Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #135. The Punisher and the Tarantula

Amazing Spider-Man #135, the Tarantula and the Punisher
(Cover from August 1974.)

"Shoot-Out In Central Park!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Ross Andru.
Inks by Frank Giacoia.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by L Lessmann.

There aren't many Spider-Man stories I despise.

This is one of them.

Don't get me wrong. It's perfectly well written and Ross Andru's art is as good as - if not better than - ever. The problem's down to one man.

The Punisher.

Having brought him back at the climax of last issue, the tale adopts a pattern that would become familiar, with the Punisher showing up, thinking Spider-Man's a criminal, trying to kill him and then, having seen the error of his ways, teaming up with him.

And therein lies the problem. While it's easy to believe the Punisher would be willing to team up with Spidey, it's hard to see why Spidey would want to do likewise with the Punisher. Leaving aside the fact that the gun-toting nut-job keeps trying to kill him, the man's a psycho. Take the scene where he and our hero crash the Tarantula's lair. The Punisher instantly opens fire with a machine gun.

That's right, he tries to cut the villain down in a hail of bullets.

Now, the Tarantula might be a nasty piece of work but since when is Spidey going to be happy working with a man whose first instinct is to kill? Unfortunately, there's a moral bankruptcy to the tale. You can argue about whether it's right or not to kill those who are happy to kill others. What can never be claimed is that Spider-Man's happy to see men die. He isn't. No matter who he's come up against, he's never once tried to kill. He even refused to kill the Goblin, a foe he had every reason to want to send to the cemetery. Now, we're supposed to believe he's happy to team up with a man whose whole philosophy must logically be repugnant to him. It's a tale that really needs a proper investigation of the rights and wrongs of the Punisher's mentality, not a cheery acceptance of his ways.

On other matters, Peter Parker tries to disguise his true identity by claiming his disappearance during all the action was down to him having fallen overboard. Leaving aside the fact that, during such a long gap, the boat would've left him far behind, as Spider-Man was last seen jumping into the same water, it's hard to see how he thinks this is going to fool anyone. While it fools MJ, it doesn't con Flash. Big surprise. Turning up in the same place that Spidey was last seen is practically screaming out at everyone, "Hey, look at me! I'm Spider-Man!"

Not that the other passengers are bright enough to work that out. They have to be the most uniformly stupid bunch of people assembled in one place. Having seen our hero fighting the Tarantula and knocking him out - not to mention rescuing a crewman who fell into the water - they then decide Spidey was in league with the villain and try to lynch him. Some people simply don't deserve saving.

Still, there's one good thing comes out of this issue. Its climax; as Harry Osborn finally makes the move into becoming the Green Goblin.

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