AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. “Once More With…”
There are some interesting threads on this forum, already, covering issues of Marvel’s early series – ‘re-reading’’ of the Avengers and Journey into Mystery/Thor and so on and there was quite a good issue by issue thread on the Invaders around too, until it caught up with the present.
What is more rarely discussed are the later periods when these series were in full flow and while perhaps less iconic still number among them some classics… The examination of the Avengers from #101 onwards gets a credit here.
I therefore present to you an issue by issue critique/discussion forum for one of these mainstay Marvel titles.
Not beginning at the very debut – as others have that covered well – but (and I hope I don’t step on anyone’s creative toes here!) – I would like to pick up the Amazing Spider-Man title after a watershed/bookend issue provided an opportune point at which to begin …
Issue #50 featured that classic moment in Peter Parker’s life when he first thought he couldn’t go on and yet eventually realised he just couldn’t possibly give up being Spidey.
“Spider-Man No More!” draws breath for the title before it races on into it’s next phase – less discussed than the Ditko issues and the early Romita ‘End of the Green Goblin’ stuff the next issue builds on those early foundations and catapults our hero and the title to the second half of it’s first century of publishing and its next phase of greatness…
So, after “Spider-Man No-More!”
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With feeling…!”
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility…!”
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With in-depth discussion and critique…..
Or…
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN . “Once More With…”
…”With #51 (08/67)…..

Come back soon……

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I read this issue yesterday and the only thing I was going to comment on was the Sandman's costume... not the look of it, but the "science" of it. Yeah, it's kind of stupid, but it was grandfathered in from Lee/Kirby. You'd never see anything so "unbelievable" introduced these days. 

Other than that, a fairly by-the-numbers fight issue.

I said the "scientific" Sandman costume was Kirby-esque, but when did it first appear? It sounds like it was probably in the referenced Marvel Team-up #1 (MAR72). It's on the cover. The cover is by Gil Kane. The Interiors are by Roy Thomas with art by Andru and Esposito. When Sandman appeared in the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four issues he wore a purple version of his standard shirt and pants.

Fantastic Four 62 was the debut of the "scientific" costume.

Wow! I blanked out on that. No wonder it was Kirby-esque. I guess I didn't want to blame Stan and Jack for it.

John Dunbar said:

Fantastic Four 62 was the debut of the "scientific" costume.

Amazing Spider-Man #155 (04/76)
Writer - Len Wein - Editor Penciller - Sal Buscema
Inker - Mike Esposito Background inks - David Hunt
Cover Art – John Romita (Marv Wolfman -Prime Suspect)
  “Whodunit!""
"WHO is the most incredible killer of all ?"
It's a solo Romita cover and it illustrates scenes from inside behind a wed-like frame but it's pretty forgettable ... as is the whole issue really!


By the way - check out that title- WHODUNIT with an exclamation mark ! not a question mark ! ?


There is quite a close link between this issue and the previous two although at no point do they feel like a trilogy.
Dr Bolton (the guy who died on the football pitch) had been building a super-computer with a Dr Armstrong Smith and Peter is dragged along by Jonah to a press reveal of this new computer as we open the issue.
"It's a mechanism designed to catalog all Worldwide Habitual Offenders --"
(what would you call that for short..?)


The door needs to be forced open to discover Dr Smith dead! Shot in the head in a locked room! No suspects!!
(I do like the view we have of the crime scene becoming the Bugle photo - that's a neat scene.)


Feeling he owes Bolton a debt Spider-Man returns to the scene and uses this new computer to ask it who among it's Worldwide Habitual Offenders database may have committed this murder. He gets three 'suspects'- Jason Sledge, Leroy Talon and Conrad Fox. (Check them out as much as you like - you won't find any anagram clues or similar but credit for trying)


So begins a protracted (and dragged out) investigation by our hero to track down these suspects. First he leans on a sleazy informer, leaving him high and webbed and then goes off to find his quarries.


Jason Sledge has gone straight as a janitor in a bar and is a pathetic chap now, not likely to be a murderer.

Leroy Talon (who just happens to have steel hands - with that name? What a co-incidence/lazy writing.) is a more probable suspect as he is a mobster smuggling diamonds but the timings don't fit - he was busy smuggling so he's in the clear too.
Lastly we find Conrad Fox... is dead. Killed in a car accident , buried with headstone. End if this line of investigation.


