The Small Lebowski:
Amazing Spider-Man #191-192
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #191, Amazing Spider-Man #192
With the "death" of John Jameson last issue, i suppose it's understandable. But lord how i'd prefer a rational Jonah Jameson that recognized that his son had turned into a Man-Wolf that Spider-Man was trying to subdue. Jonah's irrational hatred of Spider-Man, and blindness to reality, works well as comedy. But as tragedy, he seems literally insane. To be fair, he believes his son to be dead, and some grief and rage is to be expected. But Wolfman writes these issues as more comedy than tragedy; he's acting ridiculous and we're supposed to laugh at him, not feel sorry for him.
And don't expect Marla Madison to be a voice of reason here. She created JJ's last Spider-Slayer, after all.
For this one, JJ goes back to the source: Spencer Smythe. The irony is that Smythe has been behind a number of attacks on Spider-Man and JJ recently, including the Man-Wolf's.
Smythe is dying from radiation he exposed himself to while building the spider-slayers. He's mad at Jameson for... hiring him to build spider-slayers in the past, and at Spidey for defeating them.
So Smythe does deploy his latest Spider-Slayer, but only after sending Marla away and then handcuffing JJ.
When Spidey is defeated by the Slayer, Smythe brings him back to his lab and Spider-man and J. Jonah Jameson are tied together. The handcuffs turn out to include an explosive, set to explode in 24 hours, or sooner if they are tampered with.
The "24 hours" bit is especially old-school contrived; something i feel like Stan Lee would have scoffed at.
The pair swing all around the city looking for someone who can remove the bomb.
In the end they go back to Smythe's lab and Spidey finds a way to dismantle the bomb.
Marvel's flagship book has really fallen to the pits at this point, and it desperately needs rescuing.
If this were a contrived way to force Spider-Man to get together and hash out their differences, and their relationship actually moved forward at the end of this, it would have been more tolerable. But that's not the case. We arguably get some insight into Jameson's reasons for hating Spider-Man, but if anything their relationship is more toxic than before.
Eventually JJ's madness will be partially explained as being due to the manipulation of Dr. Jonas Harrow. But that wasn't the intent here.
While they are bound together, Spidey and JJ encounter the Fly, who is able to defeat Spider-Man and throw him off the side of the building.
The Fly assumes that Spider-Man is dead, but he actually survives the fall, as does Jameson. While Spider-Man is still unconscious, JJ considers pulling off his mask, but the scene cuts away before we know if he did or not.
Peter misses out on some social events while he's tied up with JJ, including a date with MJ that he worked hard to convince her to go on. And he learns that the company that was going to run merchandise based on Spider-Man has backed out thanks to the Daily Bugle's editorial saying that he's a killer. He thinks to himself that he's finished his gym class and is ready to pick up his diploma.
There's a weird power demonstration scene in issue #191. The new takeaway is that Peter is going to be mixing his web fluid on a more regular basis so it doesn't go stale and lose its strength. Considering the demands on Peter's time, it's surprising that he is actually able to keep up with that.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Pushed back in publication time a bit to allow Fantastic Four #205-214 to take place between Amazing Spider-Man #193-194.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Amazing Spider-Man #20 (vol. 2) (#191 is an original)
Inbound References (3): showBetty Brant, Blake Tower, Flash Thompson, Fly, Harry Osborn, J. Jonah Jameson, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Liz Allan, Lizard, Marla Madison Jameson, Mary Jane Watson, Sha Shan, Spencer Smythe, Spider-Man
Believe it or not, this issue is actually considered by many fans & writers to be of the better post-Stan Lee issues of ASM.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 4, 2011 2:08 PM
That's a very Ditko-esque face on the first picture of Smythe up there.
Posted by: S | June 27, 2013 11:29 PM
I definitely consider #192 to be one of the better post-Stan Lee issues, along with most of Wolfman's run. It's one of my favorite Jonah stories, and J.J. lamenting his cowardice in the face of death while also acknowledging Spidey's courage is a great moment of character development, something we don't see enough of with Jonah (though it also gives him yet another reason for continuing his irrational campaign).
Posted by: TCP | September 11, 2014 5:14 PM
It does bug me in issues like this the fact there are other super-heroes around is ignored. I think a trip to the Baxter building is in order here.
Posted by: Jake Amidon | July 10, 2015 9:53 PM
Wolfman's idea was that this takes place while the FF are in space in issue 204-214.
Posted by: Michael | July 10, 2015 11:40 PM
So Spidey gets mail from the abortive merchandiser at Peter's address? Nice secret identity!
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | September 26, 2016 1:54 PM
I remember these issues, because I was flabbergasted that JJ Jameson didn't unmask Spidey. Why on Earth wouldn't he have done it? Spidey was unconscious from breaking their fall after they were attacked by the Fly, and JJJ says he actually dragged Spidey to the hospital, if memory serves. And he doesn't unmask his nemesis??? It was beyond belief.
Posted by: Jin-Ho | January 26, 2017 2:08 PM
Spidey doesn't get the letter at home; he gets it when he visits DA Tower's office to complain about Jameson's editorial.
J.J. J.'s speech at the end of #192 seems to be pretty closely lifted from the one Ditko had him give back in ASM #10.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 18, 2017 6:27 PM
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