"Never Step On A Scorpion!"
Script by Stan Lee.
Plotted, drawn and inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.
Qualifications, they always reckon a man's nothing without them, which does make you wonder exactly what qualifications you need to work in New York's penal system.
Seemingly none whatsoever as the local prison authorities are at it again. The people who'd later let the Tarantula create a new pair of deadly shoes and the Shocker create his vibro-equipment in their workshops show their genius here by giving the captive Scorpion his costume and tail back, in order to cheer him up a bit. And what a surprise, upon being given them, he promptly uses them to escape.
On the face of it, while this might be bad news for the jewellers of New York city - not to mention Spider-Man and the Scorpion's creator J Jonah Jameson - this should be great news for the reader. On his last appearance Mac Gargan's alter-ego, more than any other super-villain, displayed the credentials to be Spider-Man's number one nemesis, twice defeating him with ease in one issue.
Trouble is, that was Ditko's stint at its peak and we're now on the downhill slide, where, all semblance of plotting and ingenuity are out the window and the tales have a wearyingly linear quality, so the Scorpion shows up, Spider-Man fights him, Spider-Man beats him and it's all over.
It's as simple as that, with no twists, no turns, no surprises and no rugs pulled out from beneath our hero's sticky feet. This time Spider-Man wraps it all up by squirting the Scorpion with webbing, just like he beat the Molten Man last issue by squirting him with webbing. The fact that it's previously been established that the Scorpion's pincers can cut through Spider-Man's webbing, making it useless against him, is completely ignored. The story's running out of pages and so Spider-Man (and Ditko) ends it.
There's some nice action sequences in this tale and it's pleasing to see the Daily Bugle's J Jonah Jameson get so much of the issue devoted to him and his cowardly, opportunistic scheming as he seeks to trick Spider-Man into fighting on his behalf and then, when the fighting's over, take all the credit for the villain's capture but you can't get away from the fact that it's another disappointing outing, with none of the Scorpion's original menace even being hinted at here. It's back to the increasingly used idea of Spider-Man being a fun romp rather than a life or death battle.
Meanwhile, on domestic matters, Ned Leeds is back and spending far too much time with Betty Brant for Peter Parker's liking and, ooh dear, Aunt May's back to having her turns again.