Saturday, 7 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #51. The Kingpin

Amazing Spider-Man #51 the Kingpin
(The Kingpin gets his first cover. From August 1967.)

"In The Clutches Of The Kingpin!"

Written by Stan Lee
Drawn by John Romita
Inked by Mickey Demeo
Lettered by Sam Rosen

The Kingpin's in a good mood, though you'd never know it to look at him. The scowl simply never leaves his face. Unlike most of Spider-Man's foes, there really is something genuinely sinister about him. Whether it's the scowl or the bald head, the bulk or the big, fat, black eyebrows, or the combination of all those things, you really do see him as someone who could kill.

Amazing Spider-Man #51, john romita, the Kingpin smashes a model of manhattan with his fist, splash page

After smashing a scale model of Manhattan (does he have scale models of Manhattan built specifically so he can smash them?), the Kingpin declares that, with Spider-Man out of the way, he can at last fulfill his ambition to rule the underworld. His first task is to get his new lackeys to rob a service station. Needless to say, they fail miserably, as Spider-Man appears and gives them the battering they're asking for. In the melee, two crooks known as Big Turk and Shorty escape and the police show up just as Spidey's about to extract info on the Kingpin from one of the defeated hoods.

Meanwhile, the Kingpin's decided that Foswell might be of use to him after all.

One man who won't be of use to him is Big Turk. He and Shorty barge into the Kingpin's office. The Kingpin lied to them. Spider-Man's not out of the way. That does it. Big Turk doesn't work for anyone who lies to him and he's going to finish off the Kingpin. No he's not because the Kingpin flings off his jacket, gives Big Turk a good finger crushing, flings him across the room and the humbled crook's back in line. The Kingpin sends him away, telling him to await his next orders. Foswell's impressed. For a man who seems totally irrelevant to this story, Foswell seems to be getting an awful lot of panel time.

If the Kingpin's happy, J Jonah Jameson's not. Back at The Bugle, he wants news, news about the crime wave, news about Foswell.

In what's presumably meant to be the Silver Spoon (although that doesn't seem to be what it says on the sign), Pete's gang see him zoom past on his motor-bike and Mary Jane's noticed that Gwen fancies our hero, even if Pete and Harry haven't. Who says Mary Jane has a head full of candy floss? Then again, who says she's got a head full of anything? Certainly not Stan Lee. Nine issues since her intro and she still hasn't had a single thought bubble yet. This might not sound significant but it increasingly becomes so.

Peter's got thought bubbles though. He's up to his armpits in them because, with the sort of luck only he seems to have, he's come across a group of suspicious looking characters entering a swanky private club, and his spider-sense is going ten to the dozen. A quick peek in through the window tells him what he suspected. Those men are crooks and they're threatening the manager. Crash, Spidey smashes in through the window and proceeds to bash the crooks around.

But they're nothing if not prepared and one throws a stun grenade at him. The crooks flee before Spidey can fully recover - but not before he can throw a spider tracer at one of them. The grenade, however, has damaged the structure of the building - that's one fragile building - and he saves the club from collapse just long enough for its occupants to escape. And now he's on the trail of the Kingpin.

Amazing Spider-Man #51, john romita, fred foswell looks on as the kingpin holds j jonah jameson prisoner and blindfolded

At The Bugle, Jameson's confronted by armed hoods who take him, blindfolded, to meet their boss who orders him to stop printing his stories about the crime-wave. This is one of those moments where Jameson shows his more admirable side - yes, he does have one - and he refuses to back down. Nobody tells J Jonah Jameson what to publish. This has always been one of the plusses to the strip, that it would've been easy to portray Jameson as a two-dimensional fool, just there for laughs and aggravation but, every so often, we're given a glimpse of something nobler in his character. His willingness to give Foswell a job after his release from jail having been one of those moments.

Amazing Spider-Man #51, john romita, the kingpin and his men react dramatically as spider-man shines his spider-signal into their office to herald his arrival

Spider-Man's outside. A quick look through a window tells him all he needs to know. The Kingpin's got Jameson - and Foswell's back in the land of crime. Spidey lures the bad guys out onto the patio, with his spider signal and quickly disposes of the lesser crooks.

Now for the Kingpin.

Amazing Spider-Man #51, john romita, the kingpin punches spidey in the stomach

But the Kingpin's a tougher foe than expected. He's got bulk and strength all right but, somehow, he's also got speed. Still, Spidey's got the upper hand and he prepares to wrap up the fight.

That's when the Kingpin shows that crooks can't be trusted because he shoots gas from his tie-pin, gas that floors our hero. Foswell's amazed. Jameson's in despair. It's what he always wanted, Spider-Man defeated - but not when he was about to rescue Jameson. Is it the end for Spider-Man? Who can know but it doesn't look good.

The tagline reads, "Next: to die a hero!"

And Spider-Man's the only hero in sight.


Amazing Spider-Man #51, john romita, j jonah jameson watches on as spidey is defeated by the kingpin, is it the end for our hero


Brenton said...

Very well-written review. Thanks.

The Cryptic Critic said...

Thanks. Always nice to feel appreciated. :)


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