"The Horns Of The Rhino!"
Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by John Romita.
Inked by Mickey Demeo.
Lettered by Artie Simek.
Anyone worried the end of Steve Ditko might see the end of Spider-Man introducing us to cool new villains had nothing to fear as, only two stories into his tenure, John Romita brings us the first classic villain of his era. The Rhino's on the rampage and he's after John Jameson.
But why is he after J Jonah Jameson's astronaut son?
Because, the last time he was in orbit, that astronaut was exposed to space spores. Why this means anyone would want to kidnap him I'm not altogether sure but, apparently, being exposed to space spores makes you unbelievably valuable to enemy nations who'll stop at nothing to get their hands on you. And, just to prove it, one of those nations has hired the Rhino to do just that.
Exactly which enemy nation the Rhino's working for isn't clear. When he first appears, the implication is he's entering USA from Mexico. Does this mean he's working for the Mexican government or has he entered Mexico from somewhere else?
We're not told.
In fact, we're told nothing about the Rhino. We don't know who he is, how he got his power, how he goes to the toilet in that get-up, or even whether his power is his own or down to his costume. Rarely has there been a super-villain so badly explained but somehow it doesn't seem to matter. He looks great and you get the feeling that, given half a chance, he could do our hero some serious harm.
If Romita's first couple of issues on the strip seemed designed to reassure readers that nothing much had changed since Steve Ditko's departure, this issue hits us full in the face with change at every possible opportunity. On the domestic front, Betty Brant's back in town but this is an issue for bringing past eras to an end and starting new ones and so, Lee and Romita bring the curtain down on that chapter of Peter Parker's life by having the reunited Peter and Betty swiftly discover they have nothing to say to each other. It's a nicely drawn scene by Romita who captures their sense of estrangement perfectly.
Back at college, suddenly, Peter's almost getting on with all those characters who he'd previously not got on with. Suddenly, he's horny for Gwen and she's horny for him.
There are more changes afoot as well, as Peter Parker buys a motorbike while Aunt May discusses moving out of the house she shares with him, and in with Anna Watson. And, to cap it all off, as he rides off into the sunset on his brand new motorbike, Peter ponders on his upcoming meeting with Anna Watson's niece and wonders what she'll be like.