Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #164

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

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Henrique Investigates

This review was first published on: 2003.

Background...

After the events of the Lobo Brothers Gang War storyline, the Kingpin is really upset with his right-hand man, the Arranger. He was the reason the war started (by making and failing a hit on the Lobo Brothers' life), and he was unable to stop it (because the Lobos came to NY for revenge, and he failed again in taking care of it), while he tried to hide every incident from the Kingpin to cover his own posterior. He hoped he'd kill the Lobos and everything would go away. When that didn't work, he asked for Spider-Man's help to stop the Gang War, claiming blood would be on Spidey's hands if he turned his back.

Meanwhile, the Chameleon and Hammerhead took advantage of this struggle to win some territory from the Kingpin. Eventually the war ended, when a peace meeting between Fisk and the Lobos turned into an ambush by Chameleon and Hammerhead's goons. The Kingpin fled, one of the Lobos was killed and the other one arrested. The balance? Kingpin lost a large chunk of territory due to the incompetence of his lieutenant. And we all know how good ol' Willy Fisk rewards faliure, don't we?

The writer (Gerry Conway) juggled a multitude of plots and sub-plots for months in the above mentioned Gang War saga almost perfectly. Here he brings the one of the two last hanging plot threads (the Tombstone/Joe Robertson storyarc was concluded in Web of Spider-Man #128) to it's end: the Arranger's intentions to cover all his tracks make him hire someone to kill Spider-Man. And Kingpin's disappointment makes him hire someone to kill the Arranger.

Oh, and meanwhile (one of the sub-plots) Thomas Firehart, the Puma, who has an honor debt to Spider-Man, has bought the Bugle, and replaced JJJ's "attack Spidey" campaign for a "Spider-Man, that wonderful citizen" campaign, with positive results in Spidey's public image.

In Detail...

"Bugged"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #164
May 1990 : SM Title
Summary: Arranger & Beetle
Arc: Part 1 of "British Death"
Editor:  Jim Salicrup
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Sal Buscema
Cover Art:  Sal Buscema
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 Reprinted In: Complete Spider-Man (UK) #4
Articles: The Beetle, Kingpin, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Mercado, Joy

The Beetle is flying in the NYC's skies. Since he left prison, not too long ago, he's been feeling watched, afraid of the shadows -- funny, for a super-villain. Beetle's Beetle Sense (heh) is tingling (ok, buzzing - he has proximity sensors in his helmet). He hides while Spidey swings by. The Beetle's out of the joint for 6 weeks and he still wasn't able to score any job, because Spidey is always around. When he leaves, Beetle flies to meet the Arranger. Apparently there's a job for him. It may be his big break.

When he arrives, the Beetle is led through heavy security. He appreciates the fact that he's dealing with a coward, much like himself. Both men go straight to the point when they meet. The Beetle asks what the job is, and the Arranger tells him he wants to hire him to kill Spider-Man. A surprised Beetle refuses without hesitation. He says he had enough with super-heroes, and he now flees from them like the Devil from a cross. The Arranger doesn't seem surprised. He offers him another job, this one about an armored car loaded with diamonds that are being transported the next day, and he trades the map of it's route for 50% of what the Beetle gets. The Beetle has a bad feeling, yet he doesn't hesitate in accepting. After he leaves, the Arranger calls the Bugle, asking for Peter Parker...

In the morning, Peter and MJ are all cuddly in bed, when Kate Cushing calls. She tells him that the Arranger called and offered an exclusive interview, if Peter was the photographer present. Being his first work in 2 weeks, Peter has to leave on MJ's day off.

When Peter and Joy Mercado are at the Arranger's office, he decides to prove that his employer is an honest member of the society, by divulging the plans of a planned robbery that day (how would someone that honest get a hold of the planned route of an armored car, let alone know of an attempted robbery by a specifical individual?). When Peter asks why didn't he tell that to the police, the Arranger says that the assailant will be the Beetle, a super-villain too powerful for the police, yet not too powerful for Spider-Man, with whom Parker has a connection, due to the "Webs" photo album by Peter Parker, a best seller in every corner of the world. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating, but on with the story: the Arranger says it's Peter's duty as a citizen to contact Spider-Man. An angry Peter says he'll try, and leaves.

When Beetle attacks the armored car, he finds Spider-Man inside waiting for him. Apparently the good publicity by the Bugle made the guards allow Spidey to travel with them. The Beetle is a bit plummeted, and tries to escape. He realises that it was all a fix from the Arranger, and simulates a plunge to his death inside a ship's funnel, with a small explosion afterwards. Peter, who had already ignored his Spider-Sense way back in the first paragraph of this comic, when the Beetle was hiding from him, buys the Beetle's trick and decides to return to the Bugle.

Back at the Arranger's, word reaches him that the Beetle died in the fight with Spider-Man. A coward Arranger, realising Spider-Man might suspect something, orders all security measures to be checked. All is fine. When Joy Mercado (who had lunch there) asks him what's up, his evasive response is interrupted by the Beetle, who ripped through 16 stories from the bottom of the building, and is pretty much decided to kill the Arranger. He takes out the security, but Spider-Man drops in before he kills the Arranger and Joy. Spidey tells him his problem is not knowing when to quit, and the Beetle silently agrees, while getting beaten. He realises that his rage for the Arranger didn't allow him to think clearly. He tries to flee, with Spidey hot on his trail. Then he commits his most serious amateur mistake. He flies inside an industrial chimney, trying to repeat the trick. Yeah, he doesn't simulate a fall, he flies inside with Spidey following him at close range. Needless to say, Spidey gets in, finds him, beats the crap out of him and captures him.

Jenkins (that's the Beetle) asks Spidey why did the Arranger do it, and Spidey tells him that the Arranger doesn't want the Kingpin to know that they had an arrangement during the Lobo Gang War. The Arranger is in trouble with the Kingpin, and after today, things are going to get even worse. Jenkins takes some solace in knowing that...

In General...

This gives us a nice insight into the Beetle's mind, that's worth something.

Overall Rating...

Four webs for an interesting tale with unusual depth.