Friday, 11 June 2010

Giant-Size Spider-Man #4. The Punisher and Moses Magnum

(Cover from April 1975.)

"To Sow The Seeds Of Death's Day!"

Written by Gerry Conway.
Pencilled by Ross Andru.
Inks by Mike Esposito.
Lettering by Joe Rosen.
Colours by Stan G.

Will heroes never learn a good villain's not dead until you see him being buried, with a huge lead weight on top of his coffin just to make sure he can't pop up out of it? Probably not. And will the Punisher ever give it up and get a life?

If there's one thing you could guarantee at this point in Spider-Man's history it's that, if there's to be a series of Spider-Man Specials, the Punisher's bound to be in at least one of them. And, hey presto, here we are.

Normally this'd make my heart sink sink faster than a rock in a bathtub. Well, maybe I'm just getting resigned to it or maybe his appearance in this tale isn't as bad as usual but, this time round, I can actually live with his presence.

In truth, my increased tolerance is probably down to the fact that, for once, Castle doesn't try to kill Spider-Man. At last he seems to have learned his lesson and remembered from previous encounters that Spider-Man's a good guy. Needless to say, this doesn't stop him trying to shoot everyone else in sight.

This time they're up against Moses Magnum who might be named after an ice cream but there's nothing sweet about him. He's running a prison camp in Latin America, in which he uses American kidnap victims to test out his nerve gas. Happily, at the end of it all, he gets a taste of his own medicine, at which point the Punisher declares him to be 100% guaranteed dead-certain dead. Needless to say, Magnum later turns up in various other comics, even taking on the X-Men. I said those heroes never learn.

As for the tale itself, it's nothing special but it breezes along nicely and does give us an unmasking scene in which we get to see Peter Parker wearing a face only a mother could love and only a criminal mastermind could think was genuine. It being a Special, it operates in a little bubble all its own with nothing of Peter Parker's personal life and none of the usual supporting cast. As the soap elements were what made Spider-Man great, this is a loss but not as great a loss as you might expect. As with his Giant-Size Shang-Chi team-up, this DC-ization of our hero works fine for a one-off tale, although it would've quickly grown tiresome if tried in his monthly mag.

Ross Andru's art's standard for him, which means it's very good but not quite among his better issues. I always feel you can tell how much Andru was getting into a story by how wild the angles get and, here, they're relatively restrained. But I do feel sorry for him. The workload that seems to be have been put on him for an artist who was reputedly not the fastest and, according to Dick Giordano, was forced by an eye defect to draw half of every page twice, seems to have been heavy. They wanted him to do the monthly comics,they wanted him to do the Giant-Size Specials, they wanted him to do Superman vs Spider-Man. At times, the poor bloke must've felt his head was spinning faster than Spider-Man's webbing.


cease ill said...

I'm not sure I had heard that about Andru's eye! Good point: no supporting cast or events in these specials (unlike with the Avengers---much to my chagrin, having read most of what I've read in that series on dvd-rom!). Such specials are particularly fun reading while you are not yet old enough to shave! But this is as close as I'll get to reading this one. Still chuckling over "protracted straining" in title to ASM #33 post, which I know I'll read before I leave.

The Cryptic Critic said...

Hi, Cease Ill, thanks for dropping by and for taking the time to comment.


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