Monday, September 2, 2013

Bring Lawyers, Guns, and Money: Amazing Spider-Man 162

Amazing Spider-Man #162 (November 1976)
"Let the Punisher Fit the Crime!"
Writer: Len Wein
Pencils: Ross Andru
Inks: Mike Esposito and Dave Hunt

Karen: Welcome to part two of our little tale -and what a way to start this issue! I love this cover! Comic Book Database credits both Ross Andru and John Romita Sr. - I definitely see Romita, particularly in the Spidey and Punisher figures. I like how the Punisher is facing both the reader and Spidey and Nightcrawler, guns ready. 

Doug:  One of the ideas we've discussed around here in the past is the obscuring of a cover's logo by the art.  Here the artists give us, the readers, a nice bit of depth by allowing the cables to extend to our own horizon.  The placement of the logo (still one of the best ever, by the way) "behind" the cable lines works great.

Karen: This entire issue is narrated by the Punisher in his 'war journal' style, but it's not over-bearing. The splash page is essentially the same as the cover -the Punisher facing our two acrobatic heroes, although he's inside the tramway car. But he's holding a gun on them both, convinced that one of them has been committing murders in an effort to set him up. Spidey and Nightcrawler, on the other hand, are convinced that the Punisher is the killer they've been hunting. Spidey in particular is ticked off, as he'd wanted to believe the police were wrong about the Punisher. The gun-wielding vigilante tells the two to stay put and not to try anything, but Spidey is too quick. He swings around the car, while his mutant companion jumps through the door, knocking the Punisher over. Spider-Man kicks the Punisher's rifle out of his hands  but the ex-Marine manages to pin the wall-crawler to the wall of the car with a pair of knives that he miraculously throws through his costume's shoulders, and not Spidey's skin! The Punisher pulls a gun on Spidey as the webhead tries to break free and demands to know why he's been impersonating him, when bullets begin tearing through the car. Nightcrawler clings to the underside of the vehicle and scans the area for the sniper, and realizes he's somewhere on the 59th street bridge, hidden from view. The shooting stops and 'Crawler teleports into the car, startling the Punisher.  He wants to question the mutant, but Kurt 'bamfs' away quickly -- he's trying to avoid revealing anything about himself, after all (the whole point of last issue's encounter with Spidey). He teleports a great distance and has to recover his strength; he can't go after the sniper.

Doug:  I always kind of enjoyed the "War Journal Entry #..." style of narration when the Punisher was on the scene.  That sort of self-absorption seemed to fit his dour personality, and also showed how meticulous he was in waging his one-man revenge war.  When Spidey and Nightcrawler move to save themselves from ol' Frank's potential attack, it gives us an extended view of what might have been had our two heroes continued to duke it out between themselves.  Take away Nightcrawler's teleportation powers, and the webhead and the fuzzy elf basically have the same power sets.  It would be a sight to see, and as you remarked last week, settings like the Ferris wheel really provided some neat visuals.

Doug:  Nightcrawler having to recover after a long teleportation was his own personal Achilles' heel, much like Johnny Storm overusing his flame, Iron Man's ongoing issues with his heart, etc.  It's just another perfect example of Marvel's characters and their feet of clay. 

Karen: Alone in the bullet-riddled tram car, Spidey and the Punisher realize that neither of them is the killer, and decide to work together to find him. They head off to the Punisher's 'war wagon' - in actuality, a souped-up van (this was the 70's, remember). They manage to drive right through a police road block and evade any conflict with the law. They decide to get back together the next night.

Doug:  "this was the 70's, remember" indeed!  Between reading this off the spinner racks, and my daily doses of Speed Racer and reruns of the 1966 Batman TV show, was there anything that cars couldn't do?  What a great time to be a kid with a hungry imagination.

Karen: The following day, we see Spidey in his civilian ID as Peter Parker, on the Empire State campus. Interestingly, this is the only time we see Peter in this issue -it was a bit light on his personal life this time around. peter sees Mary Jane getting a little too close to Flash Thompson on a grass lawn on campus. She's obviously trying to make him jealous -and she's also obviously annoyed with him leaving her alone last issue at Coney Island when they witnessed the murder.Pete's irritated by her displays of affection with Flash but he doesn't have too long to dwell on it, because he soon spies another member of his cast, J. Jonah Jameson, headed into a building on campus. We (but not Peter) discover that Jameson is there to see Dr. Marla Madison, an expert on "electro-biology" (??) and he has an offer to make her, the challenge of a lifetime: help him destroy Spider-Man! Boy, he never got tired of that, did he?

