Friday, 20 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #58. The Spider-Slayer's back

Amazing Spider-Man #58, J Jonah Jameson and the Spider-Slayer
(Grargh! Jameson smash! Cover from March 1968.)

"To Kill A Spider-Man!"

Written by Stan Lee
Layouts by John Romita
Pencils by Don Heck
Inks by Mickey Demeo
Lettering by Sam Rosen


Argh! We've been lied to. At the end of last issue, we were told in no uncertain terms that Spider-Man was dead. Now, in the first panel of this tale, we're told he's alive, and that only someone with Ka-Zar's jungle-honed senses would be able to detect the spark of life that still resides within him - which would be fine if it hadn't been Ka-Zar and his "jungle-honed" senses that had told us our hero was dead in the first place. Here's a lesson for us all. If you're not feeling well, consult a doctor, not a dinosaur-fighting English lord in a furry loin cloth. Not, of course, that we wanted Spider-Man dead. Let's face it, such news would hardly be good for the comic's future circulation figures. It'd just be nice to know where we stand.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, spider-man regains consciousness and tries to punch ka-zar but now spidey has his memory back

And the fact that Spidey still lives isn't the only good news awaiting us in these pages because, at last, Spider-Man has his memory back. Time for him to return home and start to sort everything out with those who've been wondering where he's been for these last few days.

So, what happens in this one? What happens is that Professor Smythe reappears. For those who arn't familiar with him - or whose memories are as bad as Spider-Man's has been lately - he's the mad scientist who turned up in issue #25 with an infallible robot guaranteed to destroy Spider-Man. It failed of course - as infallible plots to kill super-heroes tend to - but now he's back with a bigger and better robot. And this one can't fail because it can somehow home in on spideryness. Needless to say J Jonah Jameson shows the levels of common sense we all associate with him and happily teams up with Smythe for another round of Spider-bashing.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, j jonah jameson loses his cigar as professor smythe shows him the new improved spider-slayer

There's a problem. Smythe's gone completely mad and is out to not just capture Spidey but kill him. Once the Slayer's found our hero, Smythe rests control of the robot from Jameson and sets about trying to zap Spider-Man into a bloody mess.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, Spider-Man leapfrogs over the spider-slayer as it climbs up a wall

Spidey has to think fast. He has to find Smythe's lab.

Thanks to the phone book, he finds it and heads there. Smythe, watching the whole thing through the robot's viewer, is delighted because Spidey's heading in completely the wrong direction. He and Jameson are at the Daily Bugle, nowhere near Spider-Man's intended destination. Spidey's doomed.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, as spider-man leaps clear, the spider-slayer crushes a phone booth with its bare hands

Or is he?

No he's not because, when he gets there, we soon learn the method to Spidey's madness. He knows the Spider-Slayer's drawn towards Spideryness (how he knows this is anyone's guess as nobody's ever told him it is) and has reasoned that Smythe must therefore have a lab full of spiders for research purposes. Hey presto, the moment the robot gets there, the presence of so many spiders overload its sensors and it blows up. Take that, Spider-Slayer!

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, surrounded by spiders in professor smythe's lab, the spider-slayer explodes

There's just time for a quick reunion with Ka-Zar at the end and yet another tale of drama and intrigue ends happily.

Amazing Spider-Man #58, don heck, john romita, peter parker walks away after a final encounter with ka-zar and zabu in the street

This is the second consecutive tale that's basically a retelling of an earlier story. Were Lee and Romita starting to run out of ideas? It also doesn't feature Mary Jane, which, in my book is rarely a good thing. Fortunately, the next issue redresses both concerns with what is one of my favourite tales of the era and also sees the return of one of Spidey's greatest foes...

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