Comics : Untold Tales of Spider-Man #20

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

The Vulture is back! He's been freed from prison by a powerful crime organization, and in return he must kill one of their competitors, a man named Wilson Fisk! But not if Spider-Man has anything to do with it!

In Detail...

"Vulture on The Wing"
Untold Tales of Spider-Man #20
Apr 1997 : SMURF 018.550 : SM Title
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Co-Plot:  G.L. Lawrence
Writer:  Kurt Busiek
Pencils:  Pat Olliffe
Inker:  Al Williamson
Cover Art:  Pat Olliffe
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Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Crime-Master, Flash Thompson, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn), Jameson, J. Jonah, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Vulture I (Adrian Toomes)

This story occurs after Spider-Man's second clash with the Green Goblin, where Spidey had to leave the fight early due to Aunt May having a heart attack! The scene is the school canteen, and Flash, Liz and Tiny are debating whether Spidey is a coward or not. Flash, as usual, thinks Spidey can do no wrong. Jason is asked his opinion, and he mumbles an apology as he walks off. He's never gotten over Sally's death, it seems. Peter joins the gang, and there ensues one of those classic scenes where Peter relishes in putting Spidey down,thus strengthening his secret identity.

Cut to evening in Manhattan, and we see the Vulture poised in a very vulture-like pose atop an old building. He's pondering the events that led to his assuming the identity of the Vulture, and we see a recap of his origin. We are also privy to his most recent escape from prison, and how it was arranged by Nicholas Lewis, "Master of the most successful crime organization in the city". The Vulture has agreed to kill someone for Lewis, to repay the debt. And here the Vulture is, trying to convince himself that he's a cold-hearted killer.

The Vulture takes to the air, and finds himself on another building top while he plans his revenge on Spider-Man. Turning around, he sees someone standing on the ledge of the roof. It is Jason, who's contemplating suicide! Jason reveals that he can't forgive himself for Sally's death, and he'd rather die than face the guilt. The Vulture (talk about listening to the wrong people!) gives Jason the advice that he himself has followed, ie find something or someone to hate, to blame for your pain, and make it your life's work to gain revenge. The Vulture then soars off to keep his appointment with murder...

Peter is at the Memorial Hospital, visiting Aunt May who is still recovering from her recent heart attack. As he is leaving, Betty Brant shows up with some flowers for May. There is an air of strained unease between them, because Betty saw Peter at the Spidey fan club "with" Liz Allan.

I want to digress here for a minute. All the Untold Tales comics refer to her as Liz Allan, but the early issues of Amazing Spider-Man call her Liz Allen.Hmm, maybe they're setting up to reveal that there were TWO Liz characters all along! Actually, I think it's just one of those oversights that caused Marvel to give out so many "No-Prizes" over the years. Anyway, back to the story...

Betty storms off in a huff, leaving Peter free to take to the webs as Spider-Man. He catches sight of the Vulture winging his way across town with a vengeance, and decides to capture him. Spidey intercepts the Vulture in mid air, and grabs onto his legs. I love the banter during this encounter! Very true to the original issues. Check this out: "You won't care, you nuisance -- not once I've smashed you to bits against that skyscraper!" The vulture manages to slam into Spidey, causing him to fall towards a messy death forty stories below. This allows the Vulture to escape, continuing on with his task.

Meanwhile, J.J.J. is at the Century Club, bragging about Spider-man supposed cowardice. Apparently this justifies Jonah's claims that Spider-Man is a phony hero. He's so excited that he's actually handing out free cigars to all the members. Norman Osborn walks over and bursts JJJ's bubble by pointing out that the Bugle's circulation could be affected by having nothing to report on Spidey any more. This is a great scene, as at the time, the Green Goblin's identity is still a secret. Kurt has dropped a clue for us here, although it's no mystery to the readers! Little bits like this help the series integrate into the world of the Amazing Spider-Man so successfully.

Peter isn't dead though. He was able to twist in mid-air and land on a nearby rooftop. He's bruised and battered, but his responsibility to prevent crime drives him on in search of the Vulture once more.

We follow the Vulture as he finally approaches the building of his assassination target. It is obvious by now that Vultch is trying to talk himself into committing this murder. he looks in the window, and his target is revealed as... Wilson Fisk! The future Kingpin of Crime! Fisk is on the phone, he's already heard about Lewis planning something. This shows some of the resourcefulness that helped make him so powerful in New York.

The Vulture crashes through the window in a grand entrance, proclaiming death! No sooner has he done so, however, than a certain web-line pulls him straight back out the window into the night! Another fight ensues, during which Spidey cleverly manages to make the Vulture think about what he's doing. The Vulture remembers back to when he was just Adrian Toomes, innocent inventor. He is so shaken, that he turns himself in to the Police, stating that he's realised hate isn't enough!

It's a pity Jason doesn't know that though! As we see the next day at school, Jason has taken the Vulture's misdirected advice and is now blaming Sally's death on Spidey! The story closes leaving the reader pondering what evil waits for Spidey from Jason...

In General...

This issue was a treat! It's always great to see the Vulture in action, and better still to witness his struggle with himself to become something he's just not cut out to be; namely a super-villain! The cameo by Wilson Fisk was surprising and held a glimpse of where he came from and why he was able to rise to such power as the Kingpin. Finally, I believe we haven't seen the last of Jason. The base has been established to have him become a major villain in Spidey's future! (Which is our present, don't forget)

Overall Rating...

The birth of a new villain? Wait and see! Four and a half webs for this excellent tale!