Doug:  You see, this is why I was never a big fan of the Peter/Mary Jane relationship.  I know that many of you will say that MJ's strong point was her independence and spirit.  I know Gwen would get mad at Peter for running off on her, but it always struck me that Mary Jane would seemingly dump Pete immediately.  Chalk most of this up to a wide-eyed 10-year old who didn't yet get the cat-and-mouse aspect of dating relationships, but MJ could seem cruel.  And what of Flash Thompson?  Does everyone recall that weird Mindworm story in ASM #138 where Pete moves in with Flash and they become fast friends after years of Flash tormenting Peter?  Fast friend here?  Nope.  BUT -- this was a necessary part of the Spider-Man mythos, and a peek into the alter ego side of things that I looked forward to (still do when reading these old stories).

Doug:  We've also gotten a hefty does of JJJ in this issue and last as well, haven't we?  Jonah is best when moving beyond the typical "Spider-Man's a Menace" headlining, and this is the beginning of a nice arc for him.  How about later when Dr. Marla Madison and he hook up -- inter-generational love, my friends!  By the way, at some point I'd like to see some sort of diagram, graphic organizer, or whatever that explains Marvel science/scientists and just what disciplines they are fluent in.  Electro-biology...  that's not part of your job, Karen?

Karen: Later that night, Spidey and the Punisher meet up as planned. I really like the way these two relate to each other. They don't quite get one another, but there's a respect there. Punisher has a tip that the gunman is going to show up at a block party organized to support a fire house in a poor neighborhood. Spidey takes to the rooftops in search of the shooter while Punisher checks out the alleys and streets. At one point we see a man in an overcoat speaking on a walkie talkie, watching Spidey and telling someone on the other end that he's there, when suddenly he's yanked into the shadows. But that's the last we see of him. Mysterious, hmm?  Next we see Spidey dropping down into an alley where he sees what appears to be an unconscious man. But surprise! It was a trap. The man pulls a gun on Spidey. Old webhead's spider-sense goes off, but thinking it's telling him about the danger he already knows, he ignores it -- and promptly gets hit over the head from behind. He's tough though -- it takes a few more konks before Spidey is knocked out. 

Doug:  The way Spidey's spider-sense worked in the rooftop/alley scene was sketchy at best.  Even though he was some distance from the guy with the radio, we've seen in the past that Spider-Man can have a feeling of being watched -- seems like that should have been the case here.  Additionally, shouldn't Peter have been alerted to the guy in the alley who was playing possum?

Doug:  One of the things I think of (now -- not back in 1976) when I read comics is how much punishment our heroes and villains take in the course of a story.  No way Spidey wouldn't have had a severe concussion after those three blows to the head.  No way.  And that would have affected him well into the next few storylines.  But the only thing we ever see him, or Daredevil for that matter, affected by is a cold or a wrenched shoulder.  Silly...


Karen: The party is still going on in the street when the crowd becomes aware of something terribly wrong. They see the limp form of Spider-Man, in chains, hanging from a lamp post. There are gun men in front of him, holding their weapons on the people. A figure in the shadows pulls out a bullhorn and begins calling for the Punisher. He says he knows he's out there, and he has his partner, Spider-Man. He says that the Punisher may not remember him, but he remembers the vigilante, thanks to being thrown through a plate glass window by him. He steps into the light and we can see him -his face is horrifically scarred. He says he's called Jigsaw now, and he's going to kill the Punisher. I thought Andru and Esposito did a an excellent job on Jigsaw's face -- he could have been a joke, a caricature like a Dick Tracy villain, but he really came across as terribly mutilated.

