Saturday, 12 December 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #140. The Jackal and the Grizzly

Amazing Spider-Man #140, the Jackal the Grizzly and Peter Parker has an explosive spy device attached to his arm
(Cover from January 1975.)

"...And One Will Fall!"

Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Ross Andru.
Inks by Giacoia and Hunt.
Lettering by Artie Simek.
Colours by P Goldberg.

For a so-called science nerd, Peter Parker moves in surprisingly glamorous circles. First he has a girlfriend who's an actress, now we get to meet his new neighbour Gloria Grant who's a model. Bearing in mind that he used to live in a rent-free apartment with the son of one of the city's wealthiest businessmen, and nearly became the nephew of one of America's deadliest criminals, it seems like he can't get within a million miles of the mundaneity the rest of us achieve without even trying.

But, before you get the notion that it's all glam and glitter being a super-hero, don't forget that, sometimes, mad fiends put tracking devices on you that'll destroy your arm if you try to remove them.

It has to be said, the first segment of this tale, dealing with the Jackal's device, doesn't have any real reason for being there. It makes no difference at all to the outcome of the plot, and what should have been an issue-long development is almost instantly despatched to become little more than padding. A shame because it was a great idea with a bucketload of potential.

Beyond that, the Jackal's motives don't really add up. If he wants to use Peter Parker to lead him to Spider-Man, then why tip him off about the plan, guaranteeing that Petey will avoid Spidey like the plague?

There's also the obvious question of Pete's other identity. It's no secret (to us anyway) that he wears his costume under his normal clothes - especially when he's expecting action - which poses the question of how the Jackal and the Grizzly didn't find the sleeve of Pete's spider-suit under his clothing when they fitted him with the device.

It's also a shame the flashback reveals that JJ got Max Markham banned purely for selfish reasons. Every so often, over the years, we've been allowed to glimpse a nobler, more principled, side to the Bugle publisher and it would've been nice if this had been the case here.

Spider-Man reasons that the Grizzly must be wearing an exo-skeleton because he was once just a wrestler and therefore can't have any superpowers of his own. I'm not sure I follow that logic. After all, the vast majority of super-villains used to just be ordinary people. It doesn't mean they don't have genuine powers now. Still, its a nicely rendered conclusion to the tale and Ross Andru handles the action scenes superbly, especially the Grizzly's attack on his former gym colleagues.

At the end of the day, it's easy to pick holes in such stories but I've said it before and I feel it's worth reiterating, despite its lapses in logic and, often, continuity, this era of Spider-Man's easily my favourite. There's a wit and a sophistication to it that enables it to somehow rise above its flaws and become oddly compelling. Never before had Peter Parker and his cast felt so like living, breathing three-dimensional characters that you might actually bump into if you paid a visit to New York.

Amazing that this tale is only the Jackal's third appearance in the pages of Spider-Man and yet he already feels like a long-term villain.

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