Amazing Spider-Man #269-270
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #269, Amazing Spider-Man #270
It pits Spider-Man against Firelord, former herald of Galactus, and to say that Firelord is outside Spidey's weight class is putting it mildly. So what DeFalco gives us on a characterization level is the stages that Spidey goes through - the initial confidence...
...the realization of what he's gotten himself into...
...running for help and then learning that no help will be forthcoming (not even Power Pack)...
...the temptation to just switch back into his civvies and hide...
...and the final determination that kicks in when he realizes that it's his responsibility to stick with the fight.
The Avengers show up after the fight is over.
This, and an earlier scene showing the Avengers returning home from a mission (Terminus) to find that the government had invaded their mansion, was repeated from Avengers #258, which was actually published several months prior to these issues (it had an August cover date vs. these issues' Oct-Nov publications), and so the end of the battle was shown as a teaser to get us wondering how Spidey could have possibly defeated Firelord. And i definitely think these issues delivered the payoff.
When Tom DeFalco had the Thing face off against a similarly overpowering Champion, we went straight to that final "never gives up" state, and that's a known characteristic of the Thing, whereas here it's an evolution for Spider-Man and a bit of a defining moment for him.
One lucky break in this story is that there seem to be more empty buildings (under construction, waiting to be demolished, etc.) than occupied ones in New York at this time.
It's said that Firelord was initially wandering aimlessly and doesn't even realize where he is until he sees the Earth. He also remembers it as a world "filled with sensual delights and pleasures unlike any others found in the known cosmos!". Considering he once fought the Phoenix here, i'm glad he still came away from our fine planet with a good impression.
Clearly he remembered the service being better, though. The fight starts when Firelord lands on Earth looking for a slice of pizza, but it's still morning and the ovens aren't ready. I'm not sure if Firelord is really this naive and impatient or if he's just a dick that likes toying with mortals. I think we're supposed to assume the former, but he's been on Earth before and i kinda have my doubts.
Some local constructions workers, riled up by an anti-mutant editorial, assume that Firelord is a mutant and try to stop him.
That probably wouldn't have been a good idea even if it were actually, say, Pyro and not Firelord.
Later, another group of construction workers (or, i guess, demolition crew) play a role in an instrumental part of Firelord's defeat. Spidey lures Firelord into a building and has them set off the explosives while they're inside. Neither that nor the subsequent explosion of a gas station are enough to actually stop Firelord, but all of the various attacks have cumulative effect.
But see here; this is my problem with DeFalco's writing.
The same guy first says "Spider-Man's counting on us -- and I ain't gonna let him down!" and then immediately follows it up with "nobody's gonna shed any tears over those two freaks!". Pick one, DeFalco! Why give us the schizophrenic demolition guy? Or if you had to use both lines, how about one guy says the first thing and then the second guy says "No! Don't...!" and then a third guy says the third thing? But better to just not clutter up the panel with extra dialogue. Either the guy wants to help Spidey or he's fine with killing off some super-freaks. Not both.
Anyway, it's just a quibble. But it's a very sort of casual, oral diarrhea approach to scripting that prevents these issues from moving from the Good category to Great.
Here's another example. Nathan Lubenski tries to take Peter to task for not paying enough attention to Aunt May, which is fair enough, but in my opinion he loses any credibility when he leads with "You know how much she wants you to go back to school... and you won't do it!".
If it was "You don't call enough" or something he'd have a point (although May only started talking to Peter again in issue #265 and here he is visiting already) but asking Peter to take on a career that he doesn't want to is a bit much, and just doesn't feel like a realistic thing that Nathan would say.
Moving on from my scripting complaint, someone is stalking the two of them, and a caption promises that "Peter Parker's life will never be the same again!".
I think this is actually just some thug looking for Nate, but there are some pretty serious ramifications coming out of that plotline, so i suppose it's not really too much hyperbole.
In another subplot scene, Kate Cushing is re-introduced for readers who aren't following Web Of (which includes JJ).
On the whole, it's definitely a good fun fight. I love the fact that Spider-Man tries to get the Fantastic Four's help, and that the Avengers show up at the end. It's this sort of Unified Marvel Universe experience that makes this era so great (even if all the specific references result in some really tight and really difficult placement, but we'll get to that separately in the Avengers issue).
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place partially concurrently with Avengers #258. See that issue's entry for a lot more.
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (2): show
Anton Chekov, Aunt May, Betty Brant, Black Knight II, Captain America, Firelord, Harriet Rose Palermo, Hercules, J. Jonah Jameson, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Kate Cushing, Martha (Aunt May's Boarder), Nate Lubenski, Raymond Sikorski, Sophie (Aunt May's Boarder), Spider-Man, Starfox, Victor Palermo, Wasp
A lot of readers had problems with this issue- they felt that there was no way Peter should have been able to hurt Firelord. As you'll see when we get to Avengers 260, it took getting blasted into a moon at relativistic velocities by Sanctuary II to knock out Firelord- no way does Peter have that much power.
I was going to do a comparison with Spidey's fight with the Juggernaut under Stern and say that Juggernaut actually comes out looking tougher, which shouldn't be the case, but my mind ran off in enough tangents during this entry so i dropped it.
To be fair, from Firelord's perspective, this was just a long series of confusing humiliations and i think he eventually dropped from mental exhaustion. He just wanted lunch, and he wound up getting attacked by the locals and then had to chase around some weirdo that he just couldn't catch. He does say at one point that he could just level the whole city in one blast and be done with it but that wouldn't be sporting, so he's definitely holding back. And the poor man didn't even get to finish his pizza; he was fighting on an empty stomach!
Maybe counter-intuitively, this story actually did a lot to elevate Firelord's status. DeFalco definitely takes the time to establish that Firelord is a badass and that this is a fight that Spider-Man should not win. I think readers should walk away from this thinking that Spidey gave it everything he had and still needed a lot of luck to win this; not that Spider-Man is now fighting in the Class 1000* range.
*Marvel RPG terminology used for humorous effect only.
"You have succeeded where countless others have failed! You've managed to lay hands on my precious firestaff!" I hope that was intended to get a laugh from readers over a certain age, but I don't know enough about DeFalco's style. Maybe he wrote it with a completely straight face. Either way, it's a line that begs to be stolen and repurposed.
The only problem I had with the fight, is that I kept thinking, "Why doesn't Firelord just surround himself with flames or heat?" I could imagine Spidey defeating the Human Torch, but not by punching him constantly since he'd be burning himself with every punch. Likewise with Firelord. Spider-Man shouldn't have been able to win the way he did.
Otherwise, very enjoyable issues.
If the Mutant Menace editorial was anything like CNN news specials, it probably got repeated until every person in the world had to sit through it.
these issues were a lot of fun
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