Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #109

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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...

Police Captain Jean DeWolff was recently killed by the serial killer "Sin- Eater", a twisted variation on a superstitious belief that one designated person can absorb the sins of another. This version kills people for their transgressions and takes symbolic tokens from his victims.

So far he has managed to elude Spider-Man and Daredevil, who both have a stake in his capture.

In Detail...

"He Who Is Without Sin"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #109
Dec 1985 : SM Title
Summary: DD, Sin-Eater revealed
Arc: Part 3 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) #21
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man & Zoids (UK) #22
Articles: Betty Brant, Daredevil, Kingpin, Robertson, Joe "Robbie", Sin-Eater

As news of the Sin-Eater's latest victim, Reverend Bernard Finn, makes the news the key players watch the televised report. The news anchor relates the theory that connects all of the Sin-Eater's victims: fair treatment for criminals.

Spider-Man berates himself for failing to stop him earlier. Detective Stan Carter realizes that the murder of a minority priest adds additional media attention to the case. Marla Jameson contacts Betty Leeds and asks her to stay with her while their respective husbands are in Florida attending a conference. Reverend Jackson Tolliver, an African-American minister who has recently moved to New York from Atlanta, congratulates himself on his ability to play the race card and fan the flames of an already volatile situation.

In other news, police have also been unable to solve a series of burglaries involving portable electronics from the East Side. Unknown to the authorities, the thief is dressed as Santa Claus and tricks unsuspecting children into assisting him.

Later that night, Spider-Man pays a visit to the Kingpin to see what information he can obtain from him in the DeWolff killing. Kingpin has no information for Spider-Man. He admits there is no love lost for DeWolff or Rosenthal, but surprisingly has issues with priest killers. He states that they "polarize cities [which] are [in turn] harder to control".

Across town, Matt Murdock attempts to pass himself off as "Joe Shmoe" at Josie's Place in an effort to gather information about the Sin-Eater. This proves to be a very bad idea which results in a bar fight. Murdock handles himself quite well and finds that ultimately everyone is clueless. He leaves without causing any major damage.

This is all undone when Spider-Man crashes through the window in a rage, demanding answers. When attacked, he reciprocates in force. One unidentitied patron tries to warn the rest to cooperate or end up in the hospital. He's seen Spider-Man like this before when he was searching for the Master Planner. Of course nobody listens. Spider-Man receives nothing useful and continues searching fruitlessly elsewhere.

In a last desperate gamble, he drags known drug dealer Gerald Jablonski - who escaped imprisonment on a technicality - into a bar frequented by known criminals. He tries to coerce Gerry into divulging information on the Sin- Eater by creating a potentially life-threatening situation for him. He begins to loudly disclose (Gerry's) personal information and insinuate a friendship with him. He is aware that many of the thugs in the bar would be interested in getting revenge on his "friends". Gerry is terrified and admits he knows nothing about Sin-Eater but will rat out his suppliers in exchange for immunity. Spider-Man has to settle for this minor victory.

The next day while Peter drops by the Daily Bugle, the Sin-Eater barges into the newsroom, demanding to see Jonah Jameson. He grabs Marla - who is visiting Betty - and threatens her if Jonah doesn't appear immediately. Robbie tells him that he's Jonah and tries to talk him down, but Sin-Eater isn't interested. As he begins to list Jameson's crimes, Peter grabs the roller from a typewriter and knocks Sin-Eater out. An impressed Lance Bannon congratulates Peter who passes the honor to Robbie who is fighting off the sudden urge to vomit. As Sin-Eater is unmasked, Peter thinks to himself that he was defeated much easier than last time, but ignores his instinct.

Later during his interrogation he is identified as "Mr. Gregg". Both Spider- Man and Daredevil are present during this time. Gregg mentions voices told him where and when the killings were to take place and since they did happen, he considers himself guilty. Daredevil talks to Spider-Man privately and informs him that Gregg is a copycat. It's possible that he hasn't killed anyone. He knows this due to his ability to distinguish people by their heartbeat. Spider-Man refuses to believe him at first. Daredevil convinces him to inspect his apartment. Spider-Man finally decides to humor him.

As they search Gregg's apartment, Daredevil reads Spider-Man the riot act for essentially threatening Jablonski's life to get him to turn state's evidence. Spider-Man defends his actions, firing back that he's a "drug pushing creep" and hinted that deserved much worse for selling to kids.

Daredevil finds a locked door leading to an adjacent apartment - one that belongs to Stan Carter. A quick inspection discovers a closet that contains several Sin-Eater costumes, a gun rack, and a tape recorder. Daredevil extrapolates that Gregg - who is obviously not mentally stable - probably heard Carter recording his thoughts at night through the wall and assumed they were voices in his head. Spider-Man can hardly believe the facts in front of him.

They realize that Jameson was supposed to be Sin-Eater's next victim and that Betty is supposed to stay with Marla at her penthouse. Spider-Man makes a frantic call to the Bugle to see if Betty and Marla are still there. Robbie informs him that they left early. Spider-Man quickly tells him what's happening and gives Spider-Man Jonah's home number.

When he calls Jonah's penthouse, Betty answers but her voice trails off as she realizes she's staring down the real Sin-Eater. Spider-Man unaware of what's happening screams into the phone for Betty and Marla to get out as he hears Sin-Eater open fire.

In General...

Spider-Man is taking a darker tone in this issue as evidenced by his rough handling of petty criminals in general and his treatment of Jablonski in particular. He feels responsible for all of the deaths caused by the Sin-Eater since he couldn't stop him during their first confrontation. Top that off with the revelation that Carter is the Sin-Eater and that he may have killed Betty, Spider-Man is coming unhinged quickly.

Daredevil is being used to his fullest extent in this issue. This is in contrast to last issue when he was portrayed as someone that couldn't find his billy club in a shoe box. Murdock has found the emotional vacuum that allows him to function both in and out of court. Playing the logical "counter-point" to Spider-Man's emotional "point" showcases both halves of the theme: justice versus revenge.

The last page is quite possibly one of the best cliff-hangers ever. Very short but very tense. If after reading this issue, you're not thinking "I have to know how this ends" then you have no soul.

Overall Rating...

With a great setup and by my own account "one of the best cliff-hangers" how can this not get a 5 out of me?

Footnote...

Spider-Man went on a small rampage looking for the Master Planner. The storyline began in Amazing Spider-Man #31