Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #321

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Assassin Nation Plot"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2006.


Last issue Spider-Man stopped the mercenary Paladin from capturing the diplomat Chakane and delivering him to his employer. This sounds good on the surface. However Paladin's employer is Silver Sable, who is trying to determine his involvement in an international conspiracy against her country of Symkaria. To atone for his mistake, Spider-Man volunteered to help Silver and Paladin capture Chakane, waiving his usual fee. Silver accepted his offer and droped him in Queens at his request.

The next morning Peter accidentally overheard a conversation between Aunt May and her physician. Her heart condition has become terminal; she has only six months to live.

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #321
Oct 1989 : SMURF 321.500 : SMURF 321.700 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "The Assassin Nation Plot"
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Todd McFarlane
Inker:  Todd McFarlane
Cover Art:  Todd McFarlane
Staff Only
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Assassin-Nation Plot (TPB)
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Flash Thompson, Green Goblin II (Harry Osborn), Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Silver Sable

Silver sends Paladin and Spider-Man to investigate the train yard of a shipping company owned by the Life Foundation, known to be associates of Chakane. They encounter some resistance from the guards hired to protect the compound. A few of them catch the full brunt of Spider-Man's anger over the news of May's terminal heart condition. When Paladin comments on his uncharacteristic behavior, Spider-Man forces himself to calm down before he accidentally kills someone or gets killed. When they reach the main office, Spider-Man holds off the remaining guards while Paladin grabs copies of everything he can find. With their mission concluded, Paladin instructs Spider- Man to call Silver tomorrow - if he can scrape together enough change for a phone call.

Paladin's smug remarks - directed at Spider-Man's pro bono work for this mission - hits at a secondary target. He and Mary Jane are coping with serious financial problems that can be traced back to Jonathon Caesar and his obsession with Mary Jane. As he hops the D train back to Queens (riding on top of the car) he reminds himself that their problems pale in comparison to losing May.

Later that day Peter admits to May that he knows about her condition. Confused at first, when Peter explains that he overheard her conversation with the doctor, she confesses that it's not her; it's her boyfriend Nathan. Because he doesn't have too much time left, May has decided to close her boarding house to devote more time to him. While Peter with is relieved Aunt May is well, he can't ignore the additional problem of finding a new place to live in a shorter time than he expected. In light of this news, MJ decides to try out for a role on the soap opera "Secret Hospital" since her modeling career has stalled.

The next day they help the Harry and Liz Osborn move into their new loft in Soho. When they are finished moving them in, Harry - aware of their housing problem - makes them an offer to live on the top floor. After a quick inspection - and surprise discovery that the bathroom has a skylight - Peter and MJ agree to move in.

Peter leaves the building and contacts Silver Sable from a pay phone. She provides instructions on where to meet her and they leaves with Paladin for New Jersey. According to the data Paladin stole, the Life Foundation has restarted their operations there and it's the best place to search for Chakane. They sneak into their compound through the ventilation system (naturally) and are greeted by Drake - and some rather large and disfigured gentlemen. Drake explains their alternate plan for their underground compound. They have modified their underground compound into a high-end mall for yuppies, thinking that they can gradually introduce their survivalist concepts to their most valued customers at a later date.

Drake has also arranged for additional security. The large, disfigured gentlemen accompanying him are mercenaries whom he paid to undergo radical genetic surgery to substantially increase their strength. The drawback to this procedure is that they become totally subservient to the Life Foundation (and nearly mindless). He orders his "Protectors" to eliminate Spider-Man, Paladin, and Silver Sable.

Spider-Man and Paladin tackle the Protectors. Sable takes this opportunity to find Drake and Chakane. She tracks them down to the main control room. She shoots Drake in the shoulder to prevent his escape and injects Chakane with chemical incentives to determine the full scope of his involvement with the Symkarian conspiracy.

When Spider-Man and Paladin knock out the Protectors, they find Silver finishing her interrogation of Chakane. When they discover she used chemicals to get the information from him, Spider-Man confronts Silver about her questionable methods. She responds bluntly that she "did what was necessary." As they leave Spider-Man is barely able to contain his rage at her actions.

She learns he has made arrangements to fly an assassin - whose identity is still unknown - from Symkaria to the Life Foundation's facilities after the King's Silver Jubilee celebration. Since her organization is responsible for that event's security, she must return to Symkaria immediately to make additional preparations and acquire more help.

When asked to continue his services, Paladin backs out due to other obligations. Initially Spider-Man is aghast at her methods and wants nothing more to with her. When she offers him $1,000 per day to accompany her to Symkaria, he reluctantly accepts.

In General...

This is another great issue. Another piece of the Symkarian plot is revealed: the assassination of the king and potentially hiding the assassin in the United States.

Silver's use of "chemical incentives" to extract information from Chakane obviously appalls Spider-Man. Her excuse of "doing what was necessary" strikes me as relevant in light of recent reports describing the alternative interrogation tactics for terrorists. Like Spider-Man I disapprove of using these methods to get suspects to talk. Given the limited time and potential international ramifications of using traditional methods, I understand Silver's actions. I don't condone them, but I understand why she used them.

On a lighter note, the fact that Drake's Life Foundations has been reduced to building an underground mall since his last encounter with Spider-Man provides an unexpected laugh.

There are a few other hidden comedy gems in this as well. First the bathroom skylight obviously goes back to Peter's Chelsea Street apartment. While we're aware of that, Harry and Liz aren't. I'm sure most people would think you're a bit crazy if that is a selling point for an apartment or house.

Second, the data disks that Paladin steals are all 5 1/4" floppy disks. It's an interesting "mile marker" to see how far we've come in the last 20 years, from a data storage perspective. Consider those now-archaic disks that hold a little over 1 megabyte to today's portable drives whose storage capacity is measured in gigabyes.

Overall Rating...

4 webs. Another solid issue from Michelinie and McFarlane. Just enough political ingredients to be different, but not too much to be out of place in a Spider-Man book.


Peter and Mary Jane have their own private struggle with Jonathon Caesar, who abducted MJ in Amazing Spider-Man #307 and tried to force her into marriage. When his plan failed and was imprisoned, he began to systematically ruin her life. So far he has made it impossible for her to find work as a model and has most of her savings tied up in a court cases for their condo in Bedford Towers.