The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Synopsis: The issue starts off with Peter, half dressed in his Spider-Man costume, pining for Betty Brant. But then a convenient news report on the radio informs him that Doctor Octopus is due to be released from prison that day. Spider-Man heads over to the prison and tries to convince the warden to stop this, but the warden says there’s nothing he can do and tells him to get lost. Doc Ock, in his cell, gloats about getting time off for good behavior.
Peter, in his lab, constructs a spider-shaped tracking device that he can use to keep tabs on Octavius. A few hours later, Octavius is released and Spider-Man notices a girl is waiting to pick him up. He’s shocked to discover it’s Betty Brant behind the wheel and wonders what her connection to Octavius is. He attaches the spider-tracer to Brant’s car and notices something fell out of her car: a road map of Philadelphia. He vows to head to Philadelphia and follow through with this until the end. At the same time, In the city of brotherly love, imprisoned crime boss Blackie Gaxton shakes down his lawyer, Bennett Brant. Apparently Bennett is in deep with the mobster for gambling debts. If Betty brings Octavius to Philadelphia, Bennett’s debt will be cleared. Bennett arrives at his home and finds Octavius threatening his sister.
Betty begs Bennett to leave with her, but he says he doesn’t have the courage to leave until his debts are off. Back in New York, Peter lets Aunt May know he’s taking a trip to Philadelphia for the weekend and catches a plane to Philly (it’s unclear whether he bought at a ticket or clung to it as Spider-Man. Spidey heads into the city to find Betty and check on Doc Ock. Following his tracer, Peter finds Betty and she tells him about the trouble she’s in and that Ock was hired to break out Blackie. He tells her that he’s heard Spider-Man’s in the city. Ock breaks out Blackie as planned and Spider-Man narrowly misses them and has to flee from the prison guards. Peter realizes that Betty might be in danger and swings off to find her. Back at Bennett’s, Blackie’s thugs drag the Brant siblings to Blackie’s ship in the harbor. Spider-Man arrives shortly but lands on his ankle wrong and sprains it (Lee really loves to give Spidey these realistic minor injuries). Blackie’s thugs show up and take him to their boss and Doc Ock savors his chance for revenge. But first. Octavius decides to turn on his employer and exclaims that he’s taking over Blackie’s operation. Spider-Man uses the distraction to take down his captors and fights the room full of thugs. He confronts Blackie, Blackie pulls a gun, and Bennett, shielding his sister, is hit by a stray bullet. Bennett dies, relieved that he’s no longer a burden on his sister and Betty attacks Spider-Man for inadvertently causing her brother’s death. Spider-Man chases down Blackie and takes him and two of his thugs down single handedly. Octavius returns and the two fight across the ship.
The fight goes on until the boat hits a piling and they’re thrown from the boat. Spider-Man makes it out, but notices that Octavius has disappeared. Blackie goes to jail and the police assure Betty that she’s in no trouble. Peter realizes that Betty needs her right now and he fears that he can never tell her his secret identity or Betty will hate him. Peter comforts Betty, who explains that she doesn’t hate Spider-Man, but he will always associate him with her brother’s death. Peter walks off and we get this really gorgeous call back to the last panel of Amazing Fantasy #15:
- So we finally learn Betty’s whole deal after…what, four issues? It’s well done, though Lee could’ve mined more drama from it. Hell, Peter doesn’t even seem to feel any responsibility for Bennett’s death, though he did kind of bring it on himself in the end.
- Doctor Octopus is great in this issue and he really needs to wear a suit more often. The sweatpants combo he’s wearing at the end looks like a precursor to his “classic” look, which I assume we’ll see next issue.
- This is the first time we see the now-classic Spider-tracer used. It’s a useful plot device for sure.
Final Thoughts: Not much to say about this issue. It’s a good one and it’s nice to see Spider-Man in new locations (even though Ditko’s Philadelphia looks suspiciously like his Manhattan). The payoff for the Betty Brant story line is decent and I’m curious to see where her relationship with Peter goes from there. Tomorrow’s issue looks like less of a “part 2” and more of a follow up, if that makes sense. Anyways, Doc Ock’s back tomorrow and he does something big.