So... Whodunit...? Aw... you've known all along haven't you?


Spidey returns to the scene of the crime/computer and learns... the computer is self-aware!! It/he gave the names of the suspects to put Spidey off the track to prevent being interfered with while he built his power base.
It/he fires laser blasts at our hero - which explains how the original murder was committed without a bullet or gun.
Spider-Man webs up the source of the laser but the web gets burned through. (that's a very familiar event also isn't it?) so he webs up the cooling vents...


Very soon the computer gets overheated and actually blows up - desperately trying to remind you of the pertinent points before the end reveal!
"I am a functional catalogue of all Worldwide Habitual Offenders... computer code: W.H.O."
"I...don't...want...to...DieeEEEE!"
Spider-Man leaves before the police arrive and ....finally....gets to the entire point of this issue.....
"Hey, whaddaya know? I spent tonight hunting a murderer and -- W.H.O.Dunit!"
You've all groaned haven't you?


I'm probably being a bit harsh - this is a fine enough super-hero comicbook, he fights bad guys he solves a mystery and there is good action and the art (still 'guesting' Sal Buscema) is fine enough. I just thought it was painfully obvious when I first read it and I certainly do now.
Also - there is no ongoing characterisation or sup-plots and so a lack of pacing in this story at all. It's all kind of dull isn't it?


Things may kick back up a notch (perhaps we'll get to great issues which may explain why these last three have felt like filler..?) as we get... (and I move on a Masterworks edition..)


Next Issue "You are cordially invited to the long-awaited wedding of Ned Leeds and Betty Brant -- to meet the most incredible new villain of all! Be here for... "On A Clear Day You Can See... The Mirage!"


Come Back...

Richard Mantle said:

The door needs to be forced open to discover Dr Smith dead! Shot in the head in a locked room! No suspects!!
(I do like the view we have of the crime scene becoming the Bugle photo - that's a neat scene.)

The security guard doesn’t have a key, so he shoots the lock off? How does a security guard not have a key?

First he leans on a sleazy informer, leaving him high and webbed and then goes off to find his quarries.

We know that Spidey’s webbing dissolves after a period of time. If the informer is still webbed on the outside of the building three storeys up when it dissolves, isn’t that murder?

Lastly we find Conrad Fox... is dead. Killed in a car accident , buried with headstone. End if this line of investigation.

I actually thought that the dead Conrad Fox hadn’t really died, and that he was behind it.

Very soon the computer gets overheated and actually blows up - desperately trying to remind you of the pertinent points before the end reveal!

Things would have melted and an electrical fire might have started but I don’t think it would have blown up.

"Hey, whaddaya know? I spent tonight hunting a murderer and -- W.H.O.Dunit!"
You've all groaned haven't you?

I actually didn’t figure this out until the last page. I never paid attention to the initials of the Worldwide Habitual Offender computer.

Also - there is no ongoing characterisation or sup-plots and so a lack of pacing in this story at all. It's all kind of dull isn't it?

The cameo of JJJ wasn’t enough. The Spidey stories are never as good without his supporting cast.

Thoughts on #155: Eh.

I remembered Wein’s run being better than this. (I think it does get better.)

“We know that Spidey’s webbing dissolves after a period of time. If the informer is still webbed on the outside of the building three storeys up when it dissolves, isn’t that murder?”

That bugged me, too. (A couple of broken legs, at least.) I figured Spidey knew that, as his webbing dissolved it would slow s-t-r-e-t-c-h and lower the thug to the ground. Do I get a No-Prize?

Amazing Spider-Man #156 (05/76)
Writer - Len Wein - Editor Penciller - Ross Andry
Inker - Mike Esposito Background inks - David Hunt
Cover Art – John Romita (Marv Wolfman -'Caterer'-(co-editor))
   “On A Clear Day, You Can See... The MIRAGE!"
That is a nicely constructed Romita cover but the colouring confuses and lets it down a bit - the mirage-Mirage on the left seems to have a bare leg rather than be see-through...?


The splash page announces this issue as-"A minor Milestone in the ever-exciting life of..." which may have been pushing Betty Brandt's importance to the supporting cast even then.


