not as long as the plot demands that he doesn't.

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