Doug:  I absolutely love the large image of Spidey hanging from the lamp post in chains.  Ross Andru must have looked at some old Harry Houdini images for inspiration!  You said it with your kudo about Jigsaw's look.  The only complaint I have about that page (well two complaints -- lavender body suits for the henchmen?  C'mon...) is the reveal of Jigsaw in the last page panel.  You know who was a master of "the big reveal"?  Jack Kirby.  I swear that man did a great job knowing where the full and half-page ads would be placed in magazines he worked on.  His reveals always seemed to be after a page turn.  Anyway, we really don't get cheated, as there are several more good shots of Jigsaw on the following page.  It's sort of like a trainwreck -- difficult to avert one's eyes.  And that Andru and Esposito did not keep his face consistently drawn only seems to add to the horror the guy went through.

Karen: Jigsaw says if Punisher doesn't show himself his men will start shooting the crowd. He starts counting to three, but on three a knife knocks his gun out of his hands, and bullets begin to spray at his feet. However, he's not lying when he says he's been training- he springs away, rolls, and comes up with his gun pointed at Spidey's head. Before he has a chance to use it, Nightcrawler comes bursting out of nowhere to knock him over. Yes, it was Kurt Wagner who took out the man on the walkie talkie a few pages earlier. Apparently he'd been tailing the Punisher in hopes that it would lead him to the man who killed his friend (Kurt was reading about it in the paper Wolverine destroyed when they were in the Danger Room). Now, he's just in time to save our wall-crawling hero. 

Doug:  Had anyone else nearly forgotten that Nightcrawler was also guesting in this story?  I had.  This was really beginning to play like a typical Marvel Team-Up, where last month's guest only sticks around as a segueway to the next guest and the evolution of the plot.  I was happy, however, to see Kurt arrive to save the day!

Karen:  With Nightcrawler's appearance, Punisher decides to make his entrance. He comes down from the rooftops, firing rubber bullets (to protect the civilians nearby) and using special gas grenades. "Not exactly my regular style, " he muses. No indeed -- especially in his later years! 

 Doug:  As our readers have seen on our reading list on the sidebar, we'll be checking out Frank Castle's first appearance later this month.  This 2-parter, by the way, is the Punisher's 6th appearance (if I count correctly -- check my math).  Am I correct in thinking that it was Spider-Man who insisted that the Punisher use rubber bullets?  Or was that something Castle was doing all along?

Karen:  The Punisher blasts away at Jigsaw's thugs, making his way towards the main event. Speaking of which, Nightcrawler isn't doing too well against Jigsaw (we'd find out later he's wearing an exo-skeleton). Spidey comes out of his stupor just in time,and snaps his chains, saying "This looks like a job for Spider-Man!" (Cute.) With Spidey, Punisher, and Nightcrawler all together, the tide quickly starts to turn. Jigsaw sees this, and turns tail. He heads for the firetruck, of all things, with one of his thugs driving. The wall-crawler spots him and swings up onto the speeding truck but Jigsaw turns the high-pressure water hose on him and it's all he can do to grab on to a piece of equipment and not go flying off the truck. He manages to turn off the water supply, so Jigsaw tries throwing the hose at him. However, it catches around a tire and the other end wraps around Jigsaw's leg. The whole truck goes careening off the road and into a building, with Spidey flipping out of the way just in the nick of time. Nightcrawler and the Punisher catch up and see that Spidey has Jigsaw tied up in the hose. They tell him Jigsaw's men are "neutralized." Spidey goes to shake hands with NC, only to find a cloud of brimstone, and then turns to Punisher, but he's disappeared too! Old web-head decides he might as well leave himself, and swings off into the night.

Doug:  The half-splash of our three heroes kicking butt is pretty fun.  What did you think of Spidey's somewhat cruel goading of Jigsaw?  On the one hand, the guy was a mass murderer bent on some personal revenge scheme.  On the other hand, he had faced (pun intended) great personal loss/tragedy.  On the other hand (now we're venturing into Doc Ock territory with all these hands)...  Ah, nevermind.  The smash-'em-up of the firetruck at the end was a good way to finish the story. I really expected one of those Wile E. Coyote moments with the firetruck going under a viaduct and Jigsaw being decapitated.  It was sort of nice that he was just trussed up, so that we are fully aware that he'll be back.  I loved the Batmanesque exits by the Punisher and Nightcrawler!