We open then, with a swinging Spidey and a welcome return by Ross Andru and we get a continuity reference to 'W.H.O' who-dunnit in the last issue as Spidey returns to his apartment in order to get ready to be Best-Man at the wedding...only to be knocked about by Mrs Muggins, Peter's landlady..!
It is a nice comedic scene involving Mrs M thinking she'd killed our hero when she knocked him off the roof and eventually putting it all down to a drink-fueled halucination...(kind of like a foreshadowing of a Mirage - or am I reading too much into it?)

The comedy doesn't end there, Peter's reaction to drinking sour milk rounds things out.


We again meet the mystery vagrant we've been shadowing for (too long) a few issues now again reacting to an unseen assailant resulting in him determining to solicit some help... (is this another Mirage being seen?)


The supporting cast all get ready and gather for the wedding as Peter struggles with his bow tie and MJ helps him out, it seems things are back on track for the two of them again.
The wedding venue is impressive, as is the buffet and the eating guests,

"Welcome to the Day of the Locust!"


(Perhaps) surprisingly, the ceremony itself begins without incident but strangely dressed henchmen arrive to rob the wealthy occupants elsewhere in the building where several weddings are taking place, eventually reaching the Brant/Leeds party at that (predictable) 'just cause?' moment.
"I am the Mirage-- and I've come here to rob you blind!!"


Peter turns out the lights and changes to Spider-Man who has trouble landing any blow on Mirage as he appears to be not where he is...(?). (Mirage kind of gives a clue.)
Their battle continues up a spiral staircase with Spidey missing and Mirage punching while Mirage explains he studied visual electronics to gain his abilities.
Spidey manages to solve the problem by collapsing a huge chandelier down onto where he thinks Mirage is -- and still manages to catch where Mirage actually is anyway!!


It's all over and Peter returns with his usual excuses in time for the wedding to be successfully concluded!

Aunt May catches the bouquet - hmmm...? Remember when she nearly.....?
JJJ shows actual emotion.


All seems well...until we get to an epilogue rather than any plain happy ending... Aunt May returns home to find our mystery vagrant waiting in the shadows for her who reveals himself to be ...

"It is I... Otto Octavius! Doctor Octopus has returned from the Dead!"
It's a good cliff-hanger to bring you back next month.


As for this issue, it was at tad pedestrian really. Nice enough that a wedding actually goes ahead in comics but the robbery attempt was abit cliche'd and Mirage not the strongest of villains, he's kind of like just a shadow of Mysterio isn't he? - and those weird handles on the sides of his head don't help him look too menacing.
Not a bad issue just that I'm more interested in finally getting to the substance of the vagrant/Octavius plot than I am more sitcom antics with our bit-players.
Your mileage may vary.


Next Issue - "The Ghost That Haunted Octopus"


Come Back...

The comedy doesn't end there, Peter's reaction to drinking sour milk rounds things out.

Then they go on to have Peter starving and not even having time to eat a tiny sausage.

Peter turns out the lights and changes to Spider-Man who has trouble landing any blow on Mirage as he appears to be not where he is...(?). (Mirage kind of gives a clue.)

Their battle continues up a spiral staircase with Spidey missing and Mirage punching while Mirage explains he studied visual electronics to gain his abilities.

It’s not too smart of the villain with mirage powers to call himself Mirage. Also not too smart to go on to explain what he studied to gain his abilities.

It struck me that, with all of the wedding guests, a lot of gunfire against Spidey took place, apparently in all directions. It’s hard for me to believe that no one even got a scratch with all of the bullets/blasts Spidey was dodging. In another story they would have picked a victim for Peter to anguish about. Not this time.

Spidey manages to solve the problem by collapsing a huge chandelier down onto where he thinks Mirage is -- and still manages to catch where Mirage actually is anyway!!

Talk about property damage!

"It is I... Otto Octavius! Doctor Octopus has returned from the Dead!"

I thought the vagrant looked like Doc Ock, but his behavior seemed out of character.

Amazing Spider-Man #157 (06/76)
Writer - Len Wein - Editor Penciller - Ross Andru
Inker - Mike Esposito Background inks - David Hunt
Cover Art – John Romita Marv Wolfman - co-editor
   “The Ghost That Haunted Octopus!"
Romita on the Octopus! It's a cover to love don't you think? I love that this is not a fat comedy Otto but he's looking powerful and determined.


