Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #308

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

Jonathon Caesar is a millionaire that is obessed with Mary Jane. He has placed Peter and MJ to the top of the waiting list at his Bedford Towers complex to bring her closer to him. Biding his time, he waiting for the moment to bring her into his world. The time is now.

In Detail...

"Dread"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #308
Nov 1988 : SMURF 308.500 : SM Title
Summary: Search For Mary Jane
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Todd McFarlane
Inker:  Todd McFarlane
Cover Art:  Todd McFarlane
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 Reprinted In: Legends Vol. 2: Todd McFarlane (TPB)
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Black Cat, Caesar, Jonathan, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Nathan Lubensky

Peter returns to Bedford Towers to find Mary Jane missing and signs of a struggle. He immediately contacts the police to report her abduction. They take his statement and promise to do everything they can to find her. This doesn't help him cope. He is convinced that someone has discovered his secret identity and is trying to get back at him through MJ.

He begins to work his way through underworld informants trying to find who could be planning revenge on Spider-Man. He threatens one informant, Chili Bono, until he agrees to find a lead for him. He promises to give him something in 24 hours.

During this time Peter fulfills his obligation at a Queens bookstore for Aunt May's sake. He hasn't told anyone else about this to avoid worrying them (May) or receiving phony ransom demands from opportunists.

When Bono delivers the information, Spider-Man finds himself in an abandoned Brooklyn cemetery. Just when he thinks he's been led on a wild goose chase, he's attacked by a squad of mercenaries trained by the Taskmaster. They're probably not fully trained because they are no match for an angry Spider-Man. He makes his way to the main complex where he accuses Taskmaster of kidnaping MJ to lure him here because of his connection to Peter Paker.

The Taskmaster is confused and tries repeatedly to convince him that he has no idea what he's talking about; he has no interest in fighting super heroes anymore. Spider-Man is blinded by rage and keeps coming after him. Taskmaster reaches the munitions room and ignites them to cover his escape. As a parting shot he tells Spider-Man that if he had the woman he's looking for, he would've taunted him with that information by this point.

Realizing he's been acting on emotion, he leaves the complex, calls the fire department (never mentioned explicitly but assumed), and returns to Bedford Towers. He's set back the Taskmaster's training camp for a few months, but it's a bittersweet victory as he is back to square one in the search for his missing wife.

For his part Jonathon Caesar has hidden her well. In a soundproof room of his condo, MJ looks out her reinforced window and prays Peter finds her soon.

In General...

You're a worrisome super hero who's married to a world-famous supermodel. You've just had your worst nightmare come to life.

This is a perfect story arc for a married Spider-Man. The confusion over the nature of the kidnapping is completely believable. To involve Aunt May in this type of story, somebody would actually need to know Peter's identity (which happens many years later).

The use of the Taskmaster seems a bit odd, because frankly the information Bono gave him could have lead to anyone and anywhere. Why was he used? Here's my theory:

  1. Chili Bono was scared stupid by Spider-Man. He did the best he could to find something of use within the alloted time. Bono's information was admittedly incomplete but sounded right.
  2. At this stage, nobody in his rogues gallery knows his secret identity, so it wouldn't make sense to involve any one of them.
  3. This story needed a villain capable of something beyond "smash and grab" crimes.
  4. What better way to illustrate a wild goose chase than to have a wildcard villian? This creates additional tension for Spider-Man because despite the good he did stopping the villian, he considers it a waste of time because in his mind he's accomplished nothing.
  5. Michelinie co-created Taskmaster in Avengers #195, and wrote the first Spider-Man/Taskmaster meeting in Marvel Team-Up #103, so I'd say he wanted to use his character again.

The last one may not be completely fair, but if I came up with a cool villian like the Taskmaster I would use him every chance I could.

Overall Rating...

The only reason this doesn't get a perfect score is because the conclusion occurs next issue. Despite my pickiness it's still a great issue. Well paced, realistic dialogue, great artwork, and you absolutely have to find out what happens next.

Footnote...

The Aunt May abuction storyline begin in Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #1