Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #116. The Smasher

Amazing Spider-Man #116, the Smasher
(Cover from January 1973.)

“Suddenly… The Smasher!”

Words by Stan Lee/Gerry Conway.
Pencils by John Romita.
Inks by Jim Mooney.

Well, knock me down with a kipper. If it isn’t Stan (the Man) Lee, back in the writer’s chair and ready to thrill us all with his latest tale.

Well, not really. If my understanding’s right, this is a story devised for the original, short-lived Spectacular Spider-Man comic, way back in the 1960s, dusted off and redone for this era.

And it shows. The whole thing feels like a tale from six or seven years earlier and, as such, it’s oddly pleasing. You almost expect Peter Parker to drop into the Coffee Bean for a quick round of quick-fire banter with Flash and the gang. Sadly, it never happens.

The tale itself is oddly familiar, with strong echoes of the Bullitt storyline (whole city eager to vote for a politician who’s vowing to smash the crime wave. JJ flinging The Daily Bugle’s weight behind his campaign. Joe Robertson being suspicious about him), and Romita tips his hand way too early by letting us know from Moment One that Richard Raleigh’s a ranting basket case. It would’ve been more effective to leave us thinking he was the real deal. Instead, we’re left in no doubt that he’s going to turn out to be the villain of the piece and that, therefore, he’s the man behind The Smasher.

The Smasher, what can you say about him? Somehow, the name alone lets you know he’s not destined to go down as one of Marvel’s great villains and I know from trying - and failing - to sell these issues on eBay, how little interest in them there is. They’re pretty much the only issues from the early 70s that are next to impossible to shift.

Mary Jane’s into politics? Really?

On other fronts, yet again Peter Parker shows his tendency to defy all logic. He spots that the ceiling’s supporting beam is going, so he makes his excuses, slips away, wrecks the lights and leaps up onto the ceiling to fix it with his webbing - which isn’t strong enough - when he could just have shouted to people to evacuate the hall.

And now, because of it we’re all going to have to endure a cliff-hanger ending of unbelievable tension and drama.

Oh Peter, will you never learn?

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