Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #331

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This story is part of an Arc: "Punisher"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Spidey and the Punisher have just discovered that the US government is purchasing every gram of Columbian cocaine that they possibly can.

Ok, pick your jaw up off the ground and lets find out *why* this is happening.

In Detail...

"The Death Standard"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #331
Apr 1990 : SMURF 331.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "Punisher"
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Erik Larsen
Inker:  Mike Machlan
Cover Art:  Erik Larsen
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 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #2
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Venom Returns (TPB)
Articles: Black Cat, Caesar, Jonathan (BTS), Mary Jane Watson-Parker, The Punisher, Venom

Black Cat sneaks into Peter and Mary Jane's apartment in SoHo. She surprises MJ and grabs her by the throat and lifts her in the air, warning her to keep her windows locked, even on the fourth floor. She throws MJ on the couch and delivers her message. She's romancing Flash Thompson to get back at Peter for marrying her (MJ). She is convinced that he will eventually come to his senses and dump her. In the meantime, he needs "to squirm a little". As a parting shot, she tells her to stay away when this happens or else her heart won't be the only thing broken.

Moments after she leaves, Spider-Man drops in through the bathroom skylight, startling MJ. He apologizes and reminds her that they're supposed to meet Aunt May and visit Nathan in the hospital. MJ regains her composure and tells Peter they need to talk about Felicia.

Colorado: At The Vault, the morticians are about to begin an autopsy on the recently deceased Eddie Brock (Venom) when he sit up and reveals that he faked his death. The symbiote created a synthetic outer skin that provided oxygen to his body to avoid breathing. Through this plan, he tricked the guards into thinking he was dead. As he kills the morticians, he admits some level of regret, but believes it's necessary to the overall plan of killing Spider-Man. He then escapes the Vault and leaves for New York.

Spider-Man and Punisher meet in The Bronx. Spider-Man comments on the Punisher's current stock of non-lethal weaponry. Castle replies that against the mob, he isn't bothered by using their methods against them. However since they're going up against the military, he refuses to kill soldiers who are performing what they think is their duty. Being ex-military himself heavily influences this decision.

In Manhattan at the "Stage Door Deli", MJ and her co-workers are taking a lunch break when a middle-aged female fan of "Secret Hospital" approaches MJ. When she asks if she's Sybil Shane, MJ responds that she is. The fan then slaps her across the face, calls her a tramp, and leaves. Vic offers to call a cop, but MJ believes she is just confused and insists on ignoring it. Moments after she walks out of the deli, the fan is killed when an unidentified person runs over her an automobile. Witnesses claim the driver accelerated, indicating they intended to kill her.

In upstate New York, Spider-Man and Punisher arrive at the cocaine storage facility: a military academy. Spider-Man refuses to believe this is the right place, but Punisher reminds him that this situation prevents too much snooping and any odd events can be easily explained away.

Once they enter the facility, they make their way to the commandant's office. They prevent Colonel Buchinsky (who looks very similar to Charles "Death Wish" Bronson) from sounding the alarm. Punisher convinces him to tell them about the drugs or else he'll blow the campus up, making it impossible to maintain the cover for this operation.

Colonel Buchinsky admits that their suspicions are correct, but provides an explanation. The U.S. used to run on a gold standard - gold backed the American dollar. With the economy always on the verge of collapse, gold may become worthless. Some politicians decided that if this happens, they should be prepared to institute a cocaine standard since drugs will always retain their inherent value.

Spider-Man and Punisher are shocked at this revelation. They debate on the proper course of action. The "right" decision would involve exposing these activities to the public. However this decision would completely destroy the morale of the American people. Spider-Man adds his two cents stating that no judge would believe either of them anyway. They decide to not go public with this, but the drugs have to be destroyed. Punisher then acquires the location of the coke stockpile from Buchinsky.

They make their way to an abandoned gymnasium where the drugs are being stored. While Spider-Man distracts the mechanoids designed to protect the cocaine, Punisher places some explosives and sets the timer. Spider-Man activates the fire alarm as he leaves to ensure that no student is caught anywhere near the upcoming blast. The resulting explosion impresses it's 12-year old audience.

Back at Peter and MJ's SoHo loft, Officer Goldman of the NYPD approaches MJ as she enters the building. After asking for an autograph – he is a big fan of Secret Hospital – Goldman tells her that Jonathon Caesar was paroled this afternoon.

In General...

I'm not an economist, so I have no idea if instituting a cocaine standard would work even in theory. It does pose an interesting question: what commodities retain a high enough value to back an entire country's monetary system? Legal or illegal, morally wrong or right, it would seem that drugs might be one such commodity. There are a few commodities that might qualify for this exclusive club. Instead of listing them here, I'll leave that to your respective imaginations.

Of course any possible benefits gained by this alternative doesn't make it any less crazy.

On a less serious topic: did you really think Venom was dead? Yeah, they're really going to off a guaranteed sales boost.

And Caesar's out of jail now. This can only be mean additional grief for MJ and Peter.

Overall Rating...

3.5 webs. Whenever a comic book presents me with a moral, philosophic, or socio-economic question that can't be easily answered, I tend to hold that issue in high regard. The concepts presented here are quite unnerving and subject for endless debate. And they say comics rot your brain.

Footnote...

The scenario of Spider-Man marrying the Black Cat was explored in What If? (Vol. 2) #20