Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #134. The Tarantula makes his debut

Amazing Spider-Man #134, Tarantula, first appearance, attacks Spider-Man on a boat
(Cover from July 1974.)

"Danger Is A Man Named... Tarantula!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Ross Adnru.
Inks by Giacoia and Hunt.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by L Lessmann.

Mayors. They don't build 'em tough in New York - at least not in the world of comicdom.

Where most politicians would refuse to deal with kidnappers; here, the city's chief seemingly can't wait to get the Tarantula and his men the money they want. Suddenly, I see why Spider-Man's home town's crawling with more criminals than you can shake a fist at. With jellyfish like that in charge, it must seem like paradise to them.

Still, not to worry. If our politicians won't save us from low-life, there's always the Punisher.

That's right. After an absence of just four issues, Frank Castle is back - and just as stupid and blinkered as always. It's interesting that, at this stage, he's still being billed as a villain, on the cover.

As for the official rogue of the piece, I've always had a soft spot for the Tarantula. In retrospect, it seems astonishing that it took so long into his career before anyone came up with an evil counterpart to Spidey - especially one called Tarantula but it seems that, sometimes, even the obvious can elude everyone.

So, now that he's here, is this brand new villain actually any good?

It depends what you mean by good. I mean, OK, there's no denying that, compared to Spider-Man, he's distinctly second rate, devoid of super-powers and, when you get down to it, little more than a New World version of Batroc the Leaper (or should I say Batroc ze Leepair?). And it's disappointing that what should be Spidey's new arch-nemesis is so easily disposed of. Basically, one punch and it's all over. You can't help feeling that Conway, Andru and Marvel Comics completely threw away a golden chance to create an all-time great villain here.

But, whatever his physical failings, there's an appealing nastiness about him and he has a cool costume. Plus, the venom in his shoes is clearly unbelievably strong because, at one point, it even manages to make the spider emblem disappear from our hero's chest. Man, that's mighty stuff.

On the supporting character front, nice to see Liz Allen completely unbothered by last issue's death of her half-brother. You know? The half-brother whose welfare she was so concerned about? Please, Miss, Gerry Conway's ignoring characterisation again.

Also nice to see Mary Jane back to being flippant in the face of danger. Although, the way Ross Andru draws her when she declares that the boat must be being hi-jacked does make her seem somewhat demented - and, frankly, a bit frightening.

Flash Thompson, after all these years, is finally starting to suspect that Peter Parker's really Spider-Man.

Harry Osborn, after all these years, finally knows that Peter Parker's Spider-Man.

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