"The Molten Man Regrets...!"
Scripted by Stan Lee.
Plotted, drawn and inked by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Artie Simek.
This story's rubbish but it has great sound effects. In fact, pages 11 and 12 are virtually all sound effects as Stan Lee (I assume it was he who wrote them) reaches into his full repertoire of noises. My favourite has to be Spwat! a word that's probably never featured before or since in the long annals of literary history.
Frankly, this issue needs all the sound effects it can get to keep us interested because the story quickly degenerates into yet another Steve Ditko slug-fest. Mark Raxton, the Molten Man, is out of jail, having been released from custody with a suspended sentence. So, it's time for that all-important question. Has he learned his lesson?
Of course he hasn't. No sooner is he out of jail than Raxton almost immediately sets out to rob a jeweller's store.
But, wouldn't you just know it? Spider-Man turns up and thwarts him. Cue protracted punch-up.
This time, for once, Steve Ditko doesn't end the fight with Spider-Man simply knocking out his opponent. This time he does it by tying the Molten Man up with a rope. Under normal circumstances, such a change of methodology'd be welcome.
Except for the fact it's exactly the same method by which Spider-Man beat Raxton last time round.
You can't get away from it, by this stage in Ditko's tenure, the strip was running out of steam badly. Ditko might have been handy with a pencil and brush but, when it came to plots, the sad truth is he was no Stan Lee.
Ditko's artwork looks slightly different in this issue. Because I'm not too bright, it took me a while to figure out why. At first I thought he was using bigger panels but there's the same standard six or so to each page that we're used to from him. However, comparing this tale directly to last month's issue, it quickly becomes clear there's noticeably less black in it than we're used to. I don't know if this was a conscious choice on Ditko's part or if he was simply using new pens/brushes and it affected his style. Either way it's an appealing change of visual direction and, with an eerie propheticism, almost drifting towards the look of John Romita Sr in places.