Spectacular Spider-Man #137
Issue(s): Spectacular Spider-Man #137
The use of (a new) Tarantula, a character that Roger Stern had Spider-Man thoroughly trounce in the early 80s, doesn't help with that impression either.
This story starts with J. Jonah Jameson tackling the issue of immigration in his Now magazine with the same level of depth (Threat or Menace?) he used to use when covering Spider-Man.
Meanwhile, the Tarantula is in the Bugle building, murdering the janitor because he was a dissident in their homeland.
Spider-Man catches the Tarantula running out, but the Tarantula escapes thanks to the help of his squad of soldiers.
Meanwhile, it turns out that Mary Jane's assistant Elvira is also an "illegal" from Tarantula's country (which is unnamed, which is annoying for the purposes of this recap; the internet tells me that the country is called Delvadia).
Mary Jane gets a call from the Daily Bugle; JJ wants reporters on the story of the death of the janitor. But MJ deflects the call so that Peter can help Elvira instead. It's all the same problem so it works out. Not sure how the Bugle knew to call MJ at her photoshoot, though. And it doesn't matter anyway because when Peter meets MJ for lunch, she forgets to tell him about Elvira, but does tell him that the Bugle called, because he brings up thinking about going back to school and insists on paying his own way.
When he catches up with Ben Urich at a legal aid clinic that helps immigrants, he gets in trouble when a group of kids spot his camera and assume he's with the INS.
Tarantuala is getting unofficial help from the US government in the form of Colonel Gulliver South, who is in no way a stand-in for Oliver North.
South gives Tarantula information on the refugee dissidents from [Tarantula's country], including Elvira.
Later, at home, Mary Jane gets a call from Elvira and Peter goes out to the rescue as Spider-Man.
Spidey finds Tarantula at a church, and drives away him and his goons...
...but the ruckus attracts the attention of the police and the INS, and Elvira is detained.
On top of that, Colonel South brings in Captain America to help Tarantula.
While all of this is going on, Joe Robertson is investigating Tombstone, and spots him outside the Kingpin's building. He also gets caught...
...but Tombstone lets him go with a threat.
It's interesting to see Conway tackle the subject of immigration (and it's one of those things where it's so frustrating to see that 30 years later we've still come to no resolution on the same issues) but it kind of gets muddled with the political refugee issue. The more pressing problem is the pacing of this story, with a lot of weird false starts before it finally gets going - Spider-Man is going to investigate the Tarantula's murder of the janitor, no wait, MJ is going to ask Spider-Man to help Elvira, no wait she forgot to ask, but the Bugle called so go help Ben Urich on the janitor investigation, oh actually we don't learn anything there, so here's a phone call from Elvira, oh but the Tarantula gets away and now the issue's over. The other thing i'm noticing, which is a symptom of having so many writers on the various Spider-books, is that we're repeatedly hitting on the topic of Peter's insecurity about MJ making more money than him but not making any progress on it. But all told this is a competent issue by two industry veterans.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this issue prior to Amazing Spider-Man #298-300 due to the fact that Spider-Man is wearing his black costume, which he gave up for MJ in that story. But based on the Reference to ASM #299 (see below), the fact that Peter wakes up in #138 disturbed by the "illegals" he saw "tonight", and the fact that Tarantula, Colonel South, and Captain America all seem to have not moved from the room they are in between this issue and next, i'm placing both of these after ASM #300. The apartment shown in this issue is nondescript and could be the new one or the old one. As for the costume, i have to assume that Peter is temporarily back to the black one,
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBen Urich, Enrique Lopez, Gullivar South, J. Jonah Jameson, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Kate Cushing, Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man, Tarantula II, Tombstone, USAgent
Conway was just coming off his Justice League Detroit period at DC, which is reviled by fans to this day, when he started writing Spectacular, so many fans would argue with the idea that he got better at DC.
Posted by: Michael | May 27, 2014 8:05 AM
Gerry Conway wrote the first issue with the Tarrantula. 137 issues later he brings him back for his first issue back.
I do like the was Sal's MJ resembles her first appearances. Much better that the big haired bimbo she'd become under MacFarlane.
Also, this is one of my favourite covers ever
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 27, 2014 2:07 PM
Ok, i read your considerations here about the costume although I think the die spinde lettering will be back. i remember the costume getting unwound by a homeless lady in a later issue of Web of Spidey (can't recall the number off hand)
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 27, 2014 2:37 PM
Conway's Detroit JLA was critically reviled from the start primarily due to the hopelessly stereotypical Vibe(the reaction to him was perfectly encapsulated in one Ambush Bug panel), but the critics did tend to like his work on Firestorm, so I'd say quality wise he pretty much evened out compared to his pre- and post-DC Marvel work.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 31, 2014 5:00 PM
Marvel got letters attacking the parody of Ollie North in this story; hilariously, the response on the letters page was that South was obviously not a parody on the grounds that Sal Buscema would have drawn a better likeness if he were.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 26, 2015 7:04 PM
It seems like Sal gets trashed any time the writers try to back away from a story that the readers didn't like- DeFalco suggested the Peter hits MJ scene was supposed to be Peter accidentally hitting her or shrugging her off or whatever and Sal drew it wrong.
Posted by: Michael | October 27, 2015 11:26 PM
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