Hello, Josiah here. I'm going to talk about this issue:
By: Lee, Ditko, and Simek
The issue opens outside of the New York State Prison where a Professor Stromm is released from prison after a ten year sentence. We are only at the second panel in on page two and he’s already plotting his revenge, the prison cell still looming over his shoulder.
It’s been pointed out before, but Lee and Ditko really don’t think much of the restorative abilities of the prison system in the 1960’s. Every month one of Spider-Man's rogues escapes prison or is set free after claiming to be rehabilitated. Either that, or Lee was plotting and editing a million books each month and it’s an easy way to set up an antagonist.
We move onto a pretty fun scene where we see Foswell spying on his former cellmate Stromm, hoping to get the scoop on his release. Behind Foswell is one of Stromm’s thugs, poised to shoot the reporter. Behind the thug is Spider-Man who is spying on Foswell, because who trusts Foswell?
Spidey punches the thug, webs him to his car and tells him to follow Professor Stromm. As they tail Stromm, Spider-Man puts on the thug's fedora for no apparent reason. It's a great bit of unexplained humor, and my favorite moment in the book.
|Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Parker|
The cops show up and Spidey ditches the car and the thug. He does leave the hat behind in the car for the thug. So outside of punching the guy, Peter is nicer to a guy that attempted murder on page two than he is to Gwen Stacy in the issue. Peter stops back at the Bugle to learn more about what Foswell is up to, and he heads back school where he runs into Gwen, wondering if he’s still mad at her. Instead of describing it, lets just take a look:
I grew up reading Peter in the late 80’s and early 90’s and he was a pretty well-adjusted guy at that point (married to Mary Jane and living relatively comfortably). It’s really hard to watch Peter potentially break Gwen’s hand because of his nasty demeanor and/or total carelessness.
I wanted Uncle Ben’s ghost to reappear and crack his nephew in the face. Instead we get Flash Thompson, and I can honestly say it’s the first time I’ve ever wanted to see Flash kick Peter’s ass. I'm not sure if that speaks to my preconceptions about Peter Parker's early years (at least seen through the lens of reading these issues as a kid, or seeing his origin retold dozens of times in different comics, movies, and cartoons) or to Lee and Ditko taking Peter too far in one direction. Peter mouths off one last time and walks away.
We get back to Professor Stromm, who is planning his revenge on the man who landed him in jail, Norman Osborn. To exact his revenge, the Professor has developed a robot that is mentally controlled by him, is goofy-looking as hell and is awesome. There is something really simple and silly and glorious about the little guy. We know that Peter eventually is going to defeat this robot, so lets take a look and enjoy the fleeting moments we have with him:
And here's the fight scene that eventually leads to the robot's demise thanks to that no-good, rotten, dirty wall-crawler.
After senselessly murdering Steve Ditko's greatest creation. Spider-Man decides to start following Foswell again, who puts on an eye-patch and goes by the fantastic name of “Patch, The Underworld Stoolie.”
Like I mentioned earlier, I started getting into Marvel in the late 80’s and early 90’s and there was only one guy I knew of who used an eye-patch as a silly disguise and called himself “Patch.”
Here’s something a I love about comics, Foswell was Patch when these comics were published in the 1960’s. Wolverine first appeared in 1974 (making him the Patch No. 2, publishing-wise) but according to a Marvel comics story published in 2007 (Wolverine Origins Annual #1, decent story with a confusing ending if you weren't reading the whole series, but it has incredbile art by Kaare Andrews) Wolverine has been pretending to be Patch since 1932 (making him Patch No. 1, Marvel Universe-continuity wise).
Here’s my potential no-prize winning explanation. Foswell is a shady guy with numerous underworld connections and at some point he found himself in the corrupt fictional country of Madripoor where he saw Wolverine’s Patch routine and decided to take it to the states. Or Chris Claremont never read this issue of Spider-Man.
Anyways, Stromm deploys another (much lamer) robot, this time to destroy Osborn’s possessions and then murder him. Peter follows Foswell to Osborn’s home in time to save Osborn. Osborn is pretty ticked, he was planning on killing Stromm during the fight, and he doesn’t want to settle for Spider-Man sending Stromm back to jail. So Norman Osborn sneaks up behind Spider-Man and knocks him out in the hope of getting to Stromm himself.
Spider-Man defeats the robot and confronts Stromm, but his Spider-sense picks up that someone (Osborn) is about to shoot Stromm. Spidey pushes Stromm out of the way, but Stromm still dies instantly from a heart attack.
Instead of meditating on the tragic irony of saving someone from certain death only for that person to die moments later from something completely unrelated, Spider-Man leaves about 15 seconds after Stromm dies and tells Foswell to look after things.
It’s another callous moment from Peter in an issue filled to the brim with them. In one final scene, some of Peter’s fellow students invite him bowling, but he’s too lost in thought to acknowledge them. They all think he’s a jerk. They aren’t wrong. Dude almost broke Gwen Stacy's hand.
Despite Peter’s behavior throughout the issue, we get a really tight story with fun, cartoony art by Ditko. I really loved the cat and mouse game played throughout the issue between Spider-Man, Foswell, Stromm and Osborn.
Oh I almost forgot, we learn that Norman Osborn and J. Jonah Jameson are members of the same social club.
And see you next time for Steve Ditko's final issue!