Comics : Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This review was first published on: 2004.

In Detail...

Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1
Feb 1987 : SM Title
Editor:  Ann Nocenti
Writer:  Jim Owsley
Pencils:  Mark Bright
Inker:  Al Williamson
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man vs. Wolverine (TPB)
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Jameson, J. Jonah, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Nathan Lubensky, Leeds, Ned

We start with a Wolverine in Eastern Europe with his 'best' friend Charlie. The Russian KGB are after Charlie and Wolverine defends him in pretty grisly style by slaying about a dozen men, despite being shot.

We then check in with Spidey in NYC. He checks out a Mom 'n' Pop store that he sometimes frequents. They have been murdered and, much to his own revulsion, he takes photos that he then sells to the Bugle. After stopping in at Aunt May's and taking in a movie with MJ, Pete is in Times Square. His Spidey-sense kicks in but only intermittently. He reasons that there must be a sniper somewhere. After changing into his outfit down a back alley (an old scene that seems refreshingly new), he tries to help but ends up with the police shooting at him.

Later, at MJ's and Pete is unforgiving of himself that he couldn't stop people being killed. MJ says it wasn't his fault and they kiss. Pete pulls away, thinking he has broken their trust.

Elsewhere, Ned Leeds is filling in Jonah about his story on the KGB. All the men murdered at Times Square were KGB men - so were 'Mom 'n' Pop'. Ned Leeds says the guy killing them all is Charlemagne (Charlie from the start with Wolverine). He wants to investigate but needs a photographer. In a cool cut of scenes we see Pete slinging his black costume away. He's had enough of Spidey. Pete wants to get away but as he's about to leave he can't resist answering his phone. It's Jonah ... and he's got a job for him.

Over in Berlin and Wolverine is looking for Charlie, as are Ned and Pete. On the street, Wolverine senses Pete's smell and knows he's Spider-Man. He tracks him to his hotel and, when he's alone goes into his room to make sure he's on the 'good' side. He invites Pete (who doesn't have a costume) out with him and Pete goes swinging off. There's a great line where Wolverine, who thinks Pete could be KGB thinks he's overdoing the act by saying 'Yes Aunt May' on the phone!

Wolverine tells Pete to go home - what's going on in Berlin is over his head. Pete wants to go home anyway to sort out his problems with MJ. He goes to tell Ned and walks into his hotel room to see Ned slumped, dead with his throat slit. He doesn't even notice his spidey-sense as KGB men are in the room too. Suddenly Wolverine bursts in a cleans house before tugging the still-shocked Pete to safety.

Pete's at the bus station, ready to leave but has second thoughts. He wonders if Wolverine drew him away from the hotel on purpose so Ned could be murdered. He goes back into the city and tries to buy some clothes he can be Spidey in. He wants something black and cool but ends up with ... a costume shop version of his old red and blue outfit - complete with webbing under the arms.

Spidey traces Wolverine to East Germany - across the wall back in those days. Wolfie is at a steel works that he says is a front for the KGB. He has found Charlie, who's a woman! After a quick snog, they go back to her huge house and Logan carries her up the stairs...

Whew! After that, Wolverine and Charlie are in a restaurant. Their food is poisoned (which they know), everyone inside has a weapon (which they know) and they are all out to kill them (which they also know). Anyway, Spidey bursts in and Charlie escapes while he and Wolverine take out the assassins. Later and Wolfie is filling Spidey in on the truth. Charlie was a KGB agent but they turned on her. Now she's taking them out one-by-one as payback.

The pair raid a KGB basement where Wolverine kills and Spidey hits some of the old agents. Wolverine tells Spidey to shine his 'bat belt' into a darkened room (great line!). There's just more dead agents though and Wolverine realises Charlie has already been there. He wants to stop her. He and Spidey have an argument about Spidey's appearance though and go their separate ways.

Later and Charlie has killed everyone on her list. She meets Wolverine in a cemetery. She wants him to kill her. She knows she'll get caught eventually and doesn't want to be tortured. As Wolverine goes to kill her, Spidey shows up and the two fight. It's good too. Spidey hits him with everything he's got but to no avail. Wolverine is on top of him they reason they could kill each other - Spidey by snapping his neck. As they stop, though, a helicoper's beam shines down upon them. Spidey is dazzled an as he feels what he thinks is Wolverine's hand on him, he turns and punches ... hard. But it's not Wolverine - it's Charlie.

She's dead.

The security services after her (the helicopter) see she's dead and move on. Spidey and Wolverine go their separate ways. Pete is haunted that he has killed. Back in NY and Jonah rings Pete to congratulate him on the quality of his pictures. Pete can't bring himself to tell him about Ned. MJ knocks on his door and they hug.

In General...

The start of this book is really great. The silent monologues to introduce both characters really are spot on. Often, there is a fine line with these things between excellence and just being plain corny. The dialogue here though is superb - especially for Spider-Man. His own disgust at what he does - taking pictures of misery is a side of the character not explored in the core books for a long time.

The real triumph of this book is Jim Owsley's words. For a GRAPHIC novel, that's really saying something. It's not that the art lets the book down and the words take over, because that's not the case at all. What happens is that the pure clarity of the language outshines everything. From the inner- monologues at the start, to the character interaction, to what's happening in the background (for instance the background squabbles of the residents at Aunt May's), the whole thing is just perfect.

Despite Wolverine, this really is a Spider-Man book. The anguish he has at the end and the way Mary-Jane shows up just to hug him puts everything into perspective. There's real human emotion and depth to what's happening.

The revelation that Charlie is a female is a good one. I guess we have no real reason to think that she would necessarily be a male - you just kind of assume because of the violence. It's a nice twist though.

This is the first time that a graphic novel has been used as a way of advancing a story and it does a really good job. Ned Leeds' death is a big turning point in the life of Peter - I won't say why in case you don't want to be spoiled. I quite like the way it was handled here. It wasn't dwelled upon - that will come in the core book - but provided a strong link between the story and the continuity from the other three books.

Overall Rating...

Really, really good stuff that leads straight into Amazing Spider-Man 289.