THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #145
"Gwen Stacy Is Alive...And, Well...?!"
Place: Peter Parker's New Apartment
Well, it's finally happened. Peter Parker has finally gone off the deep end. He's gone starkers, crackers, crazy, or even nuts. After returning from a trip to Paris, Peter arrived home to come face-to-face with Gwen Stacy (or an incredible imposter). In a frenzy, Peter grabs the Gwen and pins her up against the wall. Obviously, Gwen Stacy is dead (killed months ago by the Green Goblin), and that makes this woman an imposter. On his wait out, he tells Anna Watson that someone has a sick sense of humor, and he intends to find out who.
A few moments later, Peter Parker arrives on a snow covered rooftop where he's furious, not just for what the shock of seeing "Gwen" did to him, but what it probably did to Aunt May. Peter changes into his costume guessing he should probably get to the hospital as quickly as possible. The shock of seeing Gwen probably brought on Aunt May's heart trouble. Well, that's one more thing that the mystery man behind Gwen's resurrection is going to pay for.
In the interim, Spider-Man arrives at the hospital. Changing quickly and wandering through the hospital hallways, he finally finds Aunt May's room where she's being attended by two doctors and a nurse. After what sees like a long wait, Peter is allowed in. As Aunt May sleeps, Peter is left alone with his guilt. Someone, trying to get revenge on Spider-Man, ended up hurting Aunt May instead, and he can't get over how terrible he feels. Finally though, Aunt May wakes and everything is fine.. Just fine.
Coming ahead a few hours, at exactly 9:05 AM of a blustering March day, the banks in New York are opening for business, and the Scorpion stalks towards them intending to make a withdrawal. Scorpion pulls a smash and grab on the bank. Smashing through the front window, he bounds across the bank lobby, grabs several sacks laying about, and smashes his way out of the bank. "That's Scorpion, pal! You know, the guy with the stainless-steel sting!" -- As a tagline it's certainly not going to replace "Up, up, and away!". Something tells me we're going to have trouble with that man.
As for Peter, he's got troubles enough. A nightmare startles him awake in the hospital waiting area. He staggers over to a water-fountain, but his stiff back is quickly forgotten when he hears the news bulletin on a nearby radio. The Scorpion struck a bank not twenty minutes and was last seen heading north towards Midtown. Since Aunt May's condition has stablized and Peter's still raging over "Gwen", he heads out to find the Scorpion.
And we cut to Marvel Team-Up #33. I'm not used to cutting to another issue in the middle of things.
Back to this comic, Spider-Man perches on a building unaware that he's much closer to the Scorpion than he thinks. Lost in thought, he doesn't noticed that he's being spied on from above. Fortunately, his Spider-sense gives him enough warning to dodge as the Scorpion strikes. Spider-Man webs up the Scorpion's eyes, but even blinded, the Scorpion presses his attack. Trying a new tact, Spider-Man takes to the air with the Scorpion in town, but with both his hands occupied, he's in no position to defend himself from the Scorpion's tail. Finally, he sees what he wants and drops both of into a cement processing plant below. The Scorpion catches Spider-Man flat-footed by burrowing through the sand pile, and he lays in several punishing blows to an already exhausted Spider-Man.
This is the end. Spider-Man, unable to get an edge on the Scorpion, falls into the mixing vat for the cement. Gloating, Scorpion fills the mixing vat with cement and leaves Spider-Man for dead. Some eight minutes later, Spider-Man crawls out of the mixing vat, and vows to keep after the Scorpion tomorrow after he's gotten his strength back.
Weary and water-logged, Spidey sloshes back to the hospital where he left Aunt May. In an alley nearby, he switches to Peter Parker and stumbles up the steps of the hospital entrance to find a welcoming party waiting inside. MJ, Robbie, Betty Brant, and Ned Leeds are all there along with the Gwen Stacy imposter. Apparently, Gwen showed up at the Daily Bugle. Assuming she was an imposter, Leeds had her fingerprinted, and god help them all, the fingerprints matched the ones taken at Gwen's autopsy. Finally, Ned had Gwen's grave checked, and her body is still there. Somehow, there are two Gwen Stacys, identical in every way except one is dead and the other one is alive!
It's 7:00 AM and I'm in San Francisco. My hostess is sleeping in this Sunday morning, so I decided to pick up my clothes, make my bed, get washed up, and do a quick review.
So, this issue features the frightful Scorpion. The Scorpion has always been portrayed as an unintelligent thug, but he's still a threat to Spider-Man on the basis of his strength alone. This is the 70's so he's still wearing his costume with the round, blunt-tip tail instead of the sleeker costume with the spiked tail that he wears today.
Well, we start out with Peter dealing with the shock of seeing Gwen Stacy face-to-face. This really reminds me of a more contemporary story where Peter's parents were thought to be alive. Peter goes through the same shock, and then doubt, and a gamut of other emotions before coming to the conclusion that his parents really have come back from the dead. You'd think after going through this once or twice or more before, he'd be a bit more mistrusting.
But, I get ahead of myself. This is still relatively early in his career, and he's not used to people just coming back from the dead. In the first few pages he goes through a range of emotions. There's the shock. Then, he starts doubting his senses and his sanity. Then there's fear as Gwen tries to talk to him, and finally the anger as he concludes that this is all a hoax. He takes off to look for Aunt May.