Karen: I really enjoyed this story. It was simple and straightforward, it had great pacing, the action was fun and exciting, and Spidey sounded right to me. I much prefer this version of the Punisher -I suppose the original version - to what he eventually became, which was pretty much a psychopath. Nightcrawler really didn't have a lot to do, but was still fun to see. All in all, a very solid read.

Doug:  As I usually do with you -- I agree on your assessment of this 2-parter.  And I think we needed this one after the Marvel Team-Up story, which was uneven to say the least.  But hey -- over the past month we've read stories with Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Human Torch, the Inhumans, Nightcrawler, and the Punisher -- and by Conway, Wein, Andru, Mooney, Giacoia, and Esposito.  That's not a bad line-up.  And as we said a couple of weeks ago, it just goes to show that sometimes our memories of these 35-40 year old stories can be a little cloudy.  But when viewed through the eyes of a child, they were certainly pretty awesome!


Edo Bosnar said...

This is one of the first issues of the regular Spidey series that I pulled off the spinner rack - attracted by that awesome cover. One other thing I like about it, which I alluded to in comment last week, is the way Nightcrawler is hanging on the cable with his tail. It's such a cool visual detail.
I don't remember much of it now, but I do recall really enjoying this issue back then. Like Karen said, the pacing is great, and the art team really did a good job in rendering the action scenes so that you can follow much of the story without even reading the text.

Doc Savage said...

Not a fan of Punisher or Nightcrawler, but this was still a good story. Always enjoy the Andru-Esposito era, '70s Spidey is probably my favorite.

Fred W. Hill said...

Nice if average story. Seems to my memory that this was the first time that any of the new X-Men guest-starred solo in another series, and otherwise I'm only aware of the team itself guest-starring in the final issue of Iron Fist, and I can't recall if that came out before or after this. There was certainly buzz about the new X-Men around the time this came out but they hadn't yet become the biggest stars of the Marvelverse.
Jigsaw, btw, reminds a bit of the Orb, whom Spidey teamed up with the Ghost Rider to fight a few years previously. Of course, the Orb's horribly scarred face was hidden under his eye-helmet, and neither of them could hold a candle to the top facially-scarred baddie, Dr. Doom!

Doug said...

On a day when comments are light (hopefully only due to the holiday here in the States), I wanted to take a moment to wonder aloud where some of our stalwart commenters have gone off to? People like Dougie, Inkstained Wretch, Richard, and many others who made the BAB a regular stop have seemingly gone missing from these parts.

I just wanted you all to know that your absence here has been noticed, and your presence is missed. I hope you're lurking and see this.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, it is unusually quiet. maybe too quiet...
Anyway, apropos of nothing and just to start a conversation, I heard James Spader is gonna play Ultron. Cool beans! that guy does creepy like nobody's business. now if they can only get Cranston to play Lex luthor...
Any thought?

Anonymous said...

Yeah I read this issue many years ago when I was around 10 years old, so I have fond memories of this particular story. No earth shattering cosmic threats here, just a good old fashioned Spidey story.

Jigsaw always seemed to be the perfect foil for the Punisher, both men being transformed into trained killers by a personal tragedy. I felt the 3 way combination of Spidey, NC and the Punisher worked well in the context of this storyline. Like Karen, I liked this early version of the Punisher, using rubber bullets (although potentially still lethal) and all. This Punisher while still very capable of brutal violence felt like he was honour bound not to harm innocents, a far cry from the ultra violent version we would see in later years.

As for Dougie, Inkstained Wrench and Richard, well, I'm sure they're somewhere around, maybe not actively on this blog, but I'm sure they'll pop up soon!

- Mike 'internet crawler' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Doc Savage said...

Spader as Ultron sounds great. That'll make 4 movies he's been in with Downey that I know of.

Doc Savage said...

News says Cranston already cast as Luthor. And maybe Matt Damon as Aquaman.

Anonymous said...

Spader did three movies with Downey? I know about Less Than Zero...
Ya gotta admit, it's not a big leap, acting-wise, from playing Robert California to playing Ultron. They're almost the same guy.
And, Matt, you serious about Cranston playing Luthor.? That's a movie I'd pay to see, as opposed to just sneaking in the theater when nobody is looking.

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