Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #309

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

Jonathon Caesar has kidnaped Mary Jane, keeping her in a soundproof room of his condo in Bedford Towers, several floors below the condo that she and Peter share. Peter is beside himself worrying about her safety, convinced that she is part of a Spider-Man revenge scheme.

In Detail...

"Styx And Stone"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #309
Nov 1988 : SMURF 309.500 : SM Title
Summary: Styx & Stone, Mary Jane Escapes
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)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man/Mary Jane...You Just Hit the Jackpot
Articles: Glory Grant, Jameson, J. Jonah, Caesar, Jonathan, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Robertson, Joe "Robbie", Styx

All of Peter's attempts both in and out of costume to locate Mary Jane have failed. He is understandably depressed at his inability to find her and fearful for her safety.

Many floors below in a special room, Jonathon Caesar is having dinner with Mary Jane when he announces their upcoming wedding. Trying to gently remind him - so he doesn't snap and do something to her - that she's already married, Caesar brushes it off. The mention of a "wedding night" freaks her out, prompting her to throw ice cubes at him and makes a break for the door only to be stopped by his guards. Caesar threatens to disfigure her if she tries to leave again.

Caesar learns that Spider-Man is looking for Mary Jane. Assuming he owes Parker a favor, he hires two assassins, Styx and Stone, to eliminate him. Styx has the ability to cause living tissue to instantly decay upon contact. Stone is a short, squat guy with shoulder mounted cannons. When he sees Spider- Man swinging toward Bedford Towers over Central Park, he instructs his operatives to kill him. The combination of nausea-inducing gas, a sonic attack, and a high-intensity strobe light resulting in temporary blindness have Spider-Man at a significant disadvantage over his opponents.

From inside Caesar's condo, Mary Jane has decided to attempt another escape, motivated only to warn Peter of Styx's death touch. Caesar inadvertently moves into position, standing in a pool of melted ice water. Her initial plan of electrocuting Caesar with an exposed lamp wire in the water fails due to his rubber soled shoes. As he retrieves his knife and lunges to cut her, she hits him across the face with the lamp, knocking him out. When the goons try to rush her, they receive the treatment she had planned for Caesar. She grabs a gun and heads for Central Park.

Spider-Man is barely keeping ahead of his newest enemies. They eventually trap him in a powerful adhesive gel and bathe him in a powerful heat ray that makes moving even more difficult. Just as Styx prepares to kill Spider-Man, MJ arrives and begins shooting at them. While they admit she's a horrible shot (think "Stormtrooper"), they realize the folly in allowing her to improve at their expense and leave.

Shaking off the effects of Stone's weapons, Spider-Man is able to free himself and finds his way to Mary Jane for a brief reunion. The discharge of energy-based weapons has brought the police, and MJ plans to make the most of it. She flags them down and gives her statement. They quickly arrest Caesar and his guards, allowing the Parkers to return to their regular lives.

In General...

A great ending to a unique arc. The fact that MJ saved herself and took out her captors is a nice twist. One can argue that this resourcefulness should have appeared last issue. My opinion is that in the previous issue, she was still too scared to do anything; she was hoping that Peter would find her. By no means am I saying she is weak for being scared. If I were being held against my will, I doubt I would be of use to anyone, myself included. When the time came, adrenaline helped her overcome her fear, do what was necessary to escape, and save her husband. That's the power of love (thank you, Huey Lewis).

Caesar proves to be the gentlemanly kidnaper, wanting to be properly married before (how to put this delicately?) subjecting her to another unpleasant aspect of being taken against her will. This strange attitude toward getting married to his captive makes him even more creepy than I ever realized. He has no problem committing a felony as long as it results in marriage? Yikes.

There's a few very minor items that detract from the story:

  1. At no point does it show her kicking/tipping over the bucket of ice. The bucket of melted water wasn't shown until her final escape attempt. We are left to assume that she kicked it over during the first escape attempt.
  2. The relative ease with which Styx and Stone beat up on Spider-Man. They are not major players. They have a nice gimmick, but in subsequent appearances, they aren't as big of a threat as in this story. We can assume that this was beginner's luck. The unknown villain against a distracted hero can prove to be a problem.
  3. The most asinine criticism of the bunch: Two references at key points are firmly entrenched in 1980s pop culture. Read today by modern audiences, a reference to "Miami Vice" makes MJ sound less like a contemporary 20-something and more of 40-something who is amused by reruns on TV Land. For longtime Letterman fans, the other is "Larry 'Bud' Melman". This worked fine when it was originally written, but may be looked upon differently by younger readers.

Overall Rating...

Despite the minor problems listed, this is a great issue. This is one of the rare stories that show us Mary Jane has what it takes to be the wife of a super hero; she is not a damsel in distress all the time. The originality of the story combined with the near-perfect resolution give this the full 5 webs.