Having read ahead, I know that this Gwen is clone of the original Gwen Stacy. I assume that she's staying with the Jackal in some sense or he's made some sort of arrangements for her. Later in this issue, off-panel, she goes to the Daily Bugle where they verify that she is Gwen Stacy to the best that they can determine.
I noticed something about this issue. There is a lot of text in text boxes this issue. I don't know if that's something indicative of the times it was written in, or just this story in particular. I'll have to make a note to pay more attention to that. Nowadays, it seems that most of the action is handled in the art and the dialogue, and there are less wordy text/description boxes.
While Peter runs to the hospital we are re-introduced to Mac Gargan. I believe that this is only his 2nd appearance in Spider-Man. What's strange is the way the writer introduces him. He's introduced by name, and then he opens up a suitcase where his Scorpion costume is kept. But, unless you're familiar with who this guy is already, you're not going to have a clue. In fact, later on during his bank robbery, he's in action for four or five panels before he finally stands up and says "I'm the Scorpion!". And, my god, I don't remember his costume looking this lame before. No wonder he wasn't around much.
Peter gets to the hospital. In typical Peter Parker fashion, he's consumed with guilt over what happened to Aunt May and blames himself for the entire ordeal. In typical Aunt May fashion, the first words out of her mouth when she awakes questions Peter about his health and asks if he's been wearing his warm clothes.
Mental note: When banks open in the morning in Manhattan, they've typically got several trash bag sized bags of cash laying around. This makes the Scorpion's smash-and-grab bank robbery all the easier. The Scorpion in action just doesn't look right to me. I'm not sure if this is a flaw with the character design or the artist doing this issue. He crawls down a wall, hangs upside down on a awning while smashing the front window with his tail, bounds across the bank, and bounds out with the money. He just doesn't look natural or comfortable in any of those scenes.
Peter has a nightmare which brings any new readers up-to-speed on how Gwen Stacy died before he wakes up on the waiting room couch. Conveniently enough a near-by radio briefs him on what the Scorpion's been up to this morning, and instead of sitting around the hospital until Aunt May wakes up, he runs out to deal with our villain-du-jour.
And, this is the point where the story breaks over to Marvel Team-Up where Spider-Man and Nighthawk apparently fight the Meteor Man. While Peter is still recovering from that story, the Scorpion catches up with him. In the big splash scene, I think I see some of the things that bother me about the artist's rendition of the Scorpion. For starters, he's got no muscle tone. He looks like he's been stuffed in his suit like a sausage, but there's not muscle definition at all. Picture Spider-Man fighting Gumby. Also, he tail doesn't look right. In this issue, his tail is really short, roughly three-to-four feet long, and it is also thick and blunt. It doesn't look like a handy tool for clubbing people with, but the Scorpion uses it as his primary weapon. I think this forces the artist to depict him in really awkward poses as the Scorpion tries to pounce on Spider-Man and still lead with his tail.
The fight begins with the Scorpion getting in all the good punches and finally knocking the two of the building they started on. Spider-Man fires a web-line, grabs the Scorpion, and, taking a clubbing from the Scorpion this whole time, manages to find, of all things, a "cement processing plant" in the middle of uptown Manhattan. Continuing the fight on the ground there, Spider-Man is on the receiving end of a beating from the Scorpion. Finally admitting that he's too exhausted to win a slugfest with the Scorpion, he leads the Scorpion on a chance through the plant which ends when the Scorpion manages to knock Spidey in to a cement mixing vat and leaves him for dead.
Eight minutes later, roughly the time a normal person would be brain-dead after being submerged without oxygen that long, Spider-Man drags himself out of the concrete. Defeated but vowing to continue the fight tomorrow, he wanders back to the hospital. There, Ned Leeds explains the investigation he's done with this "fake Gwen" and, to the best that modern science can determine (IE fingerprints), this is the real Gwen.
On review, I really liked the art in this issue. The scenes with Peter and Gwen was really portray well with Peter obviously trying to come to grips with Gwen being alive. There are some good shots with Spider-Man swinging over the city. Really, the only thing I didn't like was the portrayal of the Scorpion. I don't know if its because his costume is inherently goofy or Andru couldn't figure out how to draw him right, but the Scorpion just looks really dumb in this story.
There was quite a bit of good action this issue. The Scorpion and Spider-Man match up pretty well. The Scorpion has the edge on strength, but Spider-Man's agility is superior. Though the Scorpion gets the advantage early, their battle rages for six pages. It finally comes to a close when Spider-Man falls into a mixing vat of cement, and the Scorpion leaves him for dead.
Spider-Villain lessons 101:
The Scorpion gets a jump on Spider-Man because Spider-Man is tired and worn out from the stress of Aunt May, seeing Gwen Stacy, and, apparently, battling the Meteor Man. If the Scorpion had taken the time to verify Spider-Man's death, this would've been a much darker issue. Tip #3:
When releasing super villains from prison, it's good to know that the police are polite enough to return their equipment and costumes back to them as well.
©2002 Samuel Smith
Spider-Man and all images © 2002 Marvel Characters, Inc.