Sunday, 20 December 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #145. Scorpion

Amazing Spider-Man #145, the Scorpion returns
(Cover from June 1975.)

"Gwen Stacy Is Alive ...And, Well?"

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

Bad decisions. We make them. We hate them. But, without them, would we ever have such a thing as drama?

Gwen Stacy's back and as cloying, clinging, wimpy and needy as ever. Still, I suppose if you don't have a clue what's going on and why your boyfriend's threatening to kill you for "pretending" to be yourself, you would be feeling somewhat vulnerable. So, maybe for once, we should cut the girl some slack in the wimp department.

And perhaps we should also cut Peter Parker some slack because, pretty much the first thing that strikes you this month is the affirmation of his tendency to do the exact opposite of what he should be doing. He wants to know why a dead girl's suddenly appeared at his apartment, so he abandons her, turns into Spider-Man and goes swinging off round town; when you would've thought the obvious thing to do would be to question this "imposter" and find out where she's from and who sent her. Oh well, like Gwendolyn, I suppose you can argue he's somewhat disoriented and can't be expected to act logically.

But yet again Gerry Conway's in the mood for comebacks because, not only does an ex-girlfriend reappear but so does an ex-foe.

The Scorpion.

Now, if Peter Parker's just made a bad decision, here's where the whole concept of "Bad Decision" goes into over-drive. When Mac Gargan checks out of jail, we see him being given a package and a suitcase. When he gets, "home," he opens the case to reveal it contains his Scorpion outfit.

That's right, upon releasing him, the authorities actually give a dangerous super-villain a costume whose only possible use is the committing of crimes! I've spoken before about the incompetence of prison officials in New York but this is ridiculous. Things are so bad that I'm starting to wonder if The Simpsons' Chief Wiggum's in charge of the place.

That aside, the Scorpion's always been one of my favourite villains, mostly because he nearly killed Spider-Man in their first meeting. It might not be much of a character recommendation but it's the sort of thing you want from a good villain. Frankly, his 2nd appearance, in Amazing Spider-Man #29, was a bit of an anti-climax but here he's back to giving Spidey a good bashing.

Conway gives our hero the excuse that he's tired from fighting Meteor Man in Marvel-Team-up #33, a tale that, somewhat clumsily, is supposed to have happened during a lull in the events of this issue. Such are the continuity nightmares of giving your hero more than one mag to fight in each month but I like to think Scorpy would've thrashed him anyway. The only disappointment with his return is that, in Andru's hands, he lacks the sheer sense of evil madness he had on his first appearance. But still, beggars can't be choosers.

The Scorpion's lack of madness aside, to me, Ross Andru's art in this issue's sensational. Probably the best he's produced yet. His layouts now have a total freedom, so the story practically leaps out of the pages at you and Spider-Man's protracted fight scene with the villain is so full of movement, you start to feel like you're watching the thing in real time. You actually have to make a conscious effort to remind yourself that you're still looking at stationary images and that nothing is actually moving.

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