Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #107

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This story is part of an Arc: "Death of Jean DeWolff"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

Jean DeWolff is one of the few members of the police force that publically support Spider-Man. She was introduced in Marvel Team-Up #48

In Detail...

"Original Sin"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #107
Oct 1985 : SM Title
Summary: Daredevil, Sin-Eater
Arc: Part 1 of "Death of Jean DeWolff"
Editor:  Jim Owsley
Writer:  Peter David
Pencils:  Rich Buckler
Inker:  Brett Breeding
Cover Art:  Rich Buckler
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Review
 Reprinted In: The Death of Capt. Jean DeWolff (TPB)
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man & Zoids (UK) #17
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man & Zoids (UK) #18
Articles: Aunt May Parker, Daredevil, Jameson, J. Jonah, Robertson, Joe "Robbie", Sin-Eater

Jean DeWolff was the unwanted daughter of police commissioner Phillip DeWolff; Phillip wanted a male offspring. Phillip and her mother Celia divorced when Jean was six months old. Her mother remarried another police officer - Carl Weatherby - who was Phillip's polar opposite. His doting on his adopted daughter and his positive example encouraged Jean to pursue a career in law enforcement.

She quickly advanced through the ranks earning her captaincy while her step- father was still a sergeant. His pride in her accomplishments was understood, though not shown. Jean realized that he was reserving a public display until she became police commissioner.

Jean reflects on her life as she lies dying on her bed with a gaping chest wound and bleeding profusely. By the time the police arrive she is already dead.

The next day, Peter meets Ernie Popchik - one of Aunt May's borders - in Manhattan after he cashes his social security check. Part of his routine involves cashing his check and going on a small shopping spree for books. He walks with him for a few minutes, a few steps ahead of the older man. He suddenly realizes that Popchik is no longer behind him. Retracing his steps, he finds three street punks attacking Popchik and stealing his social security money. Instructing other pedestrians to watch him and call for an ambulance, he runs down the alley, changing to Spider-Man and pursues the gang.

He quickly catches up to them and overhears them gloat over their easy victory in another alley. This infuriates him and he vents his fury on two of them, rendering them unconscious. The third one almost makes it out of the alley before Spider-Man catches up to him and punches him out of the alley toward some waiting police officers. The third punk threatens to press charges for excessive force, but the cops are clearly pro Spider-Man and remind him that since there are no witnesses, it's their word against his. While one cop escorts the gang into the back of the squad car, the other cop pulls Spider-Man aside and informs him that DeWolff was killed last night. Spider-Man is staggered at this news.

Elsewhere (possibly St. Patrick's Cathedral) an unidentified man takes confession and admits to the priest that he has recently committed murder.

At the Daily Bugle, Jonah and Robbie have just learned of Jean DeWolff's death. Jonah admits that DeWolff was "a fine officer". This catches Robbie off-guard, recalling prior statements that indicated his dislike for her. Jonah corrects him, saying that just because he doesn't like someone, they don't deserve to die. Robbie asks if this extends to Spider-Man. Jonah replies that "Hitler deserved to die. So do assassins and cop-killers. ... Whatever else he is, Spider-Man is not one of those". Robbie is quite impressed with his publisher's response.

Later that evening, Spider-Man arrives at Jean's precinct to offer his assistance in solving her murder. They point him in the direction of Stan Carter, who is coordinating all efforts since everyone wants this solved quickly. Stan divulges all available information he has on the case. He admits to Spider-Man that Jean always spoke very highly of him. Stan hints that Jean's admiration was perhaps more than professional. Spider-Man is again caught off-guard and admits that he liked her as well.

The next morning Matt Murdock aka Daredevil hitches a ride on the WJMD traffic copter to his law office. He hears pedestrians commenting on his reputation as a "man without fear". He laughs at the irony of the situation; if he could see what he was doing, he'd be paralyzed with fear.

Later that day, Murdock is performing some pro bono work for the public defender's office. This case is an arraignment trial for the gang that attacked Mr. Popchik. Peter, Aunt May, and Ernie are present watching the proceedings. Murdock successfully gets them released on their own recognizance since they have no previous criminal record. The judge then calls for a one hour lunch break.

The punks indifferent attitude returns once the judge has freed them, warning Popchik not to "stay out late". While May reminds Ernie that this isn't the real trial, Peter confronts Murdock. While Peter is venting his disgust at Murdock's actions, Matt recognizes him as Spider-Man by his distinctive heartbeat. Peter's comment about "facing himself in the mirror" for his behavior is not well received by May, who reprimands him, referring to him as "Peter Parker" in front of Murdock.

Once the courtroom is cleared, Murdock confides in the judge, Horace Rosenthal his friend and mentor since law school, that while he believes in equal treatment under the law, he shares Peter's perspective on this case. Horace jokes with Murdock that he simply doesn't like working with guilty people; he should be a public defender for a few years. He excuses himself to the "little judge's room" before they go to lunch.

While Rosenthal is out of the way, Murdock follows up on something his hyper- senses have picked up in Rosenthal's study. He enters the darkened room, and quickly identifies the person as a male, sweating heavily with a racing pulse, and armed with a shotgun. When he asks who's there, the mystery man identifies himself as the "Sin-Eater" and attacks Murdock.

Murdock dives behind the judge's desk while the Sin-Eater reloads. He separates his cane into its billy club components and richocets one end off a bookcase to temporarily stun Sin-Eater. While Murdock prepares to fight back, Horace enters the room.

Sin Eater turns his shotgun toward Rosenthal. Murdock freezes in place, unsure if he should risk exposing his Daredevil identity. In that moment, Rosenthal drops to his knees and begs for his life. Sin-Eater opens fire on the groveling judge.

In General...

As anyone that regularly reads comics will eventually admit, we all get a vicarious kick watching super-heroes meting out "instant justice". In the case of Popchik's attack, you share Peter's frustration with the punks that prey on the weaker members of society. It's with a bit of shameful pride that I admit watching him turn the tables on these jerks gave me a feeling that justice had been served even though it's not really justice; it's simply payback. The two terms can be - understandably - misused by victims of violence. There is a distinct difference between the two concepts.

Peter Parker and Matt Murdock have both experienced loss at the hands of violence. Jean DeWolff for Peter, Judge Rosenthal for Matt. Since Murdock's inaction resulted in the death of a friend, he will be out to bring the Sin- Eater to justice. Or will it be payback? We will find out if he can maintain his neutrality when he is not an objective third party.

One minor point I'd like to address is the characterization of Jonah. Peter David handles him better than most other writers. In this issue, he comes across as well-rounded character with an obvious anti-Spider-Man stance instead of a raging lunatic. That's not saying I don't enjoy a good "Parker, get out of my sight!" rant, but it's a matter of balance. He'll always be a jerk because he hates Spider-Man, but giving him some depth is always a plus.

Overall Rating...

5 webs. The story is very well constructed; the main plot involving Jean's as- yet unsolved murder intermingled with the attack on Mr. Popchik and the assassination of a prominent judge who is a long-time friend of Matt Murdock. All actions and reactions are handled well with just enough time dedicated to each to advance their respective part of the story.

One of the downfalls of team-ups is the way the characters are brought together. Most take the simple "we need a guest star, pick one" approach which usually ruins a good story. Granted there is a bit of coincidence here, but there has to be something to bring the characters together. Quite frankly this approach makes perfect sense.

Footnote...

Aunt May officially converted her home in Queens to a boarding house in Amazing Spider-Man #238