Friday, 13 November 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #112. Spidey cops out

Amazing Spider-Man #112
(I'd heard the crime rate in New York was high but...
Cover from September 1972.)

"Spidey Cops Out!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Art by John Romita.
Lettering by Artie Simek.

It's surprising how an issue can be made by just four panels. In the case of The Amazing Spider-Man #112, it just so happens to be the last four panels.

John Romita's claimed in the past that every time he inked Gil Kane, he learned something new from him. And it shows here. The three vertical panels of the penultimate page are pure Gil Kane both conceptually and in execution, and the panel-by-panel arrival of the villain's shadow - a thing you only fully appreciate on close inspection - is sheer genius.

As for the final - and mightiest - panel of them all, the sense of menace, danger and anticipation Romita creates is irresistible, Just look at the way Octopus smashes bricks from the surrounding walls, the way one tentacle heads for Spidey, its ruthless claw packed with intent, the sense of space and height and of Spider-Man's smallness relative to his surroundings. Kane in many ways rehabilitated Octopus and now Romita carries that on.

As for the rest of the tale, on first glance it's just a rehash of issue #50, with Peter Parker deciding he can't be bothered fighting crooks anymore because of its affect on his personal life and those around him. But Conway and Romita bring a new element to the tale. It's not that Peter Parker wants to give up being Spider-Man but that, for once, he's determined to use the identity to get what he wants. This concentration on the needs and life of Peter Parker strengthens the story considerably. Stan Lee always talks of Spider-Man as a soap, and this issue's focus on Peter's interactions with those around him fulfils that claim. At times (especially the Daily Bugle scenes), it really does feel like you're watching an episode of a TV show - which I suppose is inevitable given Gerry Conway's later career path.

And of Conway himself? Interesting that, in the credits, he still has second billing to Romita. It seems he yet has some way to go before he convinces the powers-that-be that his name too can sell a comic.

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