Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Claws Of The Vulture!

Ack!  It looks like we're entangled in another Spider-Man cover peppering us with plot points:

"If you read only one comic-mag story this month, it must be--THE DARK WINGS OF DEATH!" I hope no one in December of 1973 took that seriously, because the Marvel checklist for that month advertised other comics stories that would have been better investments for a kid's hard-earned 20¢:

  • The wrap-up of the Avengers-Defenders clash
  • The FF issue where Reed turns his own son into a mental vegetable
  • Iron Man battling Dr. Spectrum
  • Captain America meeting the son of Baron Zemo
  • The Defenders finally resolving their situation with the Black Knight as well as the disbanding of the current lineup

A murder mystery involving the Vulture sounds intriguing on its face--but this first part of a two-part story mainly has a lot of wheels spinning at once but going nowhere, and most of the questions on this cover don't come close to being answered.

Except for Harry--but that doesn't take rocket science to figure out. Harry is going off the deep end, thanks to his father's death at the hands of Spider-Man. If I've ruined this issue for you with that revelation, feel free to pelt me with tomatoes--but, thanks to all the build-up with him, it wasn't exactly a secret, sinister or otherwise.

At least page one doesn't waste any time in putting this story into motion:

Interestingly, it's the one page of the story which at least tells us something; in fact, for one page, there's a lot to digest. We know a woman has been killed--but Spider-Man makes the leap to presuming she's been murdered, based only on Mary Jane's shocked expression at her window, as well as an allusion to his spider-sense (which I refuse to believe is wired to detect the expresson of a witness to a crime scene and conclude that murder was involved). Given all the activity and noise on this street corner, couldn't any one of these shocked people have witnessed what happened?

Let's get to the bottom of all this!

First, let's assume that the police and associated detectives will be "canvassing," i.e., hitting the area and questioning possible witnesses. Normally, that would include residents of buildings directly overlooking the crime scene, yet Peter seems concerned that the police and MJ will never cross paths without his intervention:

I'm still not sure why making coffee in a crisis situation seems to be the first thing people think of when trying to help others. If your friend's husband or wife leaves them--you put on some coffee. If your friend has a domestic dispute--you put on some coffee. If your friend discloses that they've committed a felony--you put on some coffee. I'd think the last thing you'd want to do with someone who's "frightened half out of their skull" is to pump caffeine into them and make them more unnerved, not to mention keeping them from getting any sleep.

But as we're about to see, Peter isn't exactly the model friend. In fact, if you ever meet Peter Parker on the street, do yourself a favor and steer clear of this guy. Because if the time ever comes when you need some tough love, Peter will take that concept to a whole new level entirely:

Yes, storming out in disgust. You've just see the Peter Parker definition of friendship in action.

After switching back to his Spider-Man identity, though, it's Peter who's attacked, and by the person he then concludes is the murderer:

Spidey barely survives the encounter with his life--though don't take that to mean that this fight scene is dramatic and thrilling. While artist Ross Andru had a lengthy run on Amazing Spider-Man, I've never made a secret of my opinion that he seems a poor fit for this book, while never managing to capture Spider-Man's style of fighting.

On the other hand, where Harry Osborn is concerned, Andru does "crazed" pretty well:

No, I don't know why they're still sharing an apartment, either. Harry pays almost all of the rent on the place--why doesn't he just throw the guy out, since it's obvious he doesn't want him there?

Peter later meets up with MJ on campus, only now she's light-heartedly insisting she was simply playing a joke on him when claiming she witnessed a murder. But before he can pursue the matter further (which he must this time, since, being outside, there's no door nearby to slam after leaving in a huff), Flash Thompson arrives to give them both a lift. Unfortunately, en route, they find there's someone much more proficient at that:

Peter eventually manages to slip away ("slip away" meaning that he abandons an unconscious Flash after his car crashes in the confusion--see what I mean about having Peter as a friend?), and Spider-Man catches up to the Vulture. But Spidey learns that MJ wasn't the Vulture's prime target on campus, though the villain makes use of her anyway:

You'll need to suspend your disbelief with this scene--MJ apparently didn't hear Spider-Man call her "Gwendy," even though she likely heard everything else he said to her. I suppose we're left to assume that he was just muttering the words under his mask. Where's my no-prize?

Soon, however, a scream from elsewhere on campus diverts Spider-Man's attention. It seems the Vulture has definitely moved from pulling heists to terrorizing women:

And in the ensuing scuffle, Spider-Man discovers that this "Vulture" he's been battling is now close to the real deal:

The fight moves outside, where the police have moved in with a restraining net which entraps both the Vulture and Spidey. Only one of them isn't content to remain trapped--and he departs with his prize, or so he thinks:

Now, what would you do if you were the Vulture, and you were ready to confront your prey hundreds of feet up in the sky, and found that you'd instead been stuck with your deadliest opponent?

WAIT a minute--weren't we trying to solve a murder mystery? It looks like the Vulture is doing his best to add to the body count--and we're still no closer to any leads. And if Spidey plunges to his death--well, we'll definitely know who killed him, but we really want to get the answers to our questions: Why is the Vulture out for blood? What's the identity of not only his victim, but also that campus lab worker he's after? And MOST importantly--now that he's the genuine article, is the Vulture going to feel compelled to build a nest for himself in the nearest skyscraper??

Amazing Spider-Man #127

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Ross Andru
Inks: Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski


Colin Jones said...

In a recent issue of Deadpool the Vulture was described as looking like "Larry David bitten by a radioactive parakeet" lol. It's a bit strange why Harry Osborn was sharing a flat with Peter at all - considering that Norman Osborn was a billionaire you'd think that Harry would be living in a luxury penthouse apartment.

david_b said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this issue, one of the first dozen ASM's I had, starting with ish 122. Harry's descent into madness was such a great secondary subplot, one of my favorite Vulture stories as well.

Anonymous said...

Another great look back at this Spider-Man story. Peter really had quite a few irons in the fire plus the recent death of Gwen. I did get lost on a tangent when you brought up the whole coffee issue. I can't get Justine Bateman's commercial for International. She smiles and says: Or even when I'm just relaxing. A relaxing cup of coffee? What is going on with your metabolism when coffee relaxes you? And the cups were so dang small!!!!

The Prowler (now at that point in life when caffeine just bounces off of him).

Comicsfan said...

Prowler, I suppose by a "relaxing" cup of coffee, the pitch person is referring to the fact that, with an addiction to caffeine, you're going to be wide-eyed and climbing the wall any second unless you don't have that cup of coffee!

David, we'll definitely have to cover those Harry-Goblin stories here sometime--as I recall, Harry made a pretty decent Green Goblin. In fact, where Peter's concerned, Harry probably made a better villain than roommate.

Colin, I'd imagine the thinking was that if Peter was living in the lap of luxury in Harry's pad, he'd have no credibility when whining about money problems or his crummy job situation. (Assuming that he'd even feel like leaving the apartment to go to work!)

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