Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Silent, Swivelling Threat of... Big Brother!


It's certainly a heck of a cliffhanger we're faced with as the story involving the new Spider-Slayer continues from Part 1, with Professor Spencer Smythe using his new network of rooftop surveillance devices to catch Spider-Man unmasking and revealing his identity as Peter Parker. As the caption points out, "How does our hero get out of this?"

Yet, surprisingly, as far as Smythe is concerned, his triumph against the web-spinner looks sufficiently open and shut to table the matter for the time being, leaving him confident enough to deal with Spider-Man at his leisure while he continues with other aspects of his long-range plans for the camera devices he now controls. To that end, Smythe proceeds to establish ties with New York's top gang leaders and offer his new services that will allow them to stay several steps ahead of law enforcement as they pull off their jobs. And Smythe indeed gives them a sales pitch too tempting to easily refuse.




But the bosses are understandably concerned about interference from Spider-Man, and Smythe proceeds to demonstrate that he's nullified the wall-crawler by discovering his true identity. Yet in the meantime, Spider-Man's spider sense has reacted to the device monitoring his unmasking--forcing him to put two and two together to discover Smythe's connection to the rooftop surveillance units, and realizing that his civilian identity might have been compromised--and he comes up with a solution (however much of a stretch on writer Stan Lee's part) that at least allows him to blunt Smythe's advantage in that respect. (Perhaps a moot step to take, since, as one of the crime bosses points out, there was no way to easily determine Spider-Man's true identity just by the appearance of his face--by that reckoning, "Spider-Man" could be any one of the millions of males in New York City.)

With Spidey's "identity crisis" quickly solved, that still leaves the threat of the Spider-Slayer to deal with--a robot which, unknown to Spider-Man, Smythe has developed even further.



Now that the new Slayer gives Smythe the ability to personally take control of the robot by climbing aboard it, it appears the Spider-Slayer now has a living brain to make it even more formidable.



As Smythe unleashes the new Slayer and the hunt for Spidey begins, we see that the art reins of this story have been passed from Gil Kane to John Romita for the duration, while Lee presents a new twist: Another protest demonstration to bookend the one we were presented with in Part 1, this one with a larger crowd rather than only a few disgruntled activists--up in arms regarding the city and its use of the rooftop surveillance devices (with the city now cast in the role of "big brother," and the devices as "spy eyes"), and this time with Jameson joining with and spearheading the demonstrators. Spider-Man is able to confirm that Jameson indeed teamed up again with Smythe in the use of a new Spider-Slayer to attack him--but otherwise it seems a pointless diversion to the story, with no real purpose being served other than to show Jameson and Randy Robertson on the same side of the issue this time. But Lee and Romita may have had a different idea for the scene, which we'll get to in a moment.

Eventually, Spider-Man is alerted to the fact that the scanners are monitoring his movements again--though nothing could have prepared him for the elaborate trap which snares and disables him, courtesy of Smythe.





Smythe probably has every reason to feel elated at this point, having failed in prior attempts to defeat the web-slinger but learning well from the encounters and adapting his methods accordingly. Once subdued, Spidey is brought back to Smythe's lab to cement his standing with his new partners; and from there, to be kept under wraps while Smythe begins making use of the surveillance cameras to guide his men while they pull off their first heist--while we begin Part 3 of this story.




Left to his own devices (namely, his wits), Spidey is able to outmaneuver the Slayer in its auto-sentry mode of keeping him captive and free himself. He then quickly moves to immobilize it; but by the time he's able to move on Smythe, his target has sealed his lab from entry, and Spider-Man must now race to prevent the crime now in progress.

If you're sensing a hurried wrap-up of this story put in motion by Lee, join the club. Unfortunately, while the dizzying pace of things falling into place may yield results that, for the sake of the story, are ideal, they're far from realistic. To start with, Spidey has contacted the police and warned them to disable the rooftop devices (in order to disrupt Smythe's communication with the hoods)--something the police department should probably have done well before now, yet immediately proceed to do based on the say-so of none other than their prime suspect for the theft of the devices' control unit, and a wanted man besides. In addition, the devices are uninstalled in record time--in order to foil the plans of Smythe already in motion, certainly, yet requiring a lot of police and maintenance personnel to be deployed in order to cover the area they need to in the time they have available. Even a horde of Keystone Cops couldn't have pulled that off.

It seems a fair bet that Lee and Romita might have put the protest demonstration scene in place in order to provide a reason for the rooftop devices to appear to be in the process of being removed by the time Spider-Man is able to make his move. Instead, Lee seems to have opted to have Spider-Man save the day with quick thinking, rather than rely on the happenstance of the protest demonstrations against the "spy eyes"--let's say city-wide demonstrations, just to make it interesting (not to mention feasible)--to instigate action by the city to remove the devices. Either resolution is fairly weak; perhaps Spidey's call to the police could instead have been made to Joe Robertson at the Bugle, who could have conveyed the warning to the police to begin disabling as many of the devices as possible, in the hope of cutting communications before Smythe's partners acted.

Regardless, before you can say "Yes sir, we can have this entire network of devices pulled out of those rooftops in no time!", the jig is up for Smythe and his very peeved partners.



From there, it's just a matter of Spidey putting the kibosh on the bad guys and wrapping everything up. First, the gang leaders and their men:



Then, Smythe and the Spider-Slayer, thanks to Spidey sabotaging the robot earlier:



And finally moving on to Jameson, who's basking in the possibility of running for mayor after his high-profile appearance with the demonstrators, but who first must settle up with a man who, all things considered, probably lets him off a little too easily.


Amazing Spider-Man #s 106-107

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: John Romita
Inks: Frank Giacoia
Letterer: Sam Rosen / Artie Simek

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