Saturday, 28 November 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #127. The Vulture - or is it?

Amazing Spider-Man #127, the Vulture and Mary Jane Watson
(Cover from December 1973.)

"The Dark Wings Of Death!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Ross Andru.
Inks by Giacoia and Hunt.
Lettering by Tom Orzechowski.
Colours by Glynis Wein.

Yo ho ho. It's December. Time to get the turkey out and remember old friends. Or at least to get the Vulture out and remember old foes.

Or is it?

There's something different about the Vulture this time round. He's more bird-like than once he was - and seemingly more homicidal. He may have been ruthless in the past but he never seemed the type for the cold-blooded murder of women in the streets.

I have to admit I've always had mixed feelings about this tale. On the one hand, I like the fact that Spider-Man enters Murder She Wrote territory with what's basically a whodunnit. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure he's ever done that before and it's a nice precursor to Conway's subsequent career in television.

But what seems all wrong is the portrayal of Mary Jane as a woman cowering in her apartment, refusing to go to the police because she's too scared. This is a woman who's encountered numerous threats in her time in the strip and seemed fazed by none of it. Suddenly, she's a cowering, trembling wreck. Having got rid of Gwen Stacy, Conway seems here to be writing MJ as though she were the late departed blonde. Much as I like his era on the title, it has to be said there are times when the behaviour of his cast seems to be more dependent on the needs of the story than on their own inherent character.

Then again, the depiction of our hero's a little odd too. Knowing that Mary Jane's on the Vulture's hit list, after losing track of him you'd expect the wall-crawler to head straight back to her apartment and make sure the villain doesn't get her. Instead he goes over to see the Human Torch, to have a laugh and a joke working on the Spider-Mobile. Oi! Parker! Your new squeeze could be getting murdered while you do that, you plank!

For that matter, the Vulture's also acting a little oddly. Escaping from a police net and blinded by Spider-Man's webbing, he grabs our hero, thinking he's grabbing the woman he came to ESU to get. Why? Why did he think Spidey was this mysterious Christine woman when she was nowhere in sight only seconds earlier?

One person acting in character is Harry Osborn - well, in the character he's recently become. His descent into madness and evil continues apace and that for, some of us, is a more than welcome sight.

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