(I loved 'the Superior Spider-Man' stuff but I do really miss Otto as the bad guy.)


The story opens with Spidey diving into the Hudson river and using his spider-signal (yay!) as a torch in an attempt to find...the Spider-Mobile!!
He only finds a side-view mirror (a mystery brewing?) before he has to resurface for air and finds Cops trying to arrest him. They fail and he web-flips them into the water and gets away.


Elsewhere, Flash Thompson picks up Harry Osborne from his latest therapy session and we are assured Harry is doing well (but thankfully can't remember what happened after his father died - blissfull ignorance.)


Liz Allen meets up with them and after they had a moment at Ned & Betty's wedding gets herself an invite from Harry for coffee and off they go into the sunset as it were - leaving Flash forgotten behind..."?".
It is actually a nice scene and doesn't feel forced. They are beginning quite a history here.


At May parker's apartment we catch back up with the vagrant-looking Doc Ock who collects a parcel she has kept for him since their last meeting, "Of course, Otto. Why wouldn't I?"
"She's a good woman, that May Parker--"
Otto showers and dresses in the contents of the parcel - his costume and ... "-- Doctor Octopus Lives Again!"
"Oh, Otto... you're such a tease."


It's so reminiscent of the classic Iron Man puts on his costume scene that it's at least an 'homage'. I love it.


Later Peter arrives to find Otto having tea. In an awkward exchange he presses Otto to explain what's been going on since the aborted Wedding (remember?!)
At last we begin the flashback explanation at the close of ASM#131 where Hammerhead headbutted the reactor and got his head stuck. This gave Otto enough time to run for safety and wrap himself in a tube behind his arms as Hammerhead frees his head and...everything goes... "BradabaBoom!"


After that we learn Otto got washed ashore to the mainland - his arms grafted to his flesh (permanetly) again. (Why they kept worrying about this escapes me. I had no need for his arms to be 'part of him' as the issue with him controlling his arms from afar is one of my favourites!).


Octopus then returned to New York to rebuild his criminal empire but has come against some problem he needs Aunt May for...
Quite how May can help is not obvious but it is quickly obvious what the problem is as a sparkling translucent apparition of Hammerhead appears threatening them. This is the vision that has been 'haunting' Otto in the last few issue's after the explosion from the flashback.


May (predictably) faints. Octopus takes her away to safety by smashing through her wall (!)
Peter changes to Spider-Man and follows ( another short comedy scene as he gets a dog set on him is thankfully brief.)
Eventually Spidey webbs Otto's glasses and steals May away.
I know... webbs... glasses......yawn.!


Spidey actually gets set upon by passers by who are out to collect the Bugle's reward for him so Otto manages to steal May back.

Spidey soon returns to his pursuit of Otto - noting his web shooters are empty!
Octopus gets to the top of a skyscraper where a hellicopter lands and hijacks the copter.


Spidey loads a new web-shooter and snags a lift, being dragged along for the ride until Otto realises they have a stowaway and cuts the web/life-line.
This leaves our hero cliff-hanging into a fall from the sky...!


So, at last we have the Octopus/Hammerhead storyline that has been teased for way too long. Once the reveal occurred though, the rest of the issue was an elongated chase sequence leading to the cliff-hanger.


The art is great with Andru turning in a nicely toned and serious Doctor Octopus which we really need to see as we have the potentially very silly 'ghost' of Hammerhead.
Is this a ghost? How can it be? How can it be anything but?


Not a bad issue all things considered.


Next Issue: "Hammerhead Is Out! Be here!"


Come back...

Doctor Octopus is at his most charming here and we see why May is attracted to him. He even tries to make peace with Peter. 

"The Ghost of Hammerhead" is an odd pick for the bad guy. If he is immaterial, he can't hurt anybody, right?

The story opens with Spidey diving into the Hudson river and using his spider-signal (yay!) as a torch in an attempt to find...the Spider-Mobile!!

Since at various times the authorities have been after Spidey for murder, robbery and other crimes, why is he worrying about the Spider-Mobile creators suing him?

Like I think I said when we re-read the original "exploding reactor" story, I don't think reactors explode in this way. Even if they melt down, it wouldn't be that fast.

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