Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #86. The Black Widow

Amazing Spider-Man #86, Black Widow, John Romita cover
(Cover from July 1970.)


Written by Stan Lee
Art by John Romita and Jim Mooney
Lettering by Sam Rosen

What happens:
After a brief hiatus, the Black Widow's itching to get back into circulation. But first she decides she has to do two things. Because she can't run around naked, she has to make herself a new costume, plus she needs to learn the secrets of Spider-Man's powers and add them to her own. To do that, she decides she needs to fight him.

But Spider-Man has more problems than just her. He's feeling decidedly unwell and can barely put up a fight. The Widow snares him in her webbing and, with him helpless, he looks to be facing his most humbling defeat. He refuses to lose. Summoning the last of his strength, he snaps the Widow's line and then blocks the nozzles of her web-shooters. Deciding she's outmatched by the man, she flees, opting to leave his powers to him.

Back at his apartment, Spider-Man's feeling worse than ever. He takes a sample of his own blood and puts it under the microscope.

But dare he look at what it reveals?

The Verdict:

It's such an obvious idea for Spider-Man to fight the Black Widow that it's amazing no one thought of doing it before. And, at the risk of being sexist, the Widow looks fantastic here, dumping her terrible old costume and replacing it with a sleek, leather outfit presumably inspired by that of Emma Peel from the Avengers. In its design, John Romita demonstrates that simplicity really can be genius. As for the Widow herself, she's so lithe and wasp-waisted that you wonder she doesn't snap in half when she bends over .

As for Peter, he really is an idiot. Feeling terrible - and weak - he decides to swing around town in his Spidey gear to clear his head, totally ignoring the fact that appearing in public as Spider-Man's like roaming around with a target on him. The last thing he needs right now is to be inviting every passing super-villain to attack him. He's lucky it's only the relative benign and under-powered Widow who blunders across him.

Despite Pete's stupidity, this is another of my favourites from this era. Beautifully drawn and beautifully told. Sandwiched between two and three part stories, these one-shots can seem insubstantial and throwaway - his battle with Medusa being an obvious example but this one's more intriguing, probably because it's actually more about the Widow and her rebirth as a character than it is about Spider-Man but also because, unlike the Medusa tale, it has potentially grave consequences for our hero as it confronts us with the all-too real possibility that Spider-Man is losing his powers.

Peter's personal life:

After what happened last issue, Gwen's now convinced that Spider-Man's in the habit of roughing Peter Parker up, mostly because Pete returns from his latest mini-disappearance with a bruised face. Captain Stacy still comes across as knowing more than he should and it's all starting to rattle our